Peter Cottontail crossing the Shaker Canal

|Tom Driscoll|

A mid-winter walk on snowshoes from the Shaker Mill Pond downhill to Sabbathday Lake is easy when you follow along the banks of the meandering Mill Stream.  Every step is a nearly effortless forward and downward motion.  Gravity is good!

Sunshine provides welcome warmth as it penetrates all the way to the floor of the leafless winter woods, and anywhere on the east side of the Shaker Hill provides protection from the winter’s wild westerly winds.

Cottontail rabbit footprints are seen throughout the Shaker Woods in the winter especially after a fresh snow.   Occasionally a parallel set of fox tracks appears along a rabbit trail and you can imagine a predator and prey race occurring sometime earlier, but rarely is there any evidence of the outcome.

Cottontail tracks in abundance in the winter woodlands. Photo: Tom Driscoll

Various animal tracks crisscross throughout the forest and are seen everywhere when walking further away from the roads and trails – deer, moose, rabbits, mice, squirrels, and others unknown.

The stone lined Mill Pond canal leading to the foundation of the Shaker’s once “Great Mill” always intrigues the occasional visitor.  This winter a few tree branches are seen laying across the canal for reasons unknown.

Rabbit crossings across the Shaker Canal. Photo: Tom Driscoll

Surprisingly, if you look closely at the photo above you will see rabbit tracks on both banks of the waterway leading “up to” the tree branch on one side, and then “away from” the tree branch on the opposite side.  Upon closer examination it appears that the rabbits were somehow crossing the canal using the branches as bridges.

Evidence of squirrels crossing the canal using the tree branch bridges can also be seen.

Crossing the waterway over a narrow branch bridge seems like a reasonable option for a red or gray squirrel; but it is difficult to imagine the rabbits setting foot on such a narrow bridge – even for just one hop, skip, or a jump.

New Gloucester has an abundance of lands available for public recreation as seen on this Royal River Conservation Trust map showing the many land trust parcels west of Bald Hill Road.