With the schedule for the 4th of July weekend not holding much promise for a hike, I encouraged a walking buddy to join me for an exploration of the Viles Arboretum (also known as the Pine Tree State Arboretum) in Augusta. After the torrential rains of Tuesday, the forecast for that last Wednesday in June was for sunny skies and a hot afternoon. Perfect for a morning stroll.
We arrived at our destination around 10:30 with a plan in place for exploring the inner loop, or Viles Pond Trail first and then cutting over to the Outer Loop trail. Inside the Visitor’s Center, a gentleman at the information desk informed us that the boardwalk area of the Outer Loop was closed for repairs but there were a number of connecting trails not shown on the map. With this in mind, and map in hand, we headed on our way.
Outside the Visitor’s Center and throughout the nearby open field there were a number of granite sculptures. I was intrigued by one block of granite with a cluster of trees carved on both sides, so we stood for some time admiring it. As we continued through the field, we stopped at various points to study the additional interesting carvings along the trail.
The first plant grouping we encountered once we entered the woods, was the Hosta Collection. I never knew there were so many varieties of this plant. Some of the plants were laid out as border along one side of the trail, while on the opposite side of the trail the plants crept through the woods. It was hard to explain but even though the Hostas in the woods were laid out with some sort of structure, they still gave the sense of a free-form plan.
Our next stop was Viles Pond, where we watched a group of camp children catching dragonflies. When they were ready to move on, they kindly showed us their dragonfly before releasing it back near the pond. At some point I tried to get some pictures of a dragonfly but just as I got the thing in focus, it flew to a different nearby leaf. This went on for a few minutes until my companion started to laugh, pointing out that there were at least 30 dragonflies fluttering around behind me. I swear those little beasties were laughing at me too, but I finally succeeded in capturing one of them with my camera.
Once we completed the Viles Pond trail, we headed towards the Outer Loop. Here we passed through a meadow with various groupings of different hardwood trees. Entering the woods once more, we encountered the “larch collection” of trees. I was later informed that this tree is also known as the Tamarack, one of the few conifers to change color and shed its needles in the fall.
We walked through another meadow before encountering the entrance to a rather dark forest. We laughed and made comments about “a dark and stormy night”; the separation of bright meadow and dark woods being that stark. This section had a little more uphill areas than the rest of the park and it was clear that these woods were not a part of the structured areas, but we travelled on until we found trail signs directing us to additional groupings of trees.
After travelling through this strange world for a bit, we figured we were getting pretty close to the boardwalk so we took one of the connecting trails away from the Outer Loop. Since these connectors were not on the trail map, we did get a little disoriented when we ended up on what was possibly part of the inner loop until we saw the Visitor’s Center across the field. As we headed back towards the entrance, we saw a group of people walking across a boardwalk perpendicular to where we were standing. Hmm. Either the boardwalk was indeed open or other explorers disregarded the warnings. In any case we had a lovely 2 hours of discovery.