1998 Biology Field Experience: The Northeast  

Part 5

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We set out on May 26 on a 2-week, 4,000+ mile odyssey to explore the flora and fauna of the Northeastern United States and Maritime Canada. Five souls and a lot of equipment were packed into an all-wheel drive GMC Safari minivan. We had everything we needed for our trip except for  Jesus hats and a Maine Gazetteer.

  Day 12 – A Moose at Last!   We slept in a little on Saturday, because we knew the bridge would be closed until 10:30 for a celebration of its one-year anniversary. That gave us some time to check out a few bookstores in downtown Charlottetown before leaving the island. Back in New Brunswick, we made a short (5 km) detour so we could cross the Nova Scotia border (11 states, 3 provinces) and then we followed the St. John River to Houlton, Maine, where we crossed back into the US. At the border, we stopped to exchange our currency, and were surprised to see a family of foxes at the side of the road. The pups were curious, and mom couldn’t keep them in the woods until a man on an ATV rolled by and scared them away for good. After a late lunch in Houlton, it was then a relatively short ride down Interstate 95 to Millinocket, Maine, and the Atrium Inn. We unpacked, noted the pool and hot tub, and decided to drive out to Baxter State Park even though it was late in the evening. We wanted to get info on what time the park opened, and where people were seeing moose. With the puffins behind us, moose were the other "big game" we were hoping to bag for our life lists. We got to the park, and the ranger at the gate directed us to several spots where we might see moose, even that evening. It was after 7, but we decided to go ahead and take a chance. We paid our $8 and entered the park. Driving along the western road in the park, we carefully examined every body of water for moose – but saw nothing. At the point where we were driving by headlights, we gave up and turned back.   Suddenly, about 2 miles from the gate, a bull moose appeared on the road in front of the van! He loped down the road at 5-10 miles per hour. At this point in the season, his antlers were mere nubs covered with velvet. We followed behind at a respectful distance. He made no attempt to move off the road; he continued to simply jog down the road. Illumination from the headlights cast a ghostly white light over everything, and it took little imagination to believe that we were riding in a sleigh – behind a particularly large and mangy horse! Our friend turned to continue around the eastern side of the park at the main gate – delighting some people who were just driving in. Ten feet inside the park and they saw a moose!

The evening wasn’t over yet, however. We pulled into a picnic area outside the park at Upper Togue Pond. The night was still, and there was no traffic on the road. In fact, there was no man-made sound at all. No planes, no boats – just quiet. The sky was clearing and the stars were coming out, along with a nearly full moon. Suddenly, from across the lake somewhere came the hoot of an owl. Minutes later, the real symphony began as several pairs of loons began calling across the still waters. We sat enthralled as they went through every call in their repertoires. It was truly a magical moment.
 
Day 13 – Serious Moose

On Saturday we started off with an excellent breakfast at the Atrium, then headed out to the park. We went directly to Sandy Stream Pond on the eastern side of the park, a well-known moose hangout. On the trail we met several people coming back with reports that a moose cow was in the pond. Sure enough, as we approached we could see a cow in the water no more than 50 feet away. The light was perfect, with the sun coming up behind us and illuminating the moose as she fed. The water was only knee deep for her, and we watched her for some time; taking pictures and video at a furious rate. As she began to leave, nature called, and she relieved herself there in the water, a cautionary tale to anyone who drinks unfiltered water from "clean" mountain lakes. At that point, however, a bull moose, with antlers taking shape under velvet, moved into the pond to our right. He instantly attracted the attention of a photographer who had staked her claim on the best photographic site around, a rock out in the pond a short distance. Still, we were able to watch the bull for quite some time as he fed on the underwater vegetation, sometimes tossing his wet head around with water flying off the antlers. Perhaps he was trying to shoo away the cloud of flies that were escorting him. We were also drawing flies, and after 20 minutes of so of watching and photographing the bull (a second bull also came into the pond, but stayed more distant), we moved into the woods and donned our Jesus hats. On the way back to the van, Dr. Tschunko, who was now using the digital camera, stopped to photograph some of the wildflowers, and I stopped to take some pictures of Roaring Brook, as well as a toad and a snake that I came across.
 
 
 

 

Moose (Alces alces) in Sandy Stream Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. 

 

 

 

Roaring Brook Stream. 

Flush with success, we headed to the west side of the park again to try our luck further. We stopped to take pictures of twinflowers, to catch dragonflies, and to swat mosquitoes, which turned out to be more of a nuisance than the blackflies. We drove back to Kidney Pond, and walked through lush northern woods to Celia Pond. We had just gotten back to the van, and a few of the group were heading to the bathroom when I called to their attention the bull moose standing 10 feet away from them. It looked much like our friend from the night before, with mere knobs for antlers. It walked calmly through the parking lot until a woman drove up in her car. Instead of merely turning it off, she insisted on parking, which spooked the bull, who moved off into the forest. I didn’t have time to get the big lens on the camera, so I can now say I was taking pictures of a moose with a macro lens – we were that close!

 
 

 

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis). 

 

Back into Millinocket for some R&R at the Atrium. Some time in the hot tub and the pool eased muscles sore from hiking, and we then went downtown for a good dinner. Back out to the park then, for a last session with the loons.

 
Day 14 – On the Road Again

 
Well, it was now Monday, and we had to be back in Marietta on Wednesday. We were still a long way from home, and that meant a couple of days of serious driving. We set out from Millinocket in the morning and drove the whole day – through Maine, across New Hampshire (20 minutes) and across Massachusetts into New York. The scenery was great, the service at the gas station poor. We stayed near Albany.
 

Day 15 – Hellos and Good-byes, and a Little Mousse.
 

Our marathon drive the previous day left us only about 10 hours from Marietta, which meant we could take the time to see some sights. We drove on through New York to New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. We finally got to the Rodale Farms, which we had to bypass on the first day. Rodale is a big publisher of gardening books. We were able to explore the bookstore and take a self-guided tour through the experimental farm. We also took the opportunity to photograph some very tame barn swallows. Next, we moved on to Hershey, and, of course, Chocolate World. I think Dr. Tschunko thought it would have some educational value. Well, it did have a little, but as you might imagine, the whole thing, including the animated "tour" of a "processing plant" was just a bit syrupy. The tropical plants in the atrium were nice, however.

 

Sarah Beck at Chocolate World. Sarah is a Biology major minoring in game show hosting.

The 1998 Biology Department Field Class Team. Left to right: Sarah Beck, Candace Tuxhorn, Tanya Troutner, Dave McShaffrey, Almuth Tschunko.


 
It was also time to say good-bye to one of our group. Candace's grandparents were "camping" in their RV outside of Hershey. Candace was to stay with them for a few days then move on to Philadelphia to see about a possible job. We dropped Candace off with them and found a place to stay for the night.

Day 16 – Back Home in Marietta.

The drive back to Marietta was routine except for an awful fog that enveloped us near Sideling Hill and on every mountaintop from there to Morgantown. We got into Marietta in the afternoon, and began the process of dropping everyone off and uloading the van. Our trip was over, and it was time to delve into piles of mail, waiting email and voice-mail messages, and lots of film to develop.
 
More pictures (Many of these are included in the pages you just read, but there are a few others, too.)

Maine Maritime Academy
Norton Puffin Tours - Two Sites:   Site 1     Site 2
 

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