Viewing my Home like a Tourist

In the middle of June, I paused my nature explorations and decided to try and really see my local area; to try and discover what wows the tourist when they visit the area. At first, I thought this would be difficult, since a tourist town along the coast seems to exist only to lure visitors into the stores along the main street. But what else would they be looking for when they finally got away from the downtown area?

My first stop was Rockport Harbor; a small port that might be a bit of a challenge for a non-local to find but worth the effort. The driveway towards the harbor was quite steep and angled in a way that would not allow a right turn (there are signs about no right turn in place), so if someone were approaching from that direction it would require finding a place to turn around. However, there was a park with a small parking area across the street with a set of stairs that went down and under the road (I think it connected to the park but I did not explore that option).

At the Marine Park, I found a few interesting items to study, in addition to watching the boating activities on the water. Rockport was a prominent location of the lime industry back in the 19th century, and here was a nod to that history, with the presence of some remaining kilns and a locomotive used to transport the lime. There were some plaques near these structures informing visitors of this history.

Nearby, was the most popular statue of all; a dedication to Andre the Seal. With book and movie credits to his name, he became quite famous in the local area.

I wandered a bit more around the park. It certainly was a place to be lulled into a peaceful state of mind. I even found the perfect place to sit and watch the activities on the water.

My next stop was Rockland Harbor, similar in activity level to Camden but with a slightly different feel. Tucked into a corner near the police station was Buoy Park, a dedication to the maritime history of the area. It was a small park with around a half dozen different types of buoys scattered around the grass. From here, I had excellent views of the water. In one direction I could see the Rockland Breakwater lighthouse and in the other direction I could spot a gazebo across the channel.

After studying this area of the harbor, I proceeded to stroll along the beautiful walkway that follows the curve of the harbor. For this visit, I headed towards the Sail, Power and Steam Museum. The trail went through Merrill Park, notable for the Fisherman’s Memorial anchor near the bandstand. As I approached the YMCA, I stopped to watch a row of pigeons sitting along the fence. Once they all flew off, I continued to the end of the railroad line. Nearby was a sphere constructed from railroad spikes.  A plaque nearby informed me that “Ridin the Rails to Rockland” was created in 2013. I played around with trying to photograph the beach roses through the gaps in the sphere before returning back towards Buoy Park and home.

Hiking on a Hot Day

By early June, we had already experienced some hot weather in Maine. The Memorial Day weekend brought temperatures in the mid-80s, which was pretty early for a heat wave in this area. But we were not done yet. Since June 4th the temperatures had been steadily rising and by June 6th it was scheduled to hit 91 degrees.

One might ask what we were thinking when my hiking buddy and I decided to take a hike on that day. The answer was we weren’t thinking at all. The original intention, was to take what we thought would be a short walk to the area were the False Green Hellebores were growing. I wanted to view the plant while it was flowering, since I missed that occasion so many times. I suppose one week may not have made a difference, but, as I said we were not thinking.

How hot and uncomfortable was it that day? Our first clue should have been when we passed the Multi-use trailhead in Lincolnville and found the parking lot empty on a Sunday. When we arrived at the Tanglewood Preserve, we were the only car in sight. Still, we hit the trail and hoped to complete our quest as quickly as possible.

Shortly into our trek, it got pretty buggy and we were forced to get out the DEET. As we walked, the air just seemed to get more oppressive, so we were forced to stop as often as we could. It helped that a number of toads and a snake obliged in this. I let my buddy take as long as she needed to capture their images before they disappeared in the surrounding vegetation.

When we finally reached the patch of False Green Hellebores, we almost did not see them for other plants had grown around them. It was surprising that we did not see them at first, since the plant grows to 5 feet or more but all the shades of green just blended in together.

After getting a few shots of the flower we trudged back up the trail towards home. Considering how the heat took its toll, we agreed that making the journey to see these flowers had not been worth it. The plant was much prettier when it was still leafing out. What was worth the journey, was the pair of eagles that flew just overhead as they followed the river towards the coast.

Back at the parking lot, only one other car showed that someone else had braved the heat. As we drove home, we noticed that every trailhead we passed was completely devoid of cars. I guess we were the only idiots who decided it was a good idea to hike in those conditions. This current heat wave topped out at 95 degrees the next day. Two days after that we were back to more comfortable temperatures. After one more hike in the heat, we decided that we were done exerting ourselves during heat waves.

Goose River Peace Corps Preserve

One of my walking buddies pointed out a Midcoast Conservancy program that she thought might be interesting. It was called Wednesday Wanders Hiking Series that was to run from May to October. Unfortunately, the day and time did not work for us, so we decided to do our own “wander” of the Midcoast Conservancy preserves.

For our first exploration, we decided to visit the Goose River Peace Corps Preserve and the Mill Pond Preserve across the street. I warned my friend that the last time I had visited these preserves the mosquitos were pretty ferocious and she should come prepared. With all the necessary precautions taken care of, we made our way to The Goose River preserve in Waldoboro. We found the park without any problem since the Conservancy had posted new signs which were clearly visible from the road. It was a nice improvement.

The trail map at the kiosk indicated that this would be a loop with a spur near the end that would lead to the Mill Pond Preserve across the road. As we proceeded on our walk, I started to take the loop to the left trying to remember my steps from years before. I second guessed myself and turned us around to take the loop in the counter-clockwise direction instead. This may have been a mistake, since right away new growth was encroaching on the trail. Fortunately, it only lasted a very short time.

Once we passed this section, we travelled along a beautiful forest path. To our delight the area was covered with Blue-bead Lilies and Lady Slippers as far as we could see into the forest. It was a wonder to behold!

Our journey eventually took us towards the Goose River. When we reached the snowmobiler’s bridge I realized that my first hunch at the start of our walk had been correct. Oh well, I guess that meant that this time I saw things from a different perspective. It did give us some wonderful views of the river, and I stopped a few times (as long as the mosquitos would allow) to listen to the flowing water. Near the end of the loop, we found a spot where the river had pooled into a small pond, which was also very pretty.

From the loop, we headed across the street to examine the Mill Pond Preserve. The trail here, was a little more closed in then the Goose River. Although not muddy, there was just enough left of the mucky areas to encourage the mosquitos to hover around us and be annoying. I had donned my head net early on in this adventure, but my friend was not as prepared.

We made it to the pond, stopping long enough to note that water lilies were beginning to bloom. My friend was not in a hurry to stay, so we moved on rather quickly. Fortunately, it was a short trail and we were back at the kiosk soon. We enjoyed the abundance of flowers in the beginning, but I was afraid my friend thought that this trail was a bit more rustic than she was used to so I was not sure how many of these preserves we would actually visit.

Summer Bypass Trail

Several times during our various trips up the front end of the Camden Hills Multi-use Trail, we had discussed the possibility of exploring the Summer Bypass Trail. This trail first intersected the road shortly after the one mile marker and then again just before the second mile marker, directly across from the discontinued Spring Brook Trail. On June 1st, we decided it was time to carry through on this discussion.

After greeting the ranger at the entrance and showing our passes, we walked past several campsites and on towards the trail. It had been a while since we had tackled this incline and we were certainly feeling it. We stopped to admire the Solomon Seals before reaching the trail, after a few feet on the trail we paused at the Megunticook Trail to study the bridge, and again a few more yards later at the water tower.  Obviously we were severely out of shape but even at our best this incline section of the road was a killer. I am sure we paused several more times before reaching the mile marker but I lost count.

Finally, we reached “mile 1”. Just a little further and we were at the Summer Bypass. Looking past the trail sign into the woods, I noticed that the path did not look well used and hoped that it wasn’t too difficult. The vegetation did push in a bit in spots, particularly the nearby branches of young trees, and one did have to watch out for roots but it wasn’t too bad. These factors slowed as down enough to notice that the forest was quite lovely.

Along the forest floor, we noticed plenty of Canada Mayflowers and Eastern Starflowers, now almost done for the season. When a splash of yellow caught my attention, I noticed that it was some kind of buttercup. It was very tiny. Later, I identified it as a Hooked Buttercup.

We soon reached a stream which I assumed was one of the tributaries of Spring Book. There were no planks across, so we paused a moment to calculate our stepping options. It was then that I noticed the brown-tailed caterpillar on the shoulder of my shirt. I may have become a little hysterical as I yelled at my husband to flick it off, but that was just what I did when these things happen. He disposed of this nasty little caterpillar immediately, his 8th execution this trip. The brown-tailed caterpillars (which cause a nasty, itchy rash) had invaded the park. After this unpleasant diversion, we crossed the stream and continued our exploration.

As our journey continued, we noticed that the Indian Cucumber Root was beginning to bloom. With the flower hanging underneath the upper cluster of leaves one could walk past without even noticing. Here there were quite a few clusters of these interesting plants.

When we reached what we assumed was the actual Spring Brook, the crossing was a little trickier. It was wider here and the opposite side went a bit uphill. It called for some delicate maneuvering, but we made it and continued on through some muddy sections before reaching the Multi-use Road once more.

Before heading back down the road, we sat at a picnic table near the Ski Shelter and just listened to the peaceful flowing of the brook. We did wonder why it was called a Summer Bypass. The Multi-use Trail was certainly drier and more level (relatively speaking) than the Bypass. There had been very little rain this year so things were only a bit muddy. If there had been a normal amount of rainfall, I don’t know how easy it would have been to cross the brook with water rushing through it. These question would have to wait for another day. For now, it was enough that we were out in the woods, discovering new flowers and exploring a new trail.

New June Discoveries

After slowing down and really observing nature over the last year, I find that I am still discovering new things. On a recent walk up Beech Hill, not only are unique flowers catching my eye, but I am beginning to notice subtle differences between similar plants. Take the Meadow Pea and the Birds-foot Trefoil for example. The flower of both plants is identical, right down to the subtle dark streaks on the crown of the blossom, but I finally discovered the trick for telling them apart. Look to the leaves. The leaves of the Meadow Pea come in pairs from the stem, but the leaves of Birds-foot Trefoil are clustered in threes and actually look like a bird’s foot. Amazing!

Near the beginning of the uphill climb of this road, I find an interesting bushy type plant with small pink and white flowers. My research suggests it is a Spreading Dogbane. As I continue up the path towards the Beech House, I notice the area is covered with Whorled Loosestrife. I don’t think I have ever seen this flower locally, but here it was covering the field.  

Midway up the hill a plant with an interesting shaped leaf and a small yellow bud catches my eye. Again my research suggests that this is a Rough Cinquefoil. I find it interesting that this flower will bloom much later than the Common Cinquefoil that has been blooming by the roadsides for quite some time now.

Finally, I stop to admire a plant that looks like it has a combination of yellow flowers, as well as red. That seems really odd. It isn’t until a find a deeper red plant that I realize that this is the Cypress Spurge going to seed. The yellow flowers are fading and are replaced with red seed pods. This plant is new to me this year, for I first observed this flower during a walk up this hill in May.

I am enjoying my nature studies; the discovering and observing of all the new growth around me. Hopefully, I am getting better at it, and hoping you are discovering new things too.