Black Mountain hike highlights Nature Conservancy’s efforts

DUMMERSTON — Join members of the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) on Saturday, June 14, for a trip through a little known section of Black Mountain, a beautiful 275-acre parcel that the organization plans to acquire this summer. Walk through oak, pine, and hemlock forest; the mountain laurel should be at peak bloom.

Meet at 1 p.m. on Rice Farm Road, Dummerston, opposite the West River Trail kiosk, one mile south of the green iron bridge. The four-mile hike will be of moderate difficulty – we'll be walking on logging roads – and will end at 3:30 p.m.

The walk will be jointly led by Jon Binhammer, TNC Director of Land Protection, and Roger Haydock of Dummerston.

Though many know Black Mountain as the impressive mass that rises from the West River in Dummerston right near the covered bridge, what is less known is just how special a place it is.

The mountain is a horseshoe-shaped ridge with three summits, the highest reaching 1,280 feet. The profile we see today is the result of the primordial forces of water, fire and glacial ice. The granite dome originated millions of years ago as a mass of molten rock deep beneath the surface of the earth that rose through the crust, intruding into the native rock.

The expansion and contraction of glaciers and the erosive power of weather and water over the years removed the softer rock crust to expose the granite core, or pluton, know as Black Mountain.

Granite weathers slowly, creating thin acidic soils and difficult growing conditions for plants. In between the exposed bedrock, the rarest natural communities in Vermont are able to thrive. Black Mountain is recognized as one of the premier natural areas in Vermont because of this unusual ecology.

The Nature Conservancy has protected 608.5 acres on Black Mountain in nine acquisitions, starting in 1988. They have long sought to add this 10th piece, the ZFR property, as it is critical in protecting the core of Black Mountain Natural Area for future generations.

The tract includes most of a south-facing “bowl,” which is actually a glacial circque; portions of three significant natural communities: pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit, temperate acidic outcrop, and mesic maple-ash-hickory-oak forest; and rare plants such as the “three bird orchid.”

TNC will now be able to create a loop trail that will connect with a steeper trail to the summit. The new parcel is located directly across the road from the West River Trailhead, where TNC plans to create a parking area for Black Mountain and West River Trail hikers alike.

For information on this hike, contact Binhammer at <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>, or 802-229-4425, ext. 110.

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