Day 0: New Forest

Roaring Brook Campsite, Baxter State Park, Maine – 3 mile day hike

On our short hike around Sandy Pond in Baxter State Park, I had the strange experience of not recognizing any of the plants we passed.

At first glance the Maine forest looks similar to the western forests I know, but I can’t seem to identify the inhabitants. There are no lupine, mule’s ears, Indian paintbrush, lodgepole pines, or junipers of my familiar Sierra. Or the vine maple, bracken fern, Oregon grape, or thimbleberries of the Cascades.

Instead I found look-alikes that are unknown to me. In just three miles we found a different species of deer, droppings that must have come from a moose, a white saprophyte that is not a pine drop or a snow plant, the snowflake-like branching pattern of a new type of fir, a birdsong similar to a mountain chickadee’s, and dozens of mushroom varieties.

I have a lot to learn about the eastern mountains and the critters who call these woods home. My intention for the next few months is to get to know this new flora and fauna I’ll be seeing so much of. I almost bought a wildlife guide to take along, but the grumpy ranger at the info center turned me off from the idea. The next town will have to do.

For the time being, I’ll take comfort in knowing for sure I can correctly identify poison ivy.

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