Hodson 2021

Trying to get the New Year off to a good start, my husband and I decided to hike Hodson Preserve up to Howe Hill on January 3rd. With the temperatures in the 20s and the day being clear, it was a perfect day for a hike. Although we got a later start than we had hoped, the parking pull-out was almost empty, which was another plus.

The beginning of this trail heads downhill for a brief time before turning almost 90 degrees near a waterfall. Due to the snow and rain from the day before, the water was pouring down over the rocks so I paused for a minute to watch and listen to the roaring water. Whenever I have hiked Hodson Preserve, I have always felt a need to stop at this point and meditate on this wonder.

From the falls, the path follows the brook for a bit before crossing a bridge over to the uphill portion of the trail. The walk up to this point was not overly strenuous but it was rocky enough for me to be cautious in my steps.  Shortly after the first bridge, we had an excellent view of a stone wall up the hill. Of course, it required a stop to admire this snow covered structure.

 

         

Once we were on the ascent, the weeks of level walking began to make a statement. What should have been a relatively easy hike with only a few stops, warranted more frequent resting periods. Fortunately, we found enough things that required us to pause for further study. The first observation was the melting ice on the tips of the nearby pine needles. It took quite a while for both of us to wait for the light to hit the droplet at just the right angle and individually attempt to shoot the perfect picture. I must say, my husband was the better photographer here.

Since we had decided to spend the winter studying moss and lichen, a little further along we needed to examine some moss on the bark of a tree. When, I first compared my photo to other observations on iNaturalist, I thought it might be Wood Bristle Moss even though the top suggestion was Crisped Pincushion Moss. To me the pictures just didn’t match up. However, later in the week I went back to Hodson to take another look. This time, the moss seemed to have closed up, looking more like Crisped Pincushion Moss. So, I guess that is what it was, however, anyone who wishes to confirm that for me, please feel free to let me know.

We continued on our upward journey, stopping frequently to rest until we came out of the woods. Now we stood at the end of a meadow to our right and blueberry fields to our left. Our journey continued up through the blueberry fields until we reached the summit of Howe Hill. A large, flat boulder engraved with the Howe name marks the top of this hill. We sat there for a few moments taking in the sights of Bald Mountain in front of us, Hatchet Mountain in the distance to our right, the Maiden Cliff cross behind us and the blueberry field surrounding us. After soaking up the beauty around us, we headed back down towards home, pausing for one more view of the falls near the end of our journey.

 

Another Milestone

This month I reached a milestone. At 65, I guess I officially became a senior citizen. Still in lockdown with too much time on my hands, I searched for the benefits of reaching this momentous occasion.

The first thing I did on turning 65 was to pre-register for my COVID vaccine. Reaching this age had pushed me into the 1B-2 group, which would be the next group eligible for the vaccine. At least now, I knew I would not be the absolute last person in the county to be vaccinated.

The next item on the agenda was to play with my new toy. My husband had just given me a 28mm f3.5 macro lens for my camera and I wanted to get outside and put it through its paces. The only problem was the winds were blowing at 15 to 20 mph throughout the day. I don’t care how good the lens’ image stabilizer was or how fast you made the shutter speed, when the leaf bud you were trying to capture was swaying in and out of your viewfinder there was no way you were going to get a clear picture.

         

After several unsuccessful attempts at trying to take pictures of aster remains, witch hazel and other leaf buds, I realized I needed to find something that would not budge in the wind. I walked around the property until I approached our wood pile and found all the stationary objects I needed. Sitting on the logs were various types, sizes and shapes of fungus. Success! I was quite pleased with the results.

         

I then decided to head into town and photograph something special at the library, something that I hoped would give my readers some joy. The garden in front of the building was protected by a stone wall. This east facing wall reflected the warm sunlight down into the garden which made it the first place where the crocuses bloomed. And sure enough, February 25th, there were scores of green shoots pushing through the earth, as well as several clusters of bright yellow flowers.

         

May this be a sign that better times are coming.

 

New Year’s Walk up Cameron Mountain

On New Year’s Eve we said good riddance to 2020, raising a glass across a fire pit with our neighbors. We then returned home, watched the ball drop in Time’s Square and said goodbye to 2020 once again. On New Year’s Day I dragged my sorry butt out of bed, realizing that perhaps I had reached an age where I just can’t stay up that late anymore. After a second cup of tea I was ready to face the New Year and we decided to hike somewhere in the Camden Hills.

It was later than I had hoped we would be, but we found one remaining parking space in the lot for the Multi-use trail in Lincolnville. Noting the now full parking lot, we decided it would be best to walk the Multi-use road 1.25 miles to the Bald Rock / Cameron trails and veer off towards Cameron Mountain. It would be the road less travelled.

As we made our way up the road, we met several people on their way down the trail. Most wore masks, or at least stayed far on the opposite side of this wide trail (which was wide enough to accommodate a dump truck). Everyone was polite and wished each other a Happy New Year. Once on the Cameron Road, we passed 2 people making the return trip from the mountain.

I have often found, that during the winter months the photo opportunities were just not as abundant as the other seasons. For that reason, and the fact that I had received a nature journal for Christmas, I decided that this winter my husband and I would concentrate on studying mosses and lichens. Since one of us had downloaded the iSeek app we were able to add 2 new specimens to our meager knowledge. We did notice that we would often find multiple types of moss growing together, so assuming that our identification app was focusing on the correct item our first find was a Haircap Moss. A little further along, we found a blanket of Crome Sphagnum Moss covering the rocks and tree roots of the area.

After walking about a mile, we reached the spur that would take us to the top of Cameron Mountain. As we emerged from the woods into the blueberry fields, I was surprised to see that the trees that had been taking over the field along the east side of the trail had been cut. The last time we were here, my husband had commented that the field was being taking over by the white birch clusters scattered across the land. I guess someone had decided that the blueberry field should be saved and culled the young trees.

We continued walking the short, but steep distance to the top of the hill and the views of Lake Megunticook. After admiring this vista, we found a rock where we could sit and enjoy our lunch, while continuing to take in the views. As we prepared to make our way back down the hill, two more couples came up to enjoy the scenery. Back on the Multi-use Trail we encountered multiple groups making their way up the trail. I guess I was not the only one to get a late start to the day.

Last Hike of 2020

Our last hike of 2020 was up the Multi-use Trail in the Camden Hills State Park. Normally, we would use this trail from the Lincolnville side as a starting point for hikes up Frohock, Bald Rock or Cameron Mountain, but we discovered during this pandemic time that this side was often crowded. Perhaps, it was because this part of the Multi-use Road was less steep than the front end (yes, it really was less steep), or because the popular trails listed above were accessible from this end of the park, or the fact that there was no toll booth at this end and visitors felt they could hike the park for free. Whatever the reason, most of the traffic for the front end of the park was for the trails leading up to Mount Battie or Mount Megunticook, leaving the Multi-use access fairly empty and this encouraged us to use this side as our exercise hike during these crazy times. So January 30th found us making our way up the steep incline of this trail.

The first mile of the Multi-use Trail was pretty steep, with enough of an incline for me to call out goal posts to any of my hiking buddies. As we walked ever upwards, my companion would hear, “that big tree ahead at the curve is our next rest stop”. The downside to this was that with all of our hikes these last few months being on less popular trails that were relatively flat, these call outs were quite frequent. Fortunately, on this hike with my husband, I was able to find something of interest to point out at each spot.

There had been quite a bit of rain between Christmas and New Year’s, so the water was flowing pretty quickly down the hills. Although Christmas brought 50 degree temperatures, it had gotten colder since then, forming ice along the edges of the wet surfaces. During our first stop, we studied the ice crystals that had formed on the rocks alongside the water cascading down the hill. When I walked to the opposite side of the path to watch the drainage continue on its journey, I was mesmerized by the artwork of the frozen roots and branches created by the water spraying from the pipe.

The next time I needed a break, I noticed what looked like a wide trail off to one side. When my husband noticed a sign further in the woods, he decided to explore a bit. We did not see any markers but when he reached the sign, it was obviously a park sign indicating the direction of the Multi-use Trail. It looked like it could have been a snowmobile trail but there was some big debris blocking the use of such a trail. Later, during our return trip we found the other end of this wide un-named trail with an old blue marker on a nearby tree.

I was determined to reach the Ski Shelter which was at the 2 mile marker from the park entrance so we pushed ourselves to continue on. At another stop we admired the red berries of some Wintergreen or Eastern Teaberry. Nearby, we found British Soldier Lichens.

Just before we reached the Ski Shelter, we found another wide trail. This one was marked by a park sign that indicated it was the discontinued Spring Brook Trail. We decided to explore and followed the path until it ended at the Brook. Looking across the brook, we noticed a rope with red ties on it blocking another trail. Studying our side of the brook, we saw some wooden logs near the shore line that could have been a bridge at one time, now long gone. The rope must have been placed to block the snow mobiles from attempting to continue down the slope towards the non-existent bridge.

After reaching the Ski Shelter we explored the area near the brook a little bit more before turning back down the trail. Being out of shape from all those flat hikes, I would say it was not my best effort but I had made the 2 miles up the steep trail and I suppose that was good enough.

Round the Mountain – Thorndike Brook Section

By December 12th, it was a bit overcast and a thin layer of snow covered the ground. There was not enough snow to get out the snowshoes, but we did need to get out and enjoy the day. Although it was Saturday, when we had to worry about the traffic on the local trails, we decided to explore the new section of the Round the Mountain Trail that had just opened that week.

We arrived at the Coastal Mountain Land Trust’s Thorndike Brook Trailhead by 8:30 (not to be confused with the George’s Highland Path trailhead a quarter of a mile further down the road). We found roughly half dozen cars already there, in a parking lot that was built to accommodate 18 cars or more. Our first stop was to examine the beautifully constructed, sheltering kiosk.

After my husband (yup, I finally got my spouse back on the trail) had finished examining the workmanship of the kiosk, we set off on a wide, graveled path. This section was very level and crossed through an open field. Not far from the entrance, we paused once more to observe a beautiful stone seating area for the casual walker to stop and admire the view of the field and the hills beyond. With this part of the trail designed to be handicapped accessible, I suspected that these stone benches would become a perfect stopping point for the many travelers passing by.

Continuing on our journey, we soon walked across the metal bridge spanning Thorndike Brook and entered the woods. Here, things got a little dicey due to the ice. There was not enough ice or snow on the ground to necessitate the use of micro-spikes, but, oh my goodness, were those patches very slippery, especially over the numerous bridges along the trail.

Shortly after crossing the bridge we passed the Thorndike Brook trail which headed up towards Ragged Mountain. On this day, our goal was to keep things flat and easy along the new trail. We encountered the brook a few times during our walk. As we crossed over another bridge, we paused to watch and listen to the water streaming down a hill.

This path was designed to be multi-use and there were times during our stroll when we had to step to one side to allow cyclists to pass by. They would always let us know if there were additional bikers coming up behind them so that we would know to watch out for them. On one of those occasions, when we had to step close to the edge of the trail I got the chance to admire the contrast of some clubmoss against the snow. The only problem I encountered was from an overly friendly puppy who almost knocked my off a bridge, but I managed to maintain my balance.

We walked about a mile before deciding to turn around. Seeing that the icy trail was heading in a more upward direction was enough for me to decide that was enough for today. Near the end of the woodland portion of our return trip, I noticed the remains of an old rusted truck in the woods and a bench a little beyond that. I wondered for a minute if anyone ever took a moment to take up the invitation of that white bench and immerse themselves in nature, before continuing to the end of the journey.