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Jan 14, 2022 - Squirrel Caches + Otter Slides

Trail Report: The access road has a thin layer of snow on top of its icy surface. It is easy to walk upon but can be slippery. All the trails accessible through Gate 1 and Gate 3 are accessible without snowshoes (thanks to all the visitors who snowshoed the trails last weekend who packed down the snow.)Snowshoes are recommended for the trails at Gate 2, including the Trapper's, Needle & Leaf and Hemlock trails.

Looking for a recommendation where you should walk this week? The Wabanaki Trail is one of my favorite hikes. Pushaw Stream loudly leaps over the ledges near the former Wabanaki campsite Hirundo sound scape - Wabanaki Trail Ledges and gives way to a gentle murmur and gurgling down the trail along Pushaw Stream. This soundscape envelopes you, and at times includes the chatter of the red squirrel in the background. A look at the ground and you will see the otherwise white snow is littered with hemlock cone scales dropped by the feeding squirrels from above.

If you look closely at this litter, you can make out pieces of acorn. Squirrels, among other animals, cache/hide food for later use. You might liken it to humans putting up food. Unlike humans the squirrels have to content with pilferers. Some of the strategies include burying the cache further away from competitors, make fake-caches and re-burying the foods if they feel observed by another squirrel. Most importantly, the squirrels find their caches relaying on good spatial memory and sense of smell. Well, some locations are forgotten resulting in new tree growth. Squirrels are landscapers of the forest. Let’s hear it for the squirrels!

If you have more time to explore, head over toward the shelter road and cross the bridge onto the Pond Trail, through Hemlock Forest with its closely woven canopy and onto Pushaw Stream Trail. Walk along the stream, past the large broken oak tree. Shortly thereafter river otter tracks, slides and numerous scat piles cover the shore. On closer observation you can make out the fish scales. River Otter scat warning - do not pick up any wildlife scat, it may contain parasites. Along this walk there will be a short incline. It is a little slippery, so be careful. On top of the 'hill' you have choices: for a quick return to the Pine parking area take the Conifer Trail to the left (15 minutes). Or simply continue on the trail to the intersection to the White Pine Trail (on left), plan for another 25 to 35 minutes. If you opt for the complete loop (additional 45-60 minutes) continue on the Pushaw Trail until it merges with the Lady Slipper Trail.

For your safety, tell a friend where you are going and when you plan to be back. Bring water and a snack.

Happy Trails and let us know what you find. If you have questions related to the trails, wildlife and safety we will try our best to answer them.


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