We have been in Maine for over 250 miles now. Maine is the second largest state on the Appalachian Trail (comprising 280 miles, second only to the 550 miles in Virginia), and by reputation the most rugged. The land is largely untouched in a state housing barely one million human occupants; consequently, animal sightings are common.
People say that the birds never seem to stop singing here, even in the middle of the pitch black nights. We were also immediately assured that we would see moose, a promise that came to fruition a mere 3 days into our hike. We were coming upon Rainbow Pond Lean-to in the 100 Mile Wilderness when we startled an adolescent moose roaming near the trail.
Although the picture doesn’t show his body, he was definitely bigger than any horse we’ve ever seen despite his apparent youth.
However, the most interactive animal encounter we’ve had so far happened yesterday while we were hiking the ten miles between the major roads in Andover, ME. The last six miles of this section is a mild downhill and without our packs, we were flying down the mountain when Zach stopped and pointed his poles to the left saying, “Do you see that bird?”
I looked left and right seeing nothing, although I could hear what sounded like the chirping of young chicks nearby.
Suddenly, a monstrously fat bird came torpedoing out of the brush, heading directly for us. Brown speckled feathers were puffed out at the back and neck as it positively screamed at us! Zach promptly pushed me ahead of him on the trail and started banging his trekking poles together, yelling back at the advancing angry bird.
We picked up our pace, in a mix of alarm and amusement as the bird alternately waddled and flew after us. Once at a safe distance from what must have been a protective mother, I said: “What was that? Some kind of pheasant or quail or something?”
Zach shook his head and–God love him– turns to me and says, “It’s a dadgum Mountain Chicken!”
Our assailant was later identified as a spruce grouse. A deceptively mild looking creature to be sure.