Snowshoeing the Hodson Loop

After the snowstorm of March 14th brought a foot of snow to our area, we were blessed with another chance at snowshoeing. Our first thought was to check out the Harkness preserve in Rockport, but when we saw the “No Parking” sign almost directly in front of the preserve we decided to head back and just take a walk around the block. As we got closer to home, I suddenly had an inspiration that we should check out the loop trail at the Hodson preserve, so turning left instead of right we parked along the road and donned our snowshoes.

Shortly after entering the pine forest section of the preserve, we knew we had made the right choice. The combination of shade and sun filtering through the trees and reflecting off the snow was magical. We paused a bit just to soak in the serenity of the scene before moving on.

It wasn’t long before we stopped once more to enjoy another snow covered scene. Here, we stood to watch the water of a narrow stream rush downhill under an artistic covering of ice. The icy blanket was precariously poised on the edge of a downward section of this body of water and I wondered what forces were holding it in place. Further along the trail, there was more sunlight filtering through the trees shining on a more open section of this winding tributary. Surrounded by snow covered banks there was still some magic to be found along the water.

Soon we reached the bridge that would take us across the stream, leaving us the choice of continuing along the Hodson Loop or taking the Rheault Easement to the top of the hill. We realized that we had never really done the Hodson Loop, so we decided to continue along the trail for some new sights and adventures.

This ended up being an excellent decision, for we now found ourselves snowshoeing through virgin snow. Odd that everyone continued uphill instead of trekking around the loop. We soon discovered that we weren’t the only ones who had come this way, for the area was full of turkey tracks. We followed the arrows half way around the loop before these rather large birds decided on a different route through the trees. At some point, we noticed cat prints running parallel with the turkeys but no signs of a confrontation. Then again, I’m not sure a cat could tackle a turkey.

The trail began to loop back along a stone wall. Although covered with snow, I could still follow the line of the wall running through the trees. It wasn’t long before we came full circle and soon reconnected with the common path that would take us back across the stream towards the entrance to the preserve. It was time to end our journey and prepare to host our St. Patrick’s Day Celebration with our neighbors.

 

A New Toy

It was that time of year again, when it was time to plan my next big quilt project. With the weekend temperatures in the single digits and very windy, no one was really motivated to set out on a hiking adventure. There was also the fact that a mid-March snowstorm was raging outside with an expected 12 to 18 inches of snow predicted. Of course the storm left us with the hope that we would be able to get in a final snowshoe event after the storm was over, but until the weather improved, it was best to work on a new quilt. This time around, I had a new toy to help me through the design phase.

Watching my attempts at drawing out my ideas on graph paper before ditching that and going on to use a combination of Microsoft Word, Excel and Paint, my husband had an inspiration for my birthday. Unfortunately, it lacked the element of surprise when the postman handed me, not the usual brown Amazon package but a cellophane wrapped box that someone had pulled off the shelf and slapped on a mailing label. I knew that box was my present for it had EQ7 Quilt Design Software printed on it. I texted a thank you to my spouse and promised that I would not tear of the cellophane until he came home.

Once the software was installed, I started playing with designs immediately (after all, every engineer knows that you play with the software first, then read the directions). In addition to being able to create your own blocks, the package included lots of set blocks, from traditional to modern, as well as border and sashing blocks. I selected some blocks and proceeded to remove or add lines to the blocks in order to create new shapes.

One of the best features about this software package, was the ability to scan my own fabrics into the package so that I could actually see the finished product. This feature made me realize that my original idea of using the beige floral print in the outer border just did not work for me. I played around with my other fabric choices and quickly decided that a green border would be best. When showing off my new toy to my daughter, she quickly rotated the pink blocks so that now I had a star in around the center portion of the quilt. That was much better than my haphazard arrangement.

Playing around a little more I noticed that when I set the block size, I could then see the yardage requirements and the cutting sizes for the blocks. What a great feature! But when I told someone I knew about my new software, she told me to be careful of the measurements generated by the program because they could be off. With this in mind, I decided I should make test blocks to test the accuracy of the cutting diagrams. Except for adding an 1/8 of an inch to the triangles, I kept all the other measurements the same and was pleased to find that I ended up with 11.5 inch blocks as planned.

The yardage requirements indicated that I would not have enough of the green for the border. I played with adding cornerstones and center pieces to fudge the green but everything I did still came up with needing a minimum of 2.25 yards of green fabric for the whole quilt and of course I only had 2 yards of the required fabric. For now, I hope that the package is generous with the fabric requirements but I have a feeling that I will need to buy another suitable green fabric for the border. Hmm! Shopping for new fabric is not a bad thing, is it?

 

One Last Winter Hike?

By beechhillfeb17-1the end of our snow filled weekend, the temperature climbed once more into the balmy region and the water poured off the roof as the snow began to melt. Three days were all we were going to have to enjoy some winter activities. With this in mind we decided to test the conditions of the trail up towards Beech Hill.

Beech Hill is not a long or difficult climb but it does offer some fantastic views from the top of the hill. As we walked around the field, beechhillfeb17-2the snow texture ranged from firm to slushy depending upon whether there was sun exposure or shade. Once the trail began its gentle ascent up the hill, it became more difficult to maneuver around the ruts and holes left by those who had gone before. We had to constantly watch the ground in order to avoid falling through the sometimes icy, sometimes slushy, uneven terrain.

Since the snowfalls over that week had been of the dry snow variety, there were beechhillfeb17-3many bare spots near the top of the hill where the wind had swept away the white carpet. This also applied to the trail, where the dirt patches had turned to mud with the warming temperatures. I was disappointed in the thought that “mud season” would soon be upon us, a condition that would limit our outings for the near future.

At the top of the hill, we looked out across the bay towards beechhillfeb17-4Acadia National Park and its snow covered mountains. It was quite windy on the open hilltop, so we lingered for a few minutes in the protection of the Beech Nut House veranda. Safely tucked away from the cold gusty breeze, I admired the line of mountains in the distance. We admired the views for a few minutes before heading back down the hill.

Halfway down the hill, I paused to admire the artistry of one more winter plant contrasted against the snow. I thought the beauty of all the seasons, even in the remains of this plant that would soon disperse those seeds and cover the hill with the beauty of spring.

Dusting off the Snowshoes

The ericksonfeb17-2first free day after our week of snow, we grabbed our snowshoes and headed out to Erickson Field. In the parking field we met a man who had just returned to his car for his snowshoes, informing us that they were definitely needed in walking along the trail. Since we move at a slower pace, we let him getericksonfeb17-1 ahead of us before setting off.

A pretty stiff wind was blowing across the field, and it was interesting watching the winter weeds dancing in the breeze. A lone mullein plant stood tall above the rest. Continuing on our way, we found that our snowshoes were a necessity in negotiating the meadow, for there had been very little traffic along this route. This was surprising, since it was now several days after the snowstorm and mostericksonfeb17-3 people in the area do like their outdoor activities. But then, we entered the woods and discovered the trail was packed down by those who had hit the trail before us. Interesting! The snowfall had been light and fluffy, so the wind across the open spaces was strong enough to erase any trace of previous use.

Once in the woods, we meandered along the loop trail stopping now and then to admire the beauty of some snow covered scene. The man we had met in the parking field passed us twice and we commented about his speed. He did claim that his dog was setting the pace, so we didn’t feel too bad about our progress. I do think that we had the better experience by keeping a stride that allowed us the time to enjoy the beauty around us. It certainly allowedericksonfeb17-4 us to notice the snow-capped mushrooms climbing up the remains of a birch tree!

When we finished the wooded loop and came back out to the meadow, we found that our tracks had also been swept away by the breeze. We stopped once more to enjoy the remains of some wild plants visible above the snow before completing our first and possibly only snowshoe adventure this winter.

 

Finally Winter

Winter stormfeb17-1arrived the weekend before Valentine’s Day when the first of 3 storms descended upon us within the span of one week. It started with about 8 inches of snow on Monday, followed by another 6 on Wednesday and ended with a blizzard on Sunday.  By the end of that week, the final totals seemed to be about 18 to 24 inches of snow.

Between the first two storms, I watched our backyard inhabitants scurrying about as they prepared for the final storm. Small creatures stormfeb17-2travelled back and forth between the two woodpiles as they carried food to the various compartments within. I was amused by a squirrel who occasionally popped up from the snow as he tried to reach the seeds beneath the birdfeeder. During all of this activity, I wondered if the wildlife exhibited the same human tendencies to stock up on large quantities of food before a storm (what is it about bread stormfeb17-3and milk anyway?).

As the final storm approached, everyone hunkered down for the duration. From our own safe harbor, we watched the falling snow block our view of the street as the winds increased. At times the world seemed to disappear. During the times when the wind died down, I spied one poor Cardinal hunched down on the birdfeeder and wondered if this was an indication that the storm would soon be over.

While we waited for the blustery weather to move on, we thought about dusting off our snowshoes in anticipation of finally participating in some winter activities. The snow ended on Monday evening but the best part of such a snowfall was watching the sunlight illuminate the landscape as it climbed over the ridge.