Sunday, November 25, 2012
Hiking in the late autumn woods
I've been doing a good deal of walking this last week, and enjoying it enormously. The weather has been good, Aimee and I have both been off work, the pre-winter honey-do list has been whittled down to a rump of odd jobs that are low-worry, and the woods are free of bugs and heat. The trails behind our house have all been trimmed by our neighbor Hamiliton, with a brush cutter towed behind a four-wheeler motorcycle. I can't remember a better walking season on the Great Farm.
This is the usual destination for my daily walks, the beaver pond complex on Great Farm Brook, about a mile to the southeast of the house. It makes a good psychic turnaround, better than just an endless woods loop. The dogs love to sniff around the beaver trails and even to splash a little around the edges of the brook. They don't go in deep, though. Shepherd dogs are not water dogs.
If you look carefully in this photo here you can see both of them in among the meadow grass. The old beaver lodge is in the background, currently disused, so there must be a new lodge somewhere. There are certainly plenty of beaver trails, indicating a large family.
All this walking has been good for man and beast. I would bet that my blood pressure, which is generally quite low in any case, has been lowered yet by the exercise, and I've certainly hiked off a couple of pounds of flab. Our current routine is to do a couple or three hours of grading in the morning, and then get out and hike, making sure to check the entrance track for fresh tire tracks or parked cars and trucks, which would indicate a deer-hunting party has entered the woods.
Hiking in fall in Maine is not without risk. A hunter got shot to death by another hunter just the other day in south central Maine. I don't care to be shot or have my dogs shot, so I'm very careful.
There's really only one way in and out of this section, at least for our local hunters who seem thoroughly truck-bound. The fact that they don't like to hike much is good, because that makes it safer for us. I can usually tell immediately when there's a group of hunters in the woods, from the obvious tracks. Even so, we make the dogs wear orange bandanas. I would wear an orange vest if I had one handy, but all my vests are at work, waiting for a search and rescue call out. I haven't felt worried enough to drive all the way to work. I haven't really wanted to drive anywhere for days. I'm happy here.
Hunting season ended yesterday in any case, so I should be able to stop worrying. Today is the last day of our Thanksgiving break, and we'll be back to work for two more weeks of the regular term, and then a week of finals and grading, and then our Christmas break. This will be a busy time, this last three weeks, so I doubt I'll be able to walk much, but I would bet I can walk every day of the Christmas break.
By then it will be winter and we may be post-holing, snow shoeing or skiing, but we'll get out in the woods.