A Foot In The Woods: The Simon’s Rock Interpretive Trail

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by Quille Chayes ’12

3.jpg“From the very beginning of the trail, it will immediately become apparent that one is entering a very different landscape from the mowed fields and well-kept pathways that dominate the developed part of Simon’s Rock’s campus,” a modest sheet of laminated white paper at an unobtrusive bulletin board states. It marks the entrance of the Interpretive Trail—a place for students or faculty to turn off of their computers and head into the woods for a breath of fresh air and a brisk hike.

But a lot more thought has gone into the Interpretive Trail than merely a pretty stroll through nature. The Interpretive Trail was originally the brainchild of Peter Tiso ’02 who developed a detailed map and comprehensive guide as part of his senior thesis. Two classes offered students the opportunity to participate in both the planning and construction of the trail: Home at the Rock: Mapping the Landscape Ecology of Simon’s Rock in fall 2005 and The Path: Trails, Pilgrimage, and Place in fall 2007.

1.jpgFaculty member Chris Coggins led the students in the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map, clean and enlarge existing paths and construct water blocks and boardwalks. During these intensive, focused, courses, students learned about the campus and applications of the broader ideas in the field of geography.

The guide sheets on the trail explain the dominant species of our landscape, the history of the rocky hillside with tectonic and glacial influence, the wetlands surrounding the trail, the cradled shape of the ground around the hemlocks to help visitors enjoy the trail and nature.

Not every student uses the trail, but for those who do, it is a precious asset and a means to reconnect with our environment. This year the trail got some attention and greater awareness from students as part of Rock the Community: A Day of Service to Honor Emily Fisher. A team of 16 students, faculty, and staff cleaned and tended the trail.

2.jpgStudents can also have a part in the future of the trail. Long-term plans include adding a second extension of the trail from the Rock to Lake Mansfield, and ultimately, mapping out an entire network of trails through the campus lands. Until then, we students have our gorgeous landscape and single trail to enjoy and cherish.

And what better place to see the beauty of nature and the beauty of Simon’s Rock than a trail planned, mapped, and constructed by its own students? This is our land. It’s something that the community shares. The lnterpretive Trail brings us together.