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Bangor City Forest

The weekend before the big re-certification test for my husband, we decided to take a dry run to the test center in Bangor to assess how much time he would need to get there for a 7:30 am sign-in. After days of cloudy weather, the sun was finally beginning to peak through, so the plan was to find the test center, then find a place to hike. Having explored our options before-hand, I noticed that the Bangor City Forest was located behind the testing site, so after 90 minutes of driving, we were ready to begin our adventure.

The Bangor City Forest is over 680 acres and, by one source I consulted, contains a network (maze) of over 17 miles worth of trails. In addition, there are two preserves maintained by the Bangor Land Trust with another conglomeration of trails, including connector paths into the City Forest. I had read stories about people getting lost within this system, so if you are planning on straying off the two main loop trails , it is absolutely essential to have a trail map on hand. I found that the easiest map to read was located on the Bangor Maine government website but be aware not all the trails are listed on this map. In fact, we saw many off-shoot paths that I could not find on any of the maps when we studied them later.

For this trip, we decided to stay on the East-West Loop which was about 5 miles. The loop was a good width and graveled, so the walking was pretty easy. As we meandered along the road, we were amazed at the things that were still in bloom on that last weekend in September. My first find was a plant, with small white flowers gathered in a spike at the top. I later identified this as White Sweet Clover, a plant unlike any clover I had seen before. We also spotted, an almost perfect Black-eyed Susan, only a little worse for wear.

About a ½ mile or so from where we parked, we arrived at the main entrance near the Orono Bog Walk. The information center was located here with a description of what a visitor would find in the Bog. We knew the loop would be worth the trip but we decided to save it for another time. What really surprised me here was finding the remains of a nest on the side of the information building. It was not the fact that the nest was there but that it had been built about waist height. Given the easy accessibility to humans, I wondered if this nest had ever been used.

Further down the road, I heard a rustle in the undergrowth and found a small snake keeping a close eye on me. We paused for a minute to watch it before continuing on our way.

Since we had taking the mushroom walk only the week before, we were delighted at our ability to name a few of the numerous fungi we found along our journey. At one point, we found one tall specimen that was unfamiliar to us. Later research seemed to indicate that we had found a Shaggy Mane.

As we neared the end of our journey, we reached a junction with a wide grassy road towards our left. I believe that this was the connector to the Northeast Penjajawoc Preserve. On either side of this pathway, we found an identifying sign with a specific conifer name. We were in the arboretum. Whenever my husband and I had found ourselves journeying through the maze of paths meandering through an arboretum we had always gotten lost. So finding ourselves in one now, we made a hasty retreat back towards the East-West Loop. Boy, was that close.

Back at the intersection, we paused to study the variety of flowers still in bloom. In one location we found Tansies, Pearly Everlastings, Queen Anne’s lace, yellow Sow-Thistle, as well as the common purple thistle. Not long after this wonderful find we finished the loop and decided to find lunch before heading home. It had been a wonderful day spent outdoors.

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Linekin Preserve

By mid-September the weather was still rather warm but the summer crowds were beginning to die down. It seemed the perfect time to take a chance and head south on Route 1 towards East Boothbay. Exploring the various preserves listed on the Boothbay Region Land Trust website, I narrowed down my selection to the Linekin Preserve and headed out for a solo exploration. The sign for the preserve was tucked back a little bit right near a curve in the road so I did pass it twice before I finally pulled into the parking area and could begin my investigations.

The first section of the preserve was a lovely Coniferous forest. As I meandered through the shaded woodland, I discovered a number of little wonders that caused me to pause for closer inspections; a random Wild Sarsaparilla that had already turned a wonderful shade of red, the remains of a small stump peaking up through a bed of moss with a ring of white fungus around its outer edge, and the best surprise was spotting a small orange mushroom tucked in the dark recesses of a tree.

I soon passed one end of the Burley Loop. I could see a small wood-planked bridge crossing over a stream. I thought briefly about taking the loop but then decided to remain on the central trail and hit the other end of the Burley Loop on my return.

After crossing a dirt road, I continued on the path that now constituted an easement across private land. I designated this portion of my journey, the second section of the preserve, for there were three very different characteristics to this place. Not far into my stroll along this lane, I paused to study a vernal pond. I had startled a small frog and was able to watch him swim across to safety before returning to the trail.

The path in this section soon turned and ran parallel to the Damariscotta River. I was a little concerned as I maneuvered along the narrow footpath, for there was no clearance between the trail and the drop to the rocky coast below. Given my tendency to trip over rocks and tree roots and other obstacles and that fact that I was alone, I did tread very carefully along this section. I could have turned back but the views were pretty spectacular, from the water hitting the rocks below and the views across the water to the formation of rocks indicating a long ago geological upheaval. So I took extra care and did manage to make it across without any mishap.

Turning away from the river, the trail switch-backed a bit as I made my way uphill. Back in the woods I soon reached the second intersection with the Burley Loop and the third section of this park. I was pretty tired at this point but I decided to explore the loop anyway. It wasn’t long before I heard the gentle sound of running water and paused to explore a small stream.

Returning to the trail, I found 3 spider webs clustered between two trees. I was really glad that I saw these before I walked into them. I soon found a bench located on the high point of the path. Through the trees, I could catch a glimpse of an open area beyond.

Shortly after leaving this overlook, I not only lost the blue markers but the footpath got pretty narrow and overgrown. I felt too tired to turn back so I slogged onward through the remains of an obvious path but I did get nervous when I reached a spot where nature closed the way a little bit more. There seemed to be a lot of dead trees down towards the water side but it could have been the section on the map designated as a beaver lodge. I have seen beaver lodges and this just didn’t seem to have the right appearance. In any case I kept going forward

Eventually, the trail opened up again and I discovered a lovely lily pond below me. Relieved that I was back on track, I paused to study the pond for a bit before returning to my journey. Shortly after the pond, the Burley Loop intersected with the central trail and I completed my outing. Despite the struggle near the end, it had been a great day full of some very different but rewarding spots for restorative meditation.

 

Debe Park

Figuring my husband needed a break from his study, I decided to drag him out for our one last adventure of summer. I had finished piecing another quilt and needed to locate appropriate material for the backing which meant taking a ride to one of the largest quilt stores in the state. The fabric shop was located in Madison but I promised him that the almost 2 hour ride would be worth his while since there was a decent pub in nearby Skowhegan where we could stop for lunch. Besides, I needed a navigator to get through some complicated directions. For one thing, street signs were rare and I needed to make my turns based on mileage readings and for another the directions included multiple turns in order to stay on the road I wanted. “Turn right to stay on Route 220” was not an uncommon statement.

After arriving at the fabric shop, I broke an all-time record by locating the perfect fabric and leaving the store in under 20 minutes. I know, I know.  I am an embarrassment to hard core quilters everywhere but I did have a significant other with me and I had promised him lunch. Not only did we have a nice lunch at the Old Mill Pub but we had beautiful views of the Kennebec River.

Not far from the pub was a pedestrian bridge that spanned the river. Earlier, I had discovered that there was a paved walking trail on the opposite side of the Kennebec so we decided to cross the bridge and explore the Debe Park Trails. We did stop half way across the river in order to admire the views. Once across, we had to walk a short distance along the street before reaching the park.

As promised, the trail was paved and we enjoyed a lovely stroll with views of the river through the trees. There were various asters, goldenrods and mushrooms to study along the way. At the beginning of the trail I believe I spotted a Field Bindweed or Wild Morning Glory on the slope near the entrance. Exercise stations were situated along the path. My husband tried one of the stations but quickly decided that walking was the better form of exercise.

Near the end of the paved path, we located the Philbrick Trail disappearing into the woods. The footpath looked a bit overgrown and since we were not equipped with our permethrin treated hiking clothes we decided against any further exploration.

On our return trip home, we did get lost a bit when we went straight to stay on Route 220 instead of turning right to stay on Route 220. Eventually, we found a familiar point to get us back on track and made it safely home.

 

Fort Point State Park

As we approached the end of August and my husband was locked away studying for his re-certification exam, I decided to get out of the house and head towards Fort Point in Stockton Springs. At 50 minutes it was a bit of a drive but it was a nice day and I just needed to get back to exploring the outdoors. After turning off Route 1, I drove several miles down the point until I reached the entrance to the Fort Point State Park.

I began my exploration walking along a trail that meandered through a wooded area. I spent a fair amount of time along this path as I made my way towards the pier, for there was so much to see. A Wild Sarsaparilla still in bloom really took me by surprise for these flowers should have been done by early summer. I wondered if the extremely warm summer had encouraged a second blooming. I then had to stop to admire an Orange Hawkweed which displayed some signs of being almost done for the season. And of course there was Jewel Weed everywhere!

Once I reached the pier, I walked out a little ways so that I could survey the shore in either direction. Since the woods extended right up to the shore there was no beach to stroll along. Between the forest and the rocks covered with seaweed I  imagined  that things would be quite slippery. Looking towards a spot where the shoreline curved back to form a cove, I noticed an object (buoy?) not far from that spot. It appeared that some creatures were sitting on this object but it was too far away for me to make out who was there. Cormorants perhaps?

After leaving the pier, I continued back along the path towards the lighthouse. Along the way I noticed a number of side trails that led to secluded picnic areas looking out towards the water. Some of these seemed a bit overgrown so I avoided exploring these areas.

The trail I was on, soon led to a small sandy beach. There was a small sandbar that jutted out from this area with signs warning about strong tidal currents. I could see some eddy motion in the water just beyond the sandbar so I kept a safe distance. While on this small beach, I turned and looked back towards the pier. In the distance beyond the park, I could make out the towers of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, a 2120 foot long cable-stayed bridge.

I left the beach to continue on my journey towards the Bell Tower near the top of a bluff overlooking the water. I believe the lighthouse itself was privately owned, so after studying the Bell Tower I made my way towards the remains of Fort Point. The remains of the stone walls peaked out from the grassy area not far from the tower. As I walked along the ruins, I noticed an impressive Evening Primrose with numerous pods along the stem, several Yarrow plants and butterflies flitting among the grass. Once I was satisfied that I had received an adequate dose of nature I returned to my car and headed home.

Finally Hiking Again

After returning from Scotland, our hikes dwindled to almost nothing. Even my solo walks on the Multi-Use Trail ceased; partly because I had extra hours at work which meant I had to keep an eye on the time but mostly due to the weather. For this northern area of the country, the weather has been beastly (although a few people may disagree). Normal summers in Maine meant temperatures in the mid to upper 70s, 60s at night and low humidity. Unfortunately, the state experienced high temperatures Memorial Day weekend, multiple 80 degree days in June, and more heat waves in the 90s both the week of July 4th and during August. In addition the humidity was high, meaning that even when the temperatures did get into the 70s it still felt hot and oppressive. It felt like I was back in New York where this weather was normal!

These conditions were not conducive to getting out and exerting myself on an uphill climb, so I waited. And waited until finally there was a day just past the middle of August when I decided to hit the Multi-Use Trail very early in the morning. I was at the trailhead by 7 and discovered that I was the first of the usual morning walkers to arrive.

It felt great to be out in the woods once more and the solitude allowed me to slow my pace so that I could really take in and enjoy my surroundings. The last time I had walked this trail with my husband, I had pointed out an unusual leaf pattern of a ground covering plant, 6 whorled leaves at various intervals along the stem. This time I was ready with my camera so I could identify it at a later time. It took a while since many plants were done flowering by late summer, but I did discover that it was some type of Bedstraw.

I also managed to identify the remains of some Valerian. The flowers were gone but from a distance the stem-like remains gave the plant an interesting feathery appearance. It was the time of year when the asters were coming into their own. I found a patch of some type of aster that were quite tall (almost 6 feet). I was amused when I found the flower in my identification resources and discovered that sometimes the name actually matches the description. This aster was called a “Tall White Aster”.

I felt more peaceful as I spent more time walking through the woods and immersing myself in nature. I paused many times to admire many simple things that are often overlooked; the woodpecker holes in a tree, the large orangey-yellow mushrooms and the white mushrooms tucked in the fold of a tree.

When I reached the trailhead for Bald Rock Mountain, I decided to end my exploration there. The many things I had observed in that hour outdoors had been enough to remove some of the stress that had been building over the summer.