Along the Natchez Trace

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!