Vaughan Woods

For those visiting Vaughan Woods, please follow the preserve guidelines and parking rules.

 

With VaughanAug16.1the humidity down and my youngest soon to be flying from the nest once more, I decided that it would be nice to share a mother daughter hike before she traveled on to greater things. Knowing my outdoor limitations, I thought a stroll through Vaughan Woods in Hallowell would be the perfect place for an exploration, so we hit the road early and began the hour drive inland. We did not anticipate that this would be an adventure even before we hit the trail. August is the height of tourist season, but somehow the road gods have decided that this is the best time to repair the roads, probably to bring angst to the greatest number of people. After driving through 2 one lane sections of road and obeying a detour sign that placed me on the wrong side of the bridge to the parking area (causing me to back track), we finally found the preferred parking area and headed into the woods.VaughanAug16.2

We soon found ourselves on a wide, well maintained dirt path. Although sections of the forest floor showed the dried, cracked earth of the dry summer, the tree canopy was still lush and green. The mulched trail and the thick wood was certainly a peaceful setting for a walk. The added bonus was the number of photo opportunities that slowed my daughter down enough for me to keep up (or maybe she was being kind to her dear, old mother).VaughanAug16.3

After a short time, we came to a field with a single, majestic tree keeping guard over its domain. As I looked out over the meadow of yellow flowers, Wordsworth’s “host of golden daffodils” came to mind but in this case it would have to be a host of yellow goldenrod. It looked like there were several paths running through the field and we were not quite sure which way one would take deposit us on the correct trail. With no trail markers and VaughanAug16.5several routes that my daughter referred to as “social trails”, we picked the most likely looking path and soon found ourselves back in the woods.

We strolled along until we came to a stone bridge. We made our way down to the banks of a lovely pool with a small waterfall flowing over the rocks. It was a lovely place to soak in the magical atmosphere while my daughter spent a few minutes taking pictures. Done with our rest, we crossed over the bridge to continue our journey.

At some point we came to another intersection near another meadow. This didn’t seem to correspond with my trail map but we opted to cross the field only to find ourselves in the second parking lot. VaughanAug16.4We turned around, turned towards the second option and found a bridge spanning a gorge. Again I rested while my daughter explored. Another family was poking around the rocks and water as well. They were very happy to see me with a trail map since they had been making wrong turns at the trail junctions. I informed them that even with the map we ended up in the wrong place but they could certainly study it and hoped they had better luck.

Done with our explorations we continued on our way back to the car. It had been a wonderful 1.5 to 2 hour stroll.

 

Sears Island

Early in SearsIslandAug16.1August, I picked up one of my hiking buddies and headed for a midweek jaunt to Sears Island. My friend is into the history of a pre-Columbian culture known as the Red Paint People and she thought we might locate some evidence of their existence on the island. Checking the tides for Sears Island (since parts of the beach become impassable as the tide comes in), I scheduled our arrival just before the 11am low tide and well before the 2pm rains.

My thought was that we would walk along the beach to the Blue Trail, returning to the car via the dirt road running through the middle of the island. After parking the car along the causeway, we immediately headed down to SearsIslandAug16.7the beach to begin our explorations. I soon discovered that this side of Sears Island was a cobble beach which made walking a little bit difficult. I realized what my daughter meant when she told me to wear my hiking boots because there were ankle twisting rocks along the beach.

Even though the early part of our stroll wasn’t too difficult, we still needed to watch out step along the rocks. We meandered along the beach while my friend told me some fascinating “spirit stories” of the local tribes. SearsIslandAug16.4Soon, we discovered a driftwood hut perched near a grassy area slightly above the beach. I had seen pictures of this structure on other blogs and it was kind of interesting to note the changes in the structure as the years went by. It would seem that some visitors have added to this shelter over time.

As we walked slowly along the beach, my friend picked up various smooth, indented rocks and showed me how these stones could have been used as tools by the native population. SearsIslandAug16.2She really tried hard to have me imagine how the stone could fit into the palm of someone’s hand and be used for grinding grain or scraping or hammering. Unfortunately, I only saw a stone. However, I did find an interesting stone with lines etched into it that I could imagine was writing ofSearsIslandAug16.3 some kind.

After traveling for an hour over the uneven layer of rocks beneath our feet we thought we should be getting close to the Blue Trail. A few people behind us, called to us and asked if we knew how much further to the trail as they were getting tired. We could not tell where we were on the map, since not all the little coves were marked. A woman coming the other way informed us that we were probably another hour from the trailhead. Hearing this the party that had asked the question decided to turn back. I looked at my friend and urged her on, promising that we would stop for a snack break before we headed to the interior of the island.

AlthoughSearsIslandAug16.5 my friend started to complain a little, we trudged on. We did stop occasionally to admire the circular formation of the rocks beneath our feet, and a small cave that was probably formed by the tides. Every time we rounded another bend we expected to see the trail but continued to be disappointed. A few people told us we needed to look for the blue buoys that marked the trail beyond the second cove. Finally 2 hours from the car, I asked a woman if we were close to the trail. She pointed around the curve and told me it was right there. Sure enough, a string of buoys marked the trail; a trail that would not have been visible otherwise.

We sat on a rather large log and enjoyed the view while we ate our snack. Heading into the interior of the island, I noticed the first part of the trail was lined with ferns and conifers.SearsIslandAug16.6Some trimming had been done recently, for I noticed cluster of green branches on the ground with one bright red leaf resting in the middle. It wasn’t long before the Blue Trail intersected with the dirt road.

We travelled along this path for almost an hour, noting the berry bushes along each side and the stone walls further in the woods. Occasionally, we felt a few drops of rain and hoped we could make it back to the car before the rain set in. At 2:07 we were 10 to 15 feet away from the car when the heavens opened with a torrential rain. We were drenched before we reached our destination. It had been a great day of discoveries and exploration, although a bit wet near the end.

 

Pleasant Point Nature Preserve

Temperatures PleasantPointAug16.5had turned more pleasant by the second day of August, so I thought it would be a great day for another solo adventure. Already there were subtle signs signaling the end of a season; ferns and wild sarsaparilla were tinged yellow, tree leaves were not as dark as they had been the month before, the birch tree at the end of our driveway was dropping its leaves, the top of the neighbor’s burning bush had begun the transition to a yellowish-rust color and I even noticed the occasional tree top with a rusty tinge. There would still be plenty of warm days well into September, but the signs were there and I wanted to see what surprises I would find in a woodland setting. With this in mind I set out for Pleasant Point, a wooded preserve down the Cushing PleasantPointAug16.2peninsula.

Pleasant Point Nature Preserve consists of 1.5 miles of trails in 3 loops. My plan was to begin walking the middle loop to the intersection with the eastern most loop, and on my return, continue along the center loop to the western loop, bypassing the common trail adjoining these last 2 loops. At least that was the plan.

The first part of the path was a bit close but I tucked my pants into my socks, gritted my teeth and went through what I hoped was not a tick infested area. For the most part, this area was well marked with blue blazes, so I had no trouble figuring out which direction to take. Soon, I reached an interesting rock ledge. I stopped briefly to look at a mostly green plant with one single red leaf before continuing on into the woods. PleasantPointAug16.1The ground cover here was mostly bunch berries displaying numerous clusters of red berries; the splash of brilliant red standing out in the shadowed woodland.

At some point, I realized that I had been walking further than what seemed reasonable to reach the junction with the eastern loop. This worried me a bit, but since this was a loop, I figured I couldn’t get too lost. Soon I reached a turn that I thought might lead me to the eastern, swamp section. I studied the map and turned left on to the new trail. After a few minutes of not finding the boardwalk section listed on the map, I realized I must have missed the first intersection that would have taken me there and had continued on to the fork for the western loop. No problem, I would just finish this loop and try again when I reached the center loop. This was okay until I reached an open area surrounded by trees with no trail markers and no trail. PleasantPointAug16.4I retraced a dozen steps back into the woods, turned around and saw a blue blaze just before that glade. Heading back into this area, I looked around and… no markers and no trail. I was beginning to have visions of being completely lost on a 1.5 mile trail, never to be seen again but I squashed that thought and looked around the clearing. I stood for a minute studying the area and thought I saw a trail through the almost waist high ferns. I made my way through them and entered the woods on the other side, where I found another blue marker. I was saved!

I thought I might PleasantPointAug16.3actually be on the trail that joined the two loops, so when I reached the next intersection I turned right. Things began to look familiar once more and I realized I was back on the center loop. Soon I saw a marker drawn like a “T” on one of the trees. It was big enough that I am not sure how I missed it the first time, but turning left on to this trail I soon found the boardwalk that took me to the eastern-most loop.

Here, the ground was covered with pine needles and moss. There was an abundance of yellow mushrooms on this section, many in small clusters of 3 or more. A small rise in elevation led me to a grassy spot with the most perfect sitting rock; a great place for observation and a snack. I continued along this loop, enjoying the idyllic scenery (perhaps my favorite loop since I was no longer lost) and was soon back across the boardwalk and on the center loop. I had been out in the woods about an 1.5 hours but what an adventure it had been.

Rheault Easement

Nearing HodsonJul16.3the end of July, we decided on a hike close to home that would provide some exercise but also leave time to complete some necessary chores. The Rheault Easement at Hodson Preserve, a place we had explored a mere 6 months after my hip replacement, seemed the perfect place.  It had rained during the night, and although the day promised to be hot and humid, we did not arrive at the trailhead until mid-morning.

The first part of the trail descends into a dark wood before following a stream. Moss covered rocks littered the area, both in the flowing waterHodsonJul16.1 and on either side of the path. This wet portion of the preserve combined with the high humidity did nothing to quell the mosquito population. Consequently, we did not linger too long in any one place. Our observations were noted to each other as we moved along, hoping to reach higher ground before we were carried away.HodsonJul16.4

The rain from the night before had encouraged the fungus population and it did seem that most of our discoveries during this trip centered on this life form. Along the stream, we found a log covered with an interesting brown fungus with white edges. After we crossed the stream to begin our ascent towards the summit, we found tiny, white, lacy edged mushrooms. We also noted that small button shaped mushrooms seemed to be everywhere.

The air became oppressive during our climb which made it a bit difficult to breathe. I tried to keep moving, hoping to outpace the bugs but at some point I just had to stop. I did not recall having this much trouble during our first visit so soon after my surgery, but then it was early spring so I am going to say there was less humidity and not admit that 3 years later I was out of shape.

At HodsonJul16.2some point, the moss and dirt floor gave way to a blanket of pine needles. We also lost the biting bugs as we left the stream behind us. This allowed us to pause occasionally to study the world around us. Maneuvering around several stone walls, we stopped by one wall to reflect on a tree punctured with woodpecker holes. The last time we were here, those holes were fresh. Time had dried the wounds, leaving a face with large eyes and an O-shaped mouth embedded in the tree.

Since it was the HodsonJul16.5height of farming season, we still did not reach the summit of the Rheault Easement. The “trail closed” sign informing us of the end of our journey. Shaded by the woods, we stood by an open field, enjoying the sun-drenched view for a bit before turning around.

Making our descent back towards the damp, bug infested portion of the trail we decided to save the Hodson Loop for another time. We have yet to do this loop but considering that the loop trail stays pretty close to the water, and we did not wish to feed the mosquitos any more that day, we decided it would be wiser to explore this loop in the fall. Near the end of our journey, we discovered one more unusual fungus specimen. A small, purple life form reminiscent of an anemone. A tiny gift of beauty to finish out trip.

Camden Bog

The BogJul.1humid weather broke for a few days, after my walk along the Little River Community Trail. Although the weather was pleasant, I did not feel up to another expedition on my own but I still felt the urge to get out and explore. Where to go?

I remembered a spot I had passed a number of times while completing various errands around town. Tucked in a residential area between two houses was an official looking, wooden park sign that simply said “The Bog Natural Area”. I often wondered about this and decided that the Camden Bog just might be the ideal spot for a short exploration.BogJul.3

Parking just in front of some stones at the beginning of the trail I proceeded to explore. Bird calls sounded all around me, so I stopped in an attempt to catch some sight of these songsters. Of course, the only bird I saw was a chipping sparrow who would not sit still long enough for a picture. Not being the patient sort to sit with a camera and wait for the perfect moment I moved on.

As IBogJul.2 reached the edge of the bog, the trail veered slightly to the right. A woman was approaching, walking a small, puffy dog that had a slight resemblance to a fox. It may have been a Pomeranian, I’m not sure. I do know it was the most well-groomed dog I have ever seen.The woman and I chatted for a bit, before going our separate ways; I tucking under a branch to continue my explorations, while BogJul.4she headed back towards the road.

I paused, facing the bog to study the different plants around me. I found an interesting reed with a fuzzy top. Another plant had gone to seed, with interesting peapod shaped seeds. Most of the pods had turned brown but I did find one that was still green. I was mesmerized by the intricate design on the underside of some Queen Anne’s Lace. The wooded side of the trail sported yellow clusters of St. John’s-Wort.

Done exploring this area, I turned to continue only to find the end of the trail. I had walked no more than 10 minutes and had gone maybe 600 feet from the road. A very short walk indeed but rich in the gifts it had to offer.