We could not have asked for a more beautiful fall weekend in Vermont for our annual F&W Harvest Weekend. The fall colors were out in full brilliance, the sun was shining, and the woods were beckoning for us to come explore. So, we did. Less than 10 miles south on route 100 from Farm and Wilderness Rd, there is a segment of trail sandwiched between Dublin Rd and Patch Brook Rd, which is known to many in our community as “the SAM Trail”. It is the first section of trail that Saltash Mountain camp traditionally used to hike down to the Woodward camps for Interdependence Day and Fair.

Over the years, this section of trail has seen many changes and has become extremely wet and overgrown, making it difficult to navigate. Most recently, we were able to schedule some improvements for this section that included brush clearing and some water draining features that will help keep the trail drier in the wetter seasons and more open for hikers. So naturally, when thinking about an adventure to lead for our Harvest Weekend event, I could not wait to show off the SAM Trail!

A small group of F&W Harvest Weekend participants joined up with a couple of folks from the Lake Ninevah community to hike this section of SAM Trail together. But we were not simply on a hike, we also had the mission of finding the cluster of 6-7 wild apple trees located at the other end of the trail. A mixed hardwood forest of predominantly red and sugar maples lines either side of the trail, accompanied by stretches of old stone walls from farmlands past, a large wetland area, signs of beaver chewed trees, and closer to the Dublin Rd end, a couple of gorgeous open meadow areas known as Archer’s Meadow. This is where we would find our apple trees.

Apple trees found on the edges or deep within woodland areas are usually a sign of agricultural landscapes of decades past, but they are still very important wildlife food sources in our woodlands. Sometimes old apple trees can be forgotten, leading to overcrowding and overgrowth which can reduce or eliminate fruit production. So, our small band of hikers gave the Archer’s Meadow apple trees a little bit of pruning. After about an hour’s work, the apple trees had more space and were a lot less tangled and weighed down by unnecessary growth.

On our hike back, it was nice to listen to the sounds of the woods – the breeze, the leaves crunching, the birds calling, the occasional running water of nearby streams. But what was the most special to me were the sounds of laughter, conversations, and moments of shared silence between the members of our little band of apple tree stewards woven into the fabric of the woods around us. It’s a good reminder that our shared work and love for the land is a strong creator of community and connection with each other and the environment.

To learn more about wild apple tree care, here is an article from the Vermont Woodlands by forester Paul Harwood: The Care and Maintenance of Wild Apple Trees in Vermont.

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