10-10-2020 Parsons-Province Pond

Mount Shaw across Province Pond, Chatham. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)

This Thursday morning was partly cloudy with a strikingly blue sky. Yet rain lightly spattered my windshield as I drove north from Tamworth. A long and low gray cloud over the Moats treated valley residents to multiple rainbows.

It was chilly and windy, too. I decided a woods walk protected from the full brunt of the wind would be nice. I decided to hike into Province Pond in Chatham. I hadn’t done the 1.6-mile Province Brook Trail to Province Pond and the Province Pond Shelter in years.

In Fryeburg, Maine, I turned left onto Route 113 just before the post office and in a little over 6 miles continued straight on Green Hill Road. In another 4.3 miles, I took a left on the dirt Peaked Hill Road. This long and well-maintained dirt road into the national forest brought me well away from the noise of civilization in 2.6 miles, to the trail parking lot at the end.

Before heading up Province Brook Trail, which is an old road for most of its length, I noticed a forest service bulletin on a tree that perked my curiosity.

“Attention dog owners. Nuisance beaver trapping in progress. Please keep dogs leashed and on the trail in the Province Pond area.” I saw another of these notices later at the shore of the pond itself.

I headed up the old road covered with red and yellow maple leaves and copper beech leaves.

I had been there at least a half-dozen times before over the years. I remembered the time I was walking up the trail and I saw a vulture on the trail 50 feet ahead of me. Obviously injured, it walked ahead when I did. Soon, I detected a strong smell of carrion, realizing that it smelled like its last meal or meals. I was really glad when it moved off the trail.

On the trail this Thursday, the cool temperature was perfect for walking, the forest shielded the wind, fractured sunlight lit my way through the colorful woods. Soon, I arrived at the bend in the trail below the dam at the southern end of the pond. The outlet called Province Brook on my right was very low, consistent with the drought.

But when I walked up to the shore of the pond next to the overgrown earthen dam, I was struck by a few things. First was the spectacular sight of Mount Shaw across the pond, clothed in golden foliage. That combined with the cold wind blowing across the pond made for a palatable experience.

Second, I had never seen the water level of Province Pond so high. It was right up to the top of the dam. Workaholic beavers had been plastering some mud there, attempting to make it even higher.

The notices about nuisance beavers came to mind. Later after the hike, I called forest service biologist Jessie Dubuque. She was working at home in Freedom, after being out west fighting the fires.

Early last summer, she had pulled a board in the spillway on the far end of the dam on Province Pond to lower the water level. Her job is to promote wildlife, and by doing that, there would be more room for growth on the shore to promote nesting for birds, and food for wildlife. “I create habitat for breeding and nesting,” she said.

But in midsummer a pair of juvenile beaver moved in, damming the overflow channel. The water rose, and began impacting the hiking trail and a snowmobile trail, which combine at that point.

When I was there, a pool of water had accumulated at a turn in the trail below the dam. In the winter, ice at that point would be hazardous to snowmobilers.

Dubuque has been coordinating with the New Hampshire Fish and Game furbearer division about the problem. She said that Have-A-Heart traps have not been successful in relocating the beaver. She has been coordinating with local trappers.

I continued past the dam on the old road, then took a left turn on a foot path towards the north end of the pond and the old Adirondack shelter. Arriving there, I noticed it had a new interior paint job.

I was able to sit on the edge of the floor in the sun out of the cool breeze, and look out over the pond. Bright sunlight shimmered off the water near the east shore. It was a great place to linger for a snack and meditation in the sun.

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