Saturday, December 20, 2008

Your Gift Is Waiting

This is a very busy time of year, shopping, cooking, socializing, and weathering a difficult economy. You probably are cutting back on your Christmas spending this year to help make ends meet. If you feel like you are being shorted a little this year under the tree, then you aren't looking under the right tree! Come visit Libby Hill Trails which this year finally came completely protected for the future.

While we still need to pay off our mortgage, your gift of open space awaits. Eight miles of trails, free skiing, and a place to escape the stress of these troubling times. So your gift is out here waiting for you to unwrap it. Maybe like many gifts you get, you at first aren't sure what to do with it. Trust me, if you make an exploratory trip out into the woods with the new snow you'll suddenly feel you got the gift you always wanted!

Tomorrow, Sunday 21st we'll attempt to hold our solstice walk to take a fun winter walk in the woods and share some fun with fellow walkers. Keep an eye on the weather and maybe bring your snowshoes or hiking boots.

Come see what you got for Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Snow Comes - by Sharon Caulfield

I can see my breath as I climb the hill. Pockets of ground that were muddy last week are now frozen over, horse tracks memorialized on the trails. At 7:30am, only the chickadees are out and about. Me, the chickadees and the lightly falling snow.

Everything seems quieter than usual this morning. The cars on the turnpike are muted. When I stop to look at the woods, I only hear a light crunching as the flakes fall on my jacket. I raise my face to the sky to taste this first snowfall, and I remember how I felt as a child, playing the in the woods in my backyard. Tasting the snow is kind of a silly tradition, but I can’t help it. There will be time to whine about snow come March. But in December, snow is still a marvel. And so on I hike, in the peacefulness of an early morning, and in celebration of snow.

Sharon is an avid trail user at Libby Hill and blog contributor.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

A Sunday on the Trails

Did you know that the Moose Odyssey trail, at 3.1 miles, is the same distance as a 5K?

Yesterday, I ran the BURN OFF THE TURKEY 5K put on by the Gorham Recreation Dept. and since I still had some Thanksgiving indulgences to burn off, I decided to do another 5K today, Libby Hill style, the Moose Odyssey way! There is a certain kind of excitement running with a crowd, of course, but there’s another kind of thrill to be found out in the woods. It makes getting up and out in the cold worthwhile.

At 8am, things were pretty quiet on the trails. A man walking his dog. A woman in the parking lot, waiting for her running partner to show up. A few random birds. And me, crunching across the leaves in the early morning sunshine. After a summer of focusing on running on the roads, I am trying to get myself reacquainted with the trails in time for the first snowfall. I’m in better shape this year and looking forward to the chance to snowshoe more of the trails. And hopefully, Santa (or his elves) will bring me a pair of cross country skis for Christmas and I will get to use those on the trails as well.

When I made it back to the trailhead, a horse and rider were getting ready to head out. I love that we have this resource right here in town, and that it’s offered free, for all of us to use. Come on over and do your own 5K in December. You’ll get that peace and calm that only the woods can bring – and you might just get to enjoy a few more holiday goodies, guilt free!

Happy Hiking!

submitted by Sharon Caulfield - avid trail user
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

A perfect dog day afternoon

Danny (the golden lab) spent her second birthday today on Libby Hill! Taking our trail tour she enjoyed chasing every stick we threw on land or in the water! While we walked 3.5 miles, we estimate she did over 10 miles in her slalom through the brush and trails. If only we could be as good as "living in the moment" as a golden lab is in the woods.! A perpetual smile was on her face at every turn. Somewhere tonight, I'm sure she is curled up dreaming of all the smells she took in and the sights she saw on her adventure on Libby Hill.

The parking lot was full at 4pm today as lots of folks hit the trails after days of drizzle. It is clear that more and more folks find the trails as they escape from the uncertainty of daily life these days. So don't be a slave to your lazy boy and big screen this winter, come out and play! Live life like a golden lab..... retrieve it!
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Signs of the times

In the past week, 4 new signs have popped up around Libby Hill. The new fund raising sign that now resides on the corner of Libby Hill Road and Route 26 will tell our story to over 16,800 cars every day! Designed by Shelly Holmquist with her famous Libby Hill logo and a new twisting trail icon to the top of the hill, this new sign is very attractive. It still amazes me that a majority of the residents of Gray still don't know where Libby Hill is. Despite the fact it is almost at the geographic center of town and just about everyone looks at it every day, they don't know what it is called. While we have been working on some DOT signage on Route 26 for over 6 months, we decided that we couldn't wait until the bureaucracy caught up to our need to let folks know where we are!

Meanwhile, back at our parking lot, which has recently been paved and had lines painted, we had a need to guide trail users to the trail heads. We needed some street signage that we could afford and get produced quickly. Luckily we found assistance from the Penobscot County Sherriff's department's Community Works program. This program has jail prisoners produce high quality street signage at a minimal cost for municipalities. With only a week's lead time, we were able to obtain 4 inch reflective lettered signs in blue and white. They now let trail users know where the parking lot and main trail head is located.

Our fund raising campaign to finalize the purchase of our critical 29 acre parcel is in full gear. We need your pledge of $50 to $100 or more to make Libby Hills forever a public space. We are reaching out to trail users over the next month, please do all you can to help!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Climate Change and Rising Food must be 1816

Worried about high food prices, global warming, astronomic energy prices? Learn what Libby Hill resident James Libby had to face in 1816 when it snowed 12 months of the year. See the full article from our home page at or go directly to the article at this link. You'll never think about the old cellar hole the same way!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Who Was Harold Libbey

We see names on memorials every day and hardly give it a second thought. For a couple years now, I've wanted to know who was this guy, Harold Libbey. I finally spent and afternoon with his son and got pictures and stories about the man behind the trail. You can view all of these at this link.

The research I did on Harold has also given me connections to James Libbey and others who grew up on Libbey Hill. I hope to have more background on life on Libbey Hill in the early 1800's later this year.

Of interest is that when you Google "Harold Libbey" , the first 4 hits are all related to Libbey Hill trails! Harold is now a very famous Libbey on the Internet! It goes to show how much impact a person can have on his community. While not all of us have land to donate to public use, we can contribute to saving it. We still need $59,000 to finalize saving Libby Hill, now you can join Harold by donating what you can to keep the Libby Hill trails going!
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hey Who Are Those Film Guys?

Over the past month, you may have seen some strange goings on up on Libby Hill. Several SMCC students have been working on a video documentary on Libby Hill. Corey Rich, project lead (holding camera) and Patrick Rioux (production assistant) have been taking hours of video of the Libby Hill Trails. The video will feature footage of the trails and the folks who use them. They also did a number of interviews, including one with Richard Libbey, whom along with his brother Wilbert donated 46 acres to the system in 2003.

I spent 5 hours one day with the 'crew'. Being the 'old trail guide' I showed them possible areas of artistic value for the film. I also got to spew on and on about the trails, which I'm sure will fall out in the editing room.

One of the challenges of the day was getting folks who were on the trail to be in the film. We desperately wanted to show the trails being used by actual people. It was a little like 'candid camera' as people were quite surprised about what we were doing. We did learn though that when approach folks on the trail, don't use the phrase "hey, want to be in a video"? It gets some really nervous trail users when we come storming out of the bushes!

The objective of the film is to educate the community on what Libby Hill Trails is all about and learn about the 'Save Libby Hill' campaign. I've had some experience with home videos and know how much effort goes into even a few minutes of quality film. These guys really take their film making seriously and often took 3 takes to get a shot and narration just the way they wanted it. It seems hard to believe that 30 or 40 hours of filming and editing goes into even a 10-15 minute video. After 5 hours, I was ready to retire from my film career and head down the hill.

We hope to have a public showing of the film later this fall and offer it to the public for a donation to the "Save Libby Hill" campaign. Don't confuse this film with our other DVD, Best Photos of Libby Hill. That DVD is a collection of over 100 the best photos of Libby Hill from the past 8 years. It is available now at the Gray Public Library and can also be obtained with a $25 donation to the 'Save Libby Hill' campaign.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Photoshow DVD Available

A lot happens in eight years, now we want to show you how much! A new photo show DVD is now available that shows over 100 of the best photos of Libby Hill. See wildlife, trail users, trails, and more all set to music as you take a virtual tour of Libby Hill Trails. The DVD is available for a $25 Donation to the ' Save Libby Hill' Campaign or you can view a copy from the Gray Public Library. Many thanks to our photographers, Joel McPike, Jennifer Lummis, John Keller, and my faithful old Canon camera! This makes a perfect gift for your trail friends so help Save Libby Hill and have a great token of your donation!
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

$60,000 Blueberries

I made my second trek up Libby Hill to get another week's supply of blueberries. Last week I got a sampling from areas of the Moose Odyssey and Deer Run trails. Then the berries were very abundant but rather small. This week though, after a week of showers, the blueberries increased significantly in size! I was attempting to do a little trail maintenance but kept wandering off trial when I saw little more clumps of berries.

I have a long history with blueberries, growing up in Washington County (the worlds largest producer of wild blueberries) I can't remember a summer when I didn't look to gather a few berries to taste that special sweetness that the large cultivate blueberries just lack. My I was seven I took my first paying summer job raking blueberries. After 5 days (which seemed like 5 years) I earned $32, enough to pay for my first bicycle.

Raking is a much faster way to harvest blueberries but today I did the classic 'picking' method. Picking allows you to go at a very gradual pace. Look for bunches of three or more berries that are all ripe. You can pick about a quart of berries in 45 minutes to an hour. While picking you concentrate on things you never normally notice. Things like the ferns and other small plants that grow amongst the blueberries. You also hear the birds calling above in pine trees; I'm sure I'm eating some of their food supply, but they seem to be okay with sharing.

Last year, I found good picking near the cell tower off the Moose Odyssey trail. Ironically, that same afternoon a moose was browsing in the area. I'm not sure if she was eating blueberries but she liked whatever it was and stayed nearby for over 20 minutes. Of course it was the one day I didn't have a camera with me! I do remember though, thinking last year that the Hancock property (which lots of good berries) could soon be lost to development. This year lots has changed! The Gray Community Endowment took a mortgage out from a generous group of local investors to purchase these critical 29 acres. So today when I picked blueberries I really treasured how valuable they were. Some might say that those blueberries cost $60,000 (amount we need to fund raise) but to my mind they are worth every penny and never have tasted so sweet!

So bring a bag or container and get up on Libby Hill by August 1st and get a few berries of your own. Treasure their flavor and do what you can to help support Libby Hill.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sharon's Trail Walk

I've been walking the trails on Sunday mornings and having a blast. Today was my first foray off the Moose Odyssey - I did Deer Run and Holmquist Hollow. Deer Run was absolutely beautiful - I just felt like I was covered in a soft, green blanket! It must be lovely in the fall. Holmquist Hollow had interesting terrain, but it was quite buggy. In fact, I'm sure it's the same darn horse fly who welcomes me at the trailhead every time I arrive, and buzzes me during the whole hike. No amount of bug spray seems to deter him.
One cool thing -- as I was going along Holmquist Hollow, I heard sounds in the woods, but couldn't see anything. Just as I joined up to MO again, I saw that blaze of a white deer tail bouncing through the trees! Wish I could have seen more, but that was a nice start.
Birds were very loud at the bottom of the hill, but very quiet up top. Interesting.
And I saw that place where the lightening hit the trees - whoa! What I noticed first was that big shard of tree sticking at an angle into the ground, and then I looked back and saw the tree. I figured it was lightening, but wasn't sure until I came home and read your report about it on the blog.
Anyway, just thought I'd report in! Hope you're having a nice weekend!

....submitted by trail user, Sharon Caufield, Gray, Maine

Monday, July 7, 2008

Real Fireworks on Libby Hill

There's always something new to discover as you wander the trails at Libby Hill! A couple of weeks ago, a strong lightning storm hit 3 large pine trees on top of the hill between the cellar hole and view 1 on the Moose Odyssey Trail. The strikes hit the 3 trees about 50 feet up and exploded many shards of wood into the surrounding woods. All trees are still standing but will most likely die in a year or two. If you examine the 'strike zone' you can find shards of wood up to 25 feet long 'harpooned' into the wood soil (see photo of me and one shard on left). It is one of the best displays of a lightning strike on a tree that I have seen. This area has already survived a microbust tornado 4 years ago but for these 3 trees, this was one storm that had their name on it!
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Turkey in the Grass

A couple of Sundays ago, I heard a comotion in the grass near the top of Libby Hill. Next thing I heard the chirping of lots of chicks and saw them scrambling around in front of us. There were over a eight turkey chicks trying to find their mother who was about 50 feet away in the grassy clearing off the Moose Odyssey Trail. I got this photo of one of them and then saw another chick turned upside down with its legs moving but unable to turn over. So I helped turn it over and felt the soft down of its feathers which must have only been a couple of weeks old. I then found a second chick upside down but this one was not doing well. It had a twisted neck and some blood below its eye. Apparently we had interrupted some sort of attack by a predator, perhaps a hawk? That little chick didn't make it and we both went from elation to saddness as we saw the cycle of nature played out on Libby Hill. We withdrew from the clearing and made sure the chicks ran back to their mother before we went back down the hill. Once again we were amazed at how every time we go up the hill we discover something new!
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

National Trails Day June 7th

National Trails day is the first Saturday in June every year (June 7th). It is a day for you to go out and hike a trail, any trail, to celebrate what trails provide! This year you can celebrate by coming to Libby Hill! This year I will take hikers to all the highlights of the trail and give them lots of options for future hikes. With over 21 miles of trails in the area, there is no end to where you can hike at Libby Hill! Our event also helps raise funds to 'Save Libby Hill' so you can have a very strong impact on supporting hiking in your own back yard. So, if you can, register for our hike or at the very least, go out on the trails and celebrate in your own way! Happy National Trails Day!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

There's Always More to See!

We have lots of events coming in the next few weeks, all of which help raise money for our "Save Libby Hill Campaign". One event, our "Birds of Libby Hill" event on June 15th, spurred a pre-walk by Derek Lovitch of the Wild Bird Center in Gray. In his blog he documented that he found over 35 species of birds on his walk a few weeks ago! I was very curious on how he found so many. So the past two weeks I have been taking my binoculars and a bird book.

What I've discovered is how many different warblers are coming through the pine thickets near the cell tower and the Harold Libbey memorial! I discovered 4 species of birds just yesterday that I have never seen before (Redstart, Yellow throat, Black and White Warbler, and Magnolia Warbler) on all the trips I have made into the woods these past 5 decades! The truth is, they have been there all along but I'm just learning to better observe the wildlife that exists in the woods.

So, if you want a new experience, take a pair of binoculars and walk a little slower up the hill. Listen for birds and watch for bird activity higher up in the trees. If you take some time and observe you discover so many things that you never saw before. You also don't have to walk 5 miles to see them! Many birds are very active around the school and pond or just up the hill toward the cell tower. Make your next afternoon on the hill something different but doing a little bird watching; you won't be disappointed! And... if that gets you excited, consider joining us for the 'Birds of Libby Hill' where you can spend a few hours with Derek and learn new ways to observe wildlife. The birds are out there just waiting to see you!

Also visit our Spring 2008 Flower and Wildlife sightings to see what is blooming or visiting the trails. You can also post an entry of what you see!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shifting Seasons...Trails are ready!

Lots of people think Libby Hill Trails are just for skiiing. The secret is, the trails are truly a four season destination and if you go out this weekend you can see why it is so special. I made two trips out to check how the spring melt was progressing. Ten days ago I had to wear snowshoes but when I went out on April 18th and 20th, I found 99% of the snow gone. The higher up the hill you go the less snow you'll find.

If you want a great spring walk, try the Moose Odyssey trail with an optional loop on Deer Run. You'll see yellow warblers flitting between young pine trees and if you cross a sunny spot you may see a garter snake sunnying themselves (see photo). Our new trail stewards are removing small branches that have fallen into the trails. You can help by tossing any branches into the woods when you come across them.

If you want more adventure, then go out on the Harold Libbey and Outback trails. We found a wood thrush calling to us from the culvert area on Harold Libbey and also heard many birds in the distance. When we took a rest at Porcupine Rock on the Outback we heard a Barred Owl about 100 feet off the trail. Also high above a nearby pine tree a large hawk (broadtail ?) was hovering and calling frequently screeching . We think there be a nest nearby. We also came across a pile of deer fur by Moose point. I looked about 40 feet off trail and found a complete deer carcass with just fur and bones remaining. You can do your own CSI investigation but be aware it may be graphic for children.

At Thayer Brook, the beavers continue to craft works of art with very detailed carvings. See our spring photo show to see it all.

If you can, take some time and sit high up on the esker view of the beaver pond and watch for wildlife. You'll really enjoy the strong sun, sounds of birds, and come to know that Libby Hill has so much to offer after the snow goes!
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Sunday, April 6, 2008

What if you couldn't get to the Trails?

Monday was a good day. The Gray Community Endowment negotiated a buy agreement to purchase 29 acres next to the Gray - New Gloucester Middle school from Hancock Land Management. This property already contains 1/2 mile of trails that link the Libby Hill Trail system to the school and parking lot. We have sought to obtain this property since we began the trails in 1999 and now finally we have a unique, one time option to forever guarantee Libby Hill Trails will remain an unspoiled open space!

For many years, I envisioned what might happen if this property became developed. How would we get to our trails? Rebuilding the Old Libby Hill Road to our main property would cost in excess of 1 million dollars. The schools would no longer have access to the trails or outdoor classrooms that the Libby Hill Forest had provided. Should developers get the land, a new crop of a half dozen 'McMansions' would pop up having their own private trail system all built for them. Traffic would increase through the school zone and future expansion of the schools would be limited. All these things, haunted me year after year as I made the trek up the hill to the trails.

So, now it is time to act. We have to find funding for $160,000 to secure this critical piece for Libby Hill Trails. We have applied for a grant from the Land for Maine's future for $110,000. This grant will get a decision by July and is a very competitive process with other non-profits. We also have asked the town to provide $25,000 from the "open space" fund. This fund was created more than a dozen years ago to purchase open space to offset land lost to development. The money in this account (which now is over $100,000) was completely funded by developers and has no tax payer money.

At a minimum we need to fund raise $25,000 and at worst $160,000. If you are a trail supporter, we now need your help. Perhaps you can contribute money (see our donation page), you could give time (volunteer), network with others to tell our story, or maybe you would like to leave a legacy like Harold Libbey and forever be remembered by thousands of trail users. If you can't do any of these but still use the trails, at a minimum consider completing our online trail registry which assists us with grant applications.

Finally, don't take your time on the 'hill' for granted. Last weekend one of the founders of the trail system suffered a major medical event that nearly took him from us. It scared all of us who are lucky to know how much he has done for our trails. We now feel very lucky is now doing well and able to go back to the hill he loves so much. It made me think that I need to treasure each trip to Libby Hill like it might be my last romp in the woods. So whether it be the challenges of life or politics, it is time for us all to see the "Forest through the trees" and do what we can to make Libby Hill Forest a permanent open space for generations to come! Just keep thinking....."what if I couldn't get on the trails?"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Bunny Comes to Libby Hill!

Another great weekend to get out on the trails! Snowshoeing is beyond excellent as you hardly sink in the morning crust and in the afternoon a soft 1 inch cushion forms as you move almost silently across the 24 inch base of snow still left in the woods. Today I did my normal bushwhack (you can go almost anywhere) to check out the beavers activity. I found 2 more trees downed since last weekend and lots of evidence that they are coming out every day to gnaw on bark from the large trees they toppled in the fall. You can see their ice holes in the brook, although most of the brook is now open. Crossing to the Outback would be quite a challenge this weekend since the melt off is over powering the beaver dams causing the brook water level to rise over the crossing stones.

We continued to see much evidence of deer and coyotes all over the hill. Deer continue to since in the softening snow however coyotes are barely breaking through the crust.

We did come across our first rabbit ever on Libby Hill today (see track to the right) as he flew over the snow on the ridge above us. He seems to inhabit the pine thicket just north of Libby Hill road near McPike's Hike off the Moose Odyssey trail. We caught sight of him twice but could not get a photo. I guess this must be the Easter Bunny since the timing of his appearance was so obvious!

We also checked out the famous 'buttonwood' tree and are quite sure it has an offspring. This is a good thing since this tree is over 200 years old and quite rare in Maine. I'll devote more to this unique natural attraction in a later blog this spring. I also hope to host a tree tour walk later this year for those interested in seeing this unique specimen.

Tracks abound everywhere. The afternoon sun provides a good media for the foot prints which freeze hard over night and you can investigate the results the next morning. We did see what looked like crow or raven tracks. They are similar to turkey tracks but much closer together and about 1/3 as large.

You still have another day this weekend to get out and explore. Don't let the winter fence you in, come out and play!
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Winter Got You Down?

You see it everywhere - people showing many of the signs of 'cabin fever'. You do start to notice that those with the worst symptoms are those who are not 'outdoor' people. If you stare at the same four walls for 6 months you start to get quite claustrophobic after 130 inches of snow! On the other hand, if you get outside and see the world beyond your TIVO you will be rewarded with a love of winter!

Yesterday, I did a check of my upcoming snowshoe trek this Sunday (yes, a few slots are available call 657-2114 to reserve). I made my way down the south slope of the ridge of Libby Hill, winding my way through the 'snow bridges' that make a maze through the many springs that drain the hill. I then spent an hour exploring tracks and beaver activity.

On the beaver side, I saw that the beaver is coming out of it's house and adding a few new branches to the roof of its house. The roof has been thawed out all winter, perhaps from the heat generated from its inhabitants below. You could also see where over the past couple of days where the beaver comes out to eat lunch. In one spot you could see were they cut down a small tree and the drag marks of the tree being 'yarded' or dragged to the stream.

As luck would have it, I had my camera out and my finger on the shutter, right when this deer leaped across the brook, not 25 feet beyond me! The photo is a little blurred but it is the closest and best photo I have been able to get all year after seeing deer dozens of times!

I then went up the esker (horseback) and sat on a large boulder that had an exposed top, making for a great seat to sit in the afternoon sun and look down on the brook over 75 feet below. With days like these, winter didn't seem so grim and spring seemed to be leaching into the landscape as I heard more birds and saw much more animal activity.

So, if you need a cure, get out on the trails! It will be the best therapy you can possibly prescribe! You can see more of the photos from the brook yesterday at this link:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fun School Outing

I had a great afternoon out with a group of kids and parents from the Maine Classical Christian School ! It was everyone's first visit to Libby Hill Trails and I got promises of return visits by many of the group. Most kids had never been snowshoeing before and were lucky to have ideal snowshoe conditions today. I was impressed with how curious and well behaved all the students were and everyone agreed it beat being in class this afternoon! If any of you kids log in to see this today, make a comment here on the blog to let me know what you think of snowshoeing and the trail system. I'm always curious to know folks first impressions. You can also all help by signing our electronic trail register at this link. Again thanks for a great ending to my week!
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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Winter dissolves its icy hand

After a crappy day of rain and freezing rain yesterday, I was a little apprehensive about what trees might have broken last night. I was greeted by bright sun and a crust that barely dimpled when I started snowshoeing. I was happy to find that the icing had not done the damage seen 2 weeks ago so no major trail repairs this week!

I did lots of off-trail exploration today since it took no effort to break trail. As I approached the cell tower, I started to hear some bizarre sounds. It sounded like someone was climbing up the tower. It was a periodic clang at about the same rate as you would hear if someone was going up a metal ladder. Curious about what the sound was, I approached closer and found no maintenance crew working there. Instead, it was the sun melting pieces of ice up on the tower that were falling off the heated metal. It seemed too logical an explanation to me, so I decided to make believe that Daniel Libby's ghost (the original owner of the land from the 1700's) was climbing up the tower to look and see what was happening! It's probably a sign I've been spending a bit too much time alone in the woods!

Interesting tracks are out on the crust as well. I found one, then a second set of coyote set tracks following the first set. They were definitely headed downhill toward the middle school. Deer also go through here so they follow their trails to see if they can find one that might be a good target. I also saw some smaller tracks in another area but couldn't id them, maybe fox or possibly bobcat?

I continued on to check the property lines that have to repainted this summer. Despite the snow it was easier to track in winter since the leaves were off. We hope to get some volunteers to clear out the brush and repaint the survey lines. I also got to snowshoe on top of the rock wall for the whole 1200 feet of the wall and then drop down the steep 'canyon' into Holmquist Hollow. This area is a great spot to practice your off trail snowshoeing. Lots of elevation changes and a beautiful oak grove to explore.

The sun was crystal clear and the temperatures were very spring like as the morning wore on. Sadly, I had to leave the hill once again but today it was clear that winter was losing its grip on the land and changes are coming!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Where's Wyatt?....We found him!

Update: March 8th, we found Wyatt! His mom, Meaghen Kenney, saw the article and Carl is going to make sure he gets his medal! Thanks again for the great effort!

Do you know Wyatt? He is the 5 year old skiing here with his dad and brother in tow! Carl Holmquist was so impressed with his performance he wants to personally present him with "Best in Effort" for the Winter Fun Day. We know he lives in Gray and talked to his mom earlier. If you know him or if his family sees this, please let us know how we can contact his parents and award him a prize! You can call Carl Holmquist directly at 657-2173 or email us here at Wyatt.... you are inspiration to us all!
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Fun Day Goes Sunday

It's been a wild week organizing our big fun day at Libby Hill. When we set our date in March several people thought we would miss getting enough snow. Well statistically, March is always our best snow month and this year is no different! Our friends at Eastern Mountain Sports are very excited about the snow but the storm decided it was going to dump all it could right in the middle of our event. So finally yesterday afternoon we scrambled around to move the whole show to Sunday (tomorrow) March 2nd. Having spent dozens of organizational hours we couldn't see not doing something to celebrate our record snows. So, come tomorrow and enjoy a great day of snow, warmer temperatures, and even some sun!

The photos to the left show you how great sliding is at the GNG Middle School. It is here where all activities will start. Bring your sled, skis, or snowshoes and avoid the trap of cabin fever! Even if you just want to watch, the high field above the soccer field makes a great place to people watch and enjoy some hot food and beverages.

Finally, lots of other things happened this week. This includes the grand opening of our new permanent Orienteering Course. Designed by Tracy Ross, orienteers have eight great course on Libby Hill. You can learn how to get you or your family involved in this fun outdoor activity by visiting Tracy at her Orienteering booth at the fun day tomorrow. We also have lots of getting started information and maps on our website, including a direct link on our home page to all these resources. We have also added online donations to our website. If you want to keep the good work going at Libby Hill, this is an easy way for you to donate what you can to fund future projects at Libby Hill and the Gray Community Endowment. Click here to go directly to our donation area.

So, if you can come and see us tomorrow please come to the fun day. Your presence will demonstrate the diversity of uses and support that Libby Hill has drawn. See you on the 'hill'!
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't Miss This Weekend!

We have snow and weather in our favor for this weekends big event, the Libby Hill Fun Day! I have been getting emails and calls asking for directions and more information for the past 10 days. There are so many reasons for you to come by this Saturday but here are a few ideas for you.

If you have kids:
-Sign them up for the snowshoe or ski races (9-10:30am)
-Bring your own snacks or support our fundraising food vendor
-Try out a pair of snowshoes for free at the EMS tent
-Bring your sleds and snow tubes, the sliding is great, sledding games too
-learn about animal tracks (then go find them)
-learn about safety and survival in the woods
-learn about hiking 'green'
-see actual predators in a presentation
-test drive our new Orienteering course (a great activity for your family year round); classes held all day
-sign up for a guided snowshoe tour
-gather around the bonfire
-take a hay wagon ride

If you are an adult:
-do all the same stuff the kids do!
-get involved with Libby Hill
-get maps of the trails
-ask trail experts on what else you can do at Libby Hill
-join the 'Friends of Libby Hill'

Keep in mind we are sponsoring this event with a minimum of volunteers and money but we think it is a phenomenal opportunity for fun in winter. You can help by offering to volunteer or 'pay it forward' by contributing money in our contribution 'buckets'. What you do this weekend will determine future events at Libby Hill. Keep the fun coming by doing what you can do to support this special place.

Finally, I going to promote the event that I'm responsible for: "the guided snowshoe trek" which occurs from 2-4:30pm. This event is a new route (for those of you whom have been on other treks). The tour will first navigate the springs of Libby Hill and take you over 'cloud like' hummocks (see middle picture) of snow where you almost feel like you are floating over the snow. Then we get to the frozen beaver pond, an area inaccessible for most of the year (see top most photo). The next leg hits part of the Outback trail where you can plan your next adventure on your own. Then we get back to the popular Thayer brook area where we may see all sorts of tracks. Last Sunday you could see where a beaver came out of the water through the ice and bellied up the bank to look for bark....very cool (see bottom photo).

You can see over 20 photos of the trek at our photo album area at this link .

This tour has only 20 slots so please register at the information booth if you want to reserve your spot. You should bring some water and be prepared for an intermediate snowshoe hike of 2.5 miles. We will stop frequently and give everyone lots of time to socialize on the tour.

So if you like indoor or outdoor events, I'm sure you'll find something fun to do this weekend at Libby Hill, see you there!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Lots Happening This Month

Our Full Moon Snowshoe event has been wildly popular. I have gotten over 2 dozen folks who are very excited to explore Libby Hill at night. We may schedule another full moon event in the future depending on the feedback we get from trail users. For those seeking to follow the route of the tour, a webpage will be posted later this week outlining the tour.

Meanwhile, our Orienteering course is nearing its grand opening on March 1st (at our fun day). Tracy Ross has put a tremendous effort in mapping and laying out a world class series of orienteering classes. If you are looking for a new way to get your kids interested in outdoor activities, you'll want to check out her Orienteering tent at the Fun day.

Speaking of fun, our March 1st fun day is only a week away, the full schedule is posted at . Plan your March 1st to enjoy our biggest event of the year. There are lots of fun things for all ages and interests. Activities are inside and outside depending on your taste in activities.

Yet, despite all the great things happening this month, the ice storm really put our volunteers to the test this past weekend. Hundreds of pine branches dropped on the ski trails and then froze solid on Friday blocking the snow groomer from going down the trails. With Carl Holmquist leading the charge, over 2 dozen volunteers opened the trails up enough to get the ski trails open again. Most trail users probably don't realize how much effort it takes to keep the trails going. You can help keep these volunteers motivated by supporting Libby Hill in any way you can. This may mean attending the March 1st event, volunteering, donating money, or joining our new "Friends of Libby Hill" organization.

At the end of the day though, the hill is always there. Don't let another year go by if you haven't discovered Libby Hill, this is your year!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Full Moon Snowshoe - 1 Week Away

The snow gods have been more than kind the last 10 days! With over two feet of snow on the ground and a hard crust about to set by tomorrow, snowshoeing is exceptional! We still have a few slots left on our Full Moon Snowshoe on Wednesday February 20th. There is also a lunar eclipse that night at 10:30 for those wishing to extend their adventure (tour won't go that late though). If we are lucky, we should hear some Barred owls.

So, if you want to do something different next week, contact us soon to reserve your space on the walk (call Steve McPike, 657-2114) or email,

Monday, February 4, 2008

Why Snowshoeing is so Great

You're thinking, warm temperatures, rain, the trail conditions must be crappy on Libby Hill, right? Well the ski trails are taking a beating but the groomed trails will hold on until the next snow. Snowshoeing on the other hand, is really good. The rain and cold night temperatures have created a superior crust. See the tracks the photo to the right, They barely break into the snow! This means you can go off tracks almost anywhere you want to explore!

Today I scoped out the route for our upcoming February 20th, full moon snowshoe walk. I wanted to find some new places to take folks that have been on our previous tours. Today, Doreen and I found some great places on the south ridge of Libby Hill, just east of the Harold Libbey Trail. For those of you who come to the event (please reserve your space see, you will have a chance to quickly get off trail and visit the deer trails that lead down the spine of Libby Hill to Thayer brook. Since it is a night tour, we'll keep you high and dry but you'll see the woods in a whole different 'light', moonlight that is!

After making a loop on the south ridge, we'll stop at the Harold Libbey memorial for a break. Then its off bushwhacking the main section of Libby Hill Forest. In winter you can go right down the middle of the property eventually making a loop to the views on he east. We should reach the top of Libby Hill when the moon is about 30 degrees up on the horizon providing great light on the open areas under the large pines.

The whole tour will take about 2 hours, so hurry if you want to reserve a space! If you can make that tour, be sure to get out and explore during the day. Conditions only continue to for the snowshoers even while the skiers are home praying for snow!
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Sunday, February 3, 2008

530 Reasons Why January Was Great

We aren't exactly Google or but we think our website does a good job helping us spread the word about Libby Hill Forest Trails. I keep track of our web activity each month and last fall decided to step up web features and increase publicity about Libby Hill. Typically over the past 2 years, about 180 unique people a month check out our website. In October we had our best month of 270 unique people due to a front page article in the local paper. However, the good early snow combined, monthly trail events, and posted current trail conditions have made January 2008 our best month so far at 530 unique visitors to our website!

It's often hard to gauge how much usage our trails get. We have noticed that weekends are busier and we anecdotally see more and more folks out on the trails. While certainly the website views don't translate into trail users, it is a good barometer that the word is getting out that Libby Hill Trails are a great resource in Gray! We also know that the places people go most are:

  • Trail Blog (current conditions)
  • Trail Maps
  • Snowshoe Guide
  • Trail Guide
  • Contact Us
  • Trails Nearby
  • Events
  • How You Can Help
  • Snowmobile Trail Maps
In particular I have been most happy that the maps and trail guides have been viewed hundreds of times per month. It's kind of like "if you build it they will come" philosophy but without the web stats I really wouldn't know if anyone ever got to read it.

So we are at the 'half time' of the winter, with some warm temperatures and a dearth of snow. Time is on our side though, with our biggest snow months ahead so while we all pause to enjoy another 2 months of winter sports, give some thoughts about what you like about Libby Hill Trails. What do you like most about the webpage? What would you like to see added? Do you have some good pictures of the trail? Would you consider sharing them with us? Would you like to help keep the momentum of Libby Hill Trails moving forward? Could you volunteer some time? Give us your thoughts via at or click the 'comment' box on this entry in the blog. Libby Hill Trails wants your ideas and your help!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tracks Tell Many Stories

I had the pleasure of an afternoon of exploring areas I never usually have time to check out. Normally trail maintenance or other duties keep me on the usual trails and paths. For months now I wanted to try two bushwhacks to see what was 'over that next hill'. First, I began by making my way out the old Libby Hill Road past Thayer Brook.

On my way out, I noticed how well you could see the activity on the hill since yesterday. The 2 inches of very fluffy snow showed what had transpired over the last 24 hours. As I walked easily in my hiking boots on the well packed snow mobile trail, I saw several explorations by back country skiers going off trail to explore the woods on their own terms. I was also excited to see snowshoers had taken advantage of the great conditions to explore off trail in all sorts of directions.

I noticed the sun getting a little stronger, finally feeling the heat of it despite the slightly biting wind that swirled snow in drifts earlier in the morning. I then took the SA 12 Trail that leads toward Ramsdell Road. The SA 12 trail hasn't been used by snowmobilers much this winter, probably because of some wet spots that challenge easy crossing with a sled. I then started my bushwhack of about 1/2 mile to connect to our Outback trail. I fell upon an old tote road that pretty much matched the course my GPS wanted me to go. Just before hitting the trail I came across the tracks of a back country skier who had headed even deeper into the back country yesterday. In the 1/2 mile I had crossed at least a dozen deer paths.

I then ran down the back half of the Outback trail to Moose Point. I have starred at that marsh area all fall, just waiting for things to freeze up so I could see what was out on the marsh created by the beavers downstream on Thayer brook (see first photo on left above). Because of the flooding from the beaver dams, many large dead trees (snags) exist in the marsh area. Many already have numerous woodpecker holes. I saw two hairy woodpeckers making additonal holes today.

I carefully made my way over the frozen Thayer brook but the ice was solid. Then I saw it, lots of dog like tracks which I realized were coyote tracks since no human tracks were within 500 feet. Then I saw not just one but a group of 4 animals tracks well defined in the powder and ice (see photo just above). Clearly, a pack of coyotes was patrolling Thayer brook since yesterday!

I then was able to get back to the high school in a direct route of about only 1/2 mile. All the way back I saw many deer tracks and as I got closer to the front side of Libby Hill, I saw several snowshoers had ventured off the Harold Libbey trail to explore the less seen areas.

So at the end of my two hour and four mile loop I got to see all the users of Libby Hill, whether they be four or two footed. The hill supports a rich mix of activity, its just most people would never know except for rare days like today when tracks in light snow reveal how much happens every day on Libby Hill!
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nature Tours Are Fun

We had over a dozen people take part in our Winter Nature Snowshoe tour. The snow was perfect for snowshoeing and we had a great guide, Caryl Widowson. Bringing her new hand carved walking stick to use as a pointer, Caryl delighted trail goers with demonstrations of nature's diversity in winter.

Like all of our walks, the group starts to bond together after spending a few hours in the woods. We all made new friends and delighted in embracing the fun of winter!

I have posted over a dozen pictures at this link. Check our our changing nature section of for other references you can use to explore nature in winter on your own. Caryl and I will post a list of the things we pointed out yesterday and give you additional links to learn more.

Thanks again to everyone who came! Be sure to leave a 'comment' just below this posting (you can be anonymous).

Our next guided tour is our Full Moon Tour in February. That event is by reservation so let us know via e-mail to reserve your spot!
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