A Change in Plans
I had been interested in paddling Brown's Tract Inlet this past week, but the day I had slated for exploring it became quite windy, meaning a paddle across the wide waters of Raquette Lake was not in the cards. I considered carrying my canoe the 0.7 miles to the inlet on the carry trail off Route 28, but I sort of wimped out at the effort of lugging the heavy boat along with my other gear. So Wren and I bagged the idea of paddling the inlet and opted for exploring it on foot instead.
The carry trail to Brown's Tract Inlet is reached at a small gravel parking area along Route 28 located about 2.4 miles west of Raquette Lake. Wren and I set off towards the inlet but immediately were slowed by a mixed flock of songbirds chattering in the trees. I stopped walking and spished - bringing in half a dozen Black-capped Chickadees, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a Swainson's Thrush. We walked down the easy and wide path to the inlet where a boardwalk takes paddlers – or in this case hikers – to the water.
A Beautiful Place!
The coniferous habitat surrounding the inlet can be very good for a variety of birds, including many species of warblers as well as boreal species like Black-backed Woodpecker, but the warm and breezy day had hushed up many birds by the time we were there. We still found a few Common Yellowthroats, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, and a bunch of Swamp Sparrows which chipped loudly at our approach. And the setting itself is splendid – a vegetation choked channel lined with conifers.
The warm sun had made Wren thirsty so she tried to get a drink from the floating end of the boardwalk designed for launching boats. But the water was too far for her to reach with her tongue and if she jumped into the water, she would have struggled to get back up onto the boardwalk. I stood on one end of the floating platform to push it down as far as my weight could press it, but it wasn't nearly enough. So we turned to find her water someplace else.
We didn't have to go far. A trail reaches the carry trail about a tenth of a mile from the launch. It houses a convenient outhouse for those in need and then links hikers with a series of wide snowmobile trails after crossing the inlet further upstream. Wren plunged in at this bridge across the inlet and drank as she swam in a circle – seemingly unsure whether she should drink or cool off with a swim. So she did both at once! From the bridge we walked on the trails on the north side of the inlet which took us through some nice boreal habitat before eventually entering deciduous woods. Cedar Waxwings flew out and back from dead snags hawking insects, and dragonflies hunted insects just above the brushy vegetation. Both were on our side when it came to battling the bugs!
The Things You Can Find in Bear Poop!
A short ways down the trail we found a large – that is, enormous – pile of bear scat, the maker of which seemed quite fond of choke cherries, as the pits made up the balance of the pile. Thanks in large part to our rainy June, choke cherries have been hanging heavily wherever I've seen them of late, and I've been snacking on them myself as I hike. I like the tart fruits. And while it may strike some folks as disgusting to investigate the poop of animals, it does allow biologists to learn more about them. After all, this bear poop had something else of note in it. The bear had evidently eaten a key ring from a car - perhaps a rental car - plastic laminated tab and all. The key did not seem to be present and I hoped the bear wasn't still carrying the key around. At least the ring didn't appear to be broken – but the real question was, why did the bear eat it in the first place? Perhaps the key ring had been mixed with some food or garbage someone had inadvertently left out. Perhaps it had food smeared on it. Perhaps the bear had broken into the car and this was its devious plan to keep the driver from getting away with the food in the car. Or perhaps the bear was just crazy. There's no way to know for sure - only that it ate the key ring for some strange reason.
I moved on from the poop, and we walked on the quiet trail, enjoying late summer wildflowers like flat-topped aster, crown vetch, closed gentian, and spotted joe-pye weed. Eventually we turned around, returning to the bridge from which we continued to explore a bit further up the inlet. But lunch was calling us back to the car, so we retraced our steps past the privy and back along the main carry trail to the parking area. It had not been the way I had initially planned to explore Brown's Tract Inlet, but it turned out to be a great way to do so!