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Mowry Beach

Once my boots were mostly dry and we had eaten dinner, we agreed to walk off our meal at Mowry Beach in Lubec. This would be a short walk on a boardwalk that curved its way from the beach, through a bog, and on to the local school. We could have extended our walk by exploring the beach but it would be getting dark soon, so we would not be able to find shells and sea glass in the dimming light. Plus, neither one of us liked walking on sand.

I did walk the short path through a hedge of Beach Rose and Dame’s Rocket just to admire the views for a moment. Walking back through the parking area, we located the boardwalk and set off towards the school.

We soon observed that sunset was an ideal time to be walking here. The red hues of the vegetation really stood out during this time of day. We paused a few times to study some of the interesting plants along the way. We discovered a small plant with a spike of white and purple striped flowers. It was difficult for me to identify at first because I could not tell if there were 3 or 4 petals but once we were sure that there were 4 petals I thought we had found some Common Speedwell. I also found a shrub with an umbral of white buds but I had no access to the flower characteristics so I wasn’t sure what it could be. Although, given the cluster of flowers I thought it might be some type of viburnum.

As we approached the end of the boardwalk, the sun was beginning to set behind the school. The beauty of the red-hued darkening sky caused me to reflect on our adventures. I was glad we had made this trip and, despite my complaints and difficulties I did have a good time. I discovered many beautiful gifts of natures. I also pushed myself beyond my endurance and survived.  I would definitely make this trip again. After all, there were so many trails we had not explored.

Next time however, we will make some changes. I will explore the options for lightweight, waterproof hiking boots or bring my sturdier boots. Better yet, I will bring more than one pair of shoes. We will also explore visiting in late summer or early fall (August, September time-frame) when conditions are drier and the bug population is not as high. We might consider gaiters for hiking to prevent pine needles from finding there way into our shoes and also help with keeping our feet drier when the water is high enough to top out our boots. I guess it all amounts to the old adage of being prepared.

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Quoddy Lighthouse State Park

Although the rain had ended, the fog had not lifted. And though, we had great views of the rocky coast right from the house, there was only so much tide watching even I could tolerate. We waited a little while to see if the fog would lift, before we chose to venture out and explore the Quoddy Lighthouse State Park.

The fog was pretty thick here, shrouding the bay and Grand Manan Island. As the mist drifted across West Quoddy Lighthouse, we almost felt like we were perched at the edge of a mystical world. After watching the wisps of mist and fog for a bit, it was time to hit the trail.

My first thought was that we would explore the Bog Trail, then return to the lighthouse and explore the Coast Guard Trail. These would be relatively short, easy hikes to begin the day. After that we would decide if we wanted to attempt the Thompson Trail and loop back on the Coastal Trail. I had done an inland / coastal loop just a few day prior and I just wasn’t sure I wanted to do that again

The path to the Bog Trail did follow the coast so we did have some limited views of the water. The rock formations looked a bit eerie partially covered by the fog. Due to the rain from the previous two days, there were some places where waterfalls had formed and were now pouring down the rocks towards the Gulf of Maine.

After about half a mile we reached the Bog Trail. This took us away from the coast but we thought it would be a nice diversion. Not far into the trail, there were a few wet spots. We really did try and stay on the designated path, but being that my boots were not waterproof and I had hiked 2 days with wet feet, we opted to follow some clearly defined social trails created by those who had gone before. This section wasn’t the worst we had encountered so we continued on. In a few places bog bridges helped us cross the muddier portions of the trail. We did have to proceed with caution since the boards were damp and slippery from the weather.

Once we reached the bog, we walked along a boardwalk that looped around the area. The first thing I noticed were Pitcher Plants. I had never seen so many in one place before. We also found an abundance of Labrador Tea and what I believed was Bog Laurel. I assumed most of the plants were done flowering, but I was still able to identify Sundew plants and Baked Apple Berry.

When we were done studying the vegetation we returned to the Bog Trail. This would take us back to the main network or trails. I should have gone with my original plan to go back to the lighthouse to explore the 1 mile Coast Guard loop but somehow I found myself turning on to the Thompson Trail. I was not committed to hiking the inland and coastal loop.

As we walked along the Thompson Trail we encountered more numerous wet spots. Again we used the social trails in order to keep dry. Once we made it to the Coastal Trail I thought I was home free, but alas, that was not the case. Not only were the muddy sections more frequent but they became longer. As I was making my way across one of these section, I tested a patch of mud. It seemed firm so I went ahead and put my weight on it. After sinking about an inch or two above my ankle, my beloved heard my sweet little voice proclaim, “I am so f***g tired of mud!” Once again my feet were wet.

Not only was the Coastal Trail wet but we did have to maneuver over some steep ups and downs. I expected this since the trail was listed as anywhere from moderate to difficult due to the steepness. As we worked our way up a rocky area we met some travelers coming the other way. The woman mentioned that this park was one of her favorite places to hike, but she felt that the trails were not as maintained as they once were. After chatting a bit more we went on our separate ways.

Eventually we made it back to the lighthouse. We had taken 4 hours to walk a bit under 5 miles. At this point, we agreed to head back to the house to dry my boots. We would save the Coast Guard Trail for another day. Perhaps later, we would finish up with a walk along the Mowry Beach boardwalk.

Machias River Preserve

After a day of watching the rain fall, we knew we had to get out so we drove to the Machias River Preserve which was located just past the rain / mist line. It was cloudy and the vegetation was a bit wet but we were determined to spend some time outdoors. Our plan was to make a 4 mile loop by walking a mile on the Downeast Sunrise Trail (an 87 mile rail trail that ran from Ellsworth to Ayers Junction near Dennysville) to the Machias River Heritage Trail which would loop back to the parking area. Since the day was a bit misty we opted to add raincoats to our hiking attire.

Along the Sunrise Trail we saw yellow and orange Hawkweed, now closed up tight against the cold, misty weather. The patches of Daisies did not look too happy either. As we meandered along this road we could occasionally hear running water coming from the woods on either side of us.

As mentioned before, the mosquitoes had been bad this year and this location was no different. Dozens of them would land on hats and clothing whenever we stopped to study some interesting subject. Since the day was pretty gray, we really did not want to use the head nets so what to do? We have never used insect repellent sprays but we were desperate and so once again during this trip I reached for the DEET. The mosquitoes still flew around us a bit but at least they did not land.

At the mile mark, we located the marker for the Machias River Heritage Trail and descended into the woods.  According to my research we would cross 8 bridges. There was also a warning that if the first bridge was flooded hikers should not attempt to continue. In fact, there was also a warning at the parking area that stated if the trail was under water, the trail was closed. Good to know!

We made it to the first bridge and noted that the water was well underneath this span, so we knew we were safe. Over time, we discovered that the author was incorrect on his bridge count. By the end of our hiked we had crossed 15 of his 8 bridges and that didn’t count the bog bridges.

After the first bridge, we were never that far from the river. Of course we stopped frequently to admire the views. In one place we even observed some rapids. Twice we paused to observe families of ducks making their way to safety after we startled them from their nesting places near the shore. Within the woods, we found Wild Sarsaparilla now gone to seed and tiny mushrooms. Hundreds of them! The rain had sure encouraged them to grow.

The trail itself was cushioned with pine needles making for a comfortable walk. There were the usual tree roots but nothing horrible or strenuous. Most of the boggy area had boards laid down to facilitate a dry crossing. When we reached wet sections that were devoid of boards, we were able to cross without too much difficulty.

Our biggest problem was the vegetation that had bent over the trail due to the rain from the night before. This was only a problem because of the water that I brushed off the plants as I walked by. It wasn’t long before my pants were soaked. Fortunately, hiking pants dry rather quickly. Unfortunately, the excess water also dropped down onto my boots. Between this water and the conditions at Cutler Coast I had discovered that my boots were not at all waterproof. As a result, I spent another day hiking with wet feet.

The wet grass did not stop our progress. We continued to enjoy our hike through the woods. After about 2 miles, the trail turned away from the river and we soon found ourselves back at the parking field.

Not quite done for the day, we decided to head towards Bad Little Falls to enjoy our lunch. Then we would explore the park surrounding the falls. Bad Little Falls was the English translations of the Passamaquoddy Indian word Machias, probably bestowed due to the violently rushing water over the rocky landscape. After lunch, we strolled across the bridge to get a better view of these falls, located right in the center of town. They were quite impressive. While my husband went off to photograph the flowers in the park, I watched the violent flow of water for quite some time. After a time, I also turned my attention to the Irises planted near the bridge and the Lupines near the end of the park. Bad Little Falls was a beautiful little park and the perfect way to end our outdoor adventures for the day.

Campobello Island

After our adventures at Cutler Coast, we decided to look for some easier activities the following day. It seemed the perfect time to explore Campobello Island and the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, so with passports in hand we crossed the bridge from Lubec to Canada.

Our first stop was the Roosevelt Information Center where we viewed a short film about the history of the Roosevelts on the island. After the film, a short walk took us to the summer cottage of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. A guided tour of the cottage and a stroll around the grounds brought us close to lunch time, so we made our way to the far end of the island to hunt for lunch. This would bring us closer to the Head Harbor Lighthouse which we could explore after lunch.

The Head Harbor Lighthouse was located on a small island that was only accessible at low tide. When we arrived, we were informed by staff that we would not be able to cross over to the island because the tide was coming in. Since the tides rose about 5 feet an hour, there was only a two hour window on either side of low tide for visiting the island. Studying the long flight of stairs down to the beach, the rocky crossing over a spit of land visible during low tide to another long flight of stairs up to the island, I was rather relieved that we had missed that window. In fact, we had great views of the lighthouse from where we stood.

After studying the lighthouse and the nearby rock formations for a short time, we headed back to the Roosevelt Park to explore Liberty Point; one of the trails located within the park. The full trail ran from Raccoon Beach to Liberty Point, a distance of about 2.4 miles one way. After my endurance test from the day before, I declared that we would park at Liberty Point and hike from there to Ragged Point, a one way distance that was less than a mile.

Close to the parking area were two observation decks. From one of them, we had great views of the rock formations that make up the Bold Coast. Near the other, we found some Beach Peas and Beach-head Irises. Once on the trail, we found numerous colonies of American Twinflowers.

As most of the trails we had visited in this area, it had its fair share of roots but nothing like what we had encountered at other preserves. Again there were boggy areas but the boards laid down here were plentiful. In fact these board walks went on for a good portion of the trail. Not only did they traverse over most of the wet areas but the boards themselves were covered with some kind of textured tarp to keep hikers from slipping, although they did test my balance. Still a bit bitter about my previous trials, I did comment that the trail crew from our hike the day before could take some lessons about running paths through extremely wet areas.

Our boardwalk trail never left the coast so we always had excellent views of the coastline. Soon we were out of the woods and making our way up a grassy hill towards Ragged Point. Out in the field, we were greeted once again with Beach-head Irises and Beach Peas. I also found a small patch of Blue-eyed Grass.

After spending some time studying the flowers and the panoramic views of the water we turned back towards Liberty Point. It had been another rewarding day.

Cutler Coast Public Lands

After our brief hike at Eastern Knubble, we aimed for a more ambitious adventure at the Cutler Coast Public Lands. Our plan was to take the trail from the parking lot and then create a loop by turning on the Inland Trail until it met with the Black Point Brook cutoff, then taking that to the Coastal Trail which we would take back to the car. For me, it seemed an overly ambitious 5.5 miles, but you never know your limits until you try, so I agreed to go along with the plan.

It was roughly a half a mile to the Inland Trail which we navigated without any problems. The mosquitoes were not as numerous as Eastern Knubble, but, our tolerance was low so it wasn’t long before we reached for the nets. At least here we were able to pause now and then to admire the beauty of the forest.

The trail system did have quite a number of roots and stones which made the hike a little difficult but the beginning portion was not too bad. The same was true of the early section of the Inland Trail. We stopped along this path a few times to admire the Bunchberries growing out of a stump, to study the occasional mushroom, or to listen to the brook as it followed its course along the mossy ground.

According to our map it was about 1.5 miles to the cutoff and so far it wasn’t too arduous, although we did have to work our way around some muddy sections. Unfortunately, things went downhill fast. Soon, the muddy areas were long and frequent. Here we discovered that the moss covered ground actually hid a fair amount of water. Several times I topped out my boots in the muck, leaving my feet wet for the remainder of our adventure. Many times the brush encroached so much over the trail that it became little more than an animal track. This made traversing the few bog boards in the area difficult since we could not see the edges of the board through the brush. To make matters worse, the trail had been re-routed adding an additional 1.5 miles to our journey! It almost felt like someone was playing a joke! They must have thought, “This trail is much too dry, let’s re-route it through even wetter sections.” At one point, we had to cross a pool of water where a rope handle had been placed to steady our progress across the water, except the rope was broken. Really!!!

By the time we reached the Black Point Brook cutoff I was pretty much done. We were now eight tenths of a mile from the Coastal Trail. Much of this trail was mucky as well, but we did find a bench at a slightly higher elevation where I could rest a bit before we continued our slough.

When we reached the Coastal Trail, we had to make our way up over some stone steps but we did finally reach a lovely spot for lunch. Perched on a suitable rock, we watched people walking along a pebbled beach below us, before they either continued on to the end of the trail or returned past our location.

We sat for quite some time, but at this point I was done and we still had 2.8 miles to go. At least our path followed the coast and we did have some spectacular views. After a time, we found ourselves looking down at another stone filled beach. The problem was that we were standing at the edge of the trail with no additional blazes indicating where we were supposed to go. Eventually, we found a blue stripe painted on the rocks heading down to the beach, so we now had to scramble down to the water. It was difficult finding the next blaze and after passing a small waterfall we did not even find a hint of another marker. We knew that at some point we had to head back up to the cliff so we picked what looked like a trail through some bushes. Finding footprints at the top was encouraging.

In a grassy field at the top of the cliff, we discovered that our troubles were not yet over. We saw trails going in all different directions and there was not a trail marker in sight, not even a stick planted in the field to point the way. And what was hidden under all the grass? MUD. Here I was on a death march, my knees and ankles hurt, my feet were wet, I was exhausted and now we were lost.  I had visions of being found face down in the mud. Since we had not done the Coastal Trail as an out and back hike, we had no prior knowledge of which trail to select. My husband studied the different trails, trying to determine where other hikers before us had gone, but he found footprints on all of them, meaning other people had gotten lost as well. We were just about ready to head back to the beach when two hikers appeared from that direction. We told them we were lost and they kindly showed us the hidden trail, yet another trail with brush growing over it. Once we got past this section, the trail was obvious and thus abundantly marked all the way back to the parking lot.

I had survived my 7 mile ordeal (plus the almost 2 miles at Eastern Knubble). I still would have been tired and sore, since I had gone well past my capabilities but it might have been a little more enjoyable if there were more trail markers in the more obscure sections and if a little more maintenance had been done to keep the paths visible and passable.