Nature Column #9504--St. John Valley Times--Week of Feb. 8, 1995
THROUGH SLUSH, OVER STUMPS, UNDER ICE-LADEN TREES
Long before the mushers begin the Can-Am 250 dog race, crews are hard at work preparing the trail. The unusual weather of January '95 has caused many problems for the trail crews.
One crew started in Wallagrass on Jan.20th. When we arrived at Martin Brook, open water faced us. Larry Guimond cut some cedars that Joseph ("Beaver") Paradis, George Pooler, and my husband Stan wrestled into place. Then we all put brush across the cedar logs and used snowshoes to shovel snow onto the new bridge. The first snowmobiles had a precarious crossing, but we all made it. Then we had several miles of very acrobatic snowmobile travel. As the snowmobiles depressed the snow, stumps were uncovered, causing the snowmobiles to tip from side to side. It was a rough trip. Coming back on a main snowmobile trail, we had to dodge the ice-laden tops of white birches touching the trail. Down by Martin Brook there had been little ice on the trees.
On Jan 28th, Randy Pinkham and Brad Soucie joined the rest of us. We bypassed the race trail to the other side of Carter Brook, and headed toward St. Froid Lake. In the low lands there were few problems, but anywhere we climbed a hill, ice-laden branches slowed our progress. Running water had eroded the snow on the lower side of some stretches of trail, causing very tippy rides at times. Several of us got stuck in snow, or slush, or coming out of a deep dip. We climbed up a ridge, the icing becoming more severe the higher we went. We had to stop to prune away icy tangles and chain saw several trees that had fallen completely. As we traveled through a section of sugar maples we saw many moose tracks crisscrossing the area. A short time later we saw a patch of packed snow beneath a large fir where a moose had spent some time sleeping. About 8 miles from St. Froid we turned for home, knowing that we had hours and hours of work ahead of us to clear the arching birches. "Beaver" found a dead ruffed grouse, where we turned. It probably broke its neck trying to dive into hard packed snow.
On Jan. 30th, George, Beaver, Stan and I returned to the first part of the trail. We clipped back branches and threw them off the trail. We shoveled snow into low places. We filled a hole in a bridge with brush and covered it with snow. George trimmed many of the troublesome stumps with his brush saw. We noticed a large number of saplings with rub marks made by deer or moose polishing their antlers in the fall. About a three foot section of bark had been rubbed off each tree. While we were eating lunch, we saw a flock of about 100 pine siskins in a big maple tree. They have a characteristic, rising, wheezy call. Later about two dozen white-winged crossbills twittered in some evergreens. Several black-capped chickadees sang their cheerful notes and spring song and seemed quite interested in us.
There is still lots of work for the trail crews. Also the trails must be dragged or packed by snowmobile. Doody Michaud and Marc Michaud dragged the trail from Fort Kent to St. Froid.
Gale L. Flagg
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