Exploring with a Naturalist

I joined the Ski w/ a Naturalist tour to take some pictures and came away learning some pretty interesting things!

Nicky and Whitney were the guides from the Appalachian Mountain Club located just down the road from us. This tour is perfect for beginner skiers as well as advanced. It’s not about instruction or critiquing the guests’ or the guides’ skiing abilities, it’s about learning and exploring the ecosystem. We began with a brief introduction and a plan for the tour. We’d be stopping a lot while making sure to stay out of the way of other skiers, we’d regroup at the top and bottom of the hills and have fun. Setting the tone makes the tour a lot more relaxed and expectations are understood.

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Whitney is pointing out the three visible Northern Presidentials; Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison-J.A.M

It was a gorgeous day, the mountains were visible, the temps in the low thirties and the sun was shining. We made our way down the Sluice and stopped at the small batch of pine trees just over the bridge at intersection # 2. Nicky explained the difference between the two pine trees. One was a Red Pine and the other a White Pine. There are always tricks to remembering differences in nature; White Pines have 5 needles, the word white has five letters.DSCN3336We scooted along and found some tracks. We knew they were about the size of a fox by measuring the distance between one set of tracks. DSCN3338There is a new discovery with the way the fox plans its pounces, it uses the magnetic field from the North Pole and catches 75% of its food when facing north!
Check it out:

We continued on and found more fox tracks. It’s hard to tell here but the fox didn’t sink through the snow and left a clear print. Nicky is drawing an X in the snow while explaining that there is enough space between the toes to draw an X of an animal from the dog family, while there is not with a cat print.DSCN3340

 

Nicky is showing us the pounce mark, it dug all the way to the grass!

Nicky is showing us the pounce mark, it dug all the way to the grass!

As we rounded the corner we saw moose tracks!! Well we thought we did. Nicky wasn’t totally convinced so she followed them into the woods. Her motto is “When in doubt, follow it out.” DSCN3344The tracks in the open were nearly filled in due to the wind, but the ones in the woods were clearly the fox again!

We wandered deeper into the trail system very slowly because we didn’t want to miss anything! We stopped at an intersection known as Coffee Pot Rock also #19 on the trail map-you’ll see why when you get out there. We were admiring the trees that grow on the rock and just happened to look down at the base of a tree. We spotted a wing print! I’ve never seen one, it was beautiful and so perfect. I could picture the bird landing and just barely touching the snow before taking off again.

DSCN3348I learned a lot in the 45 minutes I tagged along! Now I can share that knowledge with my friends and fellow skiers.

These tours are available every Sunday morning (except January 12th due to Kids Ski Fest and March 9th for Ski & Shoe to the Clouds)  from 10:30am -noon and are FREE with your trail pass.

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