As November fades toward December and the inevitable onset of winter, people still flock to Bangor City Forest to walk the wooded trails and visit the Orono Bog.
The parking lots off Kittredge Road and Tripp Drive overflow on weekends and sometimes contain as many vehicles as on warm summer days. Bundled against the the cold autumn breezes and plunging temperatures, people head out on foot or bike and vanish into the forest.
“Vanish” is the operative verb: Despite all the Chevys, Hondas, Fords, and other car makes parked out as far as the Tripp Drive cul-de-sac, late-arriving nature-lovers see few people, except those lingering in the parking lot. It’s as if Bangor City Forest has swallowed a small-town population whole —
— and when only the blue jays, chickadees, and red squirrels provide the forest’s voices in November, the lack of human speech seems surreal.
The forest seems eerily quiet — and decidedly different than in high summer. The hardwoods have shed their leaves, so the low-to-the-horizon November sunlight penetrates deeply into the softwood glades. The shadows seem darker, the natural colors flatter, the forest quieter.
Even out on the bog’s aging boardwalk (slated for future reconstruction), silence is golden on a mid-November afternoon. Nature-lovers chat while strolling the boardwalk, but voices seem not to carry as far as in mid-July.
The pitcher plants glow a deep blended red and purple, and tufted cotton-grass bobbles in the wind. The resident frogs and toads lie buried deep for their winter sleep, and except for juncos flitting through the dwarf firs and hemlocks, even the birds have abandoned the lovely bog.
But natural silence cannot exist forever in Bangor, not even in the city forest. A southbound trucker downshifts near the 55-mile-per-hour sign on Interstate 95, and the rumbling carries across the Orono Bog. Canadian shoppers pack the Bangor Mall and its adjacent stores and restaurants; fortunately the mall-related traffic noise seldom carries to the city forest, although the southern horizon brightens as night slips across the Penobscot Valley.
21st-century Americana and its artificial illumination is never far away, even in the nature preserves abutting Stillwater Avenue.
But for an hour or two on a cold November day, autumn still reigns in the Bangor City Forest.