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Head of Tide 2022

After finishing our exploration of the Stover preserve on December 11th, our adventure continued at the Head of Tide preserve across the street. Since the two preserves were so close together, we walked down the road a short way to the trailhead. The trail map showed two loops, each one about a mile long. For this excursion, we decided to investigate the blue loop, which would take us towards the river.

From the kiosk, a path ran through a field. Judging from the remains of the summer vegetation, I assumed the vegetation could get quite high during the growing season. At the end of the field, a small bridge crossed over a wet area. In that small pond were some interesting ice crystals poking up from the ice. On closer examination, I discovered that the ice crystals were clinging to grass that was poking through the frozen pond. These amazing gifts of nature were quite beautiful, so we took some time admiring the artwork.

Not far from the bridge, we found the two loops. The red loop went off to our right into the woods. The blue trail went straight. On the blue trail we walked briefly through a small wooded section, before the trees gave way to a field. Here, there were tall sticker bushes on either side of the trail. This was a bit problematic, since there were a few tiny ice skating rinks that we had to avoid. During these evasive maneuvers, we came very close to those stickers.

Just past the field, there was an intersection indicating that straight would head towards the red loop while a left turn would keep us on the blue trail. We turned left and entered the woods. Eventually, the path ran adjacent to the river. I spotted some ice in this section of the stream, but unfortunately we were on a ridge and it was quite wooded here so I could not get a good look at the water. A little further along, I found a bench overlooking the river. It was located in a beautiful section of evergreens facing the water, but as you can see the trees blocked the view a bit. Still, it looked like a wonderful place to sit and contemplate the gifts of nature.

From this point there was a small downhill section and I continued looking for a way to get closer to the river. When we reached a bridge crossing over a ravine, I looked right and noticed a trail heading towards the water. At last, we found a way to get close to this interesting aqueduct! We spent a few minutes watching the rapids and just listening to the music of the flowing water. I found it very peaceful but my friend thought it was a bit loud. Still, I found it refreshing.

Returning to the bridge, we crossed over the ravine. The trail was uphill from here, until we reached the meadow leading back to the beginning of the loop. Soon, we were back at the kiosk and making our way back to the car. Although very cold, it felt good to be out. As my friend put it, “we got a chance to recycle the air in our lungs.” Indeed!

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Stover Preserve 2022

There was a significant temperature drop by December 11th but that did not stop my hiking buddy and I to get outdoors and discover something new.  The temperature hovered around 13 or so, when we made our way to the Belfast area to check out some preserves. Our first stop was the Stover Preserve, which consisted of a one-mile loop.

Once on the trail, we stopped almost immediately to admire the ice clinging to the leaves of some very green ground cover. I did attempt to identify this later, but without any luck. Perhaps the ice crystals confused the various plant ID applications. In any case, after enjoying the overall beauty of this artwork, I decided to get a closer look with my macro lens. I was amazed that I could pick out the hexagonal designs on the ice-covered leaves.

After taking way too much time photographing this plant, we realized how cold it was. Our fingers actually hurt from the cold. This was one of the downsides to taking pictures in winter. There was just no way you could manipulate a camera while wearing gloves or mittens. Fortunately, my friend had brought along some hand warmers, so we quickly inserted them in our gloves and continued on our journey.

Now, that we finally wandered away from the parking area, we noticed that the ground was frozen enough to crunch under our feet. Everywhere we looked, we found some form of ice, either clinging to objects partially submerged in the various streams or laced along the vegetation near the trail. We also found some nice specimens of needle ice. I have always had trouble getting a decent picture of these columns of ice pushing through the ground, because they are generally covered with dirt and to me just don’t look nice. On this day, I think I captured a pretty decent example of needle ice.

Eventually, the trail turned into a beautiful pine covered lane, surrounded by evergreen trees. Below us, we could see the Passagassawakeag River. We stopped for a few minutes to admire the rushing water. Throughout this preserve, we found several examples of the beauty of nature. It felt so refreshing!

As we made our way through the back side of the loop, we discovered a set of 3 small wooden steps or so, leading to a stony stream crossing. In warmer weather, this would have been an easy crossing. Today, the water flowed over the stones. I wasn’t concerned about getting wet since I was wearing a good pair of waterproof boots. My concern was the slippery conditions that were the result of the invisible ice just under the water. I cautiously made my way across, giving directions to my hiking buddy as to where the safest and driest places were for her to follow me.

After making a safe crossing of this stream, the rest of the hike was easy. Due to the temperatures, we decided to enjoy our snack within the warmth of her car, before heading to the next preserve across the street.

Fernalds Neck 2022

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my hiking buddy and I decided it was time to walk off all that holiday eating from the previous three days. We kept it local, and headed for Fernald’s Neck in Lincolnville. Whenever we walked in this preserve, we always travelled the trails in a clockwise direction. This time, I declared that we should shake things up a bit and take the Orange trail in the counter clockwise direction. It was interesting to discover that not only did things looked different when approached from another way, but the brain was more alert as well.

At this point in the year, there were not too many new discoveries to behold. Flowers were long gone, but the mushrooms had vanished as well. We did come across a beautiful orange jelly fungus, but alas, I had not paid enough attention to my camera settings and the pictures taken at a way to slow shutter speed were completely blurry.

Approaching a ledge around the midpoint of the loop, I noticed that during one particularly steep section, I had an easier time taking this segment in the uphill direction than when we took our usual route and cautiously came downhill. Continuing along the ledge, we came across a field of Reindeer Lichen. It was then that we heard movement in the woods beyond this field. We stood very still and were soon rewarded with a deer sighting. We must have disturbed him while he was enjoying his lunch.

We continued wandering through the woods, just enjoying the experience of being out in nature. It wasn’t long before the trail skirted the edge of Megunticook Lake. We found a spot near the water to enjoy our lunch while meditating on the water and the Camden Hills beyond the lake. Bad weather was predicted for that evening but for now I soaked in the beauty of the cloud formation above the hills.

Finished with our snack, we continued our journey past Balance Rock and on towards home. It was a great end to a long weekend.

Discoveries and Delights Near Home

The Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend was a beautiful, warm day. After some discussion with my hiking buddy, we decided that if we wanted to stay local our best bet for avoiding crowds would be Tanglewood. This led to some further discussion as to our lack of ambition towards exploring new trails a little further away. We certainly seemed to be in a rut regarding our hiking venues. Were we just getting older, or was it a malaise that had set in during the height of the pandemic? Whatever the reason, we needed to break this trend, but for now, we decided on Tanglewood.

As we made our way to this preserve, we noticed the full parking areas at all of the local trailheads. Imagine our surprise then, when we arrived at Tanglewood and learned that we were the only ones there. Well, we certainly got our wish about avoiding the crowds. We could only assume that the tourists were not aware of this preserve and the locals understood that Tanglewood was always wet. It was also black fly season. In fact, we quickly donned our head nets as soon as we got out of the car and reached for the DEET.

As far as always being wet, Tanglewood was one of those places that would certainly benefit from a little TLC in terms of trail maintenance. At this point, the logs that were thrown down years ago across the muddy sections were rotting. From what I could tell, it was probably decades since any planks or bog bridges were put down or replaced. On one previous visit, one dilapidated planked section stopped 6 feet short of a very wet, muddy section. It was a shame, because Tanglewood had a lot to offer.

Since it was rather warm, we opted to not push ourselves during this trip. The False Hellebores were probably blooming but they were much further up the River Trail than we wanted to walk. We were a little disappointed that we were making this trip later than we normally did. For my hiking buddy, the frog eggs were long gone and for me, I noticed that I had missed the flowering of the Goldthreads and the Arbutus. All was not lost however, when we discovered Blue-bead Lilies beginning to bloom along with some Lady Slippers. We also found a few nice specimens of Indian Cucumber Root with its tiny flower hidden underneath the top set of leaves.

Once we reached the river, we walked along the River Trail towards the falls. There we discovered a school of fish trying to make its way up the falls. We must have watched them for half an hour, wondering how the species survived, when so few of them actually made it over the falls. As we made our way back to the car, we were delighted to spot a pair of eagles flying just above the tree line. We wondered if they were heading towards the river for lunch.

Back in my own neighborhood, I decided to see what was blooming this last weekend in May. It was amazing what discoveries could be found in the ditches along the road. Scanning the roadside, I found an abundance of Blunt-Leaved Sandworts, (a small white flower with 5 petals). I also spotted Cuckoo Flowers (a flower with 4 petals) and a single Ragged Robin, which as its name suggests looked pretty ragged. Back home, I noticed some tiny white flowers growing in the lawn, a Thyme-Leaved Speedwell with flowers half the size of my thumb nail.

Between watching the fish trying to get upstream and admiring the local flowers my day was complete. There had been enough discoveries and delights to satisfy my curiosity.

Ducktrap Preserve in the Spring

April 10th was a mixed weather day, with a combination of sun, clouds and wind. In fact, this was turning out to be a very windy spring season. Despite the variable weather conditions, my hiking buddy and I decided to check out the Ducktrap River Preserve. It was one of the places listed as an acceptable place to explore during mud season by the local land trust, so we headed there to see if this was true.

Not that far from the trailhead, we encountered a section of trail that had been washed away by the recent rains. Did I fail to mention that there was 4 inches of water in my rain gauge from the rain that fell 48 hours prior to this visit? That amount of water during one storm, would probably cause some damage even on so-called safe trails. In any case, there was a small section of trail over towards our right which allowed safe passage.

A little further along, my friend noticed what appeared to be a trail towards our left. Studying that trail for a bit, we noticed some pink ribbons further up the hill. We don’t often do this, but we decided to go off-trail and explore. Reaching the top of the hill, we found an old metal conveyor belt of some kind. We could only speculate on the purpose of this machine and why here. Farming, perhaps?

My friend had grown up in the Midcoast area, and she remembered that there were other machines in this area, as well. She poked around the area some more, and continued peering into the woods as we continued our journey, but this was the only piece of equipment we found.

Most of the trail was a hard-packed dirt road, but I was not sure I would consider this a good mud season trail. There were a few wet areas where gullies had formed from the rain, as well as some muddy sections. Then again, the wet areas we encountered could have been from that 4 inches of rain.  I guess, overall, it wasn’t the worst trail conditions I had seen this year.

Since we could hear the river roaring off to our left, we stepped off the trail once more to try and get a look at the river below. Even though we knew that turning off on to the back country ski trail later in our hike would take us to the river’s edge, we just wanted a view from above the river. From where we stood, we could only get a glimpse of the water through the forest, but it was something.

Continuing our journey, it wasn’t long before we reached a section that I always forgot about. There was one place on the trail, where we had encountered a small pond covering the road during previous hikes. On this particular day in early April, it was covered with several inches of ice. We tested the surface tentatively and realized it was quite slippery. Of course, we had not carried micro-spikes with us. Since it seemed like the mud deeper in the woods was the better option than falling on the ice, we opted to take that route.

Once past this obstacle, we proceeded on our journey towards the trail that would take us down to the river. Here we were completely foiled, for that trail was underwater. There was just no way, we were going to get there from the snowmobile trail. We debated our options before deciding to stay on the snowmobile road a little longer. We soon came to a preserve sign which we presumed was the boundary of the preserve. There were some large boulders nearby, where we sat and enjoyed our lunch before heading back towards the trailhead.