I am the black cloud of Sandy Stream.
I've been there maybe a dozen times over the years and never once saw a moose. Seriously! This is the one place in the entire state where you are pretty much guaranteed to have a moose sighting. People come here on "Moose Tours", Baxter state park has special "Moose Pass" parking spaces, everyone and their mothers come here to see moose.
I've seen them plenty of moose in other places, but never in the one spot where they flock to like moths to a flame: Sandy Stream.
It's a quick walk through the woods from the car park, and then it's elevated walkway to get to the clear, sparkling pond. There are a few places to duck off the trail and take in the scene, which is just lovely. A close-up of Katahdin and the knife edge to Hamlin Peak, South Turner mountain, and huge swarths of pine forest creating inky-black patchworks.
I did see plenty though. Not only is it just a lovely peaceful place to relax in the sun, I saw oogles of critters around the pond: Beautiful, flashy ceader waxwings-
I love these chipper little birds. They sit so obviously in the pine-tops and stay there for a while, so I can usually get better than usual shots of them with a normal camera lens.
The squirrels were so frantically putting away pinecones, they were loathe to get off the trail until you almost on top of them. Little piles of pinecone shavings dotted the walkway.
The water was full of ducks: Goldeneyes, Black Ducks, loons.
An elegantly long-legged spotted sandpiper darted from rock to rock.
As the sun got lower in the sky, the songbirds made their way out into the open for a drink, and tiny chickadees and warblers flitted their way to a prime spot for drinking. Across the pond, I saw a kingfisher diving for, um, fish.
Along came a hairy woodpecker to bang his head on a tree for a bit.
And close enough for me to not need a zoom lens, a whitetail doe sauntered on past. It's really amazing how diverse the fauna is here. Sitting quietly in one place and soon you become near-invisible. Well, that is until a large family from New Jersey come by and say "HEY, WHERE ARE THE MOOSE?? HAS ANYONE SEEN A MOOSE? WERE DO YOU GO TO SEE A REAL MOOSE? WE CAME ALL THIS WAY TO SEE A MOOSE" and I wanted to cry a bit.
I could have sat there all day, but we did show up to hike. Despite the rangers warning us that "moose pass" meant to sandy stream and back only, we took a, ahem, detour. Or, "we got lost, I swear!" and headed up to Whidden Pond.
It was weird to walk in dense forest! One thing England doesn't have much of is primordial old-growth forest. So much more dark and fragrant, and there were mushrooms popping up everywhere, with lots of rotting and fallen trees, dense underbrush, and a foreboding sense of certain doom if you ever ventured off the trail.
While I do love walking here in Maine, I would never undertake the Appalachian trail. Not enough to see! Just endless hundreds of miles of walking in the woods.
No moose at Whidden, either.
We sheepishly made our way back to the car park in dusk and headed down the long, bumpy tote road back to civilization, peering out into the roadside ponds and bogs, hoping for a chance sighting.
My record still stands. There will never be a moose at Sandy Stream as long as I am there.