Evolving Landscapes and Maine Poetry

I recently read a wonderful poem by Maine poet Tom Sexton at the Maine State Library’s webpage sharing weekly poems by Maine poets. The poet describes the significance of a now abandoned homestead’s granite stoop. This phenomenon of abandoned homesteads, lost cellar holes, and graveyards hemmed in by forest is not uncommon in Maine. While there are numerous State Parks and Public Lands where this natural and human history can be explored, one that comes quickly to mind is the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner, Maine.

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Kayakers on the Androscoggin River adjacent to the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park

The Riverlands as it is sometimes referred to is Maine’s newest state park with 2,675-acres and 12 miles of river frontage on the Androscoggin River. It is primarily a trail-based park offering hiking, mountain biking, ATV riding, and winter activities including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ungroomed cross-country skiing. Hunting is popular in the park as well. Boat launches outside of the park off the Center Bridge Road in Turner and near Cherry Pond in Green (hand-carry) offer access to the section of the river known as Gulf Island Pond (the river here has been impounded by Gulf Island Dam since 1927).

In addition to providing a notable swath of open space and wildlife habitat just north of the urban communities of Lewiston and Auburn, the park encompasses multiple old homesteads where foundations still exist amidst pleasant woods. The Homestead hiking trail is a great way to discover some of the historic foundations while the Androscoggin Greenway provides a water-based route to explore these same locations.

The homestead foundations along the Androscoggin provide tangible places to experience some of the intangible reverence the poet Tom Sexton writes about is his poem, The Granite Stoop. While the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park is not the only place to experience this history, it is an ideal place to observe and feel the interplay of human and natural history.

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New and Improved Hiking Trails for the Moosehead Lake Region in Progress

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MCC Team Leader Amelia Fogg at Work on the Eagle Rock Trail

Progress is steadily being made by the Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) trail crew working on the trail from the Little Moose Public Lands to Eagle Rock on the far western arm of Big Moose Mt. To date, over two miles of new trail have been cleared and work continues to construct the trail structures such as stone staircases and bog bridging that make trail sustainable. The crew has opened up new trail corridor to the ledge vista a little under a mile shy of Eagle Rock itself. Trail work will continue to open this new route to Eagle Rock.

The trail is not truly open quite yet, as a trailhead parking area is not yet established and the trail is not fully linked to the road (though it is cut open at a point about 75 yards into the woods near the end of the East Moore Bog Rd.). However, work is progressing and we hope to have an opening event this fall (more to come).

Read more about our work in a recent Bangor Daily News story.

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MCC Team Members Working on the #4 Mt. Trail

Additionally, another MCC trail crew is hard at work to redevelop and rehab the Number Four Mt. Trail in Frenchtown, south of First Roach Pond. This work will improve the old fire tower trail and serve as a foundation for extending the trail southward towards Lily Bay Mt. and Baker Mt. Over the next couple of years, it is expected that a trail network will grow in the hulking mountains east of Moosehead Lake. New trails will expand opportunities for lots of outdoor interests; Number Four Mt. is hoped to become not just a great day hike but also a portal to extended hiking in a remote, attractive setting.

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Maine State Parks and Public Lands Full of Diverse Opportunties

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Beach Play at Mt. Blue State Park

This past month, work for me has led to places such as the remote forests around Moosehead Lake, Lily Bay State Park, Little Moose Public Lands, and Seboeis Lake in the Katahdin Region. On the other hand, family play has brought me to the swim beach and playground at Mount Blue State Park and easy trails and ocean frolicking at Ferry Beach State Park. This is what makes Maine in general and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands in particular so much fun for those of us who love the outdoors. The diversity of recreational opportunity is staggering. Feeling like hiking across wild, rocky trails up and down mountains in some of the country’s moose-iest lands? We’ve got you covered. Munching a lobster roll while strolling along pristine beaches more your speed? No problem. Do you have little kids more into swing sets, slides, and nature programs? OK, we can do that too.

A few weeks back, I had the chance to talk about this diversity as a guest on Spectrum Generation’s Mature Lifestyles show– a show produced by Time Warner Cable Channel 9. Here’s a link to that show.

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Upon Encountering the Moose Carcass

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Moose Carcass: Frenchtown TWP, Maine

The image to the left shows a moose carcass encountered deep in the woods of #4 Mountain in Frenchtown, Maine. It was found while examining soils and hydrology along a possible trail location associated with the Moosehead Lake Region non-motorized trails project.

I can’t say what killed the moose, and frankly, we didn’t linger long as the day was cold and rainy with a good deal of ground to cover. The lingering that did take place has been the moose in my mind.

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Spring Now in Full Force in the Moosehead Lake Region

The woods are coming alive in Maine’s north country. While leading a Maine Conservation Corps trail crew leader on a preview of trail work for an upcoming project in the Moosehead Lake Region, I heard a number of great bird songs as we looked at trail lines and work to be accomplished.

In the mixed hardwood-softwood forests west of Greenville, I heard hermit thrushes with their long introductory whistle, white-throated sparrows signing a song somewhat like, “Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody“, at least one black-throated blue warbler with his raspy “beer, beer, beeee”, and a winter wren with a typical rollicking and highly energetic song.

Of course, birds aren’t the only ambassadors of spring. Wildflowers, such as the painted trillium shown below are gracing the forests floors. Water is surging and the entire world seems at the height of its collective senses. So, now is a great time to head out and see what spring in the north country has to offer! P.S. bring a fishing a rod.

A small stream cascade - Big Moose TWP, Maine

A small stream cascade – Big Moose TWP, Maine

Painted trillium - Big Moose TWP, Maine

Painted trillium – Big Moose TWP, Maine

 

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Spring Finally Arriving

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Newly renovated, mt. bike-friendly boardwalk over a wet section of the South Loop Trail, Pineland Public Land

It’s taken a while and it’s been a long winter, but spring is finally back- notably in southern Maine. Songbirds are singing, peepers are peeping, and the needle-strewn earth smells warm and fresh. Southern Maine trails like those at the Pineland Public Lands are just starting to come around after winter and are now awaiting your footsteps.

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Eagles are Wonderful, but Don’t Overlook Ospreys.

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Osprey watching at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

Given that the bald eagle is our majestic national symbol, we can all be excused if it is the first raptor that comes to mind when we think about fish-hunting birds. Here in Maine, while bald eagles are thankfully somewhat common and are wonderful to admire, we shouldn’t forget about appreciating the ospreys that return to our salt and freshwater shores each spring.

Ospreys are highly skilled hunters who often outperform eagles. In fact, eagles frequently let the ospreys do the dirty work of catching fish and then harass the osprey mid-flight until it drops the fish – which the eagle then snatches.

There are numerous ways to learn more about ospreys in Maine. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a good raptor page that includes information on ospreys. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park has a resident pair of ospreys that can be observed seasonally and there are regularly scheduled program times when the public can view the birds with staff present to discuss the life history and ecology of these special creatures.

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Celebrating Birds at “Feathers Over Freeport”

As rewarding as working on outdoor recreation projects and volunteering at Maine State Park events can be, sometimes it is really nice to just be a parent and take my kids to family friendly outings at our State Parks. “Feathers Over Freeport” was one such occasion and made for a very fun Sunday at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport.

The annual weekend event held at Bradbury Mountain and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Parks was billed as “A birdwatching weekend for all ages!”  and was co-sponsored in 2014 by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry; Freeport Wild Bird Supply; LL Bean; Leica Sport Optics; Birds & Beans; Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream; and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Kids-oriented bird walks, bird crafts such as building your own birdhouse and making peanut-butter cones dipped in bird seed, and a presentation by Wind Over Wings of live raptors made for a great family day in the woods…even if the weather was cool and a little damp.  Families with an interest in birds or who simply like a good time in the outdoors should definitely look for this event each spring.

A few photos are shared below:

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Heading down the Casco Bay Trail

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A previously injured eastern screech owl now part of the Wind Over Wings program (click the image for more information on Maine owls).

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Looking for the ospreys on Googins Island

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Birdhouse building station – one of many hands-on activities

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Moving to the next stop on the birding walk

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The Poetry of Spring in the Outdoors

In his poem, “Spring Pools,” the iconic New England poet Robert Frost eloquently describes how pools in hardwood forests reflect the spring sky until the very trees cradling these pools suck up the water to grow leaves that then shade the flowery forest floor. Frost, to me at least, is getting at the fleeting nature of moments. He concludes the poem by asking that the trees consider their impact on such a short-lived time of the year:

Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

With busy schedules, it is easy to miss these natural moments as we chase the day to day requirements of modern life. There is so much at stake, though, if we lose our connection to the cycles of nature. Whether we hear a chorus of wood frogs in a vernal pool or pick fiddleheads along a stream bank, it’s clear that spring is full of ephemeral “mini-seasons.”

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Northern Forest Canoe Trail Video and Burgeoning Spring Inspire Paddling

There’s a short video on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s (NFCT) website that does a great job of depicting just some of the wonderful scenery and paddling awaiting on this 740-mile water trail from Old Forge, NY to Fort Kent, ME. It’s a motivating video, especially given that our northern forest waterbodies are beginning to lose their winter mantles of ice and snow.

It’s worthwhile to realize that nearly half of the trail is located in Maine. In total, 347 miles of the NFCT are here in Maine. Of those miles, many pass through Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands properties. Richardson Lake Public Lands, Rangeley Lake State Park, the Bigelow Preserve, Moosehead Lake Public Lands, the Penobscot River Corridor, and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway are the major Bureau properties along the trail.

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Paddlers at the former Long Lake Dam site, Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

The NFCT partners with the Bureau to foster access and enjoyment of these traditional paddle routes stepped in beauty and history. These waters are right now melting away, eventually leaving a blue ribbon well-worth your paddle strokes.

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