By Cal Waichler, intern at the 7 Lakes Alliance and Colby College Environmental Science student
Following the snowfall of January 9th, Amy and I set out to snowshoe the trails on two 7 Lakes Alliance conservation properties. French Mountain (a 0.8 mile loop) was our first stop. The branches and trunks of the trees were frosted with fresh snow. The views of snow-covered Long Pond from the top of the Mountain were excellent. Snowshoeing onward, we tunneled beneath heavily weighed down branches, noting tracks of mustelids (animals from the weasel family), canines, cats, deer, squirrels, and porcupine. At the intersection of two sets of tracks, possibly a weasel and a cat, we strapped a game camera to the base of a tree and turned it on. Using motion detection and infrared LEDs, this camera will photograph passing wildlife. Continuing down the trail, we spotted impressive icicles, signs of porcupine, and a red-headed woodpecker busily dissecting the bark of a tree.
Next, we drove a few miles to the Mount Phillip trailhead. We started up the 1.4 mile loop trail, transitioning through different successional stages of forest, including a hemlock-dominant forest and mixed hardwood-softwood forest. There weren’t many fresh tracks on the hillside, aside from the tracks of a turkey and a pheasant, but we were well rewarded by the majestic view of Great Pond from the top of Mount Phillip. As the sky turned blue, the hillsides and shorelines within the watershed were well illuminated. Everything within view appeared remarkably pristine under the new snow. We set up a second game camera in the thick of the woods. Hopefully they will have captured some critter action that we can share.
Wintertime is a great time to enjoy the trail systems around the Belgrade Lakes! After fresh snowfall, the scenery is particularly splendid, and animal tracks can be easily observed. French Mountain has new, distinct blazes marking the loop. Take care with winter conditions, and check back for pictures from our game cameras.