Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hiking the Montshire

We're in Norwich VT for the summer, while I finish writing my thesis, and before we head off the Germany. Yesterday, the first rainless day since we got to VT, I headed to the Montshire Museum of Science, a mile out of town, to check out their system of trails. The price of admission ($10 for adults) to this cool little child-oriented hands-on science museum got me a map of their trails and permission to walk them. The map shows 0.4 miles of trail here and 1.2 miles there. Doing some addition I decided that an out-of shape scientist could walk all their trails in one afternoon, and set out to do so. The forests around the museum are fairly typical second growth northeastern forest, with a mix of hardwoods and softwoods. Nothing spectacular, but extremely pleasant to walk though on a hot bright afternoon.

The trails are well maintained and marked, and most are flat enough for strollers, although I met almost no other hikers once I was away from the main museum building. They follow the banks of the upper Connecticut river or follow low rambling ridge-lines. Sprinkled along many of the trails are scientific activities and displays. It was fun to stop at the solar-powered kiosk and push buttons to hear recordings of the local birds. When I pushed the button to hear the Black-throated Blue Warbler, a real BTBW responded from the trees overhead. Their scale model of the solar system is stretched out along one trail, with Pluto about two miles from the sun.

Behind the museum is a stream-fed water park/ science display packed with wet excited children learning about waves and currents. Inside the museum is a relatively quiet pandemonium of children running, watching, pulling, stretching and learning the word 'viscosity.' My cousins, three and five years old, incessantly demand to visit the Montshire, and everything seems to be well aimed at kids their age. None of it is profound, but all is well presented and designed to keep kids engaged and learning.

I went about 8 miles (including the road to and from Norwich) in a little over three hours of actual walking, and can now say I have hiked every trail the Montshire has. It is flat, short and simple enough to have made a great first hike for an old naturalist trying to get back into shape. Next I will try part of the Appalachian Trail, which comes right through Norwich. But first I will lay down and rest my aching muscles.

1 comment:

jte said...

You may, or may not, be pleased to know that you already have hiked a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. It comes out onto Elm Street, follows Elm to Rt. 5, then follows 5 into 10A towards Hanover. So when you were walking toward the Montshire, as soon as you passed Elm Street, you were on the AT. You stepped off the AT when you turned right onto Montshire Rd.