A dash of snow and an opening in our afternoon. What better way to spend it than hiking? And so we did. On Bald Pate Mountain. We followed the Moose Trail to South Face Loop to the summit to Bob Chase to Foster Pond Lookout. And tucked in a few miles.
Though there were tire tracks in the parking lot, we soon realized we were the only ones who had ventured onto the trails today. Or were we?
Within seconds, we encountered Red Fox prints, that chevron. on the back of the feet appearing in the snow if you really look. And remember, a fox is a perfect stepper so typically one foot falls onto or almost onto the spot where another foot had been.
The pattern left behind indicates that like us, this mammal was walking and following the man-made trail. Or did it? Perhaps we followed the critter’s trail.
In a wet spot, we discovered the prints of another who chose the high road to avoid the ice and water–certainly a smart Red Squirrel decision, unlike those poor decisions made when trying to cross one of our roads.
Climbing up the South Face Loop toward the Bob Chase Trail was new for us, as we usually continue along the base of the mountain toward the eastern side before heading up to the summit. We struggled with slippery conditions on a few rocks and soon discovered we weren’t alone for this coyote had also slipped a few times.
Approaching the summit, we were still surprised to find that our prints were the first on this beautiful autumn day.
We enjoyed the view toward Foster Pond . . .
and the same toward Hancock (and yes Faith, we waved to your camp).
It was up there that we spotted not only more Red Squirrel tracks, but also these Chipmunk prints. And you thought the little ones had snuggled in for a long winter’s nap, but truth be told, they don’t go into true torpor and we’ve spotted them or their prints occasionally in winter. Plus, despite today’s chill, it’s been such a mild fall and we haven’t had a decent snowfall yet, so there’s still plenty of opportunity to gather food for a cache.
Finally heading out to the Foster Pond Lookout, we found Snowshoe Hare prints and a very classic track left behind by a Meadow Vole.
Meadow Voles intrigue me because they can hop like a squirrel or hare, or walk with the zigzag pattern of a perfect walker like a fox.
And furthermore, Meadow Voles tunnel! We usually don’t see the tunnel, which tends to be in that subnivean zone between the snow and the ground until spring melt, but with last night’s dumping of maybe an inch of snow, it was quite visible.
Continuing toward the lookout, we spotted more Coyote tracks intersecting with those left behind by a squirrel. Up to that point, the squirrel was still alive since their tracks were headed in opposite directions. Good luck, Red!
And then on a ledge just before the lookout, we spotted feather and foot prints. A bird had landed and then it went for a walk.
And turned and went the other way before lifting off again. Based on size, we agreed it was a Crow rather than a Raven, though we often hear Ravens, especially on the other side of the mountain.
Finally, we reached Foster Pond Lookout, where the setting sun behind us made it look like the forest beyond was washed with color.
We had reached Trail End, but it wasn’t the end of the trail. Not for us anyway. Turning 180˚, we retraced our steps and headed back toward the parking lot.
As the sign indicated, it was time to go home. But we rejoiced–for we were back in tracking mode on this Mondate and grateful for this opportunity to head out on a slightly snow covered trail and embrace the brisk air, which made us feel so alive.