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As we continue to hike the Appalachian Trail southbound, one of our favorite forms of entertainment are the critters we see along the way. Here are the furry friends we’ve made in Maine and New Hampshire.
It was early in the morning and we had just started hiking after camping at Rainbow lake in the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine.
I saw a large dark form out of the corner of my eye that stopped me in my tracks. At first I thought it was a bear. Anytime I’ve seen something that big back home in Washington, it’s always a bear. My second thought was, “Why is a person leading that bear?” I immediately realized the ridiculousness of the thought and then it’s big rack emerged from behind the leaves.
We watched as the majestic animal walked and nibbled on leaves until it passed out of our sight.
Fun to see, but the whole experience only lasted a few minutes and none of our pictures worked out. We did however encounter endless piles of moose poop along the trail.
Chipmunks and Squirrels!Sure, it was fun to see a moose, but our much bigger form of entertainment are all the little critters, especially the squirrels and chipmunks (or microbears as one hiker called them).
Chipmunks are especially insane here, as though their diet consists solely of speed inducing drugs and stolen hiker candy/sugar. I’d say it’s in the water but we drink that too and it’s not helping me run up any of the many mountains.
Ken likes to growl and roar at them like a bear to try and keep them away from our food but those buggers are fearless! And also hard to capture on camera, like trying to take a portrait of a 2 year old in play mode. Between the chipmunks themselves and Ken’s reaction to them, I have endless mealtime entertainment.
When we don’t see the critters themselves, there’s constant evidence of their pine cone snacks. I’ve been amazed by the type below - looks like they eat in technicolor! I swear this is the actual coloring without any filter added.
Another favorite are the woodpeckers. Also very difficult to get on camera, these birds move about quickly.
One particularly memorable evening, while camping on a lake beachfront we had all to ourselves, we watched several woodpeckers hammer up and down the trees. They are fascinating creatures, on the smallish side, with beautiful blue and white coloring.
I read once that the brain of a woodpecker is surrounded by a layer of fat to keep them from getting brain damage. Nice reminder that fat can be a good thing.
There have been other beautiful birds as well, mostly small songbird types, many crows, and a hint of grouse flying low and quick as we pass by.
I wasn’t able to capture any of the beavers themselves, but as we watched them swimming in the distance, evidence of their handiwork was abundant. Surrounding one lake, it appeared as though they mowed down half the forest with their rigorous teeth.
We’ve seen a lot of small garter snakes slithering off the trail just as we pass. One of them even hopped up like a rabbit before slipping into the greenery. I haven’t been quick enough with the camera to capture any snakes, but I was thrilled to catch this little guy hanging out mid trail. It’s the one and only lizard we saw, and it’s tiny bright orange body made me squeal with delight.
*video correction: it’s a newt, not a salamander
We’ve seen hundreds of frogs from teeny fingernail size up to full fist size like the one above. As we walk, there are always frogs (or toads?) hopping out of the way. They range in coloring from black mud to speckled leaf camo to rust color to standard spotted brown
The one in this video was huge. It’s body weight was keeping it from hopping up the small 1 step mudslide (or giant cliff from its perspective). I’m guessing it was either pregnant or old and obese, but I honestly know nothing about these creatures. Just after I stopped filming it found its way up and off the trail back into the forest.
Worms and caterpillars!
Most prolific and ever present are these bugs. (Do they even classify as bugs?) I think this was the first time I saw a real life, in person, inch worm - the kind of critter that inspires cartoons. I was relaxing under a tree with that hat on, next to a lake where we had just had dinner. I pulled the hat off and noticed this little guy inching his way across my hat. It was a delightful moment, the kind that makes you feel like a kid again. Since then I’ve seen tons of them. Many are simply suspended from invisible strands of silk mid trail, popping up on our packs, or once, I spotted a 1/4” long one on my phone no bigger than a piece of thread.
This electric yellow fuzzball was fascinating. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Strange and glorious all at once. And the black and yellow one below was also quite striking.
This one looked like an abstract watercolor painting. Bright green with splashes of orange and yellow.
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