By Michael Levesque, Contributing Writer
Photo courtesy of Nancy Prentiss, Biology Class
The Natural History of a Maine Watershed class taught by Nancy Prentiss, accompanied by Maine aquatic professionals, ventured out to lay Atlantic salmon eggs near Avon, ME.
Classified as an endangered species, Atlantic Salmon are almost exclusively found in New England and waters north. These fish travel up rivers, like the Sandy, to lay their eggs and exit later to spend years of their lives out in the Atlantic Ocean. After their time in the ocean, they return to roughly the same area where they hatched from their eggs to lay eggs of their own and repeat the process.
Nancy Prentiss, the professor of the Natural History of a Maine Watershed class, has now made this trip three years in a row. She looks forward to this trip every year. “I’m definitely a field person,” Prentiss says, “I really pushed hard to submit a form for approval.” Luckily for the class, approval was given. They were able to utilize the class’ small number of students and independent travel to help make sure that everyone involved stayed safe.
Joining Prentiss and eight members of the class were the Department of Marine Resources, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Previously, the class prepared for the trip by practicing using snowshoes the week before. Despite frigid weather, COVID-19, and having to trudge through snow on snowshoes, the class persevered.
After locating a spot to lay the eggs, a gravel nest was made–similar to that made by actual salmon–to help protect the eggs. A tool resembling a funnel was used to create the depression in the ground. This process was delayed as cold temperatures made some of their equipment freeze. Although there were delays, Prentiss and her class embraced the challenges. “This is science,” Prentiss said.
Describing the eggs as similar to “Orbeez”, Hope Norton mentions she wasn’t expecting a class trip like this involving professionals to happen. The eggs were previously fertilized three months before. As eggs and young fish, they will call that nest home for approximately two years before making their own journey to the ocean. “I just love throwing students into a situation and then you learn by doing,” Prentiss says. “When [the students] are doing it themselves, that’s the best way to learn.”
Lauren Preis, a student in the class, described the struggles these salmon face today. “They have trouble migrating because of dams and culverts,” said Preis. “For every 15,000 eggs, only one adult salmon fish will return,” Preis says. Because of these grim statistics, blockages are a problem for the Sandy River and for other places and species as well.
Although these rates are alarming and frustrating, some studies and efforts show these fish as possibly having a chance. “There are fish returning from the fertilized eggs they have planted,” Prentiss says. Efforts made by educational institutions like colleges and high schools in Maine as well as state and federal agencies have produced some hopeful results.
For the class, this was an experience that shaped their student experience while getting them outside of UMF. “It was an amazing life experience,” Preis said.
Preis and her classmates perhaps didn’t imagine taking such a trip in the beginning of the semester, but are grateful nonetheless. “I wish I could do it with everybody,” Prentiss said. “We are always in a different stream and every time I go, I learn more.”
Prentiss is hopeful her class will be able to continue this tradition and have more people down the road lay salmon eggs. The shared goal of this class and others in the industry is to remove these fish from the endangered species list.
By Cassidy Delano, Contributing Writer
Photo courtesy of Cassidy Delano
Kittery is the perfect place for a calm Sunday drive. It is a small town in southern Maine that sits on the Atlantic Coast.
I have lived in the same house in Kittery my entire life, and my Sunday drive route has never changed. It gives me a chance to visit all my favorite places in town while preparing myself for the week that lies ahead.
This seems to be a right of passage for me; growing up my dad used to take me on Sunday drives. He grew up in Kittery and was no stranger to the many secret spots that my friends and I call our own. Dad would tell me, “Just wait till you can do this on your own. Sunday drives can save a person.”
I was home for Thanksgiving and figured that a Sunday drive was just what I needed before heading back to Farmington. I started my car, and played a song that best fits today’s journey, “Sunday Best” by Surfaces. I pulled out of my driveway and turned right down the street, one stop before we truly started. I pick up my best friend who lives seconds down the road from me, Mia. Off we go to explore the best places in Kittery.
With “Sunday Best” still blaring, we pull into a local breakfast gem, Bagel Caboose, built to look like a caboose of a train. When you walk through the door, an aroma mixed with bagels and coffee fills your nose. It’s a breath of fresh air for us. “They have the best coffee in town, and their breakfast sandwiches are even better,” Mia said. Bagel Caboose is the place to go when you’re not looking for a sit-down breakfast. Grab a coffee, bagel, breakfast sandwich, or bakery item of your choice and you can be on your way.
“Today I ordered a North Ender on an english muffin, and a hot hazelnut coffee,” Mia said. “A classic Sunday drive meal.” The North Ender is filled with spinach, cheese, egg, tomato, and tons of pesto.
I ordered my usual bacon egg and cheese on a wheat everything bagel with hollandaise sauce, accompanied by a hazelnut iced coffee.
We hop back in the car and are on our way to our next destination, Seapoint Beach, a fan favorite, as it’s a small sandy beach in what’s known as Kittery Point.
Seapoint is about a ten-minute drive from Bagel Caboose, giving us plenty of time to jam to music and enjoy the seaside view.
As we approach Gerrish Island bridge on the right, we stay straight and pass it, this road leads right to Seapoint. The road feels long, as Mia turns up the volume to another classic Sunday drive tune, “Where Is The Love” by the Black Eyed Peas.
Finally, the beach comes into view as you turn on the sharp corner of the road. Only three cars are parked down here, we pull up to the front row, with a perfect view of the water. We turn down the music, roll down the windows, and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.
“This is what home smells like,” Mia said, as she took a deep breath in. Seapoint beach is where we live during our summer vacation.
Seapoint Beach feels like a perfect place any time of the year. In the spring and summer season it’s the perfect place to swim, have fires on the beach, and watch the sunset. In the fall it’s overtaken by dogs trying to get in the last bits of the warm weather, with friends and family soaking up the last fireside warmth the beach will see. Once winter hits, Seapoint is the perfect place to watch the waves from the recent storm.
“If you come to Kittery and don’t visit Bagel Caboose or Seapoint Beach, you’re not doing it right,” Mia said.
We sit here peacefully with the soft tunes of music and crashing of waves surrounding us. The Sunday drive feels complete, and the only path left is back home. Neither of us want to leave, but know Seapoint will be waiting for us when we come home again.
“Till the next Sunday drive,” Mia said.
By Natausha Cogley, Contributing Writer
Winter is right around the corner and this means that Saddleback Mountain will finally be open after being shut down for five years.
Saddleback Mountain is located in the Rangeley Lakes Region and is about an hour away from UMF. They are hoping to open on Dec. 15, just in time for the 2020-2021 ski and snowboard season. After being closed for nearly five years, the mountain was purchased and some big changes were put into place. There is now a brand new high-speed quad ski lift, renovations to the lodge, and investments on new snowmakers.
The mountain has 66 ski trails. The Royal Tiger, one of the easier trails on the mountain, is in the middle of the slow zone that contains over half the easy trails on the mountain. “[The slow zone] is a great place to freshen up your skills or hit the mountain for your very first time,” said Olivia Hall, a Rangeley local and avid skier.
Saddleback is one of the biggest ski destinations in the state, which means there’s lots of trails for even the most experienced skiers and riders to choose from. Hall recommended Golden Smelt as one of the best trails. “Golden Smelt is my favorite trail because it’s easily missed and not a lot of people can find it. So there’s always a lot of powder on it,” said Hall.
As the weather gets cooler at UMF, skiers are itching to try out the new Saddleback. “I haven’t been able to hit the trails on Saddleback since 2015,” said Mary Swiney, a sophomore from Rangeley. “I feel the newly renovated lodge and the new ski lift will significantly improve the mountain and make it more enjoyable.”
Rumors are flying about how the Saddleback will look and feel compared to before Saddleback closed in 2015. “I haven’t seen the new lodge yet, but I heard they’re expanding the upstairs and working on a restaurant,” said Hall. There’s expected to be some big changes that everyone is looking forward to.
From now until Thanksgiving, Saddleback is offering a discounted full season pass to college students with a valid college ID for $324. The normal price for a college student pass is $449.
For more information on their newest additions, renovations, and updates, follow their Instagram @saddlebackmaine, like their Facebook page, or go to their website at https://saddlebackmaine.com.