Northern Pond Natural Area / by Greg Westrich

Last Wednesday, down a dirt road in rural Waldo county, past borrow pits and boggy streams, deep in a shady forest, I found the Northern Pond Natural Area. The preserve is 163 acres of rolling forest and bogs around 15 acre Northern Pond. The area feels more like northern Maine than Monroe.


Recent beaver activity flooded much of the area around the pond, including the boardwalk to the canoe put-in at the east end of the pond. The bog boards float in an arc through bushy willows. I stepped on the first board and sank up to my ankle in cold water.


The Old Tote Road Trail that loops around to the south shore of the pond is also flooded. I was able to cross the bog boards through the flooded section without getting too wet. A new trail was built from Dahlia Farm Road a quarter mile south of the trailhead parking to beyond the flooded section of trail.


I climbed the Hemlock Ridge Trail in dappled sunlight across a rocky ridge. The dry ridge covered with mature hemlocks reenforced my sense that I was farther north. Chickadees flitted about high in the trees pishing to each other in their endless search for food. Sliver light knifed up the slope from the pond.


I descended across granite ledges to a small beaver pond. Ducks startled up from the reedy shore and flew low over the water out of sight. I could still hear their nasal quacking long after they disappeared. The trail passed beneath the beaver dam, where it wound through the woods. A trickle of water escaped the dam into a froggy swale.


I followed the Thurlow Brook Trail along the pond and then the stream above it. As I neared Northern Pond, I could hear frogs. Hiking the Beaver Dam Spur—to the dam on Thurlow Stream that enlarged Northern Pond—the riotous calling of the frogs bounced around inside my head like a steel ball. I have never heard so many forgs being so loud. It almost hurt. It was wonderful.


The frogs, the remote pond, the ducky bogs, the dappled Hemlock Ridge...I think I found my new favorite hike. At least until next week.