“The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend is a series of events led by outdoor-oriented organizations and companies to celebrate the how, where, and what of being active outside in Maine. Our goal is to connect our friends and neighbors with the natural world, to promote fun, physical activity, & good health.” ~greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org
In the spirit of the GMOW, the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Upper Saco Valley Land Trust co-hosted a paddle at the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area, aka Brownfield Bog, in Brownfield today.
Though the temperature was a bit nippy, as in mid-50˚s to start (and colder in the shade), we couldn’t have asked for a better autumn day, especially given that we first began planning this event last winter.
In what seemed like perfect timing for they didn’t all pull in at once, vehicles laden with kayaks and even one canoe, arrived and folks who’d never met before helped each other carry boats, paddles and personal floatation devices down the road. Then we stood in our traditional circle, where Erika of USVLT and I welcomed everyone and introduced our two organizations. By the tile sign created by Maine Master Naturalist Kathy McGreavy, I pointed out our location and destination along the Old Course of the Saco River.
And then we all walked down the road to the put-in site . . .
where our parade of kayaks awaited the adventure.
One at a time the boats were launched. And then the magic began. It was two-fold in that I’d challenged our twenty participants, some of whom had learned of the event via our advertising efforts locally and were already members of our organizations, and others who discovered the event via the GMOW website and wanted to try something new. The challenge was to spend some time chatting with people they’d never met before. And they did. Conversations ranged from living in New York to termite mounds in Africa.
Folks came from Fryeburg, Bridgton, Lovell, Standish, Jackson and North Conway, as well as Westbrook, Portland, and Cape Elizabeth. But that wasn’t all, for one joined us from Philadelphia and two came from Houston. Our furthest traveler hailed from London. Well, truth be told, she’s a long-time GLLT member, docent and board member who spends at least four months in Lovell. 😉 Thanks Moira.
The tapestry of colors was the other magical element. We chatted about the colors and the carotenoids (yellows and orange pigment) showing up as the leaves stop producing sugar and starch for the tree, and the chemical process that produces the anthocyanin or red coloration.
We mentioned the lily pad aphids that sought nutritious sap and noted how the yellowjackets took advantage of the honeydew secretions the aphids offered.
And some of us had the joy of watching two Bald Eagles soar on the thermals above.
There were some fresh beaver works to note and we did spy a few lodges, though none looked active.
And for most of the trip we heard the duck hunters’ gunshots as they took aim, though I think we scared a few of them off. The hunters that is. Well, we know we scared a few ducks off as well.
But, what the day was really all about was an enjoyment of being outdoors and sharing a place many had never explored before.
Around every bend, we discovered different threads, our own colors sewn into the tapestry.
One of my favorites is what I’ve come to call “The Tree.” It’s a perfectly shaped Red Maple that protects a beaver lodge–if you peak below the lower branches on the left, you may see the pointed top of the lodge.
Even The Tree’s reflection was worth several expressed “Ahhs.”
Though the clouds weren’t many, some enhanced the scene.
With each stroke of the paddle it seemed we reached new vantage points where the artwork was similar . . .
How could it get anymore beautiful?
Even the lily pads stood out as if seeking recognition for their presentation.
At last we reached the end of the road, or rather Old Course. That was our turn-around point.
And so we did . . . turn around.
Before heading immediately back, however, we paused for a few moments to sip some water.
And a few new friends even enjoyed rafting up while they ate their picnic lunches.
The trip back passed by much more quickly, as it always does. But still, The Tree called for attention.
And so did the young Yellow-rumped Warblers that flew in and out among the Pickerel Weeds.
They moved in a flock from weeds to the shrubs and back again and a few of us recalled the thicker than thick mosquito population we’ve encountered at the bog in the past, but exalted the insects because of the birds they feed. Today, we were mosquito free and thankful for that. The birds seemed to find what they needed to sustain them. There are still plenty of insects about, just not bothersome ones.
Three hours later, we found our way back to the launch site and once again helped each other stabilize boats and bodies and then carry the boats and gear back to the vehicles. Our journey together had ended, but . . . we had all chatted with a variety of people and left with smiles on our faces and in our hearts for the morning we’d spent together.
We’d connected in the most beautiful setting thanks to everyone’s effort of choosing to celebrate Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.
For help making those connections, thank you Jesse Wright of USVLT for initiating this paddle with me so many moons ago, and to Trisha Beringer of USVLT for the time we shared walking and paddling in preparation, as well as taking the lead on the sign-up process, and to Erika Rowland of USVLT for transporting boats, taking up the lead when Trisha got sick, and being flexible along the way.
What a great day and great way to spend time outdoors in Maine.