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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