Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Desert of Maine

So, in a last attempt at summer fun, literally the day before school started, My mom and I took the boys for a walk in the desert.

No deserts in Maine you scoff?

Not true. There is actually one such phenomenon, right here in the pine tree state. My friends, I introduce you first to the lovely landscape that graces most of our area:

Yep, we have a LOT of trees!! Not just pine, but really, there is vegetation almost everywhere. And in the fall they put on their most beautiful colors!

So, it would behoove anyone out there who might be planning a little trip to where "the way life should be" is, to stop by and see just how cool nature can be! In the middle of all this forest, down a somewhat winding road through, oh yes, trees, you come to a building. Go in, pay a couple of bucks, and walk out the other side and into this:
This is no gravel pit, people, which is what I honestly expected. It begs to be touched, it's soft and almost silky! It took less than a minute for Brian to remove his sneakers, and only moments after that the rest of us were carrying our shoes, too!
It was a vast carpet of softness, like nothing I have ever experienced!
It was originally farmland, and in the 1900's they switched their focus to sheep farming. The sheep ate through the topsoil in one little patch, and uncovered this soft sand. The wind, rain, erosion, and natural way of things took it from there. After the sand had taken over so much, over 300 acres at it's largest point, of course the farm was shut down. They turned it into a tourist attraction, even building a little water spring house along the brook. The sand kept blowing, however, and the spring house?
Well, it's buried now! Really, check out this tree!!
Surreal. We had a great tour guide, they drive you around on a little bus kind of thing,
and he did a great job of explaining how it all happened, and the fun details like the man who brought an ultrasound equipment thing and could tell them that the spring house filled evenly with sand, and is being preserved in mint condition!
He also told us that for a while they had a real live camel, but it was problematic, so they have swapped to this:
I think the most amazing part, however, is that the forest is striving to reclaim the land. It's a living, breathing (albeit very slow) science experiment, the trees drop their leaves or needles, those break down, decomposing to a rich compost soil, and then as the nearby weeds and plants shed their seeds, more and more can grow. the desert is down to just about 50 acres, if I remember right!
And you may be wondering about ants... there weren't any to be seen at first. Then as I waited for mom to walk back along the trail we had driven along, I sat in the shade. that's where the bugs are, and frankly I can't blame them!!
The tour guide said he and the other employees take turns throwing bright, shiny, colorful stones onto the sand for kids to scavenge for, so the boys of course went looking for pretty souvenirs!
Not content with the rocks, mom also treated them each to another souvenir, and Michael wanted to make a sand sculpture. They have different colored sand throughout the desert, depending on the mineral content, all of it as soft as can be. For a small fee, you can fill a little bottle, stamped with the desert's logo, in layers. It was very beautiful.
I wish I had taken a picture of just it, because we didn't do well enough getting the air out, and now it's all a uniform color, still pretty but not the same!
So, now you know. My mom is, well, 20+ years older than me, lived here her whole life, and never knew about it. One of Maine's best kept secrets, I guess!!


Tracey said...

THAT is cool! How fascinating to think about... It's a good, physical lesson for the kids to experience the effects humans can bring to something as large as a forest and farmland. Simply by changing the crop to a grazing animal...

Megan and Sean said...

Whoa, that's cool!

Ashleigh said...

I would never have guessed and the Hatchs have never taken me to this sight seeing op. People are always so impressed that I've been to the Maine to feast in its beauty and it really is amazing! You, however, have worse winters than we do! I've never been there in the Fall though, but Carol just sent my girls some red pressed flowers and your picture is amazing!