Sunday, August 24, 2014


  overheard on our recent visit...

Well, Junior Rangers, we are just winding up our study of the beautiful Carriage Roads here at Acadia National Park. We have been hiking and biking and seeing each of the beautiful stone bridges and Gatehouses. Remember there are well over 45 miles of roads… and what are those large rocks at the edge of the roads called? 

Mr. Rockefeller’s Teeth..Giggles
That’s right little Timmy, but I’m sure it was meant respectfully.  We are all very thankful to the Rockefellers for the gift of these roads to our park. 

Any other questions from you Junior Rangers?

What are those piles of sticks lying between the "teeth" way up on the high parts of the Roads?

You mean the bushy ones with the trimmed ends all piled neatly between the “teeth”?  Well, that’s going to take a little explaining…

You know, of course, that Mr. Rockefeller took an active interest in designing and building these roads.  He was out with his engineers and workmen picking just the right slopes for the horses and making sure that the passengers got a good view of all the mountains, the waterfalls and especially the lovely beaver ponds.  The roads pass close to the ponds at low altitudes and the vistas high up the roads nearly always look down on a pond or stream. 

Now as time went on and the Acadia NP was formed, what do you think happened to the trees in front of the scenic vista?

Chorus:  THEY GREW..

Yes, indeed they did grow.  How quickly you recognized that!  The trees and brush grew and might have obscured the vista.  This happened in other places managed by the Park Service …like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park and others. There they couldn’t just trim the bushes (now trees), they had to form an Intragovernmental Committee with representatives from all over, and take public comments and Study..
And what were the trees (now 80 years old) doing?

Chorus: GROWING! giggles,

Well, they did finally cut the brush and trees back.  They got out the original drawings and marked the lines of sight and prepared to cut the trees (which by now were huge and some quite attractive themselves.)   Contracts had to be let because this was now a job way too large for a few park employees with a brush hook.  Objections were raised by those who wanted the vistas to look “just like they always did” – a leafy green wall apparently. One suggestion by a well-meaning  “holistic environmentalist” to airlift the largest trees out to Wyoming to provide shade for the wild horses that were being “saved” was tabled for future study.

FORTUNATELY, we didn’t have that problem here in Acadia because we have BULL BEAVERS.

What are Bull Beavers you ask?  Bull Beavers are just regular beavers, but they are HUGE. 

 beaver clipart  

A beaver lodge. 

They live in those well-appointed lodges you see along the carriage roads in the lowlands. 

  They have no enemies here, so they grow large and somewhat indolent.  But in late summer, as the bike traffic on the carriage roads peaks, their summer work begins.  They must work at night to avoid the bikes, but you can often see the drag marks their tails make in the loose gravel as they climb the roads to the high places.  There they trim the likely brush, usually branches with a 1-2” diameter, about 6-12 feet long.  (You can tell the work of a Bull Beaver because this brush is cut in a single clean stroke, not those little baby nibbles of lesser beavers.) 
After a hard nights work, they hide out in the little streams during the heat if the day.  If you ever see a beaver high up in the hills, splashing in a pool, you’re a lucky ranger; few people ever sight them. 

When this summer work is complete and the brush neatly stacked, it’s easy to look down and see the ponds far below.  Then, all there is to do is wait.

  Come November the park is nearly empty, and the first big snow falls. It is also the time of the full winter moon. It is now that all the little baby beavers scamper up the carriage trails. (They may mess up the grooves that nice volunteers “groom” for the cross country skiers. And the Park Service folks will issue stern warnings to keep “horses and dogs” out of the grooves.)


Each baby beaver grasps a long brushy bough between its front paws, climbs astride it with its broad tail pressing down on the leaves and slides down the steep, clear vista to the icy pond below. The ride is far superior to anything the cross country skiers experience.  It is wonderful! And it provides both a break from midwinter “Lodge Fever” and a big load of tasty snacks (since the Park Service” frowns on cutting too much brush around the ponds).

 And, oh yes, the vistas from the high points on the carriage roads once again peek down on the ponds and streams below, just as Mr. Rockefeller intended

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