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!
Posted by Picasa

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!
Posted by Picasa

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!
Posted by Picasa

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'!
Posted by Picasa