“Eyes in the front, ready to hunt. Eyes on the side, ready to hide.” On Saturday February 27th a fifteen person group from the Unity community, and surrounding areas trudged out like a herd of deer into Sebasticook Regional Land Trust’s Moulton’s Mill Preserve on 25 Mile Stream in Unity to scout for animal tracks.
Trevanna Frost Grenfell advised the group to notice their walking pattern, tread lightly, and first step with the toes.
“If you go out there like a 150 pound ape, you probably won’t see to much—you have to act like a 120 pound deer” said Grenfell, our tracking guide. Sporting a forest-green vest amid the late-winter browns of central Maine she bent to the ground and crawled on her hands and feet with elegant ape-like form.
Soon after breaking trail, we saw signs of beaver: chips of wood with sharp straight lines cutting down through the surface. The remnants of chip resembled a piece of gnawed corn on the cob. But the beavers did not stop with this small twig of a tree. A sweet retired naturalist in a florescent lime puffy-coat discovered a two foot wide girdled tree that had become too much for the beavers to handle. It had claw and bite marks, but was probably too big of a job to finish before winter.
Scurrying through the woods, everyone split up to look for tracks. People would walk out of sight, find something, and speed walk back over the fallen trees and brush to share their discovery. This felt like a primary school recess memory.
Everyone would find scat, half eaten seeds, or broken parts of trees they so eagerly wanted to bring back as nature presents for the teacher. Trevanna accepted these gifts and doubled the excitement for the teaching opportunity. A cute elderly lady in a swirly rainbow hat brought her a gnawed on stick, Trevanna gasped and lit up while saying “Oh! How beautiful!”
As our toes were starting to stiffen in the blustery winter air, we ended our hour-and-a-half outing in a circle by the trailhead. Two middle-aged gentlemen discovered some holes that Trevanna predicted skunks had dug out while searching for food. Elated by the discovery, Trevanna decided we would end with a song two of her Vermont campers had made for her.
Our stiff frozen faces creaked open and repeated after her “The skunks are coming out, oooo they’re coming out, the skunks are coming out to find some food” (repeat three times). In a jazz chorus tone we sang about the skunk’s reemergence into spring and the maple sap getting ready to flow. The base line for the third and last verse was “Drip. Drip. Drip. Drippy, drippy, drip.”
Getting out into nature helps the world slow down. In order to truly see or understand what has happened in an area takes a great deal of time and focus. You may even come across some music. The Sebasticook Regional Land Trust owns twelve properties, and in March will purchase another property next to Moulton’s Mill Preserve.
The executive director of SRLT, Jennifer Irving started our excursion by waving across the street to this exciting new area, and telling us that they continue to increase conservation lands in order to “Make sure all creatures have the ability to move as climate change continues”.
Trevanna Frost Grenfell teaches wilderness skills at The Wildwood Path. Wildwood Path is a woman’s apprenticeship circle focused on wilderness skills, nature connection and earth-based ceremony’s in Unity, Maine. She deeply enjoys living life from a naturalist’s perspective and has been a wildlife tracker for a variety of schools and organizations since 2006.
- Stefanie Burchill, Unity College, text
- Sandy Olson, Watershed Narratives, images