Riding Backwoods Gravel Roads

The weather didn’t cooperate with our plans to fish all weekend. It rained all three days of the long weekend but started to clear early Monday afternoon. “Take a ride and look for turkeys,” Steve asked? Ehh…I wasn’t really interested since the turkeys are hard to come by. Driving around looking for something we’d probably not see wasn’t appealing but I did like, and always do like the idea of going for a ride. Shotgun in hand, we left for the afternoon. We did see one turkey, a hen without poults, while riding backwoods gravel roads, but only that one.

I’m paying better attention to back roads and landmarks than I used to. If I’m not driving I don’t need to know where I’m going, right? That changed when we got the new truck. I can go just about anywhere now. I learned how to get from the Wesley town line on Rt 9 to Princeton yesterday. We followed the Clifford Lake Road to Possum Lake. It’s beautiful. I’d like to go back with the kayaks. The bank was steep, too steep to even walk down, but there must be some place to get close to the shore. A painted turtle was on a walk about, probably looking for a place to lay eggs. Do you know how I know it’s a female? (answer below)

Possum Lake, Washington County, Maine, riding backwoods gravel roads
painted turtle, riding backwoods gravel roadsA short drive later we reached Silver Pug Lake. Campers spent the weekend there and left some trash, which we picked up. Landowner respect, folks. If you can drive in with stuff you can drive out with what’s left. Anyway! It’s another pretty little lake I’d like to explore and fish. Silver Pug Lake, Washington County, Clifford Lake Road, riding backwoods gravel roadsWe did look for turkeys along the way. On the dam at the outlet of Clifford Lake I found a little bit of wildlife I wasn’t expecting. This is a milk snake. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen. I was fascinated. After deciding about 10 years ago that my fear of snakes was based on…nothing…I’ve gotten over it. They still startle me at times but I’m not afraid of them. There are no poisonous snakes in Maine. A big snake is three feet long. (Pause here while the folks with truly big snakes chuckle.) riding backwoods gravel roads

“Whoaaaa…”I watched the milk snake. Not much surprises me driving backwoods gravel roads but this snake on the dam surprised me. Not surprised as in startled but as in “hey, there’s a snake on the dam!”

milk snake, riding backwoods gravel roads, Maine, Clifford lake

Clifford Lake dam, Maine, ridng backwoods gravel roadsThis is the dam at the outlet of Clifford Lake. The milk snake was sunbathing on the center part of the dam. It rested on the wooden frame and rocks, and as the evening air changed, got cooler and damper, the snake moved into the warmth on the rocks. It moved its first two feet in and left its last six inches on the wood, head turned toward me,,  watching. I watched a snake watching me. “Nothing to worry about, snake. I won’t bother you.”

pumpkinseed sunfish, clifford lake, riding backwoods gravel roadsI sat on the dam for an hour, fishing, observing the snake, and catching a few small fish. Emphasis on small fish as my “biggest” fish was a five inch pumpkinseed sunfish. I’d had a few nibbles at the worm and waited a little too long to set the hook, hoping a bigger fish was going to be at the other end. I hooked the little pumpkinseed sunfish near the eye. They have a tiny mouth, not one I could slip my thumb into to hold while I hooked the fish. I managed a little bit of my thumb in and rested its tail on my bare foot. It didn’t fight, no struggle, no movement at all. I gave the barbed hook a wiggle. mmm…no…it wasn’t coming out that way easily. “I might need help,” I called to Steve, and then regretted my words instantly. That’s ridiculous. I had a five inch sunfish on the hook, not a barracuda.

What to do…I didn’t want to injure the fish’s eye. I slipped the leader between my front teeth and bit the line. Thank you, sunfish, for not finning me. I slipped the worm off the hook and backed the hook out easily. The little pumpkinhead was back in the water after 45 seconds.

“OO-EEK OO-EEK OO-EEK OO-EEK” A wood duck dipped over the treeline, past the dam and toward the open lake. “OO-EEK OO-EEK OO-EEK.” He was in trouble. A large bird of prey followed close behind. The duck dropped closer to the water and disappeared out of sight. The predator dropped but was empty-taloned when it rose. It disappeared over the treeline, not bothering to make a second attempt at the wood duck.

riding backwoods gravel roadsI clipped a new leader on and to that I added a floating lure. I doubted there was anything that was going to take the lure but I didn’t want to continue to catch little sunfish and yellow perch. I was right, nothing took my bait. I moved to the logs that serve as a trap for large debris that might float in on the current. Painted turtles rested on logs, warming in the late May sun.

There were seven painted turtles that I could see. There are two on this log. I stopped tossing the lure when a turtle tried to catch it. I don’t know how you unhook a painted turtle, and I don’t want to have to learn!

riding backwoods gravel roads, painted turtles on a logWe had a little more riding backwoods gravel roads to do before hitting the pavement. Our big wildlife spot of the day was a black bear not far from Clifford Lake. I never tire of riding around and hope I never will. Oh! The turtle! I almost forgot. I knew the painted turtle is female because I flipped her over to look at her plastron (bottom shell). A male’s plastron is concave so that he can rest on top of the female’s shell during mating. This turtle’s plastron is flat.