The New Zoo and the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary

By Christina VanGinkel

If you happen to be anywhere in the vicinity of Green Bay Wisconsin, and are a lover of anything wildlife related, be sure to stop by the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and the New Zoo. Both are a fantastic way to become one with nature, enjoy a stroll outdoors, and be introduced to a wide range of animal life, birds, and scenery all at their finest.

Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary

The Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, located at 1660 East Shore Drive Green Bay, WI 54302, is situated on 700 acres, and is referred to as an urban wildlife refuge. The first time we visited it was many years ago, and we have been back numerous times since. Each time, we are greeted by something new, something amazing. If we run to Green Bay for just about any reason, if we have the time available, or think we do, we make sure and stop by for at least a quick visit, as it is the perfect place to unwind from a busy schedule. It is open year round, and while they do accept donations, admittance is free, so it really is open to anyone who has a love of the outdoors.

The park has 6.5 miles of trail available, that you can hike in the spring, summer, fall, and cross-country ski on in the winter months, weather permitting. There are picnic areas available to enjoy an outdoor meal, and wheelchairs are available for those who need a little extra help traversing the park.

There are a few rules that the park posts, including no pets allowed, stay on the marked trails, and only feed the geese and ducks. Do not feed the other animals. For a full list of rules, they are posted about for all to see.

There is a large indoor Nature Education Center, which is home to many hands-on exhibits. The center is home to an Estuary, library, animal encounter pods, including insects and spiders, mammals, birds, and reptiles and amphibians. The building also offers vending machines and indoor bathrooms, an art gallery, and a gift shop.

The New Zoo

The New Zoo, along with the Brown County Reforestation Camp, is actually located about eleven miles northwest of Green Bay, but is well worth the drive out. Together they cover a 1560-acre parcel of land, encompassing both the zoo itself, along with miles of trails, trout ponds, and picnic areas. The grounds are also home to a large playground area, and there are grills available for anyone wanting to have an impromptu or planned outdoor picnic with hot, grilled foods. They also host special events throughout the year, such as breakfast with the Easter Bunny to help you celebrate Easter, and trick or treating throughout the park during Halloween.

The zoo itself has gone through several transformations since its origination, all seemingly for the better. New animals are often arriving, and I never tire of stopping by for a visit. Our most memorable trip was when my youngest son was all of about three or four years old (he is now thirteen) and he so wanted to go play with the monkeys. He proclaimed he was hot, begged to take off his t-shirt, which I allowed him to do, then nonchalantly tossed it up to the fence by the monkeys. They had it in an instant, and we had to ask maintenance for help to retrieve it. I will admit I was embarrassed, but we have never forgotten this, and to this day, we ask him if he wants to go play with the monkeys every time we head to Green Bay, no matter the occasion!

The New Zoo is home to many different animals, with their newest arrivals a pair of giraffes by the names of Hodari and Zuri, nicknamed Brave and Pretty. They arrived at the end of 2005, and have made themselves right at home, among the population of both foreign and domestic animals. The zoo houses animals from Australia, Africa, the North American Plains, and several that are native to Wisconsin.

The next time you happen to be in the Green Bay Wisconsin area, be sure to take time out and stop by the New Zoo and the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, you will not be disappointed!

Local Attractions

By Christina VanGinkel

My husband in on vacation from work for the next six days, and we have not planned any formal type of getaway. We usually do for the spring break he routinely takes from work, but with our youngest son on vacation in Texas, visiting his Aunt and Uncle, we just never took the time to plan any of our normal activities. Still, we would like to do something, so we have decided to stop by our local tourist information center today, and see what local attractions we may be overlooking, and possibly plan a few side trips right here in our own backyard.

With the soaring gas prices arriving once again to meet summer travelers, more people may want to entertain the same idea. When you live in an area for so long, you often take what is right in your own neighborhoods for granted. Just off hand, I can count at least half a dozen attractions that are in the area we live, with several that I personally have never taken the time to visit.

A few places of interest that are all within an hours drive of where we live that instantly come to mind include:

Iron Mountain Iron Mine and Museum

The Iron Mountain Iron Mine, about fifteen minutes from my home in the small town of Vulcan Michigan, (It is not in the neighboring town of Iron Mountain as many outside of the area visitors might assume) presents a modern day look at the boom of iron ore mining. The mine offers a tour that takes visitors 400 feet below the surface, through 2600 feet of underground tunnels. Visitors are guided by experienced tour operators who explain both how the mine was developed and how 22 million tons of iron ore was taken from the area over a periods ranging from 1870 until 1945. I actually grew up a mere five-minute pedal bike ride from the mine, and would ride by the giant wooden structure, dubbed ‘Big John’, the world’s largest miner that was created in the image of a miner to greet visitors to the mine, yet I never visited it myself. My children have all attended it for one occasion or another, from a birthday outing with a group of friends, to a school sponsored trip while studying the effects of mining iron ore to the local area. After taking a tour of the mine, they also offer an onsite museum and gift shop that everyone has said is almost as interesting as the mine itself.

Cornish Pump and Mining Museum

Located in Iron Mountain Michigan, about a half an hour from my home is the Cornish Pump and Mining Museum. It is located next to the Chapin Pit, which was tops for Iron Ore production during its day. The Cornish Pump is actually the largest steam driven pumping engine ever constructed in the United States. Weighing in at 725 tons, it first went into operation in 1893. Located in a building built up around the pump to house it and protect it for future generations is a museum that is touted as one of the best of its kind. It has a WWII glider exhibit, and large amounts of mining equipment, the largest in Michigan overall. It also is home to many local artifacts donated by the public. I was in the museum years back, but the building has undergone a complete renovation since that time, in part because a pit located next to the location of the pump itself caved in some years back. The area had to be cordoned off, and it was a major local attraction of its own for some time. This just goes to exemplify the area’s ties to mining. Information on the cave in itself is also up for view in the museum.

These are just two tourist attractions that are located near where I live. What local attractions are you missing right in your own backyard? Stop by your local tourist information center or chamber of commerce for a list of area attractions that you can visit. If your area is too small to have either of these, check the local gas stations or stores for pamphlets, as they often will have a display just for tourist information. All with the added benefit of gas saved, and no lodging costs!

Colorado’s Rainbow Lake Resort

There is little disagreement that the mountains of Colorado in the summertime are one of the most beautiful places on earth. Colorado summers are dry, clear, and warm, with chilly nights that may require a sweater. The insects are not a problem, as they are in other parts of the country, and while the days can get quite warm, the humidity level is so low, that the weather is always comfortable. The mountains of Colorado, while jagged and sometimes still showing snow in mid-summer, are covered with wildflowers and summer birds from their bases up to the tops of the above-timberline peaks. The raw beauty of the state is simply breathtaking.

There is one little-known place among the jagged peaks of the Collegiate range in central Colorado. The wide Arkansas Valley runs along the base of the Collegiate range, where giant 14,000 foot peaks jut above the valley with such names as Mount Harvard, Mount Princeton, and Mount Yale. These majestic mountains are imposing, almost intimidating, and they always have at least a small amount of snow at the very tops of their summits. Yet if one drives out of the small town of Buena Vista, a picturesque town right on the Arkansas River, and follows the winding road which leads to the top of Cottonwood pass (and the Continental Divide), there between the bases of Mount Princeton and Mount Yale is a tiny group of cottages known as Rainbow Lake Resort.

Rainbow Lake Resort is a group of eighteen red-painted cottages nestled on the shore of clear, beautiful Rainbow Lake. The lake is fed by Cottonwood creek, a tumbling creek that flows from the heart of the mountains, just up the pass. It is full of both rainbow and brown trout, and the fishing is always good. At the edge of the lake, right on the water, is the main building is the office and a small store. There, visitors can find a few tourist items, canned goods, and of course, fishing necessities. This is also where visitors can rent a boat to use on the lake. The front porch of the main building is lined with hummingbird feeders which are always full of about twenty hummingbirds buzzing busily around.

Each cottage is different and is equipped with beds, living room furniture, a full kitchen and a bathroom. The cottages vary in size and several of them have fireplaces. While there is electricity, there are no televisions and no phones. The main building has a phone in case of emergencies, but the cottages are blissfully phone-free.

After a day of fishing on the edge of the lake or rowing a boat out to the center of the lake, many visitors will enjoy the multitude of hiking trails around Rainbow Lake Resort. Trails go off in every direction; ambitious trails for those who want to hike to the tops of the mountains, and scenic walking trails which take hikers through the woods, over small foot-bridges, and back around the lake.

While Rainbow Lake Resort is self contained, the small town of Buena Vista is not far for those who want to purchase groceries (if mountain lake fish is not enough for you to eat) or if dinner in a restaurant is sought one evening. There are also several horse-back riding establishments and white water rafting opportunities nearby. Mountain climbing, biking and other summer sports are popular throughout the area.

The best part about Rainbow Lake Resort is the quiet. The guests are normally families or friends who simply want to get away from it all, fish a bit, and enjoy one another’s company. The evenings are lazy and calm; the days are sunny and warm. The people who run the place are friendly and helpful. The hummingbirds are adorable and the lake is simply beautiful.

If a quiet, sunny, mountain vacation is what you seek, consider going to Rainbow Lake Resort. It is charming, rustic, and serene. Often on the sunny afternoons, the only sounds that can be heard are the birds chirping and the wind whispering through the aspen leaves. Sometimes the only thing to do is read a book, take a walk, or sit and think. It makes one never want to go home.

The 100-Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is a 2000-plus mile trail that winds its way through the hills, valleys and mountains from Georgia to Maine. Each year, hundreds of thousands of hikers spend time walking on various parts of the Appalachian Trail. Accessible in hundreds of locations, many will seek to do day hikes, while others might choose to camp out near the trail for a weekend getaway. Still others might choose to hike the length of the trail through an entire state, taking several weeks to do it. Amazingly, there are hundreds of hikers each year to plan, train, and set out to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. While few actually finish the trail in one year, many will ultimately cover it in several years or at least once in their lifetime, hiking bits and pieces of it as they can.

The most popular way to hike the trail is to go from south to north: from Georgia to Maine. This way, hikers can begin in the early spring in Georgia, when the weather has turned warm and hiking conditions are favorable, and reach Maine by September or October, in the height of fall foliage season, before the winter snows begin. But even the most ambitious hiker who has hiked from Georgia to Maine has found that the most difficult part of the Appalachian Trail is the dreaded 100-mile wilderness in Maine.

After hiking more than 2000 miles in five months or more, it would seem that nothing could deter a hiker. They are used to having little food, carrying a heavy pack, and sleeping in sometimes dire conditions. They are oblivious to the weather and they have even learned to live off the land. But when a hiker arrives in Monson, Maine, he will find warning signs after crossing the road and finding the next trail head. The signs warn that the last 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail are inaccessible; meaning, there are no towns, no stores, no homes, no telephones, no food sources, no help. Lying just past that sign are 100 miles of pure wilderness. Hikers may be privileged to see moose, bald eagles, and black bear, but they won’t see any convenience stores or phone booths; and hikers might just as well leave their cell phones off because there is little or no reception, except on the tops of mountains, and that only sketchy at best.

Hikers from all over the world often forego the rest of the Appalachian Trail and set out to conquer just the 100-mile wilderness. Books have been written and websites set up to teach hikers how to carry at least ten days worth of food on their backs. They are taught what to bring, or more importantly, what not to bring. Minimalizing is obviously best, and learning which foods are the lightest, but which also will give the most energy.

Ironically, the 100-mile wilderness is also the most difficult part of the Appalachian Trail. Hikers who have hiked the wilderness are shocked at the steep inclines, the many water crossings through cold, Maine rivers, and the true “wilderness” of it all. The trail markers are maintained, but the trail is not; more often than not, there are roots or even small trees growing in the trail, and if hikers do not pay attention, they can easily become lost.

If you or anyone you know wishes to tackle the 100-mile wilderness, plan ahead. Train hard, as if you were going to run a marathon. Study and plan about which foods to take, and how to carry your bed, your kitchen, and your personal items on your back. Have an identification on you and never hike alone. Though you will meet other hikers on the 100-mile wilderness, injuries and illnesses can happen and you will want to have a safety plan.

If you set out to hike the 100-mile wilderness of the trail and you are successful, you will experience things unlike anything else. You will see things beauty and the ruggedness of nature that only our early ancestors saw. And when you reach the end, the summit of Mount Katahdin in central Maine, you will feel pride and accomplishment unlike any other.

Mystic Seaport – An Enchanting New England Destination

Many of us think of New England as rugged, adventurous and chilly, and that perception is actually not too far off the mark. Many people enjoy the idea of a cool summer up north, and Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport is a wonderful “port of call” for a New England vacation. There is very little possibility of becoming bored if you choose Mystic to visit, because anyone from old to young can find the most perfect souvenir, the most beautiful view, and the most wonderful dinner if they only know how to explore.

You might want to consider visiting in the fall; New England is well-known for brightly-colored foliage and some spectacular photos. The downfall to an autumn or winter visit, however, is the possibility of snow, ice and treacherous roads, as well as harsh temperatures that will have you breaking out the parkas and snow boots. If you’re not the type to worry about cold weather and have a sturdy vehicle built for tough climate, you should have nothing to fear! Go ahead and defy the snow.

Mystic Seaport is not a large place; indeed, it’s easy to get lost in the huge maps of Connecticut. There is something about that homey feeling, though, that makes you glad this little fishing village isn’t full of skyscrapers, bars and traffic. Mystic Seaport will transport you back centuries ago, when the sea pervaded nearly every aspect of people’s lives in this region.

When you arrive at the seaport, one of the first things you will notice is the stately old ship sitting peacefully in the harbor. This is the Charles W. Morgan, a whaler. If you’re a history lover like I am, this old wooden ship will be the highlight of the visit. The Charles W. Morgan is not the only sailing vessel you will see here (a harbor wouldn’t be a harbor without more than one ship!) and you will have the option of getting aboard some of the other vessels.

Mystic Seaport’s other big attraction is the recreated village. Though perhaps not as detailed as Williamsburg or Plimoth Plantation (yes, spelled that way!), it is certainly just as essential an experience. The historic architectural styles are a wonder to the eye, and shopping and dining abound throughout the town of Mystic. If you’re traveling with children, they may find a primitive version of a schoolhouse to be of interest. This place is called the Boardman School and its historical background is a good teaching tool for youngsters. Other historical homes and buildings can be found in Mystic Seaport as well. The printing press is one place not to miss, as well as Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern.

The Thomas Oyster and Thomas Greenman houses date from the mid-1800s and are majestic and pleasing to the eye. Don’t forget to compare the primitive architecture of the “olden days” to the many different building styles available in this day and age. You certainly won’t walk away bored from Old “Mistick” Village (the spelling is strange; we’re in the 19th century, after all!) The pedestrian-only path helps to create an illusion of the past.

It’s time to eat! After a long day of exploring Mystic Seaport, you’ll want a great restaurant option. Some possibilities are: Seaman’s Inne Restaurant and Pub, with great offerings for everyone in the family, and the Cafe and Bake Shop for a quick treat. You can find the Cafe and Bake Shop open from 8-6; this is a great place to grab breakfast or a small dinner. At Seaman’s Inne you will find a much bigger selection. You might want to partake of a seafood supper; after all, it’s one of the things for which New England is famous.

Many people can’t stand the thought of visiting a new place without picking up some special souvenirs, or at the very least window-shopping and choosing what they *would* bring home if they were able to afford it! Mystic Seaport has you covered. At Bank Square Books on Main Street, you’ll find everything from maps to novels in case curling up in front of a roaring fireplace is your idea of the perfect New England vacation. Try Whyevernot, a unique store with all kinds of treasures, such as home decor, books, apparel and much more.

You don’t have to worry about finding the perfect lodging. Mystic offers everything from quaint, cozy bed and breakfasts to chain hotels. Whatever your budget or lodging preference, you won’t be disappointed.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer

When a Teen Flies Alone

By Christina VanGinkel

Well, we put our youngest son on a plane yesterday to fly out to Dallas to visit with his Aunt and Uncle over the holiday break. It was the first time that he had flown, and I was expecting him to be a bit nervous, as our oldest son is not a good flyer at all. With our oldest, we had to pre-medicate with Dramamine hours before the flight, and then have them pre-board him to give him time to settle down before they boarded the other passengers. With our youngest, he acted as if he had flown a million times before and it was just another day of his life.

Because of his age, he was to be pre-boarded, but the flight was running late, and it never happened. He was boarded with the rest of the passengers, after the elderly and those with small children were on. He had a single layover, and then was back on the plane for the final part of his flight. When he landed in Dallas and they were told that they could turn on their cell phones, he dialed my husband on his cell phone to tell us that he had landed. We thought he was in the airport already, but he said no, that he was still on the plane, taxiing down the runway. He just had to call and tell us that all of our fears about his flying were for nothing. Not only did he not become ill, he had fun. When asked if he would want to fly again, he immediately responded that eh would. This just goes to prove the point that children are as different as night and day, My oldest son was so un-enamored of flying that when he had to make a trip a few years back, he chose to take a bus instead, even though the actual travel time was days instead of hours!

If you do have a child or teenager who will be flying soon, I have a few tips to share with you to help make the flight as uneventful as possible:

Let them take with a cell phone. Not only, will they be able to call a parent as my son did, to say they made it, they can also call the person, or persons who are suppose to be picking them up if they are not at the gate to greet them. Maybe they were caught in traffic, or are at the airport already, but are just at the wrong gate. That they can call someone instantly, without having to find a phone or have an airline employee try to contact someone for them is a huge piece of comfort to them, taking away a lot of the stress associated with flying unaccompanied by a family member or friend.

Have them take with a handheld game system, such as a PSP, to play a game or watch a movie on. If they are a bit nervous about being on the flight, something like that can help them to pass the time. If music is more their style, a small MP3 player or CD player is also ideal. If the flight is a long one, both a game and music player is even better.

Be sure to check if the airline offers snacks or meals on board, and go over the choices with the child or teen. If nothing is to the child’s liking, be sure to pack a snack or lunch in a bag for them to eat at their leisure. Also, pack a stomach relief product, such as Tums or Rolaids that is suitable for the age of the child, just in case they do get an upset stomach. Also, be sure they know that drinks will be available on the flight, and all they have to do is ask a flight attendant to get them one.

Also, have them pack a magazine or book, or some other small item to help them pass the time. When my son was packing his carryon, I reminded him to try to keep it light; as he would have to carry it, with him at all times, even on his layovers, and to be sure to keep all of his essentials within easy reach inside the bag. I also told him he could pack a few items, such as a magazine, even if he did not think he would need them, just in case he did become a bit nervous or bored, so that he had a few activities to choose from. His PSP was his favorite item when I asked him late yesterday after landing, though, as he was able to watch a movie and the time passed quickly!

Learning the Language

By Christina VanGinkel

If you are traveling to any country whose language is different from what you are use to, it would be prudent for you to learn at least a few of the basic words. Which basic words and phrases you will want to learn, will depend on what you are planning to do while traveling. For example, if you are going to be doing a lot of shopping in Paris, learning how to ask for something as simple as a bag, or how to ask if a store carries XYZ, would not only be practical, but it will surely make your shopping time both more productive and stress free. On the other hand, if you are headed to Italy for some sightseeing, think of how much easier it will be if you are capable of asking, in Italian, when the museum opens, or if someone would be willing to take you and your companion’s picture. We never realize how un-universal our language is, until we land in a country where the language of choice is very different from the one we take for granted.

Take a Class

You could take a class offered at a college or adult learning center to learn the language of your choice, and if you know far enough in advance where you will be traveling, this can be an excellent choice. A class guided by a teacher will allow you to get immediate feedback from someone that is fluent in the language, and if you have the chance to speak the language yourself, and hear someone who knows it speak it, you will have the opportunity to gain confidence in your speaking of it.

Audio and Book Language Travel Guides

If a class is out of the question, there being none in the language you need to learn being offered, or not enough time to take a course, as you are leaving in just a few weeks time, there are many programs and books available to help you with basic words and phrases like those needed to get you through the day to day dealings of a vacation. Checking out a few of them before you even book your flight can be one of your wisest travel preparations you will ever make. Fodor’s offers travel guides in several languages, including French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. The guides come in a range of styles, including book form and audio. I am a fan of the audio guides offered by Fodor’s because I feel that hearing the words and phrases, along with the included listener’s guide, which gives you a visual backup of the lessons, is about as good as it gets.

Electronic Translators

Besides learning the language of the country you will be visiting, you could rely on a translator. There are many electronic versions available in a pricing range that will not leave you feeling like you have no money left to enjoy yourself on the trip. While none of them will allow you to carry on a conversation fluently, they will be able to help you ask for basic needs. Most even, come with complete phrases. Better yet, many of them cover much more than one or two languages, so if you travel frequently, you will not have to buy a new one each time you head to a country with a different language. The TR-2900 Global 29 Pocket Language Translator by LINGO, has built in features that help with currency conversions, 58,000 phrases, 580,000 word translations in twenty nine languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Finnish, Estonian, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Turkish, Greek, phonetic Hebrew, phonetic Arabic, phonetic Chinese, phonetic Japanese, phonetic Korean, phonetic Thai, and Indonesian. Not to be done there, it also comes with clothing and shoe size conversions for those who consider shopping a major part of their vacation!

If you are planning to travel, take the time to explore some of these options to make your trip more enjoyable simply by allowing you to more freely converse with the people you will encounter while traveling. From hotel clerks, to other tourists, knowing the language can open up completely new doorways to the enjoyment you will reap from your travels.

Flight Perks, Included or Not?

By Christina VanGinkel

With everything going up in prices, that airlines are raising theirs should come as no surprise. One way that some of the larger airlines are competing is by taking away services that were once considered standard, perks such as free snacks on board flights both moderate and long in length, replacing them with snacks to purchase. It is not just snacks though, that are disappearing in a trend whose ultimate aim is to save the bottom dollar, but features such as curbside checking of bags, which can now cost you a flat fee per bag, and cash up front please!

In order to know what you are getting with the cost of your ticket, and to better help you plan your trip, you should ask your travel agent to be as specific as possible so you can be prepared with a few dollars of cash in your pocket if necessary. If you are not using a travel agent, which is a trend more and more of us are following to save ourselves as much on the increased cost of flying as we can, then be sure to check the website of whichever airline you are traveling for information related to the flight. You will often be able to find out such information pertaining to not only the price of what the ‘extras’ will cost, but also what exactly is included. American Airlines for example offers snack boxes of various assortments, and you can find out online what is included in each snack pack and the cost of each one. Non-alcoholic beverages are available free on most flights, and alcoholic beverages are usually available for a fee. Some airlines recently test ran a small section of the market to see how the average consumer would feel about paying for their beverages, even the non-alcoholic ones, and it apparently did not go over well, as the last I heard of it, the testing had been suspended, and that airline was once again offering their non-alcoholic beverages free to all of its customers.

American Airlines also offers entertainment choices on some of their flights, such as movies, music, and access to some favorite television broadcasts, ranging from news and sports, to sitcoms and nighttime entertainment. When available, depending on the flight, you will have to either bring along your own set of headphones, or purchase a set on-board for the sum of about two dollars. Twos dollars is a small sum, but if you want to get a pair, be prepared to pay the sum. First class and business class flights still offer this amenity free as of the writing of this article, but with the constant changes affecting such policies regarding these perks, I would check beforehand for any possible rule changes. I would be especially diligent about these small issues where a long flight is at issue, where something as small as a set of headphones could be the difference between an enjoyable flight and a long, boring one.

Keep in mind that most flights will also allow you to use your own laptop or personal DVD player, and some may even offer you the luxury of power ports. Where those are not available, be sure to bring along an extra battery so you do not suddenly find yourself in the middle of the cliffhanger part of the show with a dead battery! Also, keep in mind that you are only one of many, and even when using your own equipment, be considerate and bring along headphones so you are not disturbing those seated around you whose form of entertainment leans more to reading the paper or a magazine, or studying the backside of their eyelids! They are paying just as much for their seat as you did yours, and they are just as entitled to an enjoyable flight as you are.

If you are in any doubt about whether a service is included in the price of your ticket, call up the airline you are flying with and ask a customer service representative. If you are already at the airport, go to the service counter of your particular airline and inquire there. To be prepared for those small circumstances that you never thought of, always fly with at least a few dollars in your pocket.

Moose Watching in Maine

Moose are the majestic yet lumbering creatures that inhabit the northern forests of the United States and Canada. Tourists and vacationers often plan their vacations around the possibility of glimpsing one of these unusual large-antlered creatures in their natural habitat, but with the north woods being so thick, moose can be very prolific, yet hard to find. While moose are found all over the northern United States, one of the most popular states for spotting a moose is in Maine, and two of the best times of the year to see the moose in large numbers is in the early spring, and even more so, in the early summer.

In the early spring, Maine moose seem to come out of hiding. Although moose do not hibernate, per se, they are not often seen during the winter months in Maine. This may not be because the moose are not there, but more likely because the moose-watchers are not out looking for them. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers often encounter moose on their recreational trails, simply walking along, minding their own business, occasionally behaving in a distracted, yet grumpy manner. The spring rains and warm weather, however, seem to bring moose out onto the sides of the roadways, as if they know that we humans want to see them. Often moose can be seen munching new grass or nibbling something off the side of a tree; usually bark, as most trees do not bloom in Maine until mid-to-late spring.

In the early summer, usually around the end of June or the beginning of July, Maine experiences one of the few miserable things about the otherwise beautiful and pristine state: black flies. Black flies are hideous little creatures about one fourth the size of a regular house fly. They fly rather slowly and move about much like a large knat, but they bite humans and animals, leaving a painful, hard bump that itches terribly. Moose flies are another annoying pest found in the summer forests; these are huge, aggressive flies with a painful bite. As the Maine moose move through the beautiful woods during the summer, these nasty little pests will drive them made, swarming their faces and biting mercilessly. Often the moose will retreat to open meadows, ponds, or roadways, looking for a breeze to ease the swarms of pests.

While living in Maine, we took to the roads one early June day a few years ago and headed up to the Greenville area of Maine, near the popular Moosehead Lake. We did not really have a destination in mind; rather, we simply wanted to drive around and see if we could spot a moose or two. We found a back road that led from Greenville to Millinocket, by-passing the famous Mount Katahdin. The road was bumpy and rarely used, but passable, even in our rickety Volkswagen Golf. We passed only a few other brave souls on the remote road, but we found a magical land of moose.

The pine and birch trees were stunning against a perfect blue sky, and we rounded the first bend to find a young, adolescent moose standing in the middle of the road, looking at our approaching car with boredom. He sauntered away into the woods and we drove on. Soon we encountered a large female standing at the roadside, nibbling some grass and looking annoyed. She whipped her head around and ran into the woods, seemingly perturbed at being disturbed.

By the end of the day, we had seen a grand total of nine moose, one of which was a large, wide-antlered male, standing serenely in the middle of a large lake. It was a postcard moment with the underwater grasses and weeds hanging haphazardly from his majestic antlers. We also saw many more young moose than we would have expected, all seemingly alone, without their mothers, though they were most likely watching from behind a tree.

The next time you are in Maine in the spring or summer, be adventuresome and check out the road between Greenville and Millinocket. The views are some of the best in the state, with amazing sights of Mount Katahdin; and the moose are there. Keep driving, keep your eyes open, and have your camera on and ready. Moose don’t usually move very quickly, other than when they are having their picture taken!

A Picture I.D. for a Traveling Teen

By Christina VanGinkel

With one week to go before my son flies to Texas to visit his Uncle and Aunt over spring break, I told him to sit down and go over his list that he started a few days ago, of things that he will need to pack. I told him to sit down, read the list, and consider if there is anything else that he can think of that he might need, and to check off any items that we needed to pick up and already have, so we can see what is left for us to shop for or do.

One of the items that we had acquired, and that had been on the top of the list importance wise, was a picture I.D. While not required for a minor flying within the continental United States, we personally felt that it was important for him to have, as he would be flying unattended by a family member or friend, under the care of the airline. When my brother first mentioned that, he thought it would be a good idea for our son to have one, I was at a loss as to where to even acquire one. Our local school system had did away with picture I.D. cards some time ago, switching instead to a thumbprint scan for access to lunches and such. In the end, I called up our local police station to see if they knew where we could get him one. The answer was simple, yet one that for some reason I never even thought of, the Department of Motor Vehicles!

Living where we do, the Department of Motor Vehicles only comes to town once every two months, and they would be coming just the week after I phoned! Talk about good timing. Of course, I could have driven him to one of several other locations around the state, some as close as about an hour away, but that the day they came to town was before he needed to actually have the card was perfect.

We arrived the morning of, knowing the hours were from nine thirty in the morning until three o’clock in the afternoon. To say that the line was long was an understatement to the extreme. It winded out of the door of the room they used at City Hall, across the entrance hall, up to the door of the city offices, and back down the hall past the police office. We decided to run up town and do a few errands, and come back when, I hoped, the line was not quite as long. We arrived back at about twelve thirty, and the line was much shorter. It took us all of about fifteen minutes to be waited on, and in not much longer than that, we were on our way home with him clutching his shiny new picture I.D.

What surprised me the most, was when we approached the counter, the gentleman behind the counter not only did not bat an eye when we asked if we could get one, but went on to say that in the last year or so, more and more parents were bringing in their younger children just for such an I.D. He went on to say that not too long ago, that if he filled one request a month for such an I.D. that was a lot. The day my son got his, he was probably about the tenth one that vary day.

If you have a child flying unaccompanied, or even if they are flying with someone, I would recommend that they have a picture I.D., even if, as in my son’s circumstances, one is not required. Consider the simple fact that it could either potentially make things much easier in the event you and your child become separated accidentally, at the airport or even elsewhere while traveling, or for proper identification for the individual picking your child up on the other end of the flight.

As to my son’s list, he at first balked at the idea that a list was something he needed, after all, he is thirteen and capable of knowing what he needs to bring along. Not long after he started the list though, I saw him adding some things to it. When I asked him what he was writing, he replied that once he did make the list, he started to think of all sorts of things that he had better pack, that he more or less takes for granted., such as his belt. He even said thanks for making him start the list! Who knew?