November Outing

It was time for the augustancnov16-1first service on my car and though I did not have the recommended miles for that service, we wanted to at least get it ready for the winter. Since this required an hour’s drive to the dealer in Augusta, we planned on walking around the Augusta Nature Center before heading home. Of course, this meant I had to go through the two rotaries on the way to the dealership and then back towards the nature center but for once I did not cross the bridge multiple times in my attempt to exit either rotary. Safely back on the correct side of the Kennebec River, we parked at one of the Coney Street entrances and set out on our exploration.

This time, we headed left towards the Hawthorne Trail and Blueberry Bend. Not far into our walk, we found a small teepee structure leaning against one of the pines located in this section of the woods. When we reached Blueberry Bend there was some confusion as to augustancnov16-2which direction we needed to take in order to stay on the Hawthorne Trail. Fortunately, we remembered to bring the trail map with us this time. After studying the maze of trails, we headed across the blueberry field along a barely visible path.

We continued along the Hawthorne Trail, past Ovenbird Corner then on to the Lower Hemlock Trail and the Red Line Trail which loops along the border of the preserve. We walked the Red Line Trail for only a few feet, before turning right on the North Brookside Trail and the Quarry Road Trail(as you can see it really was a maze of trails).augustancnov16-5 I had been hoping to verify that I had reached Dead Man’s Cave during my last visit but things looked different approaching it from the opposite direction and I never found any signs suggesting we were there. From our position on the Quarry Trail, we did see a clearing below us that may have been the Granite Quarry but since it was blocked off, we could not get close enough to confirm this.

Further on, the South Brookside Trail branched off from the Quarry Road trail and headed down towards the water. Here there was a clearing that may have served as some sort of amphitheater. Granite ledge created a natural augustancnov16-3border for this area, where wooden structures had been placed to provide some seating.

Our expedition took us along the brook, past bridges and a lily pond. On the far side of the preserve, we explored Bruce’s Wood trails. Here I found a white fluff (a feather or seed perhaps) stuck in a bush, fluttering in the wind but firmly stuck to the branch. On the loop back towards the Whitney Brook Trail, I noticed quite a augustancnov16-4few yellow maple leaves bearing an interesting black splotch. I wondered if the discoloration was caused by some kind of fungus or if it was just the natural autumn progression of color for this particular leaf. Heading back towards the parking area, we climbed on to Beaver Bridge to meditate on the view from the bridge.

As we made our way back to the car, there was some confusion as to whether we were actually on the Red Line Trail. Our original thought was to take the Red Line Trail back to the parking area but since we seemed to be going in circles between that trail and the White Oak Trail, we bailed out when we found a sign for the Hemlock Trail. Once on  Hemlock, we easily found our way to the exit and headed home.

Hatchet Mountain

With hatchetnov16-6the first weekend in November bringing cooler temperatures, we wanted to try hiking somewhere that was a little more challenging. After studying various land trust sites, I picked Hatchet Mountain in nearby Hope. Although the description in the brochure, rated this a “moderate steep” hike, it also was a mere ¾ of a mile to the lookout near the upper border of the preserve. Given the short distance of the trail I thought we could manage the difficulty rating, especially since the trail was a road that had been put in years ago when thehatchetnov16-3 original plans were to build houses on the mountain.

The parking area was located on a road with poor visibility in both directions, so we turned around before parking in order to be able to pull straight out when we were finished with our hike. Now we were ready! Once we reached the kiosk we joked about turning around, having successfully made the steep incline to that point. Joking aside, we continued upwards on this first section of trail lined with aspen, birch and beech trees.

Where the trail hatchetnov16-5switched back to the right, we paused to catch our breath and to admire the view. Hobbs Pond was just below us and beyond that we could see Ragged Mountain. I spent a few minutes studying a few interesting plants, one had small dried out white flowers on its branches while the other looked like a puff ball from the aster family.

Ready to move on, we continued the steep ascent to the top. This section of trail was made a hatchetnov16-4little more difficult by the large rocks laid down when the road was put in. With the sharp switchbacks and the steep incline, I could not imagine how anyone could drive a car up this road and wondered if that was the reason why the project was abandoned and the land turned over for preservation.

There was a rock ledge on one side of the trail and I paused a moment to verify what I had seen. Looking closely at the water dripping from the rock I discovered the first harbinger of winter; icicles hanging from the ledge. How quickly the nexthatchetnov16-1 season had come upon us! It couldn’t be time for winter already, but alas further up the trail, we had to carefully step over some more ice formations in the path.

We finally arrived at an open space that marked the end of the preserve. Further up, at the top of the mountain, were several radio towers and a service road leading back to the bottom of the hill. But here, on the land trust property, the view was amazing! The field before us was still filled with the reds and golds of autumn. Beyond the field, tohatchetnov16-2 our right we could see both Ragged and Bald Mountains with Beech Hill tucked between them. I could just make out the hut on top of Beech Hill. Straight ahead, Megunticook Lake was visible below us with the Camden Hills just behind it. Turning to our left, we could make out the islands in the bay. We stood for some time admiring the view before heading back down the mountain. Our hike had lasted about an hour and had been a bit strenuous but we had found a treasure that we would certainly visit again.

 

Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary

It was a mastlandingoct16-3dreary mid-October day when I convinced a friend that we should head down to Freeport. Initially, I thought that we would head over to the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary but since the forecast promised rain, we decided to browse around the outlets as an alternate diversion. Our real adventure would consist of finding a new route to Freeport, avoiding both the route that would take us through the construction on Route 1 in Bath and the one through Augusta to 295. So with my friend acting as navigator, we meandered our way down a number of back country roads towards our destination. mastlandingoct16-1Ultimately, we discovered that it did not matter whether one travels to Freeport via the highway or the byway, it would still require an hour and half of driving time but at least the back roads option had some really nice views.

Once in Freeport, we started to roam around town through a few outlet stores but it wasn’t long before we both realized that neither one of us was in the mood for such activity. Since it wasn’t raining yet, we decided to implement our original plan and headed over to the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary for some outdoor exploration.

After mastlandingoct16-4viewing a trail map (which we later decided was not quite accurate), we planned on walking a loop by hiking the Ridge Trail to the Bench Loop Trail towards the Mill Stream Trail. From there, the service road would take us back to the car. Not long into our exploration, we found the remains of the Old Farmhouse Foundation (marked on the trail map). On this occasion, it was roped off and marked as an archaeological site so we moved on.

At the next intersection, wooden signs pointed straight to continue on the Ridge Trail or right towards the Deer Run Trail. We headed straight according to plan but it was interesting to note that the connecting trail towards Deer Run was not marked on the map. Although the day was pretty dreary, we were still able to enjoy the subdued colors or the season as we walked along. I stopped a few times to study some interesting lichen, fungus or a brightly colored leaf stuck in a pine tree before moving on to themastlandingoct16-2 next attraction.

As we headed down the back side of our loop, we passed two benches before reaching an intersection that was not clearly marked. We made our best guess, only to find ourselves in a maze of trails. Eventually, we reached a clearing with a single apple tree and joked that at least we would not go hungry. Finally, at the far end of the clearing we found a wooden sign pointing towards the Mill Stream Trail. We followed this trail along the stream before ending at the remains of the old mill site and dam. We studied the ruins for a bit before walking down the service road towards the car.

Autumn Sunrise

For a sunriseoct16-1few weeks, we were toying with the idea of a sunrise hike up our favorite mountain in the Camden Hills. The advantage of attempting this during mid-October, was that sunrise was at 7 o’clock. Although still considered early by some, getting up closer to 5 in order to be at the multi-use trail by 5:30, still seemed a little more civilized than other times of the year. This would allow us the hour we usually needed to reach the summit with plenty of time to enjoy the pre-sunrise light changes.

During the first half of the hike, we followed the small circle of lights from our headlights as we made our way to the Bald Rock Mountain trailhead. At the trailhead, we stopped for a few minutes to rest and take a water break before continuing up the trail. Since we were both in a “deconditioned” state, we paused several times during our journey; once before the stone steps, sunriseoct16-2again at the top of the steps where I seem to have a favorite resting spot, and at least twice more.

After reaching the summit we sat on the rocks, opened our hot drinks and energy bars, and enjoyed the solitude of the early light. Since we had done this morning hike several times before, I decided to focus some time on other elements of nature. I watched a patch of wispy clouds near the horizon gradually change from pale pink to white near the dark red horizon.sunriseoct16-3

Several minutes after sunrise, I studied the reflection of the early morning light on the rocks around me. Everything took on a rosy hue in the early light of day. We watched for another half hour as the shadows receded from the hollows below us. The light took on a more yellowish tint as time went on but there was now enough light for us to make out the autumn splendor in the land below us. We enjoyed the changing light for another length of time before heading back down the trail to a second cup of something hot and a more substantial breakfast.

Reset

After walkingoct16-1our explorations on Mount Desert Island and another hike up Bald Rock Mountain the following weekend we were reminded of the things we didn’t do over the summer. We didn’t accomplish any uphill hikes that required even minimal exertion. The 4 mile walk along the Carriage Roads should not have left us so fatigued and we should have been able to reach the summit of Bald Rock Mountain without stopping half a dozen times. It seems that as we get older, weeks of exercise is wiped out in just a few days of non-physical activity. And so, we try to start again.

While my other half tried to figure out how he was going to increase his activity level, I decided I needed to up the ante on my walking route. I had been trying to walk to the lake and back several times a week, which included a few small uphill grades, (including one that always gave me a hard time) for a total distance of less than 2 miles. But this was not enough. I needed something that just might increase my breathing ability.

I walkingoct16-2thought that maybe walking up the multi-use trail to the Bald Rock Mountain trailhead 2 or 3 times a week might help. With that in mind, I was the first to arrive at the trailhead early one morning to begin my solo walk 1.25 miles uphill. The beauty of trying to exercising along the multi-use trail was that I would be hiking along a tree-lined country lane as opposed to a paved road. Always a better option, in my book. On the downside, I did not realized that the uphill grade began immediately from the kiosk onwards. I knew this by the change in my breathing right from the start. Darn! When did they walkingoct16-3increase the steepness of this hill?

In order to keep myself going, I looked for specific landmarks to mark my progress; .8 mile to the Frohock Mountain trailhead where I paused until I stopped wheezing, then on to the mile marker where I stopped once more before making one last push to the Bald Rock Mountain trailhead. Once I reached my destination, I sat on the old stone foundation for a bit. I was the only one in this section of the park, so I spent quite some time watching the light streaming through the trees, listening to the birds and squirrels rustling through the leaves and thinking about the changes in my life and future goals. For now my goal is simple. I would like to be able to hike up to this trailhead without feeling like I’m going to die.