Main Stream in Spring

It was hard to believe that June 1st was three months into the new normal; everyone trying to figure out what was appropriate behavior for surviving a pandemic, an economy tanking and protests sweeping the country. When my mother passed away 5 years ago, she looked at what was going on in the world and declared that she had lived too long. Thirty years younger than that, I found that I was looking at the world and thinking the same thing. It was definitely time to turn off the news. It was time to find some healing in whatever nature had to offer. It was time to get outside.

When I first visited Main Stream, not far from Stockton Springs, it was winter and there was plenty of snow on the ground for snowshoeing. My friend and I decided it was time to see what this preserve had to offer during this season of late spring. First, I had to meet her at one of the landmarks mentioned in the directions because she could not find the turn off. The directions from the land trust site did not mention distances so she was not aware that the turn was almost across the street. Once I rescued her, we were at the preserve in just a few minutes.

One look down the grassy road leading towards the kiosk and we should have realized that this may not have been a good idea. It was clearly overgrown. When I saw this, I immediately thought of ticks even though I was appropriately dress with all my permethrin treated clothes and gators. There were also a few partially uprooted small trees that were leaning across the lane. Unfortunately, we had to duck under one of these while trying to maneuver across a mud puddle.  I guess we were just stubborn and we decided to continue on. In between these moments, we were able to notice that the area was carpeted with bluets, so there was the first good discovery of our visit.

After reaching the kiosk, we decided to just hike the straight path to the stream and avoid the loop. I had seen comments about ticks along the loop. The trail was narrow with quite a few ups and downs. It was also very rocky, and we found we had to really watch where we were walking so that we would not step into the holes between these boulders. It wasn’t an entirely wasted journey, for along the way, we found areas blanketed with Eastern Starflowers, Canada Mayflowers and Bunchberries, all growing together. This helped to lighten our mood. We were also inspired when my friend found the first blooming Blue-bead Lily of the season. Our final discovery was a cluster of Foam Flowers. This was new to my identification of wildflowers and I was pleased with the find.

When we neared the stream, we noticed the last few yards was very grassy so we opted not to get any closer. Instead, we turned to retrace our steps back to our cars. On the return journey, we had to stop while my friend explored a junk heap with an old abandoned car. For whatever the reason, she is attracted to these things so I waited on the path while she went to explore. It was then that I found the tick on my pants leg. Hoping that it was already feeling the effects of my chemically enhanced clothing, I flicked it off.

Back at our cars, we agreed that we would probably not return to this preserve, at least during the growing season. Winter would probably be best. It was just a bit too overgrown for our tastes. Once home, I threw my clothes in the wash. When I removed them from the dryer I found another tick on the gators. I think it was dead but I gave it an appropriate disposal anyway.

Riverbrook in Spring

On Friday, May 22nd I went on my third hike in one week. That was a record for me. Still trying to find places that would not be too crowded, I agreed to meet my friend at the Riverbrook Preserve in Waldoboro. It was not far from her favorite store, Morse’s Sauerkraut, but given our current mood for avoiding crowds she would not be tempted in stopping there.

Although 10 o’clock was later that I would have liked for finding a quiet hike, it was a weekday. As suspected we were the only ones there, so with a sigh of relief we headed across the fields and into the woods.

I liked Riverbrook because the trails were so clearly marked. At every path intersection there was a map, a number posted nearby corresponding to numbers on the map and an arrow pointing the way. As we walked along a leaf littered section of road, I spied Wood Anemones poking up through the leaves. We  spotted a number of Wild Strawberry flowers as well. How cheerful everything looked!

Eventually, we made our way through a wetter section of the preserve. The path was also a little more difficult here, where we had to be careful not to trip over all the tree roots. It was not horrible but we did have to step with care. Soon, we were standing on the banks of the river, looking over a beaver dam. While my friend tried to capture a photo of a salamander swimming nearby, I turned in the opposite direction and admired the view of the trees reflected in the water.

Not far beyond this point, we reached the remains of the old mill that was clearly marked on our map. Again, my friend paused to watch whatever was swimming in the water while I tried to get a decent picture of the remains of the mill. I finally found an angle where the stones where framed by two trees which I thought would at least lend some symmetry to the structure. Once we were both satisfied with our finds, we continued on our way.

Our journey finally took us along an old farm road. It was not shaded, the day was getting hot and this trail seemed to go on forever. I suppose if I had realized how warm it was going to get, I would have suggested at the beginning of our adventure that we travel in the opposite direction. However,  knowing that we would find the best lunch spot near the end of our hike was why I had to decided to walk the preserve in the counter clockwise direction. Still, it was the longest ½ mile I had done in a while (well maybe a few days ago when we hiked Frohock).

Eventually we were back in the woods and soon reached the intersection that would take us to a view of the rapids. We tried to perch on some rocks near the water to enjoy our lunch, but the bugs were pretty thick by the water. We retreated a few yards back into the woods and sat on a log but still had excellent views of the water. It was definitely less buggy there.

After lunch, we finished the short walk back to the meadow. Just before we reached the end of the woods, I spotted a small cluster of Dwarf Ginseng. It was a perfect ending to a perfect morning in the woods.

 

Hosmer Brook with a Friend

I had observed over the last few weeks, that if we were going to hike at one of the more popular trails in the area, it was much better to go early and go mid-week. With this in mind, my friend and I decided to meet at the Snow Bowl and meander along the Hosmer Brook Trail, even though I had pushed myself with a 5 mile hike up Frohock Mountain the day before. We arrived at the empty parking lot around 9 and set off for the trail behind the ski rental trailer.

To reach the trail, we walked up part of the ski slope before entering the woods. Once in the woods, our first stop was to watch the flowing water of the brook. The sound of the running water certainly helped wash away some of the tense emotions that had been building recently, especially for my friend who had to deal with a belligerent person during one of her solo hikes. All because he resented the fact that she was wearing a mask.

We continued our journey up towards the Hosmer Loop, crossing the stream several times. Along the way I spotted the leaves of the Blue-bead Lily and was very excited to find one with a stem and buds present. Hurray! Pretty soon these flowers would be blooming.

Once on the mile long loop, we turned towards the upper portion of the loop. This section led towards a small ridge with water running down the rocks. There were signs of additional plant growth along the way but I was unable to identify them. They were very small, with two shiny basal leaves. Since this was one of my husband’s favorite trails I was sure we would probably return at some point when this plant was more mature. Perhaps I would be able to identify it then.

When we reached the intersection of the Hosmer Loop with the George’s Highland Path, we decided to continue on the loop due to time constraints. The lower portion of the loop, in my opinion, was not as pretty, but we opted to complete the entire trail anyway. As we approached the end of the loop, the path got very wet and muddy. I had forgotten about this. It was probably another reason why I did not enjoy this section of the trail.

Descending the slope back towards the parking area, we found several patches of ferns arranged in circles. It reminded me of fairy rings and I tried to capture the magical moment with my camera, but alas, these pictures did not capture the enchantment of the moment. Since then, I have observed many such circles and I wondered if that is just the way these particular types of ferns grow. If so, I had never noticed this before. In any case, the fantasy of fairy circles was a wonderful ending to our outing.

Frohock Mountain

Tuesday, May 19th was a beautiful day. Since it was a weekday and it was early, we decided that it would be a good time to attempt a visit to the Camden Hills State Park. We had avoided hiking in the park during this whole pandemic thing, due to the overcrowded conditions that we have seen over the last few weeks. But an early weekday morning proved to be a different story.

We arrived at the multi-use trail shortly after 9 am. I can’t remember, but I believe there was only one other car there at that early hour. We did not have a definite plan, other than making our way up the 1.25 miles to the Bald Rock / Cameron trail heads and deciding where to go from there. About ½ mile into our hike, we reached the Frohock trailhead. This was a trail that we had avoided in the past because people had told us that this was not an easy climb and there were no views at the summit. In fact, we had come down from Bald Rock back to the Multi-use Road a number of years ago and found it steep, rocky and full of roots. It was a difficult descent. At that time, we also failed to locate the turnoff towards Frohock Mountain. Today, we decided it was time to bag another peak.

As expected, the first .3 mile off the Multi-use trail was strenuous. Fortunately, it was still spring, so we had plenty of opportunities to stop and study the emerging plant life. We paused to admire a unique formation of ferns, a Jack-in-the-pulpit, and Indian Cucumber Root. We also spotted numerous leaves of Blue-bead Lilies. After this short distance (that seemed a lot longer), we found the split in the trail which was clearly marked with a wooden sign, pointing the way towards Frohock Mountain.

At this point the trail descended down to a stream. The path was level for a short time after that, before ascending towards Derry Mountain. Derry Mountain did not have an official turnoff or summit marker but we did find an unofficial footpath towards a grassy area that we assumed was the summit. We could just make out the water through the trees. Around us, the ground was covered with violets. I’m not sure why, but this year the sight of violets gave me great pleasure. I particularly enjoyed the violet I found at the base of a tree. After enjoying this brief respite, we moved on.

We still had a mile to go before reaching the Frohock summit. Since Frohock was the smaller hill (at 454 feet), this part of our journey was downhill. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would regret that downhill walk later. Not having done any significant outings over the last 2 months, I was getting tired and our progress slowed considerably.

Finally, we reached the summit which was marked by a wooden sign. There was significant blow-down here from the storms of this past winter. It was enough that we actually could catch glimpses of the water and the islands. I thought that if we had any more significant storms, there would eventually be magnificent views here.

We enjoyed the views and a snack while we rested for about 30 minutes. And this is where I regretted that downhill journey from Derry Mountain. I always felt it was unfair to have to climb uphill at the end of a hike. Now we had to walk uphill for a mile to get back to Derry. I probably whined and moaned a bit (okay a lot) as we slowly made our way back to the Multi-use trail but we did eventually finish our 4 hour adventure. It was a lovely time outdoors, but still I decided to spend the rest of the day with a good book.

 

Observations

Note: Sorry for all the updates, I was having trouble using gallery for my photos. Some people notified me that they could only see one photo and no post so I removed the gallery and placed the individual photos as I normally do.

After 9 weeks, most states including Maine are beginning to reopen. Although we are not ready to run into town and mingle with all the people flocking into the area, the weather is glorious and we have gotten out every day, so the next several postings will all occur during this week of May 17th.

Everything is turning green and my spring nature observations are drawing to a close. I do not proclaim to be a botanist, a gardener or even an amateur with detailed knowledge of the plants that are emerging in our area, but with all this time on my hands I have been able to make some observations. Visiting my field study area everyday does help. First up is the ubiquitous Canada Mayflower. The single leaf of this plant blankets the forest floor wherever we go. I have always noticed that there always seems to be more plants without flowers than with them. On closer examination, I can see that only the plants with two leaves are actually producing flowers. Sure enough I have confirmed this via several wildflower websites.

 

Next is the small shoot that I have mentioned earlier as possibly being a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Since my field study area has many of them, I thought this was indeed the identity of this plant. Over the time I have been watching this flower grow, I have discovered that I have been mistaken. Not a Jack-in-the-Pulpit but Solomon Seals. And what a bounty! Not only are there hundreds of them here, but both True Solomon Seal and False Solomon Seal are growing together. With both plants side by side, I notice that, in addition to the flowers growing underneath the leaves, the True Solomon Seal is smaller, has a more delicate stem and its leaves are not as large or as deeply grooved as the False Solomon Seal.

 

I finally spot the Jack-in-the-Pulpit shoot after the leaves of the Solomon Seal plants are unfurling.  The shoot of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit is more speckled and does not reveal the dark green that was evident in the Solomon Seal sprout. In just a matter of days it is obvious that this is a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. So far, I have counted at least 40 of them. I am sure many are still hidden by the taller plants.

 

I have also been watching the curious unfurling of another plant. I have been pouring over my various guidebooks trying to identify it, but without the flower I have not been successful. It has also become evident why I have soooo much trouble using the Newcomb’s guide to wildflowers. First, I am confused about what constitutes an entire leaf. Who knew that a compound leaf is not several leaves but only one. In a few cases I also get confused on what is an alternate or opposite leaf. In this particular case, I fail to notice that there is a single leaf (“stem”) branching off from the main stem. Further up the main stem, two more stems or leaves branch off and sure look opposite to me. Someday I am going to have an expert explain this to me. In any case once the flower appears, I identify this as a Baneberry. For the time being we do not know whether they are White or Red Baneberry plants or both.

 

This is what has been blooming in my neighborhood to date. The Trilliums are done and I am still waiting for the Eastern Starflowers and the Wild Sarsaparilla to bloom. At least now, I am confident about identifying several plants before their flowers appear. Some of my friends are joking that I should compile a shoot to flower guidebook. I think 4 plants do not a guidebook make but they do make for another blog post. Enjoy.