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Scenic Wonders of Western Maine
Having spent so much of my time photographing Reid State Park in Maine, and farms and barns in Vermont, I decided it was time to start photographing areas of Maine that I had never explored. So on one beautiful day last summer I programmed Eustis, Maine, into my GPS and set out for the mountains at 5:00 am. Leaving the flatlands of the midcoast area behind, I was soon on Route 4 to Auburn, through Mechanic Falls and on to Rumford.
I had decided I would take a side trip to Grafton Notch State Park and maybe even a ride into New Hampshire if time permitted. I was completely taken aback by all the beautiful vistas and photographic possibilities I encountered along the way.
Eustis is a small town that is tucked out of the way and is the last town of any size before the border town of Coburn-Gore. It’s surrounded on one side by water, and the other by mountains. The views here were varied and breathtaking. On one side of the road you look upon a vast marsh that seems to go for miles before it rises up into the mountains. On the other side is a lake with a tall mountain in the distance.
The scenery really started to change as I approached Rumford. The low hills gave way to flat, miles long, open areas, leading to views of the distant Western Mountains. But before I got to Rumford I came to Norway and was fascinated by a long causeway surrounded on both sides by a lake. There were loons splashing in the water and making a huge ruckus. Two of them were dancing wildly on top of the water. I watched this dance for a while and marveled at the way the loons ‘walked’ on the water, and beat the surface of the lake with their wings. I’m told they do this ‘dance’ (called the penguin dance) to distract predators. After browsing the scenery in Norway, I headed for Rangely then over to Eustis.
After exploring the Eustis area I turned back toward Rangely and then took a back road towards Errol, which would eventually hook me up with Route 16 and Grafton Notch State Park.
This park is small and beautiful, and well worth a visit. There are a couple of must see attractions: Screw Auger Falls, and Moose Cave.
Moose Cave is located within a 45-foot-deep canyon of bedrock where water skirts boulders and temporarily disappears into a cave beneath a granite slab. The trail follows a 600-foot long gorge carved through granite by glacial meltwater.
Hikers are urged to show caution on the slippery rocks so that one will not fall in the gorge like the unlucky moose for whom Moose Cove was named. The trail also loops through a moss garden located on the ledges of the mixed growth forest. Several species of lichen inhabit this garden including “Reindeer Moss” which is native to the Arctic Tundra. There is also an excellent view of Table Rock from Route 26 at this point.
After leaving Grafton Notch, it was a short ride into New Hampshire and Vermont, with many more beautiful wonders. But that is a subject for another day and another blog.
To sum it up, I would say that this oft overlooked area of Maine is worth a visit anytime of year. My next trip here will be to photograph the fall foliage. I’m told it is among the best in New England.
How does a hands-on photo op that requires no gas, beautifies your residence, and helps an important and potentially threatened group of wildlife sound? These are some of the perks that butterfly and wildlife gardens offer. In addition to their scenic qualities, gardens and meadows are crucial oases for native pollinators such as butterflies, moths, wasps, bees, ants, and hummingbirds. These species serve an essential purpose, as they are responsible for the propagation of many important plants. Pollinator populations are an issue of concern worldwide, as a number of species have declined.
Planning a wildlife garden involves a bit of research, and often a bit of trial and error each season. One key is to include a mix of plants to maintain blooms throughout the growing season, which will encourage the pollinators to stay around and return in successive years. Another important consideration is to use plants that are good sources of pollen, nectar, and food for larvae. There are a number of books and magazines devoted to wildlife gardens; if you consult one, be sure that it is regionally keyed to New England and the Northeast.
An excellent way to scout out potential plants is to visit your local wildlife sanctuary or landscape nursery to see the species firsthand and get recommendations from experts. Recently I visited the Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, a Massachusetts Audubon property in Worcester known for its variety of butterflies.
The sanctuary butterfly garden, which was recently filmed for a television show, includes coneflower, bee balm, phlox, milkweed, butterfly weed, day lilies, bellflowers, coreopsis, sunflowers, oxeye daisy, yarrow, catmint, bronze fennel, butterfly weed, meadow sage, sweet pepperbush, and bluebeard spirea.
Some of our native plants that are popular with pollinators include red columbine, milkweed, joe pye weed, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed Susan, and New England aster. If you have containers or beds available, recommended annuals include petunias, zinnias, seed geraniums, and scarlet sage (salvia).
The species you can expect to see vary by the season and the surrounding habitats. Some of the familiar butterflies I’ve been seeing in gardens recently include tiger swallowtails, American ladies, monarchs (especially where milkweed is present), silver and great spangled fritillaries, buckeyes, pearl crescents, silver spotted skippers and other skippers and dashes,and occasional black and spicebush swallowtails. Another neat insect to watch for are hummingbird moths, named for their similarity to hummingbirds in flight.
Some of the other ways you can make your property more attractive to pollinators and other wildlife include reducing open lawn space, planting shrubs and trees of different heights, and maintaining water sources such as bird baths.
While seed feeders can be risky because of bears and other animals during the warm months, hummingbird and oriole feeders will further enhance the visibility of those species.
Another link that will help you identify what butterfly you have found in your garden is to visit the Mass Audubon butterfly page.