Welcome to the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail takes you through low-lying boggy areas to the beaver pond and back. Just follow along and carry out any instructions you may get. Try to decide what you are hearing, smelling, touching, or feeling before going on to get the answer. If you want to test yourself, or play a game with yourself or someone else, keep track of your right answers. Ready to start? Remember, long files may take a half minute or so to download.
It is a blustery day with fall coming on. That is one of your reasons for taking a lower trail — less wind. You are going to do this alone. Your ride is hudled by the fire inside the center, wrapped around a coffee cup. That’s fine; you enjoy being alone. You check your equipment, cane, jacket, radio, and give your dog a pat. Time to go.
You find a branch near the trail and feel along it. There are almost thumb-length needles growing out singly from the first foot or so. Behind that the twig thickens and branches and you find the needles growing in groups from little pegs. The foliage is different on the new growth from that on the old growth. That’s a tamarack. A deciduous evergreen. It is the only conifer in this area that loses its leaves in the winter. You once heard a story – probably untrue – about the grounds crew of an institution that believed the tamaracks (also called larches) were all dying because they lost their leaves, and so they cut them down.
You forget the tamarack in the interest of what you are hearing overhead. Migration is under way. (DVG) The geese are heading south. It is a lonely sound, promising cold and emptiness and months of isolation. Of course, in the spring, the same sound means warmth, fulfillment, hope. And it’s not as though the woods are empty here in the winter.
As if in agreement, another little bird sounds off. Well, what walk in the Maine woods would be complete without a chickadee? It is our state bird, after all. And the chickadees will be here all winter, feeding on insect eggs and seeds and visiting the feeders at the center.
You carry on, the path tending downward. The feel along the sides of the trail tells you that you have entered a region of dense growth. Must be the marsh. You reach out to find a plant sample and encounter a tall, flattened leaf. A bit more feeling around and you find the stalk. Following it to the tip you find the hot-dog shaped (and sized) flowering head. A cattail. Yes, this is the marsh.
A splash (DVG) tells you you are near the beaver pond. One has seen you and is warning the others of this invasion. They are working on getting in the winter supply of food which they will store under water. They eat bark of aspen, birch, alder, and willow, all of which are found in abundance here. You imagine for a moment a beaver family visiting a smogasboard, loading their plates with samples of each. You fight down the image and move on. Another sound stops you in your tracks. Speaking of lonely sounds, the sound of the north woods. A loon. Evidently this one hasn’t moved on yet. They molt into a drab winter plumage and move to the coast to winter in salt water.
You walk on past the area. A tree arrests your cane and your attention. It is obviously an evergreen. It has short, rounded needles growing singly along the branch. A spruce. And a chill at your feet tells you the ground is wet. Which makes the tree a black spruce.
Still another sound stops you. No, the woods are not empty. Back in the direction of the nature center a crow is calling. They will be around all winter, too.
Soon you come to a choice point. This is the end of the short loop of the Beaver Pond Trail. You can head on back to the lobby where it is warm and you can brag a bit, or you can go back to the trail heads. Or you can continue on with this trail. What do you wish to do?
- Continue with the rest of the trail or you can
- Return to the trailhead, or you can head back to
- the lobby
Here is another tree next to the trail. It has bark that shreds in long vertical strings. The branches have leaves pressed flat against them. Northern white-cedar, of course, another of the swamp and bog trees of the area. Just beyond you find a shrub with finger-shaped and finger-length leathery leaves. Must be a rhododendron.
You continue on your way, pleased with having figured out the tree and the shrub. Off to the side you hear a squeek that probably indicates a flock of feeding chickadees. You try ‘pishing’ but get no response, so onward.
Another bird calls. They are always very vocal except during the breeding season. Bluejay. They will be around all winter, too.
While you are listening to the bluejay, you almost step on something else that flies from under foot with a loud, whirring rush. You jump and even your dog is startled. A ruffed grouse, also called partridge around here.
The breeze picks up a little. Supposed to be getting cloudy. Behind you, from the pond, you hear what may be the last chorus (long)(WK) of the year. The bullfrogs will all be going into hibernation soon.
So now you’re back where you started. Winter is not your favorite time, but you have noted so many species of animals that will remain in the woods, or wait out the winter asleep, that you are somewhat cheered. The woods are not empty during the winter, just waiting. A racheting sound from tree height tells you that the red squirrels are not even waiting, they are busy.