A Different Exploration

Due to weather and other obstacles, not much hiking or exploring occurred from the end of October thru the beginning of November. However, Veterans Day Weekend found us in Fort Lauderdale on a different type of exploration. Six months ago, our daughter had moved down to Florida so when the temperatures reached a tolerable level, we decided it was time for a quick visit.

Once we met up at the hotel, our daughter thought it would be rather cool to explore the Everglades via an airboat tour. Our drive towards the park followed a canal that I noticed from the map ran from the Everglades to the coast. As a mother I felt some amount of fear knowing that my daughter could get to both places via her rubber kayak, where she could get lost in the Everglades and attacked by gators in one direction or washed out to sea in what in my mind amounted to a rubber raft in the other. These are the types of thoughts that keep many mothers awake at night. So, you can imagine I how relieved I felt when I noticed fences along the way. Later on she also admitted that she would be afraid of getting lost in all the different waterways making up the park.

During the tour, I kept studying the volume of waterlilies along the way. I was intrigued by the almost closed yellow flowers that were open just enough to reveal an orange center within. Our guide was very informative, providing us with information about the various inhabitants and threats to the Everglades, as well as spotting alligators and iguanas for us. One statement caused our daughter to comment to us that “so all of Florida is basically invasive”. I later tried to confirm some of the information. I was unsuccessful in verifying our guide’s comments on salt water within the park but I did find quite a few sources that indicated 26% of the species within the Everglades was considered exotic or invasive.

After our visit to the park, we headed to the downtown area where we had a fabulous lunch before walking along the canal. We spotted a few lizards along the way. At one point, we sat on a bench and watched a pair of squirrels running around a rather odd looking tree. I was so caught up in this that I failed to spot the interesting bird beneath the tree. When the heat began to bother us, we headed back to the hotel for a brief respite before heading out again.

We ended the day walking along the boardwalk at Hollywood Beach. It was enjoyable strolling along a well-lit walkway that provided access for both pedestrians and cyclists. We wandered around studying the various shops and restaurants on one side and the waves breaking on the shore on the other. After dinner, we strolled back along the beach to our starting point and called it a day.  It had been a great fun filled day made even more special by spending it with our daughter.


Mount Pleasant

Near the end of October, the weather finally sent a hint of autumn. Within a week’s time, we saw 2 days of rain mid-week, a few days of sun and a nor’easter to finish up the month. The first rain was enough to push the bulk of green leaves to a golden brown, encouraging us to venture outside on one of those sunny days and head towards Mount Pleasant in Rockport. On Mount Pleasant Road, we soon found the trailhead for Mount Pleasant, as well as an alternate trail for Spruce Mountain, crossed the road towards our selected route and began our adventure.

The light was just right on this particular day that we stopped a number of times to take in the play of light through golden leaves. Perhaps it was the time of day, or maybe it was the time of year but there were several instances were a particular item was illuminated in such a way that we basked in the magic until the sun shifted and the moment was gone. The fuzzy remains of a flower was the one glowing item in an area cast in shadow. It felt good to be outdoors, experiencing the magic of the season.

Further on, we found two tree trunks with large boulders sitting on top of each trunk. It took us a moment, but once we realized that the trees had been cut, we surmised that the placement had to have occurred with human assistance. From this point, the trail became a bit narrower and wet. I could imagine that parts of the trail would be quite boggy in the spring.

In autumn, after a rain, we always forget that wet leaves cover wet rocks and there is a danger of slipping on the concealed stones. We managed just fine hiking along the leaf-covered path but then the trail went across a slanted ledge. I led the way across what appeared to be dry stone but soon slipped and fell and began sliding down the ledge. I managed to stop my slide but I could not figure out how to regain my footing and an upright position. Finally, I crawled across the ledge until I reached leaves and dirt once more, while my husband headed through the woods to avoid crossing the ledge. It wasn’t until were looking back at the stone from a different angle that we noticed the faint shadow of water heading down from the spot where I fell.

Safely on level ground, we continued on our journey until we reached a spot where there were views of a pond and mountains in the distance. The trail became more of a road at this point and we did not see any additional blue blazes. Assuming that we had reached the end of the trail system, we spent a few minutes studying the autumn landscape nearby and the fields below us before turning back the way we had come.

On the way down, we used my husband’s solution of pushing through the woods to avoid the wet ledge, returning to the trail when we deemed it safe to do so. Shortly after this point, I noticed some sticks on the ground that were covered in what appeared to be a rubbery like substance. I was intrigued by the curves and intricate design of what I later discovered was some kind of jelly fungus. After studying this fungus for a bit, we continued down the trail and soon reached the trailhead.

It had been a wonderful morning filled with inspiration and discoveries. A successful day indeed!

Erickson Fields to Beech Hill

By the third week of October, the fall foliage was still sort of sparse and dull. Most of the trees were displaying a greenish-yellow hue, with very few reds or oranges on display. With less than two weeks left to October, the temperatures were still in the mid-60s with no rain in sight.  Perhaps the unusual weather had led to the subdued foliage season. Although not inspiring, it did provide us with some perfect days for hiking, so when my friend called to hike the new connector trail from Erickson Field to Beech Hill I readily tagged along.

We met in the parking field at Erickson where we proceeded across the bridge towards our adventure. As we crossed the bridge, I noticed some Wild Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace was still in bloom. The first part of our trip was a familiar one. We strolled along a path through the field before entering the woods. Once in the woods we headed right on the old Loop Trail. It wasn’t long before we turned again on to the Connector Trail.

Once on the new trail, it wasn’t long before we reached a bridge spanning over a wet area. I remembered a social occasion a few weeks before, when my husband and I received a preview of the unopened trail by the man who constructed the bridge. He had been mulling over how he wanted to span the mucky area to the trail beyond. That day, we had made our way across some rocks and up a small embankment before continuing our preview. I must say he did a really nice job; that bridge was such a work of art that my friend and I studied it from a variety of angles before proceeding on our journey.

We followed the connector through another field, where we passed the remains of an old cellar. There was too much foliage in the way to really study the remnants of this structure so we walked on. Then things got a little confusing. From where we stood, we could see Beech Hill Road and the path we were on would take us to that road. The problem; there was also a house not 15 feet from the supposed trail. We looked around but did not see any indication of another route towards the road. Since there was no “private property” sign, we hoped no one was home as we exited the trail and headed up the road towards Beech Hill. I did make a note to try and find out later where the official connector trail ends.

After exiting the Erickson Fields preserve, it was a short uphill walk to Beech Hill. We walked around the newly renovated gates to Beech Hill and proceeded up the road alongside the blueberry fields. When we reached the Beech Nut House, we explored the cottage and the surrounding land. During my investigations, I discovered a beautiful red dragonfly. I believe it was an Autumn Meadowhawk. While my friend continued to explore, I meditated on the fields below and the ocean beyond. The view was mesmerizing but soon it was time to go, so we headed back towards Erickson Fields and afternoon obligations.


All Through the House

As mentioned in “I Must be Crazy”, I generally complete one quilt project before starting another but right now I have four going on at the same time. In addition my quilting daughter and I are discussing a joint endeavor for a friend. I have to say that having so many works in progress going on at once is leaving me frazzled and a little obsessed about getting something done.

Part of the problem is that Thanksgiving is now less than one week away and while I am frantically working on my quilts nothing else is getting done. The laundry sits unfolded, our dust bunnies have become family pets and you can write your name in the dust on the furniture. In addition, these projects having taking over the entire house!

Upstairs, there are two guest rooms. You would think that since I only need one of them for Thanksgiving that I would be able to confine my work into one room. Not so! In the one room, the bed has yet to be made ready but for the time being it is pushed against the wall so that the quilt frame bearing the “Friendship Twist” quilt can be fully opened. This is my immediate concern. With less than a week to go, I have only the final border to be quilted so it is possible that I can get it off the quilt frame. I am quilting like crazy and my old shoulder injury is bothering me, either from the quilting angle of the frame, repetitive motion or just a flare up but I dare not stop or see a doctor about it now. What if he tells me I have to stop quilting!!!!

In the second guest room I have the Autumn Star quilt lying on the floor with a possible border layout. Of course I am using the block choice that requires bringing the point into the border which means I do not have enough of that material. I have one strip of green left 24 inches long and 3.5 inches wide, not enough to make the points. Fortunately, my daughter has found a one yard wide back of the green, so after pre-treating and washing it I can move forward. This brings us to the third room in the house.

The mudroom includes our laundry area and my ironing board. At the moment, not only is the green fabric sitting on the ironing board waiting to be pressed but so is the extra yellow fabric for the donation dinosaur quilt. While gathering fabrics from my stash for this donation blanket, I discovered that I do not have enough of the yellow to make it. The dinosaur print, brown, yellow, white print and the yellow fabric had been given to me as a gift, so the best I could do was run to my local shop and match the yellow as close as possible.

The dining table holds my nightstand mat project. It is in the hand quilting stage and is small enough to place somewhere else. One of the bedrooms, perhaps? It sits there because the double doors out to the patio provided me with enough light to sew after a nor’easter came through knocking out power for 4 days. Easy enough to move, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

And finally, the dinosaur project. As I get older I find it difficult on my back to spend long periods of time cutting and laying out projects on our dining table. Then there is the laying out and basting part of the work while kneeling on a hard wood floor. Not only is this hard on the knees but after a short period of time it is difficult getting up off the floor. My husband has just completed a cutting table that is big enough both for cutting and laying out projects. This table sits in the loft above the garage, so yes I have taken over part of the garage too (my husband draws the line at the basement and his kitchen). This is where all the fabric for the dinosaur quilt is hanging out at the moment waiting for me to get around to cutting the yellow fabric, as well as the green for the Autumn Star quilt.

So, less that one week to Thanksgiving and quilt projects are all over the house. I wonder if my guests would mind if I handed them dust cloths and a dust mop when they walk through the door.

Allen Whitney Memorial Forest

By mid-October, it was time to take my car to Augusta to have it serviced for the winter. But Augusta was an hour away and I didn’t want to waste the trip, so naturally I researched the hiking opportunities in the area. I found references to the Allen Whitney Memorial Forest but the trail map on the New England Forestry Foundation website was not the best. Once I settled for the map on the Maine Trail Finder site I was ready. With map in hand and husband with a bad back in tow I set out to towards Augusta. I had promised the husband lunch at one of the pubs in Hallowell so he tolerated the pain of his bad back and came along.

By 9:30 we were out of the dealership and looking for the Allen Whitney Forest. I had printed out directions from google maps and read a blog posting about parking at the Meeting House Church, but when we followed the directions and consulted the map, the church was not where google said it should be. Puzzled, we backtracked and parked at a pull out for the forest. With trails on both sides of the road, we opted to hike the paths on the west side of the street first, then if time and my husband’s back held out we would hike the east side.

Although there were a few places where additional trails branched off to our left, we stayed on the main road that would take us to Shed Pond. Once at the pond, we stood at the edge of the water and studied the hill on the opposite shore. There have been reports that the autumn colors were late this year and not as spectacular as previous years, but I found there was still enough color for me to rejoice in the colorful display.

Making our way back towards the road, we decided to investigate one of the side trails. This path led us to the far end of the pond where we were able to admire the view from a different perspective. At this end of the road, there were a few routes that branched off in various directions. I am sure that one of those paths would create a loop that would take us back to the road, but, since I was not able to print out an entire trail map we decided to retrace our steps.

Within half an hour we were back at the car. I allowed my husband to stretch out his back a bit before we crossed the street to explore the trails on the east side of the road. In this part of the forest, the trees were numbered, I assumed for forest management purposes. We found a notice that one section had been completely cleared of ash trees in order to demonstrate the damage the ash borer would create.

Leaving the numbered trees behind, we meandered along a lovely wide lane trying to identify the different trees. When the road continued through the portal of a stone wall, we stopped to watch a chipmunk scurrying around within the gatepost. A little further along, we discovered that the map wasn’t quite matching up with the actual trail and for a short time we thought we had reached a dead end. Looking around, we finally found a sign that indicated the path was for hikers and bikers only. It seemed to be heading in the right direction and so we waded through a small overgrown section before we found ourselves back on a wider lane.

The trail in this section of the forest was surrounded by old stone walls on either side. As we began to hear road noise, I looked to my left and found the remnants of a fireplace and foundation. A few minutes later, we exited the forest and found ourselves in a field behind the Meeting House Church. The Meeting House was located south of where we parked, not on the north side as google maps implied. We walked up to the road to the car and as promised, I took my husband to Hallowell for lunch. He was pleased.