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Fort Baldwin

My initial plans for our October 1st trip were quite ambitious. My thoughts were to visit the bridge in Brunswick, Fort Popham in Phippsburg, and stopping at the Bath Maritime Museum on our way back up the peninsula before turning northwards to explore Fort Edgecombe. Did I mention I also did a Google search on trails near Fort Popham? Quite a lot for one day, huh?

I have always over-planned things. I guess I just enjoyed the planning and would rather have things we did not get to see than to discover that we did not have enough to do. Fortunately, the indoor exploration of the Maritime Museum was crossed off the list when I realized I had left my mask at home. The itinerary was looking better already!

When I researched the area around Fort Popham, I discovered that there was a trail leading up to some additional fort remains about 1 mile from that site. Once we had completed our tour at Hunnewell Point and had returned to our car, we made the first right away from the fort. Although a two way street, this very narrow road was really only wide enough for one car. We made the tight turn at the top of the hill and were soon in the parking lot for the historic grounds of Fort Baldwin and Fort St. George.

 Our first step was to wander around a large grassy area by the river. As we got closer to the river we found a large historical sign explaining the history of Fort St. George. It seems that Fort St. George, established in 1607, was considered the first colony in New England. It was believed to have been a star shaped fort, but was abandoned in 1608 upon the death of Captain George Popham. All that remains today is the historical sign and a sculpture attached to a boulder that depicts the shape of the fort and the ship that brought them there. Later, I found an interesting article about the Fort in the February 2004 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine, titled “Maine’s Lost Colony”.

Once we finished learning about the history of Fort St. George, we made our way across the road from the parking lot to the trail that would lead us to Baldwin Fort. The trail up Sabino Hill was an old graveled road with grass growing between the tire tracks. The gravel was pretty loose so we did have to watch our step. Considering that it was October, we also experienced more mosquitos than I expected.

Fort Baldwin was a relatively new structure constructed in 1905. It consisted of 3 batteries and an observation tower. The batteries were named after an American Revolution lieutenant Cogan, Civil War Brigadier General Hawley, and American Revolution Captain Hardman.  The fort was abandoned in the 1940s.

We were not walking too long when we reached the first battery. Considering that these were much younger buildings than Fort Popham, I was a bit surprised that they were in such a state of decline, perhaps because they were built using concrete as compared to Fort Popham which used granite blocks. In addition to the natural decline of the buildings, there was quite a bit of graffiti inside the structures. That was a bit of a disappointment.

A short walk beyond the third battery, we stopped to study the observation tower. The trees had grown over time, so I was not sure that anyone could keep a watch for anything coming up the river today. It was still interesting, though.

I believe the trail continued on towards Popham Beach. We thought we would hike on for a bit but stopped when we found signs that indicated hunting was not permitted on historic sites. This meant we were leaving the fort grounds. Since we did not bring our orange vests for this trip, we decided to turn around and head for home. I would say that a bridge and 3 forts was a rather productive day.

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Fort Popham

The next stop on our October 1st itinerary was Fort Popham, located in Phippsburg, just about 1 mile from Popham Beach. The interesting thing about driving down the numerous Maine peninsulas was that it always seemed to take forever to arrive at the planned destination. Take our trip from Brunswick to Fort Popham as an example. Once we left Route 1 in Bath, it took 30 minutes to reach the Fort. It was well worth the trip.

Fort Popham was built on a spit of land known as Hunnewell Point. Constructed mostly from granite, this fort was built at the mouth of the Kennebec River during the Civil War, probably to protect the city of Augusta. The semi-circular shape, part looking out to sea and part facing the river certainly gave me the feeling that no enemy ship would get past this fortification. Just out of curiosity, I traced the Kennebec River on Google Maps and discovered that it traveled past Augusta, all the way up to Moosehead Lake in Greenville, a distance of 170 miles. I found that rather impressive.

As my husband and I wandered around inside the Fort, we discovered historic information panels located in each casement that would have housed the canons. These signs imparted information about the construction of the fort itself, as well as what it took to operate the canons. From one of the canon portals, I had a nice view of the open water beyond the building. At this point the sun had come out which made it easier to explore the dark interior of the fort.

After exploring the lower level, we ascended the spiral granite staircase in one of the two towers on site. We continued our exploration of the upper level for a bit before heading towards the stairs of the second tower. Here, we decided to climb to the top of the tower. I had noticed earlier, as we approached the fort that only one of the towers had some kind of fencing at the top. As luck would have it, we had just made our way to the top of the tower with the fencing. I just thought that looking at the fort through the bars gave the scene an interesting prospective.

Having finished our study of the upper level, we returned down to the first floor of the building. My husband wandered around a bit more, while I tried to get some artistic shots. I must be getting better at this whole photography thing because when I attempted to get a picture looking down a series of doorways it was coming out too dark. Of course I was standing in a dark building so that wouldn’t work. But then the lightbulb went on above my head. There was more light at the far end of the building. DUH! I needed to take my picture from the opposite side of the building. I took one more creative photo of the arches and the brick ceiling before making my way outside.

Once outside my husband and I explored the grounds and the beach around the fort for a bit before making our way towards our next destination.

Swinging Bridge of Brunswick

October 1st was the beginning of a rather dreary weekend. Although that Friday was a mix of clouds and sun, it wasn’t enough for my husband to get outside to finish up some work around the wall he constructed last year. The ground was wet and he feared the dirt he needed to move around might be heavy with moisture. After watching his indecision for a while, I suggested that we needed to take a road trip for the day. As usual, I over planed things and made a list of more things than we could possibly do in just a few hours, but it was a start.

By 10:00 we were headed south towards our first destination. My travel plan had us start at the most southern destination and work our way back towards home. In less than an hour and a half we had reached the Swinging Pedestrian Bridge in Brunswick. It was a little bit of a problem parking at the bridge itself since the parking area could only accommodate about 4 cars or so. We ended up turning around to park near the Cabot Mill. The down side to this parking arrangement was that we had to walk along a narrow sidewalk right on a very busy section of Route 1.

Once we reached the site of the bridge, we admired the structure for a moment before crossing over the river. The Swinging Bridge crosses over the Androscoggin River, connecting the towns of Topsham and Brunswick. On the Topsham side of the bridge, there was a sign informing visitors of the historical significance of the bridge. The bridge allowed the mill workers who lived in Topsham to cross over the river to their jobs at Cabot Mill. A plaque on a nearby boulder indicated that the bridge was built by John A. Roebling’s Sons Company (the Roebling of the Brooklyn Bridge fame) in 1892.

While my husband was reading about the history of the bridge, I started to wander down a path leading towards the river. A splash of pink caught my eye causing me to cry out with excitement that I had discovered a cluster of Red Turtleheads. My outburst was enough to attract another woman nearby to come over and share in my excitement. Since I had only seen White Turtleheads in my travels, this was really an exciting discovery.

After meditating on this gift for a short time, we decided to turn around and explore the path continuation on the opposite side of the historical markers. There were paved sections closer to the road, but we decided to meander off on a dirt side trail. We paused near a small stony island to look out over the river towards the mill, before retracing our steps to cross back over the bridge.

Back on the bridge, I looked away from the mill and towards the railroad bridge known as Black Bridge. Black Bridge also had some history behind it. It was a double decker bridge built in 1909, with a vehicle deck below and railroad tracks on the upper deck. The lower deck was removed in 2014 but the upper deck still remains.

While attempting to take a picture of Black Bridge I discovered a funny thing about suspension bridges, they bounced when people walked on them. It did take a few tries to get a picture of Black Bridge while standing on the Swinging Bridge, but eventually I succeeded. Once we returned to the Brunswick side of the bridge and walked back to our car along Route 1, we had a quick lunch before setting off to our next destination.

Squirrel Point

The first week of April in Maine meant that we were in the in-between times; winter was still holding on and mud season was on the way. During one of our daily walks to Barrett’s Cove we crossed Route 52 and up towards the Maiden Cliff Trail thinking we would stroll part of the way up the trail to extend our walk. When we reached the trail-head we took one look at the ankle-deep imprints in the mud, muttered “nope” and turned back towards home. A co-worker mentioned that the Carriage Trail towards Mt. Battie was very wet. And finally, we decided to try to hike up Bald Rock Mountain only to find that the entire Multi-use trail was still completely covered in snow that had the consistency of mashed potatoes. So where to go?

I texted some friends who lived near Bath, a little more than an hour away, and asked about the trail conditions down their way. When they responded that the trails weren’t too bad with just little or no snow and not too muddy, we decided it was time to pay them a visit. They were very gracious about our last minute plans to drop by and decided to take us to the Squirrel Point Lighthouse in Arrowsic.

With the weekend temperatures predicted to be in the high 40s to low 50s, we thought it prudent to don our lighter, permethrin treated clothing just in case. Many people we knew were under the impression that ticks, like black flies and mosquitoes arrived later in the season. We had tried to inform them that these nasty creatures emerge based on temperature not the time of year and yet people were still amazed when they found ticks on a 50 degree day in February. Case in point, during this particular hike we found two, one deer tick and one dog tick. Now, back to our story.

When we arrived at the preserve, we noticed that the trail towards the Bald Head Preserve was closed with a detour sign pointing visitors towards the Squirrel Point trail. There were a few places where we had to work around the mud but as our friends had said, it wasn’t too bad. Not far into our journey, we crossed a small bridge crossing the wet area of a salt marsh. Just before the bridge, I looked across the Kennebec River and noticed a beautiful white church in the distance. Our friends pointed out that we would see this church many times during our walk, so I saved my photo op for later in the journey.

Once over the bridge, we entered a forested area with a variety of evergreen and hardwood trees. We paused occasionally to admire some stone outcroppings or the remains of some very old trees. Along the way my husband would try to guess the ages of some of the nearby trees (anywhere from 20 years to over 100 for the wider trees). When we reached a spot with a wooden bench near the river, we stopped to admire the closer view of the church beyond.

Continuing through the woods, we soon came to a fork in the path, one would lead us to the lighthouse while the other was the detour for the Bald Head Preserve (complete with a kiosk showing the trail map). Shortly after this point, we walked through a lovely cedar grove just before emerging from the woods near the lighthouse.

This was a great place to have a snack, so we each claimed a spot along the boardwalk that went from the keeper’s cottage to the lighthouse. During our respite we watched a pair of seals floating along the current of the river. We basked in the warm sunlight, admired a close-up view of the little town across the way and enjoyed catching up on the news with our friends.

After lunch, we headed back towards the intersection with the Bald Head Preserve. Our friends did have some errands to run that afternoon so we did not go all the way to the point. After meandering through the woods for a bit, we did get to a spot where the trail came pretty close to the river once more. From our vantage point, we had a nice view of the point. We admired the views for a bit and then turned towards home. It had been a lovely, spring day walk with our friends. Two days later, winter let us know that it was not done yet and dropped close to 8 inches of snow on our area. Perhaps, that was the last snow for winter?

Finding a Cave

Mid-November my hiking buddy decided we should explore Thorne Head Preserve in Bath. She had read an article recently about a cave in the preserve and she wanted to check it out. My crazy side did think it would be interesting to check this out but my sensible side decided to remind her about the weather. Was she aware that a) the high temperatures for the day would be in the lower 20s and b) the wind gusts were predicted to be in the 20 mph range? I wasn’t overly concerned about the wind chill factors since I could always layer my clothing and the exercise would warm me up soon enough. I was more concerned about traipsing through the woods on such a blustery day. Trees were known to topple over on excessively windy days. I don’t remember how she managed to change my mind but soon enough we were headed down to Bath in order to find a cave.

Since it looked like the cave itself was not located on any specific trail but nestled between the Narrows and Ridge Runner trails it really didn’t matter how we decided to get there. One possibility would be to take the Whiskeag Trail to the Narrows Trail and then follow that around to the Ridge Runner Trail. The other, more direct route would be to walk the Overlook Trail to the Ridge Runner Trail. Needless to say, we took the longer, less direct route.

Shortly after entering the woods, my friend decided to explore off trail for a bit. While I stayed on the trail, I watched all the lovely conifers swaying in the wind. Soon I heard my buddy exclaim that the creaking sound was a nearby tree that had started to split. I thought of my earlier warning about walking through the woods on a blustery day but decided that maybe we should just speed up the pace a bit instead.

After averting the potential disaster of splitting trees, we settled into a rhythm of finding the next trail marker and just enjoying our time in the woods. The frigid temperatures had created some significant frost heave, and as a result, the ground crunched beneath our feet.

We must have gotten lost in our conversations, or the natural beauty around us but somehow we went off course at one of our intersections. The funny thing was that we both had noted the sign where the Narrows Trail met the Whiskeag Trail but we both forgot that when we started out we had decided that was the trail we needed to take. Instead of turning right, we turned left and continued along the Whiskeag Trail. We kept walking until one of us realized that we had been going on a long time and had not reached our destination. In fact, when we saw some boundary markers we knew we had made a wrong turn and needed to turn around. It took us about a thirty minutes to retrace our steps. Along the way we had to cross at least one rickety bridge (well I crossed the rickety bridge, my friend climbed down into the gully and up the other side). When we reached the sign for the Narrows Trail we couldn’t believe that we had made such an obvious mistake.

The trail kept close to the water at this point and the wind coming off the water was bitter cold. We soon saw a ledge and I commented on the ice floe coming down the ledge. I also pointed out to my buddy that I thought that might be her cave up there but she wasn’t so sure. After following the ledge around and climbing up via the Mushroom Cap Trail, we soon found the Ridge Runner Trail. I pointed out a small side trail that I thought might lead to the cave. The trail looked a little too steep for me, so I let my friend explore telling her to take a picture of the ice floe. It wasn’t long before I heard “your expletive ice floe is in front of my cave”!  Well, she found her cave anyway.

We took the Overlook Trail back to the parking area where I got more grief when she realized the Overlook Trail had been only 10 minutes from the cave. Okay, so it took us 2 hours using the indirect route but we did spend a great time outdoors.