One should not work from home for then it is much too easy to do an about face with plans for the day and hit the trail before meeting deadlines. But alas, that is how I found myself on the Chessey Property this morning. It just seemed to make more sense to head out early in the day, rather than wait until the end to reward myself.
The 100-acre property Chessey Property was forever protected from development under a conservation easement with the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. Though I’d passed by numerable times, I had never before ventured that way.
And so this morning I decided to rectify that and drove to the trailhead. Actually, I drove past the trailhead, spotted the large cemetery on my left and turned around. The sign was facing in the opposite direction and easy to miss. Because the trail was only a half mile long, I figured it would be a quick trip. Apparently, I don’t know myself very well.
I hadn’t tramped far when I realized I was moving in the opposite direction of one whose ancestors had inspired my own mode of transportation. The start of the trail is a field in early succession and so it made sense to find snowshoe hare prints crisscrossing the opening.
But . . . it wasn’t just a hare that had moved atop the snow. The print size and stride told me a red fox had also traveled there–and not too long before I’d arrived. To add to my identification was the chevron visible in the front foot print. Do you see what the arrows indicate?
I didn’t follow the track, and so I wasn’t sure if I was looking at prints made by one fox or perhaps two. My gut told me one and that the back foot didn’t always land exactly in the impression of the front.
Nor do I know how the story ended–for the fox crossed the hare’s tracks. Did the two ever actually meet?
In the same area I found speckled alder, so named for its bark speckled with pores or lenticels. Its red and maroon catkins grew longer–well, at least the male catkins. The shorter catkins are the females, for alders are monoecious–male and female flowers grow on the same plant. As March gives way to April, the male color will deepen to burgundy, while the females will turn bright red–in full blush.
Another color also caught my attention–pussy willows with their furry little silver flower buds just opening. The soft tufts earned their common name due to their resemblance to tiny kitten paws.
All of that, and I hadn’t gone far from my truck. But, by the depth of my impressions, you can see that my travel would be slow for no one had packed the trail before me.
I journeyed on, stopping every ten to twenty steps to look around, listen, and catch my breath. Tracking was almost impossible once I ventured into the forest for snow drops from the trees created their own random impressions. Water obstacles were a bit of a challenge, but I managed to manipulate around all four. And bird song included the throaty caws of Ravens. At one point I heard their powerful wing beats and looked up to see three chasing another bird that I couldn’t identify.
But never fear, though I couldn’t find tracks as I continued, I found plenty of other things to look at, including a tilted snow mask, and . . .
snow sculptures. How does snow do that? Worth a wonder, indeed.
I’d almost reached the turn around point when I recognized a pattern by my feet and realized an otter had passed that way–probably yesterday based on the state of the slides, prints, and scat. One really cool thing that I learned as I followed its trail was that every once in a while it tunneled under the snow. I don’t know that I’ve ever noted that behavior previously. Most of its tunnels were about ten feet long and then it emerged again to bound and slide.
At last I turned my attention to the 110-acre pond that opened before me. It’s my understanding that it remains undeveloped–a rare feat in these parts. I wanted to stay and explore, but knew I had to save it for another day because work really did sit at home awaiting my attention. I trust I’ll return in another season when the traveling isn’t quite as difficult, but until then this morning’s moments beside Browns Pond will sustain me.