Along the Natchez Trace

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Happy Trails To You....

Nope, we're not hitting the trail yet....  or at least, not the open road trails.

Aroostook NWR, which was established in 1998, has been in "demolition" mode for the past 14 years.  Converting an old Air Force Base that housed nuclear bombs in concrete bunkers into a wildlife refuge has not been an easy job.  Especially since it's located in a fairly remote part of the USA, and also because there has been only one full-time Federal employee here since day one.

But it looks like the tide has turned.  Yes, there is still some demolition work to be done, and there's still a lot of clean-up work, but the majority of that is completed.

As with most Federal agencies, Fish & Wildlife Refuges, under the Dept of Interior, are working on a shoe-string budget.  For example, with only one full-time employee here, the visitor center is open only when there are volunteers available to man it.

But to have public support, the public must have the opportunity to use at least a part of the refuge.

Yesterday I posted photos of the new photo blind.  What an opportunity for great photo that will be!

Hiking trails are another way for people to enjoy the great outdoors.  There are at least 10 miles of trails already in existence here...  maintained year round...  for hiking or cross country skiing.

A new trail is being built this summer.  No mileage has been established yet because it's still being developed.

We're going to make this...
That pink flagging shows where the trail will go through.

Look Like This....
Only, better!  This is still in the construction stage...  it will be level when completed.

Here's Bill...  
Putting on his bug shirt for a day in the woods.

At first it was hoped that this trail could be constructed without using heavy equipment or power tools.  But it didn't take long to realize that this was not a realistic plan.  Dense undergrowth....  trees way too close together to even get a path through....  fallen trees from previous times...  just all manner of problems to work around.

So...  on to Plan B 
Try to construct a trail being as minimally invasive as possible.
Still, this requires some of the big stuff...
The trail will be this wide....  
This dozer can cut a swath through the woods - taking out only the vegetation in its path.

But it has limits...  so...
A lot of chain-saw work is required - the dozer has its limitations as to what all it can do safely.

Kirk, the chainsaw operator above, cuts the trees into manageable size.  

These logs can't just be left alongside the trail...  it would take too long for them to decompose. 
We don't want this trail to look like a tornado blew through and left all the debris laying in its path...

Here's what it looks like after the tree is down...

And next...
Uh huh....  this is a job I can do.  (Mostly, but I have my limitations, too)...  load up the pieces and haul them off to an area away from the trail.  

This project is not going to be completed overnight...  even with the heavy equipment, it will take a lot of manpower...  a lot of hours....  and quite frankly, a lot of hard labor for this trail to be usable.  
But... it will be completed in a few weeks...  and by next year the scars from the equipment will have healed.

It's called the "Beaver Dam Trail" and will wind around this body of water...
See the dam in the center of the picture?
The trail is on the left side of the pond...  winds around about a half mile into the woods...
And ends up...
Now, you're looking at the dam from the other side....

It will be a nice hike...
If I could, I'd send along the smell of the spruce trees..
The song of the Wood Thrush
I'd make sure you saw all the different things you can observe along the way...
Like Paper Birch peeling off trees...
 Or the bunchberries when they're in bloom
 A kitchen midden of a red squirrel (maybe we'll get lucky and see the squirrel as well)
 Maybe some fungus...  or some beautifully color mushrooms...
 Or some moss or lichen hanging from the branches of a tree...  or some lovely ferns...
Surely we'll see some moose poop!
That's my boot...  just to show you that big critters leave a big pile of poop.

Yes, it will be a wonderful trail.

Maybe next time we volunteer here it will be another of my favorite spots!

That's All For Today!


  1. WOW!! You're blessed to be where you are right now in life!! Absolutely beautiful!

  2. Such an undertaking. I wonder if the trail hikers appreciate the gift.

  3. Wonderful project. That will be a beautiful trail around the beaver dam.

  4. What a big job and how nice it will be for generations of hikers to explore and make all the interesting finds you photographed!

  5. You are helping to create something beautiful to be enjoyed by so many people after you. Long after you and I are gone, there will be people walking this trail, taking in the sights you shared with us and making memories of their own. What a great volunteer project to be a part of. Thanks for sharing all the lovely pictures. I felt like I was right there with you, except I wasn't as tired at the end of it as you were.

  6. Wood thrushes-love their song. Jealous here.

  7. We really enjoyed hiking the trails at Aroostook NWR last summer. We look forward to returning and taking advantage of the new trails and blind!!