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!
Posted by Picasa

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!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nature Tour Today!

Hopefully you can join us today for our Winter Nature Snowshoe tour! Yesterday I went up late in the afternoon to lay down a trail through the woods for the tour. I was very fortunate to meet my little friend shown in the picture at the right. This hairy woodpecker was very intersted in extracting sap from a small beech tree. At first I was about 50 feet away but slowly I was able to get within 15 feet and get a fairly good picture. He was determined to continue feeding on whatever he had found. If you want to see all the photos of this little guy, see the slide show at :

If you do join us today, please visit here and leave a 'comment' on what you thought. The comment area is at the bottom of this entry and if you hit the word 'comment' you can leave an 'anonymous' comment.

On our website I will also post some good nature books recommended by Caryl Widdowson. We will also be adding a nature/wildlife section to our website soon where you can track and post where wildlife is being seen on Libby Hill! Caryl has also volunteered to be our resident naturalist and field any nature questions you might want to send in. All this should be added in the next 10 days to!

If you miss our event we will have another Nature tour at our March 1st Fun Day! We can also arrange custom tours for groups, contact us if you have interest in a tour .
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snowshoe Trek Event

Despite the rain earlier in the week the eight folks who showed up for our January 12th snowshoe trek all had a great time! I have led over a half dozen guided treks up Libby Hill and each time I arrive 30 minutes before the event. Doreen, my wife, always comes along to assist and we watch to see who will arrive. You can get 3 to 20 people for an event so you never know what to expect.

Just before 1pm the cars started to appear and we had 8 folks ready to experience Libby Hill for the first time. Several folks were trying snowshoes for first time as well. Our recreation department lent us 6 pairs of snowshoes which worked out perfect. Word on the street is that the early snow has caused snowshoe sales to deplete inventories at local ski shops.

After getting everyone fitted and adjusting for a couple of binding issues, we headed off for the Harold Libbey Trail. I start off with a quick overview of Libby Hill Trails at the entrance to the trails. The first thing I notice is that folks new to the trails are amazed that Gray has such a developed recreation space. Unfortunately, if you just drove up to our parking lot it is hard to imagine that a great recreation space is hidden just behind the school. As we climb Libby Hill on the Moose Odyssey Trail, the snowshoers are getting limbered up and enjoying the spring like sun we had yesterday. We catch our breath at the Harold Libbey monument and I share how lucky we are to have visionary land owners in Gray who donated this land.

After a water break and cordial conversations on break we start down the Harold Libbey Trail. I can see the new trail users are surprised at how much different the snowshoe trail is from the ski trail. They wind through sun drenched woods and pillowed boulders. We go at a leisurely pace that allows for conversations and we all realize how much fun it is to meet new people and get a little casual exercise to boot!

We cross the new bridge and then three of our trekkers are also geocachers and decide to take a shot at finding Daniel Libby's Locker. It was a great chance to have others learn what geocaching is all about and when the cache was found and opened everyone was excited to see what treasures were contained within.

Next we went off trail down the side of the horseback to Thayer brook. We discovered a hidden waterfalls and saw that beavers had come out earlier in the day to chew bark on downed trees. We got an excellent photo of one of their webbed tracks (see right). We then followed the brook downstream to rejoin the trail for the loop back. By now everyone was smiling and talking steadily as we had become a bonded group.

We ended up landing back at the parking lot extending our hike to a total of 3 hours. Like so many other guided walks, once people get out on Libby Hill they want to see more. I plan on doing some more guided walks this winter including a nature snowshoe on Jan 19th, our full moon walk on Feb 20th and our March 1st fun day. If you might be interested leave a comment here or watch our events section of the

If you want to explore on your own, don't miss our snowshoeing guide also posted on the website. I also do guided walks by appointment as well; shoot me an e-mail if you would like to arrange one.

So thanks Deb, Cherrie, Brian, Joel, Doreen, Georgia Ann and Richard for providing a great afternoon of camaraderie and outdoor fun! If you want to see all the photos you can go to this link to see and download copies.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't Let the Thaw Keep you on the Couch!

Warm conditions this week have taken our ideal ski conditions to late spring conditions in 4 days. Don't be discouraged though as cooling temperatures should allow for a rough up grooming this weekend to provide adequate skiing. Luckily our trail design combined with less open field exposure gives the trails versatility when we have these temperature swings.

Snowshoers who want to attend our Jan 12th event are still in luck. We will hold the tour since there will still be nearly a foot of snow in the woods despite the heat and rain. The tour gives you a taste of our marked trails and also some off trail rambling to view some areas you probably haven't seen yet on Libby Hill. If you do plan to snowshoe this weekend, be easy on the ski trails by staying to the far side of the groomed trails on your way up to the Harold Libbey Trail.

If you want to try snowshoeing this weekend we still have 5 pairs of snowshoes available to use on our guided tour. Winter will be back next week so don't wait to get off the couch, the fun is out there!