The forecast was showing some unpleasant weather for the upcoming 10 days and though we desperately needed the rain I wanted to get in some outdoor time before that happened. While poking around online, looking for places to walk, I had discovered the Augusta Nature Education Center. I did notice that there were 3 schools surrounding the nature center which made be a little skeptical about the quality of the “nature experience” but I decided it might be worth taking the hour drive to explore the area anyway.
A trail map displayed a maze of trails, so I decided that it would be wise to print one out before setting out on my explorations. The drive to Augusta was uneventful and it was easy to find one of the 8 or more parking areas used to access the trails. I parked at area 4 and at this point discovered that my trail map was where??? At home, on the kitchen table of course. Fortunately, trail maps were posted on many of the directional posts throughout the center. Not knowing this ahead of time, I snapped a picture of the map at the parking area so I could refer to it along the way. To be doubly sure that I would not get lost, I took photos of the posts at each intersection I encountered. Modern technology is a wonderful thing.
I had decided ahead of time that I would walk a loop around Whitney Brook. This route would take me along Witch Hazel to South Brookside, North Brookside and across the river, where I would use the Whitney Brook Trail to return back to the parking area. My first discovery as I set out on the Witch Hazel Trail, was a well-constructed lean-to under the trees. The overcast skies and the tinge of color scattered about hinted that Autumn had begun.
By the brook I reached an intersection and turned left for the South Brookside Trail. As the trail narrowed and vegetation encroached upon the path, I thought that I either made a wrong turn or this section of path was abandoned. But, being stubborn, I travelled on. The path eventually got wider and I came to the next directional post pointing to the Quarry Road Trail or Deadman’s Cave. Naturally, I had to explore Deadman’s Cave. The trail map looked like there might be a way to continue past this structure and meet up with North Brookside Trail. Naturally, I found no easy way to get up to the ridge.
Forced to turn back, I made my way to the post that would point the way to the Quarry Road Trail. Once up on the ridge, I looked down at the open area I had just left. It seemed a good place to reflect for a few minutes on the beauty around me before continuing my explorations. I’m not sure at this point if I took North Brookside or Lower Hemlock. I do know that I eventually came to a path that seemed to follow the perimeter of the Nature Center. I followed this over the bridge and turned right on the Whitney Brook Trail.
The Whitney Brook Trail was a wide, grass covered path, lined by trees that were beginning to take on the yellows and reds of the season. I turned on to a side trail that designated a waterfall view. What was supposed to be a small flow of water down over some boulders was now a shallow stream that barely trickled over the rocks. As I approached my starting point, I found a cluster of round mushrooms growing along the ground. I concluded my walk, pleasantly surprised to find a quality nature experience so near the center of a city.
On my return home, I travelled through the Augusta turn-around at least twice since I kept missing the exit that pointed to Route 17. Actually, at one point I went through the turn-around across the bridge to the second turn-around, found a place to return over the bridge and finally made it to the correct road. This was the only mishap (other than forgetting the trail map) of the day.