This adventure was serene, scenic, and soul filling...thanks to the good company of my friend Courtney and her sweet dog Oso. But if you want the down and dirty truth, the vernal pools were the highlight. That's right, vernal pools. Those murky, muddy, smelly water holes in the woods that my dog likes to lay down in.
Courtney, who is highly knowledgeable about the animals that live in vernal pools, taught me about the magic happening in them. She is also knowledgeable about many other impressive creatures like monarch butterflies, alewives, and horseshoe crabs, to name a few. To learn more about the educational materials Courtney provides for young naturalists, check this out: https://www.wild-migration.com/ .
Courtney's enthusiasm is so contagious that I found myself being swept up in the excitement of it all. She taught me about the salamander eggs we found and how mole salamanders spend 90% of their lives in the mud! I learned an endless amount of information that I just couldn't retain without pen and paper. So naturally, I went straight home to start researching vernal pools and salamander eggs.
Here are some fun facts you can share with your kids:
1. Vernal pools are small, seasonal wetlands that form in the spring by rain and snow melt, then dry up for a period during the summer.
2. Unlike a pond or lake, they have no permanent inlet or outlet, so fish can not live here.
3. In Maine, species you may find in a vernal pool include wood frogs, spotted and blue-spotted salamanders and fairy shrimp.
4. Avoiding impacts to significant vernal pools (high habitat value) is important because many amphibian species must return to the pond in which they were born to breed. Isn't that just amazing?!
Now that we've covered our hot topic of the week, let's learn about Florida Lake.
First things first, it was given the name because, well, it resembles the shape of the State of Florida. The loop that surrounds the lake is 2.9 miles of mostly flat terrain, featuring wetlands, streams, mature forests and of course, a large lake. According to the Freeport Conservation Trust's website, this 167-acre piece of property provides "an excellent habitat for waterfowl and a wide variety of birds, as well as beaver, deer, and moose". And let's not forget about the wood frogs, spotted and blue-spotted salamanders and fairy shrimp. These trails are wet and muddy, so be sure to wear boots. I also suggest boots for exploring the many vernal pools here, which your kids will inevitably discover on their own. Trust me.
To get to the parking lot, here are some directions from the Freeport Conservation Trust, "Take Route 136 north of I-295. At the blinking yellow light, turn right onto Route 125 (Wardtown Road). Drive 2.4 miles to a blue sign on the right." Follow the access road to the parking area. You can also just follow the directions link on All Trails, which is what I did: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/florida-lake-loop
Here is a map of the loop trail. There are other trails that branch off from the loop, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll leave those for you to discover on your own, if you're so inclined.
To locate our Seek'em, you have two options: the long way (which I suggest) or the short way (which you may need depending on ages of your kids and what kind of day you're having). Once you've parked, enter the trail until you arrive at the lake. From here, you can either go left of right on the yellow "Lake Loop Trail".
For the longer route, head left and follow the yellow trail all the way around the lake until you've almost completed the full loop. Once you've arrived at the blue dot in the GPS map below, you'll be very close to our Seek'em.
He is tucked into a tree between two bridges. As you can see in the map above, you can reach our little friend more quickly by heading right when you first arrive at the pond. This will take you to him in a matter of minutes. Your call, your adventure.
Now if you go the short way, you'll miss out on all of the incredible vernal pools and views along the way. Here are just a few:
One last thing, I've heard this is an incredible spot for ice skating in the winter months. I will certainly returning for some of that next winter. In the meantime, fairy shrimp and salamanders will be bringing the party. Enjoy!