doubletop mountain, baxter state park

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My last work day is just over a week away. Things are wrapping up quickly, packing is crazy, and last minute Amazon purchases for our trip are trickling in. And meanwhile I’m tackling final projects at my job, trying to tie up loose ends and present a tidy summary of everything I’ve worked on and created over the past three and a half years.

So this week, my manager let me choose a destination location for my last staff meeting with the company. My options were paddling or hiking, so naturally I chose a hike in Baxter State Park, a few hours’ drive from the office.

I chose a trail I hadn’t done before, which was a nice short up and back (3.1 miles from the Nesowadnehunk Campground to the North Peak of Doubletop Mountain) that I hoped would make the trip more inclusive for all my coworkers, while still providing rewards – a nice view at the summit.

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What we didn’t count on? A record spring snowstorm the day before that dumped 3 – 7″ in the region. Add that to the snow and ice that remained from winter on the higher elevation portion of the trail, and you get a bunch of ill prepared foresters in jeans, plus one well prepared athletic junkie outfitted with all the right gear. Though I felt chilled watching him climb through the snow in shorts, he definitely had the right idea.

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Big thanks to my crew for suffering through the wet and cold so I could enjoy a last Baxter hike.

What started as a promising, if slightly overcast day turned into pea soup fog thirty minutes before we reached the summit. While I would have happily awaited clearing conditions, three of the six were so cold and miserable that it would have been rude to keep them waiting longer than a quick lunch and group photo. We were treated to a brief break in the cloud cover as we prepared to descend, as seen in the top photo.

The last time I summited Doubletop Mountain was in the summer of 2011. We approached from the south that trip, while this visit brought us in from the north. On my last hike, I fell asleep in the direct sunshine on the exposed rock face slab, and woke up with a peculiar sunburn. No dice on achieving a sunburn yesterday.

In an amusing twist, ten minutes into our descent, the skies began to clear, and within a few minutes, we again had 100% visibility. A gorgeous afternoon emerged, and while we were traveling the same trail we had climbed up, it was also completely different, as much of the snow was either melting or had melted.

Near the base of the trail, trillium was in bloom, and I saw my first fiddleheads of the season. Freak snowstorm or not, Maine was showing all of her colors yesterday, and it was a gorgeous day to be in the woods. My Altra trail runners, while clearly inadequate for deep snow, were super grippy on the chunky granite slabs, and it was actually a blast wearing them for this hike. Inappropriate, but a blast nonetheless.

One more week, and then I know I will be missing this place fiercely.

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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.

yard
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.

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

coltsfoot
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.

culvert
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.

stream
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.

snow
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.

mud
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.

clearcut
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.

directions
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.

ugh
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.

one day in the woods :: february

deer yard
9:13am. There are deer living in my zoned deer yard. You don’t know how monumental this is! First time in… 14 years?

These pictures are from February 12th. The week before, one of our truckers, who had recently fallen ill, passed out in the kitchen here at work and smacked his head on a metal pole. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. By February 12th, I too was feeling quite ill, and so I chose to believe that if I could not lose consciousness or strike my head against something cold and hard, I would be alright.

One week passes. I have driven to Quebec City for a work symposium. I believe I am getting over my sickness. I squeal with delight at a tray heaped full of croissants and pains au chocolat. I eat one, I have a cup of tea. Shortly after, while settling into the conference, something starts to feel… wrong. I become disastrously ill. I struggle to stay awake. I run to the bathroom and puke out my guts. I return to my seat and slouch so low in my chair I might as well be laying down under the table. I know I must look strange to my neighboring conference-goers, but console myself with the thought that my slouching is making it easier for the people behind me to see the PowerPoint presentation. The need arises to once again puke out my guts. And then it happens. In slow motion I push my way into the hall, and notice that the lights have suddenly become very bright and blinding. I begin making my way down the stairs, and suddenly, a voice is quietly nagging at me, calling out “mademoiselle! mademoiselle! blahblahblahblahselleblah.” I turn and stare at her, the bright lights receding slowly to reveal an ugly dark red carpet all around me. I am clinging to the stair railing, arm upraised, and I am thankfully sitting down – nowhere near a cold metal pole.

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Two days later, I sought out treatment for pneumonia. February was a rough one for me, you guys. A lot of time has been spent in bed on the weekends, sipping feebly at hot lemonade and getting teary-eyed with the final season of Dance Academy and the first two seasons of Dawson’s Creek. The tears shed during Dawson’s Creek have mainly been due to how annoying Dawson is. His life interests! His lameness! His unintentionally-insulting laugh! I’ve never watched Dawson’s Creek before.

But finally I am back to full-strength, again rejoicing in the cold and sunny days of late winter in northern Maine. So here are a few photos from my February life in these gorgeous woods.

chobani
6:11am. My breakfast, like on most mornings, starts with yogurt. I am like the Olympians today, because I’m eating Chobani brand and therefore am ‘naturally powering.’ I’ve taken a particular liking to the coconut variety. I have a serious misgiving about all flavored Greek yogurt I can get my hands on, though – every variety seems to be stupidly high in sugar content. I don’t need that many grams of sugar to start my mornings, yogurt makers.

officework
8:17am. Paperwork, colorful maps, calculations, and a slice of yeasted figgy cake made out from Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book (figs substituted in by myself).

america
9:02am.  My patriotic bandana makes an appearance because today it is not a bandana, it is a handkerchief. And it accents my beautiful American harvest operation in the background.

face lunch
11:05am. I realize my lunch looked like a happy monster face, so I sit it on my snowshoe and take a picture of it. Then I eat some cola-flavored energy gummies and feel real energized-like.

hoarfrost
11:18am. A patch of surface hoar frost hiding under a log. Hello cutie.

forwarder
12:39pm. This machine, a forwarder, moves wood that has been cut into specific lengths by a processor from the woods to the roadside. Earlier in the morning, the forwarder broke down at the back of the harvest block, up a really steep hill, far far far far far from the road. The forwarder operator, who is scheduled for hip surgery soon, was needless to say in a bit of a predicament. I was as well, because just hiking up to visit the machine took away all of my limited cola-flavored gummy energy. Luckily within five minutes of my arrival, the machine is back up running.

osr
2:02pm. Softwood from an OSR, or overstory removal, with my snowshoes and snotty bandana for scale. An OSR removes the main canopy of a stand when there is adequate and vigorous young growth in the understory. It’s all about the future for me.

osr
2:11pm. A visual depiction of the OSR in progress. The right half of the picture has been treated, with the dying overstory removed to allow young stems to grow freely. Cedar and some pine in the overstory are left for diversity. The left half of the picture is not yet treated, with the dense understory saplings looking to be released, or allowed to grow freely.

burly
2:15pm. A pine tree with ears!

snaggletooth
3:03pm. A beautiful standing dead white pine, or what I like to call a snaggletooth (snag being the proper terminology).

nasty shit
3:41pm. Instead of traipsing back through the same stand, I decide to take my chances on a shortcut just outside the area I was working in. This is what I find, though, a bunch of thick+nasty young stuff. I decide to take this picture 20 minutes into my slog of a hike, about when my first tears of frustration start to form.

exhaustion
3:52pm. Emerging from the thicket of nastiness, I cough up a few twigs and seriously consider taking a nap on the spot. It is, after all, a balmy 15F outside. I notice that my hair looks red in the picture I have just taken and I am very pleased.

pine
3:58pm. After years spent studying white pine, I finally have the chance to cut a few of my own. These pine are low-quality relics left behind from a previous harvest; the current harvest is now taking out the poorer-quality pine stems, and leaving the best behind for another 30-60 years.

yard
4:32pm. A pile of gorgeous popple at a third job site. Poplar grows well in full sun conditions, so just to the left of this pile is a small clearcut I did in order to try to get more pretty popple growing here in the future. The only setback we may encounter is the moose. There are so many moose up here, and each one is constantly nibblingnibblingnibbling, so any hardwood cut that we do is subject to their chompers.

big wood
4:37pm. Big wood. This is a rare predicament, as most of our wood is teeny tiny, the biggest diameters usually being the size of the pieces on the top of the pile. This large wood was almost too big for the machines to handle. Pretty exciting stuff, ferreal.

broke down
4:52pm. We have a lot of breakdowns that occur on a regular basis, and this is a day of breakdowns. The machine pictured here is a broken-down delimber. A delimber takes limbs off of felled trees, or de-limbs. It then piles them to create the yards of wood seen in the previous two pictures.

biscofffffff
6:08pm. A little pre-dinner Biscoff sampler, yeah bub.