Quoddy Nature Notes – Baxter versus Quoddy

My first visit to Baxter State Park was in 1965, when I camped with some friends at Chimney Pond and spent one day making the loop up to the peak by the Cathedral Trail, over the Knife Edge and back, and another day working with the staff in an unsuccessful search for some lost campers.  My first visit to the Quoddy region was in 1966 when my friend and I came through on a bone crunching ride from Massachusetts on Yamaha 250cc Big Bear motorcycles, and headed for Cape Breton, NS.  I’ve been to Baxter State Park periodically but my last visit was on July 25th, when I went with Boy Scout Troop 136 camping at Nesowodnehunk.

Nesowadnehunk Stream

My last visit to the Quoddy region started in 1987 when I moved to Pembroke, and I’ve been here ever since.  Although the distance is 165 miles as the road goes, it’s interesting to compare some of the similarities and differences between the two areas.  Some of the geology is similar with granite common in both areas and similar type fossils in the sedimentary rocks, but certainly the layout is vastly different with Baxter peak poking up at 5267 feet, while here in the Quoddy region our highest hill may be a few hundred feet.  Baxter’s big attraction is the scenery of the mountains, while ours has to be the coast.  The forest composition is different, and surprising to me, Baxter seems to have more deciduous trees, with Red maple and Yellow birch predominating.  Their Paper birch, while not too common, is much handsomer than ours.  Their beech, like ours, is almost all infected with beech bark disease, but I noted no other mast trees like Northern red oak. Pin cherry was common in the forest openings, and Choke cherry bordered the roads.  Their streams seemed to be all very clear, while ours are more tea colored and stained from the peat and other organic products from swamps.  Brook fishing is good at Baxter if one is willing to follow the stream far enough from the campgrounds or access points, but walking in a stream with slippery stones is pretty strenuous.  The banks and floodplains of the brooks are generally an impregnable tangle of Virgins bower, meadow rue and beaver cuttings.  The only fish I caught were trout, and the largest was about eight inches.  I saw no minnows or other fish while fishing or diving.  Our streams here are usually heavily populated with minnows, small mouth bass, etc, along with trout, and I feel that our brooks, while not as clear and beautiful, are more productive.  Two lined salamanders are common in waters in both areas.

Snowshoe hare in Baxter State Park

We did see moose, and heard of a rogue bear that was ransacking careless campers, but most of the critters we saw were rabbits (snowshoe hares).  The numbers of rabbits seen suggested that predators (land and air) were sparse, and there were no signs of coyotes, raccoons, hawks or owls. I got to examine the rabbits pretty closely. I even fed one a carrot, and he ate some of it but wasn’t impressed. He probably told the ranger on me, because I wasn’t supposed to do that. I noticed none had any ticks.  Here in the Quoddy region most, if not all rabbits have ticks.  There were a few chipmunks, some vole-like critters that I couldn’t ID, some robins and a phoebe but few other birds noted.  Black flies, mosquitoes, midges, and deer and moose flies were present at times but not overwhelming.  There were some giant horseflies that were attracted to us swimmers at the Ledges, and these were black, about an inch long with a yellow belly band, and I have yet to ID them.  Also at the Ledges I found one leech but it swam off before I could capture and photograph it.  Apparently some streams in Baxter have lots of leeches.

The view from Doubletop Mountain

The hike to the peak of Doubletop mountain was strenuous but interesting.  On some of the steep parts of the trail moose droppings were seen, and we marveled that such a critter could negotiate places that we found difficult.  One of our Boy Scouts found several toads on the trail, and one at an elevation that I estimated to be around 3000 feet.  I saw no signs of porcupines, although there was excellent habitat for them everywhere.  At the peak of Doubletop, I noted ant colonies, dragonflies, White Admiral butterflies, etc ., but mostly I enjoyed a beautiful vista of a beautiful part of Maine.  But when I got back to Pembroke, I noted that the Quoddy region is a beautiful part of Maine also.  I think I would rather be here.