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Gorge Trail – Acadia

A few days after hiking Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park, I found myself heading up to Mount Desert Island once more to make use of the 7 day visitor pass (the park does not issue day passes). I had offered my unexpired visitor pass to a co-worker and she mentioned that we should attempt the Gorge Trail on our next day off.

When I researched this trail, which heads up Cadillac Mountain, I found descriptions such as, “dogs are permitted on this trail though the upper section of the Gorge Trail is too steep and dangerous for many dogs”, or after reaching the top of the gorge there was still “500 feet to rise in only four tenths of a mile” . Huh? At this point I turned to my friend at said, “are you out of your mind!?” She swore that she was not interested in reaching the summit of Cadillac Mountain, she only wanted to reach the top of the stone steps and turn around. Given this assurance I agreed to attempt the hike.

Once at the trail-head, we descended a set of stairs towards Kebo Brook. We paused a few minutes to study the brook and the stone bridge spanning the flowing water. It was here that I realized I had found my new hiking partner; a kindred spirit who also wanted to take the time to meditate on her surroundings and photograph her observations.

After ascending a short series of steps on the opposite side of the brook, we continued on our adventures through a dark forest, crossing a bog bridge along the way. It wasn’t long before the terrain began to take on a rocky appearance and we were climbing alongside a stream. We stopped many times along the way to study the granite walls around us, wondering who lived in the cave-like holes carved in the stone. We also took delight in the numerous waterfalls along the trail. We certainly had amble opportunity to admire those waterfalls since the trail crossed the water many times. Near the top of our climb, we found the most beautiful cascade of our hike. With water rushing over the rocks, stairs ascending nearby and the surrounding greenery, we had truly found the spirit of nature. We certainly spent a bit of time meditating on the view.

At this point I was in the lead and, as a looked ahead I noticed that the trail was becoming more vertical. The flat stones used to pave the path were disappearing. I informed my friend that I had reached the end of the line but she went on for a  short distance before turning around. While I sat on a rock and waited, I noticed some vegetation growing on another boulder nearby. I went over to study the greenery, able to determine that there was definitely some kind of lily in the greenery. I later identified this as a Blue-bead Lily. Once again, two kindred spirits took some time practicing photographing the flowers before heading back down the trail. Our round-trip adventure was a little under 3 hours.

 

Beech Mountain

After our short visit to the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden, we headed towards Beech Mountain and the Beech Mountain Loop trail. When planning our trip to the Southwest Harbor side of Acadia, I had researched several hiking options in the area. Given all the rain in previous weeks, and consequently, our lack of getting out to exercise, I knew our endurance level would be low. There were a number of options that would take us to the top of Beech Mountain, but when I saw someone’s description of the “short-and-sweet Beech Mountain Loop” I knew I had found our trail.

Arriving at the trail-head we opted to walk the loop in a counter clockwise direction, which would take us up the longer trail first. A short way into our hike, we stopped to examine the flowers hanging underneath the leaves of some unidentified tree. I researched this flower after our trip and I believe the tree was a young striped maple.

In between the typical granite composition of the Mount Desert Island trails, there were some areas that were a bit muddy, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. The black flies were still around as well. I did not really notice the flies until I discovered a large bite later on. Despite all this, the day was sunny and it just felt good to be outside.

As we made our way up the path, the forest thinned out and allowed us some wonderful views of Long Pond. I believe I photographed this pond several times during our ascent. Soon the trees gave way to granite ledge, giving us a clear view of Long Pond. Following the trail around the ledge, we re-entered the forest for a bit. Here we found an old structure that had the appearance of an outhouse, now locked and decommissioned.

Pretty soon, we ascended a short flight of stone steps which deposited us just beneath the summit. We scrambled up the last section to the top of Beech Mountain and the base of an old fire tower. There was plenty of ledge for us to sit and rest a bit while we enjoyed the views of the Cranberry Islands and our snack.

After our snack, we decided to continue on the loop rather than return on the same section of trail we had just completed. This side of the loop was a bit more challenging, with a more rocky portions to scramble down. In a few places that required a long stretch, I used the sit and slide approach to make my way down to the next rock. My philosophy has always been that there are times when it does not pay to try and appear graceful. This was one of them. Since this was the shorter section of the loop, it wasn’t long before we had completed the loop. A few more feet and we were back at the parking lot. The clouds were beginning to return, so we called it a day and stopped for lunch before heading home.

Great Salt Bay Farm

A hint of summer was in the air when I decided to head down to Damariscotta and explore the Great Salt Bay Farm. I arrived mid-morning and stood for a few minutes near the kiosk trying to locate the trail. From where I stood, I could see an expanse of lawn and a pond but no clear direction around the area. A gentleman finishing up his morning walk pointed the way and I was off.

The first section of the trail, took me through lush, green fields sprouting wild strawberry flowers, violets and dandelions. This area was also filled with bird song. I watched as birds flitted about, unable to identify any one of them but one bird did stand out. I spied a rather large black and white bird as it settled in the grass, flew a short distance and settled down again. After consulting my bird book, I was pretty certain that I spotted an Eastern Kingbird.

Reaching the top of a hill, I studied the area in all directions trying to determine where the mowed trail continued before heading downhill away from the water view. For a few minutes I wondered if I had made a mistake as I schlepped through a rather wet muddy area, but no, the path continued towards a wooded section of the property. When I thought about walking this area, I had decided since it would be flat, I would be okay with sneakers rather than boots but I soon discovered that I had made a poor choice since more than 50% of the area was wet.

Entering the woods, I found a blanket of the ubiquitous Canada Mayflower leaves, along with Wild Sarsaparilla. The ferns in this area had almost completely unfurled, although a few still displayed some artistic curls as they continued the unfolding process. I soon came to an area where several rough shelters had been erected around the trees. Here, I had to look around a bit to locate the continuation of the trail.

The path soon left the woods behind and led me near a marshy area of the farm. Not only did I have to cross a rather questionable bridge across the water, but, when I reached the other side I had to struggle a bit to climb up the eroded bank. Back on the grassy lane, I encountered two women coming from the opposite direction. We chatted a bit before one of them pointed out an osprey carrying a fish towards its nest. We watched its flight for a while before continuing on our respective journeys.

I made my way towards the point, where the women told me I would see the shell middens. I found this rather odd since I knew the large midden was on the opposite side of Route 1 but I headed towards the point anyway just to explore what was there. A few benches had been placed around the point for travelers to pause and watch the activity on the bay. A short distance further on, I spotted a patch of Red Columbine. Interestingly enough, they were growing in an area that was covered with shells.

Returning from the point, I walked the Chestnut Grove loop, passing underneath the osprey nest. It was getting warmer and I was getting tired, so I opted out of the Bay loop, continuing on the most direct trail towards the car. It had been a lovely hour of exploration but now I had fabric to buy for my next quilt project and needed to get on with that task.

Cameron Success!

Two weeks after our failed attempt at making the summit of Cameron Mountain, we decided to try again. With the temperatures 20 degrees cooler and the humidity hovering at a more acceptable level, we felt that we would be able to achieve our goal. It was also the only nice day sandwiched between some cold, rainy days.

When we reached the parking area, we noticed some people preparing for their hike by donning nets and spraying clothes. Mother’s Day weekend; and right on schedule the black flies had appeared! This meant that we would have to keep moving towards our destination for my husband had little tolerance for standing around swatting at insects while I attempted to take pictures. Thus, a beautiful, artistically curled fern did not get a second chance of being photographed after the first shot showed up as a green blur. Onward we went.

This time around we did not feel exhausted and sore when we reached the Cameron trail-head, a good sign since we had done this portion of the trail many times before when we hiked Bald Rock Mountain. It was a little less buggy here so we did pause for a few brief moments to observe the difference that two weeks had made in the vegetation. The Canada Mayflowers were just beginning to push up the stem that would grow into the familiar small white flower, the Wild Sarsaparilla was beginning to form the fireworks-like ball of flowers underneath its leaves, and, just before the marker telling us the turn off was a mile down the trail, I spied a Trillium in bloom. We also discovered that this particular trail seemed to be a haven for Black and White Warblers. We watched many of these tiny birds flitting up and down the trees on either side of the trail. A pair of Thrushes also played about in the woods as we walked by.

It wasn’t long before we spotted some snowmobile signs and a smaller sign pointing the way to the summit. Seeing the signs, we realized that during our first attempt to conquer this mountain, we had bailed out only 50 yards from the turn off. We had been so close but in our exhaustion had not seen it. However,  this was a better day. From where we stood, at the edge of the woods, we knew it would not take us long to walk up the trail and achieve our goal.

We proceeded through the field and reached the top of Cameron Mountain in just a few minutes. In one direction, we could see a portion of Megunticook Lake and Ragged Mountain beyond. In the other direction, we looked about at Bald Rock and Derry Mountains. We spent some time enjoying the panoramic views before the breeze died down and the flies returned. It was time to return home and bask in our success.

Perimeter Trail at Merryspring

During the first week of May, there was finally a break in the rain long enough for me to grab my adventure buddy and head over to Merryspring. This time, I decided to venture further afield by conquering the perimeter trail, without getting lost in the maze of trails known as the arboretum. Since my husband and I have experienced this confusion every time we have attempted walking the perimeter of Merryspring, he joked that I should have my phone, a GPS, map, flares and several days’ worth of food before setting out. Part of the problem was that not all the arboretum trails were marked on the trail map available at the kiosk, but after carefully examining the map, my friend and I figured that we just needed to keep to the right in order to stay on trail “1”.

Even though it was May, there was still not much green showing on the trees. The lack of leaves did enable us to get a clear view of ponds, streams and a couple of rock wall surrounded wells. With the abundance of rainfall over the last few weeks, not only was there plenty of moss growing everywhere but the trails were quite muddy. On one downward section of trail, I lost my footing in the muck and was down on my knees. No damage done, we continued on our journey.

As we walked, I noticed that ferns were just beginning to poke through the damp soil, the fuzzy curled up leaves just waiting for a few more days before sprouting up. Near the dreaded “A” marked trails, I found the tell-tale single first leaf of the Canada Mayflower. In fact I had noticed a carpet of these leaves all over the various trails we have hiked and I wondered if a few warm days would see an explosion of white flowers throughout the woods.

Keeping to the right, we managed to avoid getting lost this time around and it wasn’t long before we spotted the greenhouses and gardens near the entrance. Since my friend wanted a copy of upcoming programs and her own trail map we entered the main building where I took the opportunity to ask if there was a separate trail map of the arboretum area. I was surprised that the person we spoke to mentioned that he always got lost there as well and they were in the process of remaking a map for that area. Good to know that we were not the only ones to suffer this experience. When I mentioned that I was also disappointed that I had not spotted any flowers in bloom this late in the season, this staff member mentioned that things were blooming over by the vernal pond. Of course, I had to drag my buddy over to the vernal pond to see what was there. Once I found the blooming Blood-root I was satisfied. We walked the perimeter trail without getting lost, found new growth of ferns and Canada Mayflowers, and visited a few flowers in bloom; our day was complete.