While our snow conditions had recently deteriorated, Kendra and I took advantage of the soft melting snow we had before it refroze and snowshoed the trail into Scarface Mountain with Wren this past weekend. Our best wildlife sighting came on our drive to the trailhead when I spotted a river otter sitting on the ice on Lake Flower. It sat briefly and then popped back into a hole in the ice.
The day was unseasonably warm and not long after we started hiking we found ourselves stripping off layers and putting them in my pack. As usual, Wren ran around excitedly in the woods through the unevenly melting snow that varied from fairly deep to thin or packed sections where we really didn't need our snowshoes. They were at least helpful to keep us from slipping.
About a half mile along the trail, we reached the large bridge that crosses Ray Brook, and I took my snowshoes off for better footing on the bridge, and snapped a few photos of the beaver dams along the stream. The trail continued on through mostly coniferous forest and I looked through the balsam and pine in the hopes of finding a roosting owl, but I did not succeed in my endeavor. Here and there black-capped chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, and red-breasted nuthatches chattered, and I found a couple brown creepers call as we walked along the trail as well. I always find creepers along the Scarface Trail.
Many of the animal tracks along the trail had been wiped out or greatly distorted in the melting snow, but we found a few white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, and coyote tracks among others. There were also quite a few scats – particularly coyote - along the way. But that was the most wildlife we encountered as we hiked.
In spots along the trail a few more deciduous trees were mixed into the forest. Kendra noted the fresh red shoots of sapling striped maples along the trail, and Wren promptly attacked one of these saplings – seeming to take it for a leafless stick she wanted to chew. Pulling her attention away from that with a real dead stick, we were able to examine the sapling a bit further – it is always amazing that even in January there is life lying dormant and waiting for the warmth of spring.
We walked the rest of the way to the small stream, I stopping briefly for a hairy woodpecker which was tapping on a tree. At the stream the forest becomes mostly deciduous with a string of eastern hemlock along the water. It may be my favorite place on the trail and we lingered, allowing Wren to drink and splash in the cold, yet freely flowing water. Her tolerance of cold never ceases to amaze me – I swear sometimes she can't have nerves in her legs and feet.
From where the trail reaches the stream, it begins to rise steadily up the mountain, and we knew we didn't have enough daylight for the entire hike. The stream is often our destination on such days. So we turned and retraced the couple miles back out to the trailhead, reaching the car as darkness was falling. It was a great way to spend part of an afternoon.