Shell Middens

Although shellmiddensep16-6the first week of September was cooler than the previous week, the humidity hovered near 80 to 90 percent covering the area with a grey oppressive mist. I eyed the ominous skies debating whether I really wanted to explore and risk getting caught in a downpour, before grabbing my raincoat and heading down to Damariscotta with my friend. shellmiddensep16-1Our destination was the Whaleback Shell Midden, an archaeological site that I was surprised my walking buddy had never been to, given her interest in Native American artifacts.

We decided to park at Round Top Farm and explore those trails before meandering along a connector path towards the Shell Midden preserve. Our journey at Round Top began on a lane mowed through the field that led down towards the Damariscotta River. As the area became a little damper we were surprised at the number of mosquitos we had to fight off. shellmiddensep16-2Who knew that by September we would still need netting to keep these hungry critters at bay? They certainly did not encourage any visitors from lingering at the picnic tables near the water. Although, the tables were also guarded by a rather grouchy looking ENT, glaring at those who might have had any thoughts of meditating here. Given shellmiddensep16-3the welcoming committee we encountered, we decided to move on.

After leaving this scene behind us, we continued along the loop towards the connector path. Due to the frequency of the mosquitos, we did not stop long at any one place to admire the asters, milkweeds or mulleins we found along the way. Our route took us through an old apple orchard as it looped back down towards the river. shellmiddensep16-4At the bottom of the orchard was an old bench swing situated directly across from the Whaleback Shell Midden. A midden is basically a heap of domestic waste, in this case the shell midden is a mound of oyster shells left by a native culture over 2000 years ago. The Whaleback Midden, named so because of its shape, was at one time over 30 feet high. Even from our spot on the opposite side of the river, the bright white mound across from us was impressive.

Soon, we continued back to the path. The trail began to loop back uphill, when I noticed a side trail that was a bit overgrown. My friend, too afraid of the possibility of ticks, stayed on the lane while I decided to explore. I reached a wooden overlook and called to her to come see what I had found, promising her that it would be worth her while. She groaned a bit about the vegetation on the trail shellmiddensep16-5but soon joined me on the platform to look down at a smaller example of a shell midden on this side of the river. She happily took some pictures of this shell mound before we pushed our way back to the lane.

Our journey took us back through a field of golden rod and milkweed before joining with the connector that would take us back to Round Top Farm. The entire walk was about 40 minutes. Returning to the car, we noticed that the Round Top Ice Cream building was situated between the two preserves, so we decided to reward our efforts with a sweet snack before heading home.

 

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