Close this search box.

Behind the scenes at Borestone Naturalist Weekend

Just south of the North Woods, and at the doorway to the 100-Mile Wilderness, sits Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary. Maine Audubon’s largest and northernmost sanctuary, it sprawls out over the slopes of the namesake peak from the old Bodfish station on the Canadian Pacific Line, near the sanctuary’s entrance, to the shores of Lake Onawa at its eastern edge. In between is an unbroken expanse of Northern Hardwood forest, bountiful exposed granite, and three spectacular mountain ponds. 

Borestone Naturalist WeekendNestled among two of those, Midday Pond and Sunset Pond, are the Lodges at Borestone, an Adirondack-style camp with accommodations for 24 people, and the site of our twice-yearly Naturalist Weekends. These are arguably the best times of year to visit Borestone, since the lodges book up every summer and there is so much to see here that could be missed without a skilled naturalist to point it out!

Registration is now open for the Summer Naturalist Weekend, June 23 – 25. Late June is the perfect time to observe nesting activities of the locally-breeding bird species, including those like Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows that winter in southern Maine, as well as the many warbler species that just finished passing through southern Maine, like Blackburnian and Bay-breasted Warblers. We should also get to see many local plant species in bloom, like Creeping Snowberries and abundant mountain-ashes. If this all sounds like a little too much activity, know that there are few better places to sit by the water in the sunshine than the porch at the Borestone Lodges. 

What’s a Naturalist Weekend like? During our Fall Naturalist Weekend, in late September 2022, we experienced all that this great sanctuary has to offer. We arrived on the coattails of one of the season’s last hurricanes, which made for a windy and cold start, but this really only amplified the feelings of remoteness and solitude that one gets at Borestone. We met our hosts for the weekend, Master Naturalist Gary Roberts and Borestone manager Dan Simons, at the entrance gate near the old Bodfish station. 

Starting with a hike up the mountain road to the sanctuary’s visitor center, we got our first glimpse of the northern species and sweeping mountain views found at Borestone. From the visitor center, Dan took us and our bags to the lodges by boat, since they are not accessible by motor vehicle! We spent that first evening bundled inside as the remnants of the hurricane blew through, dining on gourmet fare prepared by Gary and our other hosts Carole and George. This crew has been volunteering for Maine Audubon for decades, and you can feel the experience in their hospitality and lively discussions of the sanctuary’s history. 

The skies were clear but the wind was still howling the next morning, which meant hiking up Peregrine Ridge, a less-exposed overlook to the west of the ponds. This was a great warm-up hike, shorter and less steep overall than Borestone’s peak, which was the climactic view at the top of this ridge. Along the way, we stopped to see many lichens and plants unique to this northern forest type, including many fruiting Snowberries (Gaultheria hispidula). 

We had some free time in the afternoon, which most folks used to relax on the lodge’s porch and look out at the ponds. I made the long hike down to Lake Onawa, up and over the northwestern end of the ridge extending from Borestone. The trail winds down the mountain winds some old growth stands, past spectacular examples of maples, birches, and spruces. I caught a few glimpses of northern-breeding birds like Swainson’s Thrushes and Golden-crowned Kinglets in the forest, and even spotted a pair of Wood Ducks in a moose trail through the marshes on Onawa’s western shore.

Things were still a bit chilly that night, which made it a perfect evening to tuck in by the wood fireplace for another wonderful meal prepared by our hosts. We were even treated to a set of folk songs and sing-alongs by the multi-talented Dan, who is adept at both sanctuary management and string instruments, not to mention a great singer!

The weather finally cleared for us on Sunday morning, a perfectly clear and sunny day to summit Borestone’s peak. This trail winds through the forest on the shores of Midday Pond before ascending steeply up to the treeline. From there, we climbed around granite crags that gradually revealed breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. We were treated to eye-level views of both Red and White-winged Crossbills sitting atop stunted spruces, a group of young Common Ravens playing in the wind gusting off the peaks, and even a few groups of migrating Horned Larks that landed on the exposed rocks, the only open landscape for miles.

Consider joining us for the Summer Naturalist Weekend! Barring any super-early hurricane activity, we should have a much warmer weekend for enjoying the early season delights of the sanctuary.

Borestone Mountain
On the way to the summit of Borestone Mountain