And Escape To Nature
Coming off a long, cool spring, summer arrived with beautiful, sunny skies, and the Great North Woods were calling. I ditched my previous plans and drove to Wentworth’s Location where all was quiet except for the calling of the birds and, at evening, the sound of frogs in the hidden pond across from our cottage.
There was a practical reason for the trip: We had launched our pontoon boat on Memorial Day Weekend, but had not checked on it in three weeks, and Father’s Day Weekend had been a windy one with several boats drifting away from their moorings. If our lines had not held, the pontoon boat would be somewhere downstream on the Magalloway River.
Fortunately, it was still securely tied at our dock when I arrived. The lawn, however, was calling for attention. The grass was high and a scattering of yellow and red wildflowers were blossoming, so after taking time for a sandwich and drink, out came the lawn mower.
Backing up for a moment, imagine sitting on the deck overlooking the river and seeing a loon making its way upstream — swimming and diving, swimming and diving — and suddenly appearing alongside the boat. Setting aside my sandwich, I grabbed my camera and snapped a quick shot before the loon made its next dive and re-emerged on the other side of the river.
The loon wasn’t the first bird to make an impression. On the drive up, as Route 16 snaked along the Androscoggin River, I spotted a great blue heron, still beside the water as it waited to nab its own lunch from the selection of fish beneath the surface.
The real treat came after the lawn was mowed and I was finally able to take a kayak out on the water. While the pontoon boat is slow and quiet enough to get a good look at wildlife as we pass, there is nothing like being in a kayak where the only sound it makes is that of the oars dipping into the water. Letting the kayak drift downstream, there is complete silence, allowing one to be part of the watery world all around.
And so it was that we drifted alongside a family of ducks — a mother and at least a dozen ducklings. They stayed close to the shore where they could retreat if necessary, but they sensed no danger from a slow-moving kayak. (On the way back upstream, as I came around a bend in the river, I surprised what I assume was the same group of ducks — and they surprised me when a male took to the air right in front of me. At first, I didn’t see the rest of them, distracted by the bird in the air, but then, there they were, the mother leading them swiftly away to safety.)
A kayak also can explore areas where the water is shallow and filled with grass and lily pads. I could hear a bullfrog, but never caught sight of him as I explored the narrow section of waterway that was busy with activity from translucent blue dragonflies working at keeping the mosquito population down. As I went further into the backwater, there was no longer any sound of traffic from Route 16, only the hum of the insects and that occasional warning from the invisible bullfrog.
I used to consider the North Country around Errol boring — nothing but trees and water — but after a few years of passing through on our way to camping areas, I came to appreciate all that lay hidden in that wildlife area. I owe it to my wife, Lee, for bringing all that beauty to my attention. Now I can’t imagine not having that area as a retreat from all that is taking place elsewhere.
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