by Pete Kallin
Although the calendar says summer has barely begun, it already seems to be flying by with lots going on with the various groups I work with, all trying to transition to in-person events in a safe manner as we begin to approach a bit of normalcy after more than a year of intense restrictions under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all of the summer camps and sporting camps are beginning to host clients and vaccinated families are beginning to travel again. It is good to see our friends from away returning.
Among the many hats I wear, I chair the Advisory Board of Maine Lakes (formerly the Maine Lakes Society), a state-wide nonprofit dedicated to protecting the health of Maine's lakes for future generations through science-based education, action, and policy. Among other things, they provide resources and training for Maine's LakeSmart Program.
Last week they held their 51st annual meeting virtually, which is normally an all-day meeting of over 100 people, with multiple speakers on various aspects of Maine's lakes. Last year they held a series of webinars every other Wednesday that are available for viewing at any time. Check them out. I guarantee you will find something that piques your interest.
Another group I work with, the Lake Stewards of Maine, provides training for volunteers who do in-lake water quality monitoring at lakes across the State I do Long Pond every two weeks and others who monitor for invasive aquatic plants. They host a series of weekly webinars on citizen science and water quality monitoring. Check out "Fridays at Four for Lakes" and other interesting links on their site.
Mother Nature has continued to ignore the pandemic and provide a venue where people can relax and find a bit of sanctuary in the relative safety of the outdoors. The lakes are continuing to warm; the palette of wildflowers and birds in the forests continue to change; and the fishing remains good. I have been hiking the local 7-Lakes Alliance trails including Mt. Phillip, which got so much use last year that it now has a second parking lot with a new trail that connects to the main trail. I also recently hiked French Mountain and met the Sharpe family from Asheville, North Carolina. They were visiting friends from Gardiner, ME who took them to French Mountain after hiking there last year with friends from Augusta. It is now one of their favorite hikes.
It also seems to be a favorite of a bunch of pileated woodpeckers, a crow-sized bird that is the largest woodpecker in North America (and the inspiration for the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker). They are attacking a number of large hemlock trees in search of their favorite food, carpenter ants. These birds chip a large hole in the side of the tree until they intercept an "ant tunnel." They then extend their more than 4-inch-long tongue down the tunnel capturing ants. Their tongue is so long they retract it into a special cavity that wraps around their skull.
The trout fishing has been good for the past month but is beginning to slow down as the water warms. Check out the nice brook trout that Matt Scott caught recently while fishing with his son, John, at Kimball Pond, which abuts the Kennebec Highlands on the Vienna side. Judging by the smile on Matt's face, I would say he is still enjoying "taking it outside" as he has for more than eight decades.
This area offers some great outdoor recreation, whether you like to hike, bike, birdwatch, fish, sail, or paddle a canoe or kayak. Pick up a map of the local trails at Day's Store or from the 7-LA at the Maine Lakes Resource Center. Keep an eye on the sign in front of the MLRC and check the 7-LA website for more information on upcoming events. And make sure you take a kid along on your next outdoor adventure!