Although all traces of ice and snow had finally vanished, trail conditions were still not ideal since the Winter snows had given way to Spring rains. Consequently, when the sun reluctantly made its appearance for the first time in 9 days, I searched for a new place to walk that would be relatively free of mud. For guidance in selecting my walk, I consulted my favorite sources; Best Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine, Best Seashore Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine, the Maine Trail Finder website and the Healthy Maine Walks website where I discovered the Neil W. Lash Nature Trail.
Originally called the Medomak Valley Nature Trail, this hidden little gem behind the Medomak Valley High School was the vision of a local teacher, Neil W. Lash. He wanted a trail that could be enjoyed by all, including those with physical disabilities. Due to this dream, the trail opened in 2008 as the Medomak Valley Nature Trail. In 2011, it was rededicated as the Neil W. Lash Nature Trail.
After a 30 minute drive, I parked in the school parking lot, made my way between the athletic fields and entered the woods. Once in the woods, it was hard to imagine that there was sport activity going on just a few yards away. Sounds of human activity diminished, replaced by the occasional complaints of birds and the rather raucous noise of peepers.
Although the trail was mostly a fine crushed gravel, there was still wet spots that required some careful navigation due to the recent rains. The path paralleled some wet areas for a time before heading uphill, away from the wetlands and the peepers. Encountering an intersection at the top of the hill, I decided to head right. Along the way I spied the first butterfly of the season. I normally don’t have much luck observing things that won’t sit still, but this Mourning Cloak paused long enough for me to really enjoy its presence.
Ultimately, the path ended at the far end of the ball field. Turning back towards the woods I retraced my steps, continuing past the intersection that had deposited me on this trail. Even though the hardwood tress were still devoid of leaves, there was plenty of new pine growth to add color along the way.
This secret, little place was definitely designed with the intent to get people in tune with nature. Along the path there were places to pause, allowing the visitor to meditate on the gifts that nature bestows upon us. There were benches placed by a running stream. On another portion of the trail, birdhouses lined the path. I suppose if I sat long enough on the seating provided at the beginning of birdhouse row, I would eventually be rewarded.
It seemed all too soon that the trail ended behind the adjacent middle school. Retracing my steps back towards the trail intersection I spotted a splash of yellow. Looking closely, I found my first wildflower sighting of the season; a tiny coltsfoot tucked into last Fall’s leaf litter.