I wake with first light around five in the morning, after a frigid night. The birds appear unaffected by the temperatures though, as they are loud and virulent. Given the purpose for this trip being a reconnaissance for a possible change in venue for the Birdathon, I am gleeful that this morning makes up for the rather lackluster activity of yesterday. This morning, the birds finally do not disappoint.
Earlier in the morning well before the sun made its appearance, I experienced how quiet this area could get. The early hours were bitterly cold, probably due to the clear skies and the stillness of the air. The ground vegetation and my tarp were entirely saturated with dew, one of the disadvantages of camping under the clear skies without the cover of a forest canopy. I was reluctant to exit the tarp for a pee, but nature had other things in mind.
The sky was clear with the stars more brilliant than I think I have ever seen (I think I say this every time). The Milky Way’s brilliance was outstanding, but not so bright that I missed a shooting star and a satellite as they move across the heavens. A common loon calling to the west (at Evergreen Lake perhaps) and dogs barking in the distance finally break the quiet of the night. A saw-whet owl and a barred owl both call off in the distance, the little saw-whet significantly closer than its larger cousin.
Date: June 1, 2014
Length: 5.0 miles (5.0 total daily miles; 17.8 total trip miles)
I spent some time catching up on my notes from earlier before finally exiting from my tarp after sunup. As the birds continue their auditory onslaught, I occasionally stop to listen to a song that catches my interest. Along with the usual suspects like the winter wren, white-throated sparrow and common yellowthroat, there are scarlet tanager, Lincoln’s sparrow and swamp sparrow. The proximity of both forest and extensive wetlands probably contributes to the bird diversity in this area.
Before breakfast, I decide to engage in an early morning hike along the old logging road. I head up toward the old bridge carrying my binoculars and camera. Along the way, I spot a blackpoll warbler singing its heart out at the top of a spruce tree, a species I rarely see in this area. Watching it for a while, I continue on my way when it flies off to another tree top out of sight.
The black flies are out in force this morning, probably enjoying the cool temperatures and the bright sunshine. They seem much worse than the previous day, where often I failed to notice them at all. Now, I cannot help but notice them as they are all over me, only ceasing when my Adirondack wave scatters them off. The lack of wind is probably the reason for their virulence now.
I retrace much of my previous wanderings of the last evening. Coming back to the campsite and then continue on to the pond with the wood stack. On my way down, I pick up another eclectic combination of birds, with a female purple finch singing along the trail, Nashville warblers singing almost everywhere and a female common goldeneye down at the nearby pond. A common loon calling from the south topped off my hike.
The blackpoll warbler is still singing enthusiastically when I return to my campsite. After a quick breakfast for myself, and of myself to the black fly horde, I set about packing up my camp for the trip out and back to civilization. The black flies become so intense that listening to them hitting the tarp sounds like it is raining when I am underneath it packing up my sleeping bag and other gear.
By the time I am ready to go, the temperatures are higher, but it is slightly breezy now, with a smattering of clouds in the sky. The bird species keep on coming during my time at camp too. A pair of mallards fly over low, but see me and head off in the opposite direction. A broad-winged hawk soars overhead, while an alder flycatcher sings off in the wetland to the north. This just might be a good place for a Birdathon after all.
The black flies remain intense, so I leave my headnet on for the hike out. Given that I rarely ever don the headnet, this is a rare event indeed. It does not stay on long though, as I find it too hot and uncomfortable. By the time I reach the intersection with the wood stack side trail, the headnet is off and back in my pack, where it stays for the rest of my trip out.
Soon the trail takes on its old road nature once again, with it becoming wider and vegetation-free, the tree branches overlapping from both sides, creating a completely closed canopy. The arching canopy seems almost threatening, instilling a claustrophobic feeling as I walk along. Soon, glimpses of Slim Pond flash through the mature forest downhill to the right, lifting my spirits and giving me an idea of how I am progressing.
The mature forest surrounding the old road does not last long, as more frequent open areas appear along the trail. These grassy, open areas, with their scattering of young trees, must be past log landings with more compacted soils, where it takes longer for regeneration to occur. On the other hand, perhaps it is that this area was more thoroughly cut and there were just not as many seed trees to provide new ingrowth. Or perhaps there is a natural reason for the lack of mature trees.
When the road traverses along the side of an incline, the surface changes from hard-packed gravel to mostly dirt. Other than scattered moss and some rocks, the soil is devoid of vegetation but not so loose that it cakes to my boots much. A track from a wheel leads all the way down through this stretch, whether from a mountain bike, canoe cart or wheelbarrow, I could not tell.
Along the trail, I notice a small white pine missing its top, which lies in the trail nearby. This is not the first time I noticed such vandalism, as there was another one closer to my campsite that also lost its top. The top looks ripped off rather than cut, as it is very jagged on the damaged end, with some wounds nearby that may or may not be bite marks. Whether the damage was done by humans or wild animals, the reason for it escapes me.
Eventually, the trail enters a large clearing, with a scattering of young saplings, especially around the periphery. The clearing turns out to be the end of the line for this trail, as it turns out to be the intersection with the trail I took in from Slim Pond to Evergreen Lake.
From the main intersection with the Evergreen Lake Trail, it is a rather short hike back to the Slim Pond dam. The old road undulates as it weaves its way through a couple of dingy beaver slops, before going through a claustrophobic section where young fir trees have colonized much of the old road except for a narrow corridor. The road widens out again as it descends to the dam, providing an excellent view up the pond.
Crossing the Slim Pond dam takes as much care as it did two days ago. A female hooded merganser flies off from near the dam, while I spot a pair of ring-necked ducks with my binoculars. The pair swim around near the northern shore about a third of the way out in the lake. Pausing while crossing the dam, I soak in the view of the pond, allowing for the fact that I may not make it back here for several years.
While climbing away from the pond, I notice another top of a small white pine tree missing, much like the previous ones earlier along the trail. This one does not offer any more clues about its origin than the others did, once again leaving me pondering the motivations of this serial topper.
Soon, I am back at the intersection with the Raven Lake Road extension, the scraggily Scotch pine still as malformed as it was when I passed this way several days ago. At this point, I am starting to smell the barn door, so I almost immediately continue south along what was once a main logging road, but now is a narrow path through thick clumps of young trees. The trees are so thick here that direct sunlight is almost completely blocked by the accumulation of their communal canopy.
The old road occasionally resumes some of its old width, but not for long, as the surrounding hardwood forest slowly but surely continues to reclaim what was once its own. Before long, I am descending the ridge line and arriving at the rock barrier, which ushers in a new phase of my exit, that of Raven Lake Road.
Raven Lake Road allows me to pick up my pace even further, with its graded dirt surface making it possible to break out into a brisk walk. Good luck catching me now, black flies! Though glancing over my shoulder and seeing the horde behind me reminds me to remain humble and avoid boasting, just in case I should twist an ankle or take a tumble.
As I continue on, I take note of the many landmarks as I walk by. The outlet from Shallow Pond, the descent down the steep hill that follows, the Kettle Hole Canoe Carry, the hunters’ path into the Pepperbox Wilderness and the side roads to the Stillwater dam and the sand quarry. Before I know it, I am crossing the Beaver River and arriving at my car, stinking to all Hell, but not much worse for wear.
With the first part of this trip a major success and the second part providing a plethora of data for a possible alternative Birdathon location, I can clearly say this trip was a rounding success.
Now I just have to figure out a possible next trip, but that is the purpose of the two hour plus car ride home.
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