Trail to the Bog
Every spring, when the white, pointed pedals of the trilliums and soft purples of the lady slippers appear on the floor of the damp woods at the edge of the Sidney Bog, the kids from Gilbert School appear. Wearing their rubber boots, the second-graders troop off the yellow school bus that´s backed into the driveway, taking care not to trip on their way down the steps. Brushing away blackflies that have taken up residence for the season, the children move to the grass where Mr. Robbins, their tour leader, awaits.
It´s the annual field trip to the bog, an adventure best led by the retired Cony High School English teacher, avid bicyclist and authority on this expansive, silent, living gem that lies at the edge of Augusta. The bog is silent to most ears, but Mr.Robbins hears what it -- make that he -- has to say, and he tells quite a story. What follows is the remarkable story of the Sidney Bog as told by Don Robbins.
But first, the story of how you get there from here.
"Three trails, the Lizzy, Paul and Glenn, cut into the Adams woods, which is rimmed by fir, maple, oak and hemlock. But you´re soon amid thick underbrush of bent alders among vernal pools where tiny frogs gave their nightly peeping concerts in the early spring. Along the way, look down and see the pitcher plants, waiting to trap their insect meals. And the lady slippers, white star of Bethlehem flowers, Mayflowers and more.
As the woods thin out, the trails rise to an esker, a long ridge whose sand and gravel were deposited by a stream leading to the bog millennia back when he was young. Here, giant pines hold court above gray birches, many of which are bent over after a tough winter. The blueberry plants covering the surface will bear fruit in a couple of months. Watch for the peace-sign tracks of the wild turkeys that have been taking dust baths. And onto the bog.
Notice the trails along the way. We call them corduroy trails because of the bumps each forms as you walk along. When the gray birches die and their tops fall off, we cut them down, sawing each log into a 2-foot length, all by hand. Then, each log is placed side by side along the trail. It makes a bright walkway that even seems to glow at night, especially when the moon is out. It took years to make the corduroy trail, and each year it grows as nature calls down more of the birches and sends up more shoots to replace them.
At the sides of the esker, the deer have their own trails, worn down by so much use that we call it the "deer highway." The trails all lead to the bog. Tread carefully, and respectfully, and listen to the story he tells, through Mr. Robbins.