The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with Leesa Joiner – mother, hiker, and blogger. Here Leesa describes an all-day excursion in Maine’s Vernon Walker wilderness searching for fiddleheads and geocaches…
Last week my kids and I went for an all day hike through the Vernon Walker Wildlife area in western Maine. The wildlife area covers just over 5000 acres and has many criss-crossing paths. We set out by marking our spot with the GPS, and then taking the outer paths first. We were trying out a new geocaching device and covered about 18 miles over the course of the day.
We saw quite a few deer and smaller animals, including rabbits, which seem to be pretty rare around here. We did see the back end of a moose as it walked off the path and into the thick brush. We saw plenty of bear droppings along the way also. The joke in my family is that you don’t have to be able to out run a bear – just the people you are hiking with. I think I would be in big trouble in that case!
I packed the Talon 44 with all of my gear, including the backpacking stove and food. We each carried our own water, and a little extra.
For this hike we focused on looking for geocaches and fiddleheads. Fiddleheads are the young coiled leaves of the ostrich fern. Ostrich fern fiddleheads, which are about an inch in diameter, can be identified by the brown papery scale-like covering on the uncoiled fern, as well as the smooth fern stem, and the deep “U”-shaped groove on the inside of the fern stem. Fiddleheads have a mild taste, and can be used in many different ways. I saute them in butter or olive oil, along with chopped onions, garlic and mushrooms. I serve them with a little sour cream, and sometimes put them over pasta. Many people boil them before cooking, but I like to keep them somewhat crisp.
Hunting for fiddleheads has two benefits – a great dinner treat after a day hiking, and it keeps the kids focused on something. They are great at spotting the ferns, and have learned to identify many other plants along the way.
Our geocaching didn’t go as well this time. The one that was supposed to be hidden in that area apparently was removed. We will be heading back out in a few days to hide a new one, in a nearby area. We finished the hike around 5:30 pm, dirty, a little wet and very tired. It was a great day hiking, observing and spending some time together without any interruptions. Hopefully, this all day hike will help prepare us to do a section hike of the Appalachian Trail later this summer.
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