• Benji Sills

Burlington Earth Clock

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Our final pitstop in Burlington proved surprisingly elusive - the initial coordinates we tried had Paige and I wandering aimlessly around inside a gated development. All I could remember from earlier research was that the Earth Clock sat serenely on a waterfront and apart from the occasional puddle, the neighborhood was notably not underwater. It is fruitless to try GPS coordinates - Google has the location landmarked at 35 Island Line Trail which takes you squarely to someone’s lawn. Island Line Trail does take you there, but the actual entrance you want is a block over at the dead-end of Proctor Place. The Island Line Trail is a bike route that branches off at the end of the street and after a short walk through the woods, Paige and I emerged onto Blanchard Beach. This time there were no houses or signs gently reminding non-residents to please stop wandering around - we were at our lake. Blanchard Beach overlooks the gargantuan Lake Champlain and the picturesque views are framed by the Earth Clock itself. The Earth Clock is a circle of randomly shaped stones and looks like a buffering image of Stonehendge. Fun fact sidebar: Stonehendge (likely the only hendge most people can name) is not actually a hendge - the technical definition requires a circular earthwork with a ditch inside surrounding a flat area but Stonehendge’s ditch is outside the circle.

Burlington’s own rock circle also differs in that it’s purpose is clearly defined several feet away by a colorful plaque. We’ve heard a number of guesses on our Instagram about the purpose of the rocks - from sacrificial grounds to Satanic rituals (and my personal favorite guess: “used to hang towels while people go swimming”) - but it’s actually just a grand outdoor display of standard Smartphone apps. Supposedly, the Earth Clock functions as three basic tools: clock, calendar and compass. The plaque’s instructions read like a calculus assignment however and after several moments of blankly staring we decided to figure it out ourselves.

The clock part is easy enough, the idea being that your body acts as a sundial by standing in the center of the stones and casting your shadow out towards a series of numbers on the ground. Theoretically it works but that afternoon was overcast, which put the current time at literally anything o’clock. Certain stones are aligned with the four main cardinal directions as well, allowing the Earth Clock to serve as a compass (although perhaps not quite pocket-sized for long journeys). The center of the circle is a stone slab carved with the months which can allegedly be used as a calendar too, but I’m going to need several more degrees before I have an understanding thorough enough to relay it here. Plus, Paige and I were distracted at the time by putting our phones on a timer and seeing how far away we could run before they snapped our picture, so we weren’t exactly in the most scholarly of moods. Regardless of your comprehension of it’s functions, the Burlington Earth Clock was another hidden gem of weird Vermont and sits in a beautifully peaceful park that is worth a visit in itself.

The Earth Clock is landmarked on Google Maps and the point will take you there however the attached address isn’t quite right. Walk to the end of Proctor Place and follow the bike trail for a few minutes - when the trees open up to the water you’ll see the structure.

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