Mild spring weather arrived just in time for National Park weekend on the 18th and 19th of April. Along with the warm, fresh air, new young leaves, and the first blossoms, come a stream of visitors eager to head outdoors.
This is Julian Alden Weir Farm National Park/Historic Site, where I work for the National Park Service as a volunteer. At 60 acres, it is a speck compared to the big names, but remains a jewel nestled in the wooded hills of Wilton and southern Ridgefield. Julian Alden Weir, after which the park is named, was a painter and pioneer of American impressionism, using the landscape as inspiration for his masterpieces. During National Park weekend, visitors are encouraged to use art supplies provided by the park to experience en plein air, carrying on in Weir’s legacy, and tours are offered to the Weir house and studio as well as the Young studio.
There are also activities for the kids to do and earn a Junior Ranger badge, so get them involved :).
My focus isn’t so much giving tours or discussing impressionist art as it is to be a steward of the land. My responsibility is to preserve the trails and work with maintenance employees in order to manage the park grounds.
Welcome to the office, let me show you around :)…
This is the beginning of a short 1 mile /1.6 km trail loop around Weir Pond.
Among the throngs of American Trout Lily, there is one whose flower bud has opened, becoming the first bloom in the forest.
Overlooking Weir Pond, an addition Mr. Weir constructed for fishing after winning first-prize for a painting he entered at an art show in 1896.
This is one of the older trees on the property, a hefty Black Oak. My staff is 5 ft 10 inches/ 1 meter 78 cm for comparison. At that size, it may be second-growth (pre mid-1800s).
Continuing on the path around the southern side of Weir Pond, where a gentle brook meanders from the woodland, bisecting the trail, and feeds into the water body.
A geocache partially hidden beneath a Sweet Birch. You’d think it would be fairly easy to spot, but for the most part it remains unnoticed.
At the eastern edge of Weir Pond, the trail loop connects to branching paths of Nod Hill Refuge, 29 acres of public land owned by the town of Ridgefield.
There were some Wild Strawberries as well. 🙂
Making my way back up the trail, I was reminded of a growing problem that appears to be affecting many Sweet Birch in our area. I’m not sure what insect causes this, but the damage done to the trees severely weakens them, causing potential hazards where they lean over the footpath. I marked 5 or 6 trees for the maintenance crew to deal with.
The bottom pic shows wounds higher up on an adjacent tree. If any of you can identify the bug causing this, please let me know in the comments.
Up and over the hill, and here we are back at start, across the street from the Weir house.
Perhaps what I like most about volunteering, besides being outside, is knowing that what I do makes a difference…and I enjoy what I do ;). In 2005 alone, 137,000 volunteers worked 5.2 million hours at national parks across the US. Currently, that number has grown to over 200,000 volunteers :).