Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life Jackets for Everyone?

I'm of two minds regarding a proposal which would require paddlers of all ages to wear life jackets (PFDs) while on the water.  Currently, PFDs are only required for paddlers aged 10 and under.  (That, by the way, was one of the questions on my guide's test.)

Citing a spate of paddling deaths this year (some of which involved a victim who was not wearing a life jacket), State Representative Richard Malaby of Hancock is looking to change that.  He submitted a bill as "emergency legislation" which, if it passes, could take effect prior to next summer.  Rep. Malaby himself, however, acknowledges that the problem may have to do more with paddler education than PFD regulation.  He says that the regulation would help to educate out-of-state vacationers with the "dangers" of paddling in Maine waters, which basically boil down to the fact that a lot of Maine water is cold.  Really cold.  Even in the summer.  (Don't believe me?  Jump into Deboullie in July- it'll get your heart pumping!)

On one hand, we have helmet and seat belt laws to protect us from ourselves, so I don't see how a PFD law would be any different.  On the other hand, I usually find it awkward to paddle in a life jacket, especially since 90% of my paddling is done on calm water in which I swim regularly.  If I'm paddling a river, or if it's choppy or whatnot, a life jacket is a given.  Wearing one to paddle over to the Island to clean it every few days would be a little obnoxious.

That's just my opinion, though- what do you think?

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Moose in the Yard

Moose are more-or-less a way of life up here. While they don't come through the yard every day, it's not an uncommon occurrence.  Here's our most recent encounter- you'll have to forgive me for the cheesy captions.  (Everyone enjoys cheese now and then, don't they?) 

Ron: holy cow- moose!  Moose: holy cow- humans!

Mama: eat your vegetables. Calf: do I have to??

The shortest distance between two points is apparently straight over the dock.

Don't mind us.  Just passing through.  'Scuze us.  Pardon us.

Oh!  Did I get in the way of your duck picture?  Terribly sorry.

What do you mean there's something wrong with my ear?

Really, it adds character, don't you think?

Did you order the duck?  I don't remember ordering the duck...

*giggle*  *whisper whisper*  *giggle*

Hey- I heard that!

Every now and then, it strikes me how very lucky I am.  I'm currently sitting on my deck listening to loons call back and forth between Island Pond and Pushineer while posting photos of moose walking across that same deck last week. I hope you enjoy them- kudos to Suzanne for getting the first half.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Whitman Ridge Trail

There was a stunning blue sky in T15-R9 today, so after taking care of quite a few things around Camp, I decided to hike the Whitman Ridge Trail (since I'd only previously hiked part of it).

The first half of the trail is great; it first brings you to two Perch Pond overlooks, right over the cliffs on the north side of the pond.  The leaves are just starting to turn up here- there were a few trees that stood out like orange and red beacons, and the rest of the trees are turning that dull shade of green which means they're not too far behind.  The trail then takes you to one of the ridge peaks without too much fanfare.  You can certainly tell you're at the peak, but mostly because the ground all around you slopes downward.

The peak, however, is where I'm going to recommend everyone stop and turn around, at least until the crews can get back to the trail next year.  Soon after the peak, it was obvious that the crews began simply preparing for next year's work, rather than performing a thorough trail cutting.  I walked over a lot of cut branches, pushed a lot of uncut branches out of the way, and almost forged a new trail in places.  The trail is pretty long; I probably followed it for about 45 minutes total before the cutting came to an ungraceful end and the ribbons followed shortly thereafter.  I'm honestly not sure where I was at that point; I'd guess somewhere over Upper Pond.

The return trip proved to be more of an adventure than the trip there.  Some of the ribbons that were obvious from one direction were out of sight from the other, and I had to backtrack two or three times.  Sometimes I was following ribbons, but some times I had to watch for any sign that cutting had taken place.  A few well-worn animal trails fooled me for a short way.

In all, I think the trail will be a great addition to the network already in place.  For now, I'd recommend enjoying the views of Perch and Togue but turning at the top of the ridge.  Better to wait for the crews to finish linking it up with the Ridge Loop Trail, which will probably happen by the middle of next season.

Happy trails!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


If you follow us on Facebook, you'll have seen these photos already.  (And you'll know that I'm much better about updating our page there than I am at updating the blog!)  The renovations have continued this year, but I think they're definitely at the slowing-down point.  Here's what we did after Togue:

First, we added new hardwood floors to the loft in the Island.  Goodbye, 70's era linoleum!  The loft (and indeed, the whole cabin) is now light, bright, and welcoming.  More and more, I want to move out to the Island myself.

After that, we put a new ceiling in the living room of Gardner to replace some more white acoustic tile.

We still have a bit more to do in Gardner (floors, bathroom, etc), but that will all have to wait until next year.  Slowly but surely, we're making progress.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Absent Again, but Back with Amusing News

This just in from Saro, Sweden: a moose was found stuck in an apple tree, apparently drunk from eating fermented apples.  CNN has the whole story.

Once rescuers freed the moose from the tree, the moose laid right down to sleep off his bender for the rest of the night and most of the next day.  I can only imagine what a moose-sized hangover must feel like.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Growing up Goldeneye

Once again this summer, time has slipped away from me.  Is it because I'm growing older, or is it true that time flies when you're doing something you love?

At any rate, there hasn't been an awful lot interesting going on in our neck of the woods.  The Togue renovations continue; we replaced all of the cabin's interior doors with newly-built doors this weekend.  I've done a couple of little landscaping things that I've been needing to do all summer.  Other than that, though, it's been quiet as we gear up for a big few days this coming week.  (We're feeding 36 on Tuesday and 27 on Wednesday!  For us, that's pretty intense.)

So what better way to apologize for my long absence than by posting pictures?  We're lucky enough to replace television with reality up here, so we've been watching the docu-drama "Growing up Goldeneye" all summer.  In this week's episode, the Gang of Four has left the nest, and we haven't seen mama around for at least a week or so.  (Apologies to all of our Facebook fans who have seen these photos already!)

And just to recap where the Goldeneyes started, here they were a little under a month ago:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Shameless Request

I recently discovered Intuit's "Love a Local Business" contest; they're giving away over $1 million in grants between May and September of this year. We're getting into the fray a little late, but there are still two $25,000 small business grants and the grand prize of a $50,000 small business grant at stake.

The contest is run like a lottery- every vote we get gives us one chance to be drawn in August or September. We're love it if you could go to the "Love a Local Business" website and cast a vote for us; each person is allowed to vote once in August and once in September. (You do have to provide your e-mail address, but Intuit promises it won't be sold or used for any other marketing purpose.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Neighbors Upstairs...

I've been learning an awful lot about bats over the past couple of weeks.  I have a sneaking suspicion that my attic has turned into a maternal roost this year, and I have to admit that I'm not too excited to have neighbors upstairs.  I'd like to encourage them to leave on good terms, though, for two reasons. The first is simply that bats are pretty darn cool and are incredibly beneficial to the ecosystem.  The second is more serious- little brown bats may soon be added to the Federal endangered species list due to concern about white-nose syndrome, a fungus which has killed over a million bats in the eastern United States over the past four or five years.  (White-nose syndrome was confirmed in Maine earlier this year; previously, the state appeared to be fending it off better than other New England states.)  The little guys need as much help as they can get.

So I did a little research and purchased a bat house from the Organization for Bat Conservation. The house is basically a box that's open on the bottom and has two baffles inside to create three vertical nesting chambers.  This particular house claims to handle 300 bats, which is hopefully enough.  (BCI also makes a 500-bat version, which we may look at next year.)  They're pretty easy to make, but with all of the activity we have going on this year, I figured it would be easier to purchase a finished house instead.

Once we stain it a dark walnut or black (to keep things warm the weather turns cold), we'll mount it on the south-facing wall of the workshop.  Then comes the fun part: we somehow have to convince the bats to move out of our house and into their house.  That's when we add some caulk, PVC pipe, duct tape, and clear plastic to the equation.

Getting bats to move out of your house is (apparently) most easily done by excluding them from the house altogether. That means sealing off any entrance bats could use.  That means sealing off any hole or crack greater than 3/8ths of an inch. Bring on the caulk.

Unfortunately, if you seal off every entrance point, you'll probably seal some bats in instead of out.  Cue the PVC, duct tape, and plastic.  Bats initiate flight by dropping from a height and swooping.  When they come home to roost, they swoop below the opening and crawl inside.  What we need, then, is a one-way door that they can swoop out of but can't crawl back into.  (A bat check-valve, if you would.)  A PVC elbow plus a short length of pipe aimed downward works great for this because bats can drop from it as they're used to, but it's slick enough that they can't find any purchase for crawling back inside again.  Extending the PVC with a tube of clear plastic makes the door even more effective.

So that's my bat story for today.  It'll be interesting to see how all of this research actually works in practice.  I do know that it's nearly impossible to seal all of the cracks in a house in the woods, so hopefully the bat house is enticing!

More bat information can be found at Bat Conservation International.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Goodbye, July.

This summer is passing in the blink of an eye.  Before I know it, I'll be packing for the Great Southward Migration again.

My absence for the past week or so has been due to me just plain being busy.  Sorry about that- sometimes life gets ahead of me, and I have to run to catch up.

In the good news department, however, our guys really came through for us, and we got Togue all buttoned up and cleaned up and spiffy for a group that arrives tomorrow.  First, a quick reminder of what we started with:

And where we were two weekends ago:

And here's where we finished up this afternoon:

We still have a bit more to do to really finish it off, but it's in such better shape than it was at the beginning of the month!  We'll put hardwood down on the floors, we're going to add a window to the pond-facing gable end, and I'd like to renovate the bathroom, but the major work is done.  I have to say, I really like how the ceiling came out- it far surpasses that tile!

So goodbye, July; I hardly knew ya.  But you were good to us, so thanks for that.  Here's hoping August is similar but maybe sticks around a little longer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The New Whitman Ridge Trail

Our nice weather today (before our humdinger of an isolated thunderstorm) prompted me to take a quick hike up the new Whitman Ridge trail.  The Maine Conservation Corps crews have been hard at work for a few weeks and have about a week and a half left to go in this stint.  The new trail starts between Togue Pond and the road to Denny.  It runs through the wood for a short bit before it crosses the road to Denny and continues up a second old road where I remember my parents cutting firewood when I was a kid.

Eventually, the trail splits off and starts winding around the southwest side of Whitman Ridge (or Whitman Mountain, depending on what map you look at).  It stops at two very pretty overlooks over Perch Pond and continues on toward Upper Pond.  I'm not sure yet where it ultimately stops- I ran into one of the crews and decided I probably shouldn't make a nuisance of myself.  (Interesting enough, the fellow I talked to also wasn't sure where the trail was going to stop...)

The trail is definitely a work in progress, and I'm glad it's still flagged.  (I had to look for flags a few times where the crews hadn't done much cutting.)  I think it'll be a nice one when it's complete, although I have to make the same comment about this trail that I did about the Black Overlook to Deboullie trail: all of the saplings have been cut off at 1-2" above ground level.  They make for fairly slippery and treacherous footing in hiking boots, but in my Vibrams, they're downright dangerous.  They're low enough that they get covered by leaves and pine needles, and I have a nice bruise on the arch of my foot from one I stepped on today.  I just couldn't see it, even though I was watching the trail pretty closely.  I probably won't try running that trail until I'm a lot more familiar with it.

I also took a quick spin over to Crater Pond today- I had forgotten how pretty that pond is...  And I stopped at the bog on my way back to endure ridicule from a deer- ptttttbbbb.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guide's Test- the Whole Shebang

I'm one of those people for whom early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.  So I left Camp in time to get to Augusta well before 3:00 for my 4:00 test.  I was below Sherman when I got a call from Gloria; IF&W had just called to say that the tests were going quickly today, and that if I could get there at 3, there'd be a good chance they could test me then.  Sweet.

I arrived at the IF&W headquarters a little after 2:00.  My alter ego took care of a couple of calls to Virginia, and I (we?) headed in.  I checked in and apologized for being early for even the earlier testing slot, and the lady behind the counter (Marianne, I believe her name was) said, "That's ok.  Would you like to take your written test while you're waiting?"

I had no idea that was an option- I was expecting to wait a few days or weeks and then take the test up in Ashland.  I had studied for the oral exam, but there were plenty of things I still needed to review for the written.  Still, I could always re-take it if I bombed...  Sure, why not?  She handed me the two test booklets (recreational and fishing), and I sat down at one of their little desk cubicles.  I had finished the recreational test and had gotten about 9 questions in on the fishing test when they came to get me for my oral exam.

I was ushered into the testing room and greeted by two very nice gentlemen (whose names I've already forgotten- I apologize).  Introductions were made, and the two examiners began organizing the testing papers and topo maps.  I caught a glimpse of the map that I'd be using for the map and compass and lost person scenario.

No way...  Couldn't be...

The papers shuffled some more, and the examiners wrote my name on the top of the exam sheets.

It was.  I had to ask.  "Are the exam maps generic for all of the tests, or are they specifically chosen for each test candidate?"

He gave me a funny look.  Fair enough- it was a funny question.  "We pull from a group of general maps.  Why do you ask?"

Home sweet home.  I was staring at a topo map of the Deboullie Township.

I told you serendipity ran in the waters of Red River.  *grin*  I explained exactly where on the map I live, and we all had a good chuckle.  They decided not to switch maps on me, and I tried to calm my nerves.  Map and compass was up first and got me off to a rocky start.

Unless you do something often enough that it becomes second nature, there are two ways to remember things- rote memorization and understanding.  Rote memorization is faster to pull from the ol' filing cabinet in the brain, but it'll also fail you more often, especially when you're counting on it not to.  Foolishly, my brain jumped right to it as I began the map and compass portion of the test.  I first had to pull a true and magnetic bearing from the outlet of Gardner to the inlet of Fifth Pelletier.  The true bearing was simple.  Then I started shaking- do I subtract the declination from the true bearing to get the magnetic, or from the magnetic to get to the true??

I was sweating bullets.  I had no idea where the line was drawn between fumbling because of nerves and fumbling because of incompetence.  I had to avoid that line.  Think, think, think.

My mind went blank, blank, blank.  Numbers, options, and basic high school geometry jumbled in my head like cars on the DC Beltway.  I couldn't get away from the rote memorization to the understanding!


On the Gardner quadrangle topo map, the declination is 18 degrees west; that means that a magnetic bearing of 360 (or zero) degrees equates to a true bearing of 342.  Hence, to get from true to magnetic, you add the declination.  I can't believe how long it took me to get back to that simple knowledge in a high-pressure situation.  I'm still shaking a little because of it.

Comparatively, the lost person scenario went very well.  (In fact, I think I can say that the lost person scenario went pretty well in general.)  My lost person had accidentally taken a spur off of a decent approximation of the Ridge Loop trail and then sprained her ankle when she got down to the small pondlet between Galilee and Gardner.

On my wildlife and pfd identification exam, I missed the lake trout and almost called a bobcat a lynx, but otherwise, it was uneventful.  I was amused to see that one of the "what type of pfd is this" flash cards showed the pfd's label- including the fact that it was a Type II (in small print).  Always the honest one, I pointed it out to them.  Sorry, future test-takers!

I do need to hone up on water rescues- I just don't deal with them a lot. I guess I'll be heading out into the pond this summer to flip some canoes over! That used to be a fun pastime when we were kids, and I bet it's still fun now that I'm an adult.

When everything came out in the wash, I passed the oral exam, nerves and all.  My examiners were very kind and said that they would both be comfortable with me guiding their families, which I take as a high compliment.

I wasn't done, though.  I went back out to the front desk, where Marianne told me that I'd passed the recreational portion of the written exam.  That was pretty darn exciting- no matter what happened with the fishing portion of the exam, I was licensed.  I sat back down and hammered out the remainder of the fishing exam.  I'll admit that I didn't do nearly as well on the fishing written exam as I would have liked, but I guess it wasn't too bad for a spur-of-the-moment situation.  I passed that as well, and I left IF&W with my two-category license and my spiffy patch.

Today was another good day.  Thanks a million to all of the guides who took the time to chat about the test with me!  I couldn't have done it without you guys.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It was a slow morning here at Red River, which gave me the chance to get out on the water to take some pictures before the weather turned a little stormy.  Although Great Blue Herons are plentiful in Virginia, even near DC (my alter ego is working on one project that boasts a 41-nest rookery), they're a pretty rare sight up here.  We're treated to it only a few times each summer, so I was pretty excited when I saw one fly across the pond.

I hopped in a canoe and stayed as far away from him as I could while getting close enough for my telephoto to see him.  He was crouched in the sheep laurel, unmoving, for at least five minutes.  Then he struck and came up with this:

Yum- trout for breakfast.  From where I sat, it looked like a not-too-shabby 8 inches or so.  He seemed pretty happy with it, too.

Unfortunately, I had my camera on automatic for the first several minutes I was watching him, so while the background foliage came out beautifully, he was terribly washed out.  I had to play with the light levels in Photoshop to bring his color out a little better.

I smartened up after he took off from the shallows and landed on the downed spruce by the Island.  With my camera on one of its manual settings, the heron looked a lot better, so I decided to bother him a while longer.

After about 20 minutes, he'd had enough of the paparazzi treatment, and he took off for the cove on the other side of the rock pile. On his way out, he was kind enough to treat me to this beautiful view.

I've also posted a few more on our Flickr photostream. It was a good morning in the Deboullie Township.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Four Days and Counting

Wow- it's the middle of July already.  I say that not because this summer is going so fast, which it is, but because July 21st is this Thursday.  I have to be in Augusta at 4:00 that afternoon to take the oral half of my guide's exam.

I'm still waffling between happy thoughts and sheer terror.  I've picked the brain of every guide that will let me, and they've given me some good advice and some things to study/research/remember.  Based on all of those conversations, I should do fine, but part of me still feels brutally unprepared.

Most of the problem, I know, is in my head.  For instance: by all accounts, the map-and-compass portion will want to find out if I can orient a line to both true north and magnetic north, do a back-sight, and maybe a couple of other minor things.  In my head, though, the testing panel will want me to plot the best course from one point to another, and then back to the starting point, for multiple groups of varying ability.  (Sure, the college kids can go over that 30% incline, but if you don't avoid that mountain and that swamp with the Elderhostel group, points will be docked.)

(And if you cheekily refer to them as Hostile Elders instead, points will also be docked.)

So I'll take a few minutes each day to do a little last-minute cramming, but I'm just going to go for it.  I do need to brush up on my coastal birds/ducks and a few other things that I never deal with, but I think I'll be able to at least make a worthy effort on the inland questions.

Which just leaves one matter to be resolved...  What in the world do I wear?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Togue Progress

We've made huge strides on the Togue project.  The pine on the ceiling is half complete, and it looks really neat so far- very barnish and worlds better than the white tile:

If all goes well, the ceiling will be complete tomorrow.  That's the easy part.  The hard part will be *cough* rebuilding-the-wall-and-floor *cough*

The wall had to come out so we could jack the cabin up off the ground, and the floor had to come out so we could access the substructure.  It should only take a couple of days to replace the wall and sheathe in the floor, and then once we add new hardwood, it'll be absolutely amazing.  I'm also excited that we're replacing the old door with a window instead.  The door never really worked anyway, and the window will let some nice afternoon light into the cabin.  We'll eventually rebuild the crumbling fireplace chimney, as well, but that will be a future project.

That's all of our rebuilding news for today!  It's been a pretty quiet day in the woods otherwise.  We did have a gang of loons go crazy for fifteen minutes this morning; check out our Flickr set for a few more pictures.  (While you're there, take a look around our other photos as well!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Just a Duckling Time of Year

I had another post written for today, but I'm in the mood to post some duckling pictures instead.  (They grow up so fast.  Other news can wait.)

Here's our resident mallard, which I mistakenly identified as a black duck the other day.  (At least, I think it was a mistake.  The two species interbreed quite a bit, resulting in very dark mallards, but I think these chicks have too much yellow in them to be black duck chicks.  Anyone who knows the species better than I do can feel free to correct me in the comments!)  If you click on the photo, it'll take you to a much larger version, as well.

I also found out today that Pushineer has a mama merganser with four chicks.  I apologize for the bad photo; she was all the way across the pond, and even my amazing new telephoto lens couldn't zoom in that far.

We also had our gang of three loons hanging around the pond today.  I'm not sure where they come from, but we see them around now and then.  They're always three, and we know they're always the same gang because they do a crazy dance wherein they tightly circle each other in a clockwise direction for about ten minutes.  Jack and Lily are nowhere to be found when these three are around.

I guess that's enough duckling and loon news for now! I'll put all these photos up on Red River's Flickr page, along with a few others we've taken recently. Enjoy!