Being able to live in the Adirondacks is a gift and a privilege. Millions of people visit here every year and it's not for the shopping, computer games, cell phone coverage, traffic jams, dirty air, pea soup water or the constant roar of machines. I love to live here because there is so much natural world still surrounding us and accessible for a little effort.
There are the small gifts of wildness that are available for just opening your eyes, looking around, listening, smelling the air. One of our titmice showed up at our feeding station for the first time this year on Jan. 3-round as a snowball because it was 0 degrees and very windy. I say "ours" because it was very comfortable picking up hulled sunnies from the enclosed area next to the glass door with me standing there. I marvel at how these tiny creatures can function in the cold, surviving even the miserable nights cheerfully, it seems.
Here's a gift for a lot of you bird feeders. I mention this bird every year but people are still surprised when they first see it. Watch for a tiny brown "mouse" hitching its way up a nearby tree when its friends, the chickadee crowd, come in to feed. Brown creepers never come to your feeder but they hang out near their winter friends. You have to look sharp for them, but get yourself a "lifer" this winter!
About the same time, a local bird feeder had a bird surprising to me this late into winter-a house or common wren. I've seen a winter wren in January when there was no snow on the ground, but a house wren ought to have more sense!
Canada geese are not usually a treat (they are invasives in the Adirondacks in the summer), but this "hearing" was at least interesting. Late on Dec. 16 I heard lots of geese flying around near the house, too late in the year for migration, with snow on the ground, the ponds frozen over. A big flock was over-nighting on the river where there is no food for them. Odd, a first for me.
Here's a native mammal to look for, and I will be very excited the first time I see one here-another wild gift. They have been in the High Peaks all along (one used to live in the Lake Colden ranger's cupboard, which it could enter from the outside). I saw one near the Northwoods Club Road maybe fifteen years ago in old growth hemlock. But a friend saw one close to Igerna Road and his house a couple weeks ago in open balsam fir woods. It's reddish brown, weighs a couple pounds, is in the weasel family and many native people here have never seen one-the American marten (also called pine marten and sable by old-timers). It's a little bigger than a mink, eats mice, voles, can chase down red squirrels in trees (we have some spares!), and also likes berries and fruit.
Some very different gifts to the local people are a number of newly created trails with small bridges in critical places, making skiing and snowshoeing possible. Steve Ovitt, our DEC ranger, has developed a loop trail, with help from many volunteers, from the Old Farm Clearing road near 13th Lake that goes to Botheration Pond and around to the road parking lot, for about eight miles. The bridge over the Sacandaga is worth walking to just for itself! He's also rerouting the "Schaefer trail" up Gore Mt. because work on the interconnect has eliminated much of it. Part of the trail goes into the Roaring Brook ravine, where there are scenic cliffs and waterfalls. The Raymond Brook ski trail now connects with the Ski Bowl. The Halfway Brook trail going past The Vly (a great place to use a Hornbeck canoe) is improved.
There are many wonderful new trails in our area now, designed so carefully that Steve hardly had to cut a tree. And there are more trail connections coming. Happy New Year!