Conserving land, one brushstroke at a time

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The Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) has turned to artists to help them protect Howard Hill, the iconic forested backdrop to Maine’s state house in Augusta. In a series of short outings, artists are invited to create plein air paintings, drawings, and photographs inspired by the landscape. Many of them will be for sale at the Harlow Gallery between October 12 and November 1, with proceeds supporting KLT’s acquisition of the land. Continue reading

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Angel Falls

Angel Falls is a 2014 Maine Natural Heritage Hike. For more information, visit my Natural Heritage Hikes page.

An obstacle course of ripped out culverts and enormous potholes, the road that leads to Angel Falls is one of the roughest I’ve encountered. As we hiked in, Emily and I wondered aloud how this could possibly be one of the top five most popular trails in Maine, given how difficult it was to access. Surely Maine Trail Finder was mistaken. Continue reading

Borestone Mountain: The Great Oasis

 Borestone Mountain is a 2014 Maine Natural Heritage Hike. For more information, visit my Natural Heritage Hikes page.

Last Monday, I drove for an hour down a rutted, rocky dirt road only to find that it had washed out two miles before my destination. No cell signal. And I had a meeting in 15 minutes.

An hour and a half later, Alexandra, manager of Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, showed no sign of annoyance as she jumped up to greet me. The scene behind her was magnificent: Sunrise Pond in the foreground, Borestone Mountain looming just beyond. Over lunch, she explained what made this place special. Continue reading

Back in the Saddle

After gritting my teeth and plowing through my final year of graduate school, I’m back in the saddle.

A saddle is a notch between two peaks on the same mountain (duh); it’s a good place to find old growth forest because the steep slopes all around make it difficult to access. Saddles are exciting spots for me because 1. I just stopped on one peak, admired the view, and now I am about to enjoy YET ANOTHER PEAK (omg) and 2. with the majesty of an old forest, they are often beautiful in their own right. Last year, I wandered through the saddle of Maine’s Black Mountain – a striking cathedral of tall, thin red spruce flanking the brook that led to Wizard Pond. This year, Borestone Mountain. More on that in the next post.

What did you think I meant by “back in the saddle”? Perhaps that I turned back to my career as a freelance illustrator? Yes, I’m doing that, too, and with new skills on the table. For the past year, I’ve been working with the Maine Natural Areas Program to pilot the Natural Heritage Hikes Project: written descriptions of the ecology surrounding 15 of Maine’s most popular hiking trails to be made public on www.mainetrailfinder.com. In addition to packing my brain full of plant names, the project spurred a keen interest in natural history interpretation (basically, making science interesting to non-scientists) and led to an extensive literature review on the subject. To my delight, Maine Natural Areas has hired me as a contractor this summer to add ten more trails to the project. Today, I add interpretive design to my skill set, along with illustration and graphic design.

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First page of Burnt Hill Heritage Hike.

So, here I am, back in the saddle of my career. Thank you to all my clients, and to everyone who made the first peak, before graduate school, educational and wonderful. Headed for the second summit, equipped with an MS and written scientific interpretation experience, I have a feeling that this peak will be even more glorious than the first.

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Sorry about this selfie with Mt. Katahdin.

 

Apples Right Side Up

In the fading light of mid-November I’m suffering from apple exhaustion.

Apples floated before my eyes as the first fallen leaves dusted my route from Vermont to Pennsylvania. I raided my father’s apple tree with such tenacity that he demanded I wear a helmet, then I attacked the neighbor’s trees. I made applesauce until I ran out of mouths to feed and canning jars to fill. Bursting with pride (and applesauce), I shuttled the remaining fruit back to Burlington, where it became the star of a dessert for the season’s first potluck.

Upon arriving at the event, I unveiled my creation and placed it among the other dishes. It accompanied…

…three apple pies. And nothing else.

The potluck’s four guests ate only apple desserts. In true Burlington spirit, someone arrived with a quinoa dish, but the damage was done. I was sick of apples.

But like a true naturalist, when I’m sad, I look to botany for comfort. I harkened back to a time when fruit was a buffet of discovery, not a monoculture of boredom. And I remembered this:

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