Ah 2020 and another lovely Covid day – to be safe you can either be stuck at the house, doing more yardwork/housework/watching a cornhole championship match or you can be out in the great outdoors doing your social distancing amongst the trees, ponds, and woods of our great area. And a new favorite of ours is VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences) in Quechee, VT. Open year round this 47 acre nature center is a great way to get exercise while viewing some beautiful countryside and my favorite part, the birds they have rescued. Kids of all ages will enjoy viewing the raptors close up as they tour the grounds. Get up close to eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and more. More than 40 raptors call the VINS Nature Center home. These avian predators have sustained injuries and conditions that prevent them from ever living in the wild again. Our permanent residents are featured in exhibits at the nature center as well as in public educational presentations, serving as ambassadors for their species. Another enclosure features native songbirds while another showcases reptiles. Informational boards tell/ask questions and interactive activities enable you to teach kids about wildlife in a fun manner. At 11AM, 1:30PM and 3:30PM daily they hold programs so you can view the birds up close. See the website for some of the daily, changing programs.
One of the highlights of visiting is the Forest Canopy walk. Recently opened this is one of those things you need to put on your to-do list. The Walk provides an opportunity to move from forest floor to treetops without a climb. Connecting to the existing McKnight Trail, the Walk can be reached by a combination of ground-level trail and a newly constructed, ADA-accessible boardwalk. The increase in elevation from the start of the trail to the entrance is minimal to accommodate the greatest diversity of visitors.
Three special features and five Interpretation Nodes are built into the Walk. The Eagle’s Nest is a spur off the main walk. It is built on two levels, with the upper level being an oversized nest that visitors can climb into and see the world from an eagle’s vantage point. The Tree House is an elevated structure on one corner of the Walk built with several levels that are reached by a helical stair system. At points you are 65” above the forest floor and the views of the surrounding woods, river, ponds are spectacular. Standing in the woods as the leaves are falling, the wind is blowing, and the sun is filtering thru the branches was a serene and calming experience. There is also a “Spider Web” (although only open for private experiences only due to COVID-19) that you can climb on while looking down between the ropes. If you want more fun in the woods, there is plenty of wildlife to see while exploring more than one mile of nature trails that wind through the Nature Center’s rich floodplain forest. The McKnight Trail* has a hard-packed surface accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The Laughlin Trail and Lingelbach Trail guide visitors along the Ottauquechee River, with views of Dewey’s Pond. Our trails also connect to those at Quechee State Forest, so you can combine your walk at VINS with a hike to Quechee Gorge! Download a Visitor Map
*The McKnight trail conforms to ABA standards and is accessible for people using wheelchairs and strollers.
VINS is a non-profit organization that specializes in environmental education, wild bird rehab, research. They also have nature camps, mobile programs and more. Visit their website https://vinsweb.org/visit/ for a complete listing of this facilities capabilities.