Woodford & Searsburg:
A Rich Natural Environment
The town of Woodford was chartered in 1753. One of its two villages sits at the highest elevation of any village in Vermont at an altitude of 2,215 feet. Historically, this area was rich in iron deposits and several forges manufactured bar iron here, turning out anchors for use in American gunboats at the beginning of the 19th century. Woodford has a vast, rich natural environment. Its geology is especially unique, with rocks dating back to the Precambrian Period, the time at which the earth's crust was formed.
Woodford contains 14,000 acres of the Green Mountain National Forest, with sections of both the Appalachian and Long Trail running through it, as well as access to the George D. Aiken Wilderness.
National Forest: A Legacy For the Future
The Green Mountain National Forest was established in 1932 after unregulated logging, wildfires, and then flooding ravaged significant parts of the state of Vermont. Today the Green Mountain National Forest has grown—tract by tract—to stretch across much of Vermont. The forest's diverse landscapes range from rugged, exposed heights to quiet, secluded hollows.
People have lived on, and made multiple uses of, the lands that now form the Green Mountain National Forest for thousands of years. Southwestern Vermont is part of the Mohican people's tribal homeland. For the last 250 years, however, these lands have been used and modified by European-Americans for residential, agricultural, and industrial purposes. The remains of these activities litter the forest in the form of old roads, young forests, and the archaeological remains of homes, farms, schools, mills, charcoal kilns, and more.
Connecting People to the Land
The Green Mountain National Forest offers places where people can recreate, reflect, reconnect, and recharge their spirits. Located within a day's drive of more than 70 million people, the Forest is a destination for visitors seeking a variety of recreation opportunities. The Green Mountain National Forest provides a multitude of recreation activities such as viewing scenery, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, camping, swimming, hunting, and fishing. The Forest offers a variety of recreation settings including developed campgrounds and picnic areas, alpine and nordic ski areas, maintained trails and roads, and primitive wilderness areas for all to enjoy.
Sustainable Natural Resource Management
The Forest's mixture of deep woods and open lands has a rich legacy of supporting viable wildlife populations, unique plant communities, clean drinking water, and wood products for generations of families. The foundation of stewardship activities begins with maintaining clean water and productive soils on which most forest resources rely. Building upon clean water and productive soil, the Forest is managed for a variety of habitat conditions that favor different types of plants and wildlife native to Vermont. The Forest continues to be a source for high-quality forest products such as timber, berries, mushrooms, and maple syrup.
What Is A Wilderness?
Wilderness means something different to each of us. Some may consider any wooded area as wilderness. Others feel it must be miles from civilization in the deepest, most remote portion of a forest. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines it as: an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled (uncontrolled) by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 led the way to the passage of the Eastern Wilderness Act of 1975, the Vermont Wilderness Act of 1984, and the New England Wilderness Act of 2006 that has designated eight wilderness areas in the Green Mountain National Forest. These wilderness areas are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, which include over 104 million acres of federal land throughout the United States.
Wilderness areas are managed differently from other parts of the Green Mountain National Forest. Special management practices are designed to:
Preserve the natural character of the area.
Provide to visitors opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation.
Allow for the undisturbed development of plant and animal species and protection of their habitats.
The George D. Aiken Wilderness is named after the late Vermont senator George D. Aiken. A strong advocate for wilderness, Senator Aiken led the effort in the early 1970s to expand the National Wilderness Preservation System in the eastern United States. He devoted his last days in Congress to securing passage of the Eastern Wilderness Act, making possible the designation of this and several other eastern wildernesses.
Aiken Wilderness sits on a plateau more than 2,300 feet in elevation. It has no designated trails and the few old logging roads that lead into Aiken will soon fade away. This gives you ample opportunity to use your compass and map-reading skills as you bushwhack through this area.
Three trail-blazing women take a break along the Long Trail in the summer of 1927. Known throughout Vermont as the "Three Muskateers," Kathleen Norris, Catherine Robbins, and Hilda Kurth were the first women to travel the entire length of the trail, then 256 miles long. Courtesy of Green Mountain National Forest.
Abandoned cemetery in Woodford. Courtesy of Green Mountain National Forest Service.
- Historic Cemeteries
Remote cemeteries within the Forest are poignant reminders of the historic occupation?and abandonment?of these lands. The Waters cemetery is located on high ground along the original east-west route through Woodford.
It contains the grave of the town's first settler, Obediah Eddy, who died in 1826.
Furnace Grove kiln, undated postcard. Collection of Bennington Museum.
- Charcoal Kilns
One of the more intensive land uses of the 19th century was the production of charcoal to help fuel the industrial revolution, specifically, the iron industry. Wood harvested from the forest was "baked" in kilns (initially dirt mounds, but eventually made of brick). Much of the resulting charcoal was shipped to out-of-state industrial centers, while another substantial portion was used locally to fuel the blast furnaces located up and down the western side of the Green Mountains, including at a significant complex along the Molly Stark Trail called "Furnace Grove."
- Railroad Logging in Searsburg and Somerset
In the early 1900s, small-gauge (3') railroad logging networks ran up into the Deerfield River valley (in Somerset and Searsburg). These were designed primarily to transport hardwoods (which do not float downstream as well as softwoods). Nearly 30 miles of rail were in use at its peak in 1913.
Glastenbury Fire Tower. Courtesy of Green Mountain National Forest.
- Glastenbury Fire Tower
After a century of unregulated logging and a series of droughts, the danger from forest fires in Vermont was dramatically high by the 1900s. Both private and public sponsorship of a network of 38 mountain-top fire lookout towers began in 1912. The remote Glastenbury Mountain tower (built in 1927) straddles the Appalachian Trail/
Long Trail and is one of approximately a dozen still standing.