The snows of November gave way to the rains of December. There were times we believed the sun would never shine again, for each day brought the greyness of rain, fog and/or clouds. Occasionally this dullness would be sprinkled with a light dusting of snow. So finally, when the sun peaked through a small break in the clouds, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and headed about 30 miles southwest. It was interesting to discover what a difference such a short distance can make in the weather patterns. Here we found a few inches of snow covering the ground, as opposed to the mud season we were experiencing just a little further north along the coast.
Our destination for this outing was the Hidden Valley Nature Center located in Jefferson Maine. Started in 2007 by a husband and wife team, Hidden Valley encompasses 1000 acres and offers 30 miles of trails for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. The goal of the Center stated from the website, is (1) To offer premier opportunities for outdoor, non-motorized recreation; (2) To offer educational opportunities related to the natural world, ecological literacy, and sustainable communities; and (3) To model innovative and sustainable forestry practices.
We located the center on an isolated road, parked in the dirt parking lot and walked a short distance to the kiosk. Along the way, we met a couple attempting to ski on a trail that was covered with ice crusted snow. They did mention that the skiing was not great along the back area of the preserve where the snow cover was patchy. We wished them luck, then turned to examine the map to plan our hike. Once again, we had chosen to start hiking in the afternoon hours, so knowing we had a limited amount of time before we lost daylight, we selected the shortest loop trail and began our journey.
Our route for this trip took us to the Welcome Center. My husband explored the timber-frame structure while I studied a boulder covered with several types of moss, ferns and other identified plant life. Soon we continued on our way, turning on to a trail that would lead us to the Kidney Pond Loop. The trail conditions here confirmed the assessment of the skiers we had met earlier. Even without skies, we found some spots were icy enough to need micro-spikes while other areas were too wet and muddy for winter accessories.
Between half frozen ponds and plant life peeking through the snow, we found plenty to study as we made our way around the pond. But alas, we soon had to call it a day as the light began to fade. We left the center knowing that we would be back for further explorations.