FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 9, 2018) -- The Fort Drum community is invited to taste the great outdoors March 24 and March 31 when Maple Days returns to the Sugar Shack on 45th Infantry Division Drive.

Rodger Voss, installation forester, said that this annual tradition draws hundreds of Soldiers and Family Members, and serves as one of the first post-winter outdoor events on post.

"We look forward to doing this every year," he said. "It's a good way to connect with the Fort Drum community and get everybody out of their houses from a long winter. It's also a good way to learn something that is embedded in the history of this area."

In addition to seeing the maple syrup-making demonstrations, attendees can meet Environmental Division staff members, who will be on site to answer questions about fish, wildlife and the great outdoors at Fort Drum. Attendees are invited to hike the nature trail, which may be of interest to those who participate in the scavenger hunt.

"We will be handing out a list with items and information about the event that you have to find. That might require going out on the nature trail or where the syrup is boiling," Voss said. "When you have all the answers and complete the form, your name goes into a drawing to win a quart of syrup."

Attendees will also get to sample "sugar on snow," a new treat this year, in addition to the maple cotton candy.

"You cook the syrup to a certain temperature and then drizzle it on shaved ice. The cold turns it into caramel and then you roll it up on a stick and eat it like a sucker," Voss said.

Voss said that those new to Maple Days are always surprised by the taste of pure maple syrup.

"The first thing people always say when they first taste it is, 'This came from a tree?' There's no comparison between the real thing and what you normally would buy at a store," Voss said.

The first batch of maple syrup poured out of the evaporator March 1 at the facility on South Post. The Natural Resources staff had spent one rainy day tapping 750 trees, and they have collected more than 3,700 gallons of sap since Feb. 22. Voss said that 45 gallons of sap is needed to make a gallon of maple syrup.

"This is the earliest we have every made syrup, and that's because of the weather," Voss said. "The sap started flowing earlier than normal this year just because of the increased temperatures."

Matt Best is interning at Public Works and assisted with the tree-tapping project. He said that he was surprised at how fast the first thousand gallons of sap was extracted.

"This was my first time tapping trees and it was simpler than I thought," he said. "As soon as I found out that this is what I would be doing, I became real interested in it. I think right after we put the taps in, the sap was flowing. It was pretty impressive."

Maple Days is a free event, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 24 and 31. To learn more, follow the Fort Drum Natural Resources Branch on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FortDrumNaturalResources/.