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The mission of Great Mountain Forest is to be a leader in forest stewardship. We practice sustainable forest management, promote biodiversity and resilience to climate change, support education and research, and welcome all who love the woods.

Great Mountain Forest 

February 2023

In this issue:

Deer Antlers – February’s Gift from the Forest

Spotlight on the Forest: The Overlook Trail

The Firewood Poem

Deer Antlers

February's Gift from the Forest

February is the month to look for recently shed deer antlers. In late fall during the rut, or breeding season, antlers advertise the health and fitness of the male whitetail deer to potential mates and are used to challenge opponents. The antlers then drop off in winter as the decreased hours of daylight trigger a reduction in testosterone, weakening the antler-scull connection. In March, as daylight hours increase again toward spring, antler regeneration starts up anew. This physiological response to changes in light duration is an example of photoperiodism.


The deer’s ability to regenerate complex tissues and grow bone at the rate of an inch a day is rare for mammals. Researchers have studied the stem cells from the pedicle, the patch of tissue on the deer’s head that gives rise to antlers, as possible agents of in vitro bone regeneration for humans. Despite their extraordinary rate of antler growth, deer have a lower cancer rate than other mammals. The interplay of genes that permits this rapid but controlled proliferation may provide insight into the uncontrolled replication of human cancer cells.   


GMF Forester Emeritus Jody Bronson likens discovering an antler to finding a four-leafed clover – a gift from the woods. But there’s competition for shed antlers. Mice, squirrels, and porcupines consume this rich source of calcium, phosphorus, and protein, and gnawing the hard antler helps rodents wear down their ever-growing teeth. 


Spotlight on the Forest:

The Overlook Trail

The Overlook Trail, of little over a mile, provides a remarkable reward for little effort. The can’t-miss signpost appears on Camp Road just up from the East Gate at 201 Windrow Road on the Norfolk side of the Forest. The trail rises gently, then a little more steeply until the junction with the Charcoal Pit Trail, with an overlooking view of Tobey Pond to the northeast. Those who want smooth and sure footing should turn back at this point. Continuing uphill to the west, however, will bring hikers onto a long height of land for a top-of-the-world stroll, leaving the initial hemlock stand for a mixed hardwood forest. Maintenance to clear winter blow-downs that may make the trail hard to follow will start after the sapping season. However, any uncertainty about the direction of the trail can be resolved by looking for the next big red blaze on a tree ahead. The trail emerges from the woods farther up the Camp Road, and a downhill run returns hikers to the start. 

The Firewood Poem

Beech wood fires are bright and clear

      If the logs are kept a year.

Chestnut’s only good they say,

      If for long it’s laid away.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast

      Blaze up bright and do not last.

Elm wood burns like a churchyard mold

      E’en the very flames are cold.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke

      Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Apple wood will scent your room

      With an incense like perfume.

Oak and maple, if dry and old,

      Keep away the winter cold.

But ash wood wet or ash wood dry,

      A king shall warm his slippers by.   

          - Lady Cecelia Congreve, 1930


Weather...or not

GMF is a reporting station for the National Weather Service; any news outlet's “staff meteorologist” uses data collected and submitted daily by Russell Russ. His monthly weather summaries and various weather facts and figures are available on our website. Click on the link below to visit our weather page!

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Forest Notices

Welcome to the forest!

GMF is a place of peaceful co-existence for everyone

  • Keep your dog on a leash and if you pack it in--pack it out.

  • Sign in at kiosks at the East and West Gates.

  • Watch for inclement weather notices on social media and website.

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