Just beyond the transfer station (aka the Town Dump) in Albany, Maine is a road that veers left. Following it for about 5 miles, it goes from paved to dirt, and becomes White Mountain Forest land. There is a small sign indicating the presence of a boat launch, a campground, and fishing, so I decided to see what it was all about.
At this time of year, when temperatures are in the 20s and 30s, it’s important to make sure one has the proper clothing for even a short outing. I was wearing warm leggings under my denim skirt and thick wool socks; waterproof ankle-high hiking shoes, and a turtleneck shirt topped by a fleece sweatshirt and a down vest. This in turn was topped by a thin neon orange vest to let hunters know I wasn’t prey. My hat was made of wind-blocking polar fleece. My knapsack held water, my camera, a small pair of binoculars, an apple and a protein bar, a heavy windbreaker jacket, a map, and my cellphone. My hands were encased in fleece gloves, which was a good thing because otherwise I couldn’t have grasped my walking poles, which despite their cork handles got so cold they were impossible to handle otherwise.
What a treat! I had the entire forest to myself, and I followed a trail from Crocker Pond to Round Pond. Conditions were perfect for a moose sighting but, alas, the moose were hiding.
However, 2 beavers swam from the middle of the pond to their dam along the shore. (Unfortunately they were camera shy.) As I reached the dam, I noticed several trees that had been recently gnawed, including one that looked like today’s lunch, based on the freshness of the shavings at the base.
A short walk away was Patte Marsh and dam – – again, no moose – – but a beautiful pond full of ducks and a thin coat of ice on the water, signaling winter is not far away.
Even though the walk was a short one, it was not without challenges. The area was filled with little streams and brooks, which had frozen with a very thin coat of ice. Millions of fallen leaves were on the ground, covering stones, exposed roots, and the areas of standing water, so without the walking sticks, which probed the ground ahead of me, I probably would not have been able to do the hike. Several times my feet broke through thin patches of ice and met up with soggy ground, so I was glad that my boots were waterproof. The poles also helped stabilize my ascents and descents since the thick carpet of leaves was very slippery. As an additional safety measure, I let someone know where I was going before starting the hike and approximately when I thought I might be back. The weather report promised a cold, clear sunny day and it was! I got an early start since it gets dark so quickly these days.
I was back at home by 1 pm, where I added a log to the fire and had some leftover vegetable soup that really hit the spot. What a great day!