How to Enjoy a Great Hike During Maine’s Dull “Stick Season”

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By Aislinn Sarnacki “All the leaves are on the ground,” I lamented after a recent rainstorm knocked fall foliage off the trees. My husband, Derek, teased me for being grumpy.

By Aislinn Sarnacki

“All the leaves are on the ground,” I lamented after a recent rainstorm knocked fall foliage off the trees.

My husband, Derek, teased me for being grumpy. Meanwhile, soggy maple leaves were sticking to my boots. Within days, their vibrant colors would fade as they brown, dry out, and crumble. The pumpkins would rot. Moms would wither.

OK, maybe I need an attitude test. After all, there’s plenty of beauty to be discovered in nature after the dazzling foliage season is over. And Eeyore is only cute in small doses.

In Maine, there’s a dull period—desolate, “muted,” “colorless,” “sober”—between fiery fall and winter wonderland. Usually this period lasts until November and until December. We still hope for a white Christmas, but there are no guarantees.

A few days ago, my mother informed me that this period actually had a name: stick season. (Moms are full of fun facts like that.)

She heard the term from a photographer friend. And right now, as I gaze up at the bare thatched branches against a pale blue sky, I can say “staff season” is an apt description.

Skeleton trees surround my house. In addition, sticks blown over by the wind litter the ground. Just like the poor leaves.

(Click it, Aislinn.)

I am a year round hiker. I explore the Maine wilderness in all seasons. So I have some tips for finding beauty in the very brown and twiggy times we’re living in right now.

First of all, Maine is home to many conifers, which live up to their name. Pines, spruces and firs. Their needles, which are actually a kind of leaves, remain green all year round. Of course, they end up losing. That’s why you see brown needles on the ground. But they grow back right away. They don’t all flow at once in the fall like the leaves of deciduous trees. They remain, adding emerald hues to the landscape. Conifers also provide shelter from cold winter winds.

So find an evergreen forest and go for a walk. Spruce and fir forests invade the coast and cover many of Maine’s mountains. The official state tree of Maine is the white pine. They are easy to find and hard to miss, being so wonderfully large. In fact, I dare you to go for a walk in Maine and not see an evergreen tree.

Speaking of things that stay green: mossy forests are enchanting year-round and Christmas ferns seem to thrive in the cold.

When you’re in a deciduous forest – with all the bare branches and sticks – it’s a great time to look for birds and other wildlife. With all the leaves on the ground, you can see far into the woods and spot animals from afar.

Many birds fly south to overwinter in warmer regions, but a number of species stick around

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In the woods around my house, year-round feathered residents include blue jays, tufted chickadees, crows, mourning doves, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, black-eyed juncos, barred owls and brown creepers. But my favorites are the hairy, fluffy, and pounded spikes.

By now, most mushrooms have shrunk. But keep an eye out for hardy tree fungi such as red-belted polypores and artist’s conches. They stay all winter. Bright orange jelly mushrooms are another species you might see, and some lichen species are also vibrant this time of year.

With the autumn rain, streams, streams and waterfalls rush. The swirling currents that foam and bubble are about as mesmerizing as the flames of a campfire. Many public trails visit these beautiful bodies of water. A few that instantly come to mind? The Little River Community Trail in Belfast, the Peter’s Brook Trail in Blue Hill and the Messer Pond Road in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Also, before long we will start to see ice forming along the edges of these waterways, and the patterns created by the ice as it forms can be particularly beautiful.

Blueberry fields are pretty this time of year. They retain a red tint.

The sunsets and sunrises are magnificent, regardless of the month. At this time of year, as the days get shorter, it’s easy to wake up in time to see the sunrise, even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person. Right now, sunrise is around 7:20 a.m. — it will come an hour earlier from Eastern Standard Time on Sunday — whereas in June it was around 5 a.m.

This is also the perfect time to enjoy the beauty of the Maine coast. The ocean is bigger and more beautiful than it has ever been, and the crowds on the beach are gone. I bet you could find some frosty sea glass or spy a few seabirds.

See, I can be optimistic, Derek.

You know what will help me improve my mood even more? Being outside, in the fresh air. I think I’ll do that now.

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