I have been living in Pawtuckaway’s Big Island campground for just over a month now, and have truly fallen in love with this place, with the neighborhood if you will. On a Saturday morning I wake up to children riding their bikes past my campsite, to families getting together for a pancake breakfast, and to smiling faces making their way down to the beach. I have met so many friendly, happy campers since first setting up camp all those weeks ago, but the fact of the matter is that by Monday morning Big Island is taken back by its more permanent residents, more permanent than even myself.
Waking up with the sun is a norm when you sleep surrounded by the forest. So, by 6:30am I’m awake, ready to start my day. I step outside of my tent, and make sure the raccoons haven’t gotten into anything. I’m always sure to store my food in my car, but around this neighborhood raccoons have been said to open car doors, replacing any food left in the car with their muddy footprints. Once I’m assured that I still have my own food I start making breakfast.
No later than 8:30am Mother Turkey and her 3 babies pass by on their daily walk around the block. It’s always good to see her after a busy weekend!
While I love this neighborhood I make a point of stepping outside its boundaries to explore other parts of this beautiful 5,000 acre park. By late morning I’m heading down to take the Fundy Trail loop. As I pass through the Neal’s Cove dirt parking lot I keep my eyes open for one of my favorite Pawtuckaway residents. Frederico (or Charlie, depending on who you talk to), the baby porcupine of Pawtuckaway, can be seen almost daily munching on flowers in the grass, or up in his favorite hemlock tree eating or snoozing. He is absolutely precious, and highly loved by park staff and visitors. While he is still little and looks more on the fluffy side, beware! his quills are there to protect him, although many of us here would gladly help him if need be.
Along my hike I see many proud dwellers of the marsh and various ponds—great blue herons, green frogs, water snakes. Along this path I keep my eyes open for one of the coolest, yet more secretive, neighbors. I see their homes daily, but they prefer to come out at night, making it difficult to catch sight of them sometimes. Either way, the beavers have certainly left their mark on our community.
I’ve finally made it back to my campsite! I start a fire and take a seat facing my wooded backyard. In that moment I realize I’ve forgotten to say hello to the most reliable neighbors I have. I’m surrounded by a stand of tall hemlocks and white pines. It took me a while to appreciate how unique these straight growing trees can be. In my native Texas the live oaks dominate, reaching every which way and trunks with diameters of a few feet. Tree personalities are easy to appreciate when you grow up next to live oaks. These conifers have their own stories, though. Fire burns, multiple trunks, damage from foraging animals—those are the stories of the trees that surround my campsite. There are two white pines that stand out in particular. I call them the twins. I can tell they’ve grown side by side for many years, and they’ve seen all types of residents of my campsite come and go. I can only hope that in the future, years from now, the twins will still be around to provide me shade, protect me and my tent from the wind, and remind me of a great summer.
Once my fire has gone down I retreat to my tent for some much needed sleep after a busy day, greeting my many, many neighbors. I begin to drift off, but right around midnight the barred owls wake me with a start! These owls always ask me the same strange question. “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you, all?” I’m never sure how to answer, so I reach for my ear plugs that I once thought would be reserved for my human neighbors. The barred owls are persistent though, and not even night security can tell them to quiet down, as we all know they own this forest once the sun goes down.
No matter where you’re camping this summer, there is a whole community of wildlife waiting for your visit. Enjoy the company of not only your friends and family, but the trees, the turkeys, the porcupines, the owls, and whatever else is living out there!
If you find yourself at Pawtuckaway make sure you find me, Interpretive Ranger Lauren, to get your own “Meet the Neighbors” scavenger hunt and learn about other programs going on during your stay. The neighborhood would be happy to have you!
By: Lauren Bos, Interpretive Ranger at Pawtuckaway State Park