one day in the woods: late april

April 29th  ||  Clayton Lake, Maine

old mapmapping
7:46am. I’ve been spending the better part of my days of late looking at old maps, new aerial imagery, and subsequently putting together harvest plans for the next few years. I feel like I’m playing God, holding the fate of so many acres of forestland in my hands. It’s a weird feeling really, and tough to contemplate. I calm my thoughts by choosing appealing colors for my harvest blocks.

clayton lake
10:41am. The ice started to move off Clayton Lake yesterday, and I’ve been keeping an eye on it ever since.

10:42am. A solitary day at Clayton Lake. The loggers are home for mud season, and given the snow pack still on the landscape, there isn’t much to do in the woods right now, because getting around is tough. We’re all waiting for spring – – but by the time it arrives, it may well be summer.

10:44am. A seemingly abandoned row of fridges, used by the loggers when they stay out here in the woods.

11:37am. Coltsfoot flowers, the first to bloom. They come as a surprise, especially when there is still so much snow about. Local lore has it that when these flowers appear, you can expect bears to emerge from hibernation. Makes sense.

11:47 am. In the spring time, culverts are trouble. The road surface above many culverts sinks (especially when they weren’t installed deep enough), and this makes travel slow and occasionally dangerous. It’s good to keep tabs on where the especially problem culverts are, such as this one, so that they can be the first issue addressed when the logging contractor shows up in a few weeks.

12:09pm. I was all excited to take a picture of my gorgeous salad accentuated by this ravenous stream, but then….

sad salad
11:57am. A sunken culvert snuck up on me, and braking quickly to avoid decimating my suspension, my lunch skidded off the passenger seat and onto the dirty floor. I put out a hand to stop it, but it had already been stopped by something else. The dirtiest snippets were thrown out, but I put the majority back in the bowl. I found myself wondering what was pepper and what was dirty floor pebbles, until it crossed my mind that the pepper was only on the top-most leaves, and those were the leaves I had thrown out.

I ate it anyway. If you eat rocks slowly, they may not hurt you. I remembered later all the times my cat has thrown up on that floor, and, uh, I should really stop incriminating myself now.

12:15pm. There is still enough snow in spots to flood my boots. And this is in the open, on a lonely road. I walked this road looking for antlers, I mean to check on the condition of the road from my harvest last fall, since I’ll be using it again later this year.

ugly pine
12:51pm. This white pine was rubbed by an itchy moose, who scratched it in an attempt to shed his antlers. Pretty sad looking tree. It wasn’t taller than 12 feet, but it already had one cone on it. Stress city.

elderberry leafing out
1:00pm. Noticed that the elderberry started leafing out today! It’s all uphill from here – until the black flies come out.

1:17pm. Sometimes muddy water looks tasty, kind of like incorporating taffy? It’s easy to spend an hour or two opening up puddles with my foot or a stick, to help them drain more quickly, and thus dry out the road surface sooner.

1:55pm. A clearcut my co-worker oversaw this winter. The understory had been regenerating sparsely and poorly, and the remaining overstory was falling down left and right. This area is within a parcel managed for deer, so the treatment applied this year will hopefully in time bring good and plentiful regeneration to satisfy both the foresters and the wildlife biologists.

2:11pm. The extent of navigational assistance out here in the woods. If you’re headed for Churchill Lake, you’re out of luck bud.

seedlings in the sun
2:37pm. Brought the sad sack seedlings out to celebrate their first day of sun in at least a week. This is their first day out of doors, though they’ll be brought back in at night. It hasn’t reached 60 degrees here yet (wut wut), but I celebrated today’s 52F by running down the aforementioned lonely snowy road without my coat and hat, then without my sweater, then briefly without my shirt, in the hopes that I could soak up a tan in a minute’s time. Didn’t last long, guys.

2:45pm. Pretty tough to resist a shelf full of Snyder’s of Hanover Hot Buffalo Wing Pretzel Pieces, especially when there is an open bag – and no one around to stop me or roll their eyes at me. I complemented this salty treat with a pack of Swiss rolls, because I have zero self-control mid-afternoon.

clayton lake again
2:48pm. Better check the lake again. Looks like a bit more ice has receded.

romance novel
5:39pm.  Closing time is a bit earlier lately, as I just can’t stare at the computer screen for twelve hours every day. I’m pumped to be able to get back into the woods soon. Meanwhile, new day, new romance novel. And this one features a female State Forest Ranger! So nearly applicable.


19 thoughts on “one day in the woods: late april

  1. This has been one miserable winter everywhere and I am soooo glad to see everything budding! Michigan is south of where you are so, spring is in charge ahead mode.

  2. Oof… I’m not cut out for weather like that. A long, bedraggled melt into spring sounds sloppy and cold. Hey! I have an idea! You should come to Colorado, where we welcome the equinox with 70+ degrees!

    1. Yesterday was suuuuper cold and wet. And miserable. I do frequently wonder why people live up here, I mean it’s awesome and everything, but… why not just live two hours south, where things are actually kind of bearable? ??? ?????? My mind swirls with questions such as this.

      CO update: Eli’s sister might be moving out there soon (Boulder?), and if so, we will DEFINITELY be making a trip before too long. WE COULD BE REUNITED.

  3. I sure hope it skips right to summer. This cold is crazy! One of my office-mates is searching for salamanders in vernal pools and is putting her arms in ICY POOLS. In practically May. I was downeast last week and saw that the blueberry plants are starting to swell, which is exciting and scary. Field season approaches!

    I love these posts. The aerial photos and maps made me swoon. You know that’s my jam! Good luck fixing those roads…one of the things that surprised me most about forestry is how big of a role road management plays. I think it’s kind of silly. Necessary, of course, but wouldn’t you rather be working on harvest plans? Or is road management part of harvest plans? All the questions, I have all the questions…

    1. I mean with how late in the season we already are, it’s got to switch over into summer mode pretty soon, right? Maybe not on the coast, where things are such a mixed bag of fog and sun, but hopefully up here. Someone told me the other day that the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a hot dry summer, so I’m going put all of my hopes and dreams into making that prediction a reality.

      Icy pools sound like a bad dream. I would quit that job, or wear like a whole-body diver’s suit.

      And, roads. Yes, yes yes. Brianne, you are so right. If I’ve learned one thing from my job, it is the importance of road management, and the subsequent INSANE cost of maintaining roads. It dictates what we can do, where we can go, what time of year we can cut… Like many landowners, we have a tough time finding summer ground to cut on, especially because many of our roads are winter-only. Upgrading each and every one of those winter roads is so very pricy, and not always worth it in the scheme of things. I could go on forever. Suffice to say, we make a harvest plan first, then schedule our road activities around that. Ideally, you build or upgrade a road at least a year before, to allow it to cure. This keeps you from having as many problems when you’re cutting if it’s rainy, and your trucks make the road all sloppy. The toughest part is when you need to upgrade several miles of road (with only young trees adjacent to it) just to get to an area with wood to cut – $$$.

  4. I loved this, just a little slice of your life…you know, birds eat rocks on purpose to help them digest food–maybe it worked that way for you! I have never seen that primitive looking Coltsfoot; wow, thanks for including it–it looks a little like ghost pipes with flowers, really amazing! And, did you find any shed antlers? Funny about all of the ancient romance novels…you gotta wonder and ponder who left them there?

    1. Isn’t that coltsfoot neat? I love how one day there’s nothing, and the next, it’s suddenly everywhere! And you’re right, it does look like some sort of indian pipe, just less ghastly:)

      I found no sheds:( :( :( you would have seen a picture if I had!

      The romance novels were left there by all the wives who used to live out at Clayton Lake! There were a whole slew of them back in the day. Unless the loggers are secretly a gentle + emotional bunch….. doubt it!

  5. Looks like Winter’s been a bad one for you … plus we’ve been hearing some pretty nasty stuff on the news … hope Summer comes in nice and strong and early for you (although not so strong as to be detrimental to the forestry works and seedling growth!).

    If the rain and the temperature and the cold I have weren’t enough of a hit, I can see the maple out of our window at the moment and it’s starting to turn red at the edges – Autumn is doing its thing and Winter’s on its way :(

    1. Winter has indeed been long. 150″ of snow here over the season! That’s enough.

      I bet your maple is looking lovely with its color change – gotta savor the changing of the seasons, even if it leads to chilly dreary weather. But hey, soups and sweaters – sounds not half bad to me!

    1. Weellll, I became violently ill two nights ago, so either it was or wasn’t related to the dirty salad…. I’ll choose to believe it wasn’t ! :D

      The hot buffalo wing pretzel pieces sadly left much to be desired.

  6. Your poor salad! :( I’m totally addicted to those Buffalo pretzel pieces. I can eat way more in a sitting than i should admit.

  7. Emma you’re killing me with that forestry romance novel;)
    I’m guessing things have thawed a bit since last month… I love seeing your world. You are going to treasure the fact that you documented this time and your experiences. Awesome.

    1. It was a really compelling read, Erin! Haha.

      Things have indeed thawed a bit, though we had a frost last night, eep. I just want to grow my garden! xoxo

  8. An interesting look in the day of a forester! Well, the day of a forester in April, anyway. :D It’s pretty exciting to be in charge of a harvest plan! I get how something that big can make you fee powerful – being in charge of an IT project and guiding a team of people can feel both awesome and a little intimidating at the same time. :D

    Also, while I give you all the high-fives for your Snyder Pretzel Pieces addiction, I frown at the hot buffalo wing flavor. Isn’t there empirical evidence supporting honey mustard and onion as the best?

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