By July, the lush green vegetation was beginning to take on the yellow and burnt brown appearance of plants desperately in need of water. Finally, near the end of the month the rains came. The weather did slow us down a bit, but we did manage to squeeze in a short uphill walk at Beech Hill between the rains.
Beech Hill, located in Rockport, became a preserve of the Coastal Mountain Land Trust in 2003. In addition to a woodland and open field trail, the Trust runs an organic blueberry farm which supports the preserve and demonstrates organic farming practices. The lower portion of the hill has been kept as grassland, attracting a variety of birds to the area.
Since a member of the land trust had advised that an abundance of poison ivy was infringing on the woodland trail, our outing began at the base of the field trail. From the parking area, we had a brief walk through a wooded area before the trail entered the grasslands. The wild vegetation growing around a rock at the beginning of this walk, gave the appearance of having been arranged by a landscaper. We soon understood why this preserve has been listed on the Maine Birding Trail, for the air was filled with the sound of bird calls. Needless to say, we did not see a single one.
The path ran parallel to the road until we reached what was probably the original entrance to the hill. At this point the original stone posts on either side of this entrance have been removed for safety reasons and there are plans to refurbish them. There was a kiosk here, asking visitors not to pick the wood lilies since the flower helps to predict the arrival of the blueberries. On further research, I discovered that the wood lily seems to prefer growing in blueberry fields, reaching full bloom just as the blueberries are ready for harvest. So, it seems that this flower sends a clarion call that “the blueberries are ready, the blueberries are ready!” Sure beats the guess-work. And sure enough, wherever we found a wood lily, we also found a patch of ripe berries.
We continued our upward progress alongside the field, pausing occasionally in an attempt to locate and identify a bird. I must agree with my daughter here, who refers to all birds as silhouette birds since it is impossible to make out the color and markings of a bird that is back-lit by the sky. As we progressed, we noticed Fireweed growing on the wooded side of the trail. Somehow, I even managed to get a picture of the bee that was hovering near one of the flowers.
At the top of Beech Hill we reached the stone hut with a sod roof known as the Beech Nut Hut. This hut was built from 1913 to 1915 and served as a picnic spot for the owners. I sat on the stone ledge of the hut, imagining both what it took to haul these stones to the top of the hill and what it took for the servants to bring a picnic lunch up to the hut.
Normally, the views at the summit of Beech Hill look out towards the bay and the islands beyond. On this day, it was too overcast to see much. As we looked across the field, at the mountains beyond we knew that the rain had not yet finished for the day. As we drove away from the preserve, it began to rain.