Along the Natchez Trace

Saturday, August 26, 2017

From Maine to Texas in One Sitting....

I've gotten a couple of messages lately wondering if we're still alive and kicking....  so thought I'd put together a post to let y'all know that we certainly are.

Since I've slacked off on blogging, I'll quickly recap the summer...  We arrived at Aroostook NWR near Limestone, Maine on May 21.  It was a cooler and wetter summer than any we've had there before, but that didn't stop Bill from playing on the big toys.  I did some mowing this year, but a local volunteer who works year-round has found his niche mowing and maintaining the trails, so I just mowed around the visitor center and the maintenance shop.  That took only one day a week, so I worked the visitor center at least 3 days a week.  We both kept busy and the time just flew by.

Of course I spent a lot of time roaming around the refuge with cameras in hand.  Below are my favorite photos of this summer.  Some are favorites because of the critters, but a few are just because they kind of remind me of the "essence" of our time there....

 Mama Bear and her triplet cubs...  watching me as I'm watching them on a foggy morning.

 A young bear watching me take his photo

 Mama Moose with her twin calves....  at the edge of the lake.

 Bill taking a break from work.  He spent many hours digging up old culvert and making a gentle slope out of a steep hill.

 Did I mention we had a lot of rain?  There are even hail stones coming down here.

 One of the Cedar Waxwings that like to hang out over the lake.

 Another shot of Mama Moose and her twins...  Early morning with dew and fog...

 Not the clearest shot, but I caught this Yellow-rumped Warbler stretching to reach a morsel on this spruce tree.

 Here's lookin' at ya, baby...

 Bucky Beaver Pond...  early morning reflections.

 An Eastern Kingbird with a dragonfly...

 More landscaping...  

 A Tiger Swallowtail on a flower.  (I can't remember what)

 We had several porcupine sightings...  a couple of times one wandered right through out yard.

And what would a summer be without at least one sighting of a skunk?  

 The Lupines were gorgeous this year!

 A Mama Moose with her calf....  another early morning shot.

 Mama Merganser with a whole herd of young'uns.

 Another bear checking me out...

 A loon on the lake....  I'm still hoping that someday a pair will nest there.

Bill and Kirk discussing refuge issues... sitting in the visitor center.  Note that there is a jigsaw puzzle set up here.  Lots of our visitors will stop and try to fit in a piece or two while browsing through the exhibits.  Sometimes folks who don't feel like hiking the nature trail will hang out and work on the puzzle while their family goes hiking.

 This young bear found my bird feeders one day....  he knocked down the hummingbird feeder and the sugar water just coated him.  He sat down to lick it off.  I chased him off before he did more damage.

 I thought I had a scratch on my camera lens.  See the spider web on the lichen at he end of this twig the Kingfisher is sitting on?

 Another early morning, very foggy shot of Mama moose and her twins.

 Kirk erected this stand for an eagle nest years ago.  While this guy does stop by and sit there for a while, so far there's been no takers to build a nest.  Maybe one of these days...

 Yellow Lady Slipper....  I know a couple very special places to look for these and am never disappointed.  They are gorgeous!

One of my favorites...  that Great Blue Heron fits right in with those old weather-beaten trees .

We left Maine on August 13...  headed to NY to visit our daughter and family, then on to Ohio where our son and my sister live.  We were there just a few days then on August 21, headed to Texas.  We were going to leave the day before until we realized that we'd be very close to Nashville around 2pm on Monday and we didn't want to deal with that eclipse traffic.

We did see a partial eclipse...

I took this from the RV window (no filters, no special settings) as we were heading down the interstate.  Not sure what that crescent is above the sun...   but I think this is a good time to end this blog.

We're got to our daughter in Texas' house yesterday and will be here for about a month before heading on to Mexico.  I just might get ambitious and get another blog together before then.  

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Me and My Friend Wish You a Great 4th of July!

I'm working the visitor center today...  been here 2 hours and so far no visitors...

So...  here I am with my new best friend...
Except for all the other "stuffed" (taxidermy) animals on exhibit, my only companion on this anniversary of our independence.  

By the way, all the critters here in the Visitor Center were either road kills, poached animals or in some other "natural" way met their demise.

One of these days I might get caught up with blogging again.
That's All For Today!

The End
(I took this photo this morning before coming to work)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Getting Settled In....

We've been here at Aroostook NWR, near Limestone, Maine for 3 weeks.  Even though this is our 9th summer to volunteer here, each year changes and the "routine" is always a bit different.  Last summer Bill had cataract surgery in Ohio so Maine wasn't in our plans.  One of the biggest changes since 2015 is that a local person volunteers several days a week.  He did mowing and trail maintenance all last summer and while that has been one of my "duties" in the past, I am happy to reduce my mowing time to just some of the public areas here.  My carpel tunnel or tendonitis symptoms are happy too.

Wayne, the local volunteer, also gives refuge tours.  Here he is with a group of 8th graders, showing them his "pet" skunk.  That little polecat is really just a pelt, but when draped over his arm, he can make it seem very realistic.

So...  mowing and tours are pretty much taken care of...  What do we do?

Well...  Bill is still on the heavy equipment...
The road that he helped build a couple of years ago is done, but the areas along the bunker roads need landscaped so that the slopes can be mowed.  This job will take several weeks and keep Bill busy for a while.

This is the where the Nuclear Bombs were housed during the Cold War of the 1950's and 60's.  Next to the Loring Air Force Base, the Caribou Air Station was top secret and most of the military at Loring were not even aware that it existed.  That large concrete building (the vault) on the left was were the detonators were kept.  It is mostly just a cube of solid concrete with 4 rooms, each about 6' x 6', in the center.  That's a guard tower along the road.  At the end of the road you'll see a bunker with a tall vent pipe.  That's where the tritium was stored.  Tritium is an element that enhanced the power of the bomb.   The earth-covered bunker just this side of the vault (and also one on the other side) is one of the 50+ bunkers that remain here.  They housed the bombs.  

When the AFB was decommissioned, the government "gave" the land to National Guard, the Loring Development Commission (to make into an industrial park), the MicMac Indians, and to create Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1998,

Of course, when the military pulled out of this part of northern Maine (and there were many military bases around this region), the economy plummeted.  Many of the locals were from potato growing families and are still potato growers today.  Not a great photo (taken through the vehicle window), here's what a potato field looks like just after it's planted.  This was taken a few miles from the refuge.

This lake was created by the military and still exists today.  That dark area that looks like a dam was a footbridge at one time.  Now it is unused and in disrepair.... and the beavers have decided to build a dam right behind it.  There are usually at least 1 pair of loons here during the summer...  so far I haven't spotted any.  But....

This merganser was swimming around there....  

This cow moose seems to be checking out the greenery...
I've seen 3 different bull moose and a few cows, but don't see any of them often.

Now, on the other hand...
We see bear nearly every day.  Often as many as 3 or 4 sightings a day.  Bill has seen two different Mama Bear with 3 cubs each.  I'm hoping I'll get some photos of them soon.

There is only 1 full-time employee here and everyone else is a volunteer.  The Friends Group keeps the Nature Store open year-round, and during the summer would like to keep it open every day.  Since I'm not spending as much time outside mowing or painting or the like, I work the Visitor Center 3 days a week...  sometimes more if needed.  

There were 75 eighth graders in this school group...  and so well behaved and polite kids!  It was a pleasure to welcome them to the refuge!

What were they working on?
This owl puzzle was started around Christmas... finally completed yesterday!  

The weather has been cool and often rainy since we've been here, and the mosquitoes have been horrendous...
I love it here and am so happy to be back!

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mainly Maine

I got a message from a friend today wondering if we are okay.  Made me realize how long it's been since I've posted and that I should catch up.

We left Texas, headed our favorite route up the Natchez Trace, got to Ohio...  visited with family and caught up with a few friends.  Bill did some work on one of the rentals, but it was pretty much a whirl wind trip there and we moved on...
Son Daniel and Yvonne....  came out to the farm on their Blue Beast.
Nice weather in Ohio most of the time, but got cold and rainy before we left.

On to New York to visit daughter and family...
Me, my daughter Donna, my granddaughter Heather, and my Great-granddaughter Evie
We always take a photo this way...  we started this tradition years ago, when my Mom was alive and Heather was a baby.

Bill bought a new toy at the Cabela's in Hamburg, PA...
That's Glenn, our son-in-law, and Bill figuring out how to fly that Drone.  There's Evie in the background.  They got it off the ground but the wind was too strong to get much practice in.

On to Maine...
Great visit with our friend Karen outside of Portland, Maine before heading on up to the County.

 Yellow-rumped Warbler
I headed for the photo blind overlooking the lake and was rewarded with a whole bunch of these warblers flitting around in the trees.

 A very shaggy looking young moose.  We've seen at least 2 moose so far...  one we've seen several times.  But they still have some of their winter coat and look pretty bad.  

 This black bear was the first critter we saw when we got here...  Bill hadn't even parked the rig when he spotted this guy up in the field.  It worked its way down the field and was visible off and on all day long.  Not especially big, it's probably a couple years old.

 We've seen at least 2 pairs of Ring-necked ducks on one of the ponds.

 And the Merganzer is hanging out near a wood duck nesting box...  Hope it makes it home to raise some young!

 The Odd Couple?
Well, this Canada Goose and Mallard Duck were hanging out in this pond, but their mates are probably somewhere close by.
 This is where we live when here at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge.
Our address is Limestone, Maine, but we're about 5 miles from Limestone, and maybe 10 miles from Caribou.  The refuge is home to Upland Sandpipers, which is an endangered species up here in Maine.  To the left of the building you can barely see a post in the yard.  That's where I hang my bird feeders (which I have to take inside at night because of bear activity), and that dark spot above the open garage door (on the left) and dark spot just to the right of the farthest right garage doors are bluebird boxes.  No bluebirds, but swallows have already moved in and are starting nests.

You can see that we've already settled in (got here Monday) and are quite at home.  I think this is our 9th summer to volunteer here (not consecutive) and it's truly home to us!

That's All For Today!