We purchased the B&B in August of last year and were really looking forward to 2020 as it would be our first full year in operation. It would be our chance to open our home to the world, to make new friends, and to show off all the wonders that Maine has to offer. Or as it turns out, it would be our chance to stay home with the rest of the world under the COVID-19 quarantine. Not exactly how we planned things, but just like the rest of the world we had two options: 1) Cry about it or 2) Put on our big boy (and girl) pants, roll up our sleeves, and make the most of this unique opportunity. So, after sobbing uncontrollably while trying to remember where we even put our big boy pants, we got to work. With no guests to attend to we had more time than we ever imagined and would prove to be an ideal time to improve the premises and the business.
Among other things we deployed a new website, improved our social media presence, ripped out all the thorn bushes behind the house (new landscaping in progress), stripped and re-sealed the deck, and painted the house and barn. While these improvements were great and will likely be detailed in a future blog entry, that is not what this post is about. No, this is about the trail that my Dad (Pops) and I have been cutting through the property and all the wildlife that can be found literally in our backyard. As shown in the figure below, we own nearly 16 acres of land, most of which is densely covered with trees, brush, and tons of undergrowth.
When we first visited the property we walked around the property for the simple reason that we could not walk through it. Despite this, I had a vision to cut a trail through the property. The primary snowmobile trail through Fryeburg runs along the backside of our property. With a snowmobile rental house just a few doors down, if we could cut a path to that trail, we could not only open the White Gables Inn to the snowmobiling world but it would really help me justify the purchase of a snowmobile to Steph (I hope she didn’t read this…).
I, with the help of Pops (and by that, I really mean “Me attempting to be helpful while working with Pops”) cut a trail from the front of the property to the back within a couple of days. Though a lot more work needs to go into it, the foundation was set and we now had a way to walk from one side of our property to the other without going on the neighbors adjoining land. I would go for occasional walks down the trail, trying to plan out what improvements to make. One evening, I was nearly at the end of the trail when I heard something scratching up a tree. The sun made it hard to see and I first thought it was a porcupine. But then something else the same size went scurrying up the tree behind it. After shading my eyes and squinting I realized those were not porcupines, they were black bear cubs. I instantly looked at the bottom of the tree and there was momma black bear and I was within 30 feet of her and her cubs.
Now a dedicated blogger would have taken their phone out and tried to capture the moment, maybe even edged closer and taken a selfie. I am not a dedicated blogger (is it obvious?) and instead chose life. I know we don’t get to pick how and when our lives come to an end and while I’ve done and continue to do my share of stupid things (Stop nodding Steph!!!) the one thing I am trying to avoid is having the following epitaph on my tombstone: “Here lies Mike who died the way he lived; being an idiot”. After a hasty walk home and a change of underwear, I grabbed the family and our camera. We used the neighbors’ land to walk around the property. Standing in the field behind our property and knowing we were now at a safe distance we looked for the bear cubs in the tree. After some searching, we finally saw one. Rather quickly thereafter, the bear cub and two more cubs climbed down the tree. Eventually momma bear came into view from behind the tree.
Gwen, Steph, and I had a great time watching the cubs play and continue to climb up and down some of the surrounding trees. Momma bear was just sitting there comfortably giving us the occasional glance to let us know that she knew we were there. At this point, it was getting fairly dark so after snapping a few pictures with our best zoom lens, we headed back.
The next day, I got my dad’s game camera and went back, this time making plenty of noise in the hopes of not startling any bears. With the camera set up, all I had to do was wait. Waiting isn’t exactly my wheelhouse, after just a couple days the anticipation was killing me so I sprinted out to check the camera. No bears, but in just a couple days we got a ton of deer pictures.
I felt good about that so I reset the camera and I waited…impatiently…again…Ok that’s long enough. I was back out there after a few more days passed and again, lots of deer pictures but no bears. I decided to move the camera to a different spot on my trail, reset the camera, and waited some more. I must have been really busy because almost a week went by before I went out to check the camera. The good news, there was an adorable baby deer. The bad news, due to lack of maintenance on my trail and the time of year, the ferns had grown so high you could barely see it.
How do you cut the tall grass and ferns in front of your game camera you ask? Well, it is 2020. You could get a state of the art weed whacker with a saw blade on the end. You could rig a lawnmower to cut a pre-defined path like a Roomba. You could even deploy a beefed-up drone. Or you could use this.
What can I say? I like it old school. With the area cleared, I reset the camera, I went back to the house and you know what I did next? That’s right, I waited. How exciting…I was able to wait about another week and then Gwen and I checked the camera again. I was certainly glad I cleared the area because we got some pics of not one, but two baby deer.
Gwen and I thought the baby deer were awfully cute and looked at their pictures for a little while. We cycled through some more nice pictures of the deer but then we got a big, big surprise. Bigger than a deer. Bigger than a bear. Heck, bigger than my car. A moose walked right past our camera.
I couldn’t believe it. Deer, moose, and bear are not rare sights in Maine but getting pictures of all 3 right here on the property of the White Gables Inn in our first month after creating trail access was truly unexpected. I’m really excited to collect more data and see how often the different animals come and when they come. Nearly every time I have gone to check the camera I have either seen a deer or got pictures of a deer as they run by the camera mere moments before I get there. It also is making my imagination run wild with other fun things to do with the trail. Animal viewing blinds/platforms, video cameras, and expanding the trails are among the things to jump to the front of my mind. Oh, shoot, I almost forgot…I’m going to need a bigger scythe.