I woke off and on throughout the night to the wind racing through the trees. A new weather pattern was rolling into the area. My dog, Wren, and I were camping in the Moose River Plains Recreation Area in a quiet campsite, but the wind had plans to make noise. When it calmed at times I could hear the water from the nearby stream providing a peaceful ambience to the landscape, and I rolled over in my bag as Wren lay stretched out next to me. It had been chilly when we went to bed, but I could tell the temperature was climbing.
We finally woke up to start the day early in the morning, and I lay awake for a spell, still tired from waking to the wind. Wren seemed ready to explore some more. She had enjoyed the previous afternoon of exploring the dirt roads and the area around camp. She nudged me excitedly. "Okay, I know," I said as I rubbed her ears and put my lazy bones in gear. Wren nosed around the campsite to check for night time visitors and I got breakfast ready for both of us. It was cool, but quite a bit warmer than the night before as the wind brought with it clouds from the south. As I ate Wren kicked up a Ruffed Grouse which must have wandered to the fringe of camp in the early morning. I finished up and we headed down the windy dirt road further into the recreation area.
Looking for moose and birds
A few miles along our drive a large dark shape moved quickly across the road. It was around a bend and I was looking through some thick branches, so it was difficult to see, but whatever it was, it was fairly big. I stopped about where it had cut across the road and hiked up into the woods a short distance. No sign of it. But crossing the road was a set of small moose tracks. It seemed an appropriate find considering the name of the area we were exploring. Excited, but a tad disappointed we didn't see the moose well, we decided to check out a few small ponds in the Plains.
We first explored the trail in to Lost Pond waving to a few folks who were stirring as they drank their morning coffee at their campsite. The Lost Pond path is easy, just a little over a half mile long, and we came across a small band of Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets along the trail. I heard the chattering note of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with them and I paused for a minute to see if I could find anything else. Most of our warblers have headed south and I found none with the chickadees and kinglets. After checking out the picturesque pond, we doubled back on our route and took the car further down the road to the trailhead for Helldiver Pond.
Helldiver is another beautiful pond, the boggy edges of which are good for finding birds like the Boreal Chickadee. We didn't find any on this visit – perhaps because of the strong wind – but Wren nosed into the water to find sticks as I looked in the woods. The ponds would also be good for exploration with a lightweight canoe and I considered lugging my boat in; but after checking out the pond we continued on with our plans to explore other places on this trip.
A return trip was necessary
We were back camping in the Moose River Plains the following week. On this occasion we camped near Helldiver Pond and had the trudging steps of moose came past our tent in the dark! In the morning we once again rose early and explored along the seldom traveled dirt roads and the trails into the ponds. We first checked out Helldiver, and while we didn't find any moose, there were four beavers plying their trade in the soft, purple light of morning. As I stood there and waited, both Hairy and Black-backed Woodpeckers called from the boreal stretch of forest surrounding the pond. I called for a Barred Owl to see if I could agitate the woodpeckers to come and investigate. The woodpeckers didn't seem to care, but my calls elicited a response from a Barred Owl on the other side of the pond!
Excited by this, I called a few more times, and the Barred Owl continued to answer me. As we walked back down the trail, a chorus of coyotes added their voices to the forest, and as we made breakfast in camp, they called two or three more times, and Wren perking up and listening closely to what her distant cousins might be saying.
We explored a variety of places along the roads and trails, but once again, the trail into Lost Ponds was one of our most productive stops. There we found another mixed flock of Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Black-capped Chickadees. But this time we also had a Boreal Chickadee mixed in with the birds and a few warblers which included many Yellow-rumped Warblers, and also a Black-throated Blue, Nashville, Palm, and a Northern Waterthrush. I was excited about these lingering migrants since I would not likely see them again until May. Happy with our success we continued on for more exploration before we reluctantly headed home after our trip. After all, we had already been out for five days. And I was short on clean clothes and we had eaten most of our food so we had little choice in the matter. I didn't really want to make a dinner of canned soup and balsam cones! And we'll likely be heading back for another camping trip soon.
If you're visiting the area you'll want to check out our lodging and restaurant options to complete your own post-hike ritual! Planning your next vacation? Check out our extensive hiking and birding options - the Adirondacks are waiting!