After the snowstorm of March 14th brought a foot of snow to our area, we were blessed with another chance at snowshoeing. Our first thought was to check out the Harkness preserve in Rockport, but when we saw the “No Parking” sign almost directly in front of the preserve we decided to head back and just take a walk around the block. As we got closer to home, I suddenly had an inspiration that we should check out the loop trail at the Hodson preserve, so turning left instead of right we parked along the road and donned our snowshoes.
Shortly after entering the pine forest section of the preserve, we knew we had made the right choice. The combination of shade and sun filtering through the trees and reflecting off the snow was magical. We paused a bit just to soak in the serenity of the scene before moving on.
It wasn’t long before we stopped once more to enjoy another snow covered scene. Here, we stood to watch the water of a narrow stream rush downhill under an artistic covering of ice. The icy blanket was precariously poised on the edge of a downward section of this body of water and I wondered what forces were holding it in place. Further along the trail, there was more sunlight filtering through the trees shining on a more open section of this winding tributary. Surrounded by snow covered banks there was still some magic to be found along the water.
Soon we reached the bridge that would take us across the stream, leaving us the choice of continuing along the Hodson Loop or taking the Rheault Easement to the top of the hill. We realized that we had never really done the Hodson Loop, so we decided to continue along the trail for some new sights and adventures.
This ended up being an excellent decision, for we now found ourselves snowshoeing through virgin snow. Odd that everyone continued uphill instead of trekking around the loop. We soon discovered that we weren’t the only ones who had come this way, for the area was full of turkey tracks. We followed the arrows half way around the loop before these rather large birds decided on a different route through the trees. At some point, we noticed cat prints running parallel with the turkeys but no signs of a confrontation. Then again, I’m not sure a cat could tackle a turkey.
The trail began to loop back along a stone wall. Although covered with snow, I could still follow the line of the wall running through the trees. It wasn’t long before we came full circle and soon reconnected with the common path that would take us back across the stream towards the entrance to the preserve. It was time to end our journey and prepare to host our St. Patrick’s Day Celebration with our neighbors.
By the end of our snow filled weekend, the temperature climbed once more into the balmy region and the water poured off the roof as the snow began to melt. Three days were all we were going to have to enjoy some winter activities. With this in mind we decided to test the conditions of the trail up towards Beech Hill.
Beech Hill is not a long or difficult climb but it does offer some fantastic views from the top of the hill. As we walked around the field, the snow texture ranged from firm to slushy depending upon whether there was sun exposure or shade. Once the trail began its gentle ascent up the hill, it became more difficult to maneuver around the ruts and holes left by those who had gone before. We had to constantly watch the ground in order to avoid falling through the sometimes icy, sometimes slushy, uneven terrain.
Since the snowfalls over that week had been of the dry snow variety, there were many bare spots near the top of the hill where the wind had swept away the white carpet. This also applied to the trail, where the dirt patches had turned to mud with the warming temperatures. I was disappointed in the thought that “mud season” would soon be upon us, a condition that would limit our outings for the near future.
At the top of the hill, we looked out across the bay towards Acadia National Park and its snow covered mountains. It was quite windy on the open hilltop, so we lingered for a few minutes in the protection of the Beech Nut House veranda. Safely tucked away from the cold gusty breeze, I admired the line of mountains in the distance. We admired the views for a few minutes before heading back down the hill.
Halfway down the hill, I paused to admire the artistry of one more winter plant contrasted against the snow. I thought the beauty of all the seasons, even in the remains of this plant that would soon disperse those seeds and cover the hill with the beauty of spring.
The first free day after our week of snow, we grabbed our snowshoes and headed out to Erickson Field. In the parking field we met a man who had just returned to his car for his snowshoes, informing us that they were definitely needed in walking along the trail. Since we move at a slower pace, we let him get ahead of us before setting off.
A pretty stiff wind was blowing across the field, and it was interesting watching the winter weeds dancing in the breeze. A lone mullein plant stood tall above the rest. Continuing on our way, we found that our snowshoes were a necessity in negotiating the meadow, for there had been very little traffic along this route. This was surprising, since it was now several days after the snowstorm and most people in the area do like their outdoor activities. But then, we entered the woods and discovered the trail was packed down by those who had hit the trail before us. Interesting! The snowfall had been light and fluffy, so the wind across the open spaces was strong enough to erase any trace of previous use.
Once in the woods, we meandered along the loop trail stopping now and then to admire the beauty of some snow covered scene. The man we had met in the parking field passed us twice and we commented about his speed. He did claim that his dog was setting the pace, so we didn’t feel too bad about our progress. I do think that we had the better experience by keeping a stride that allowed us the time to enjoy the beauty around us. It certainly allowed us to notice the snow-capped mushrooms climbing up the remains of a birch tree!
When we finished the wooded loop and came back out to the meadow, we found that our tracks had also been swept away by the breeze. We stopped once more to enjoy the remains of some wild plants visible above the snow before completing our first and possibly only snowshoe adventure this winter.
Winter arrived the weekend before Valentine’s Day when the first of 3 storms descended upon us within the span of one week. It started with about 8 inches of snow on Monday, followed by another 6 on Wednesday and ended with a blizzard on Sunday. By the end of that week, the final totals seemed to be about 18 to 24 inches of snow.
Between the first two storms, I watched our backyard inhabitants scurrying about as they prepared for the final storm. Small creatures travelled back and forth between the two woodpiles as they carried food to the various compartments within. I was amused by a squirrel who occasionally popped up from the snow as he tried to reach the seeds beneath the birdfeeder. During all of this activity, I wondered if the wildlife exhibited the same human tendencies to stock up on large quantities of food before a storm (what is it about bread and milk anyway?).
As the final storm approached, everyone hunkered down for the duration. From our own safe harbor, we watched the falling snow block our view of the street as the winds increased. At times the world seemed to disappear. During the times when the wind died down, I spied one poor Cardinal hunched down on the birdfeeder and wondered if this was an indication that the storm would soon be over.
While we waited for the blustery weather to move on, we thought about dusting off our snowshoes in anticipation of finally participating in some winter activities. The snow ended on Monday evening but the best part of such a snowfall was watching the sunlight illuminate the landscape as it climbed over the ridge.
There had been just enough snow during the first few days of February for us to get outside and enjoy the benefits of a winter wonderland but not enough for us to dust off our snowshoes. Since we also did not want to deal with a treacherous uphill climb, we looked around for something that would take us through some relatively flat terrain. We thought we found our answer in a land trust preserve called the McLellan Poor Preserve located on the opposite side of the Belfast reservoir and the Little River Community Trail.
We brought our micro-spikes just in case but with the fluffy white groundcover we assumed we would not need them. In fact, as soon as we slipped out of the car we grabbed the spikes in order to continue our walk. At the kiosk we discovered we had a choice of two trails, one that would take us towards the reservoir and another loop through the interior of the preserve. The access to both, required crossing a bridge over Brewster’s Brook and a stream crossing which was notated on the map as “no bridge, a walking stick may be helpful.” We assumed that if there was no bridge the stream crossing should be manageable so without any further thought on the matter we set off.
There is a special beauty about walking in a pine forest in the winter, something that brings peace to my soul. The trail followed a ravine and we stopped a few times to just soak in the beauty of it all. We also took the opportunity to give thanks for having the right gear for this hike, noticing that those travelers who had gone before us had slipped a number of times, brushing the fine snow away to reveal the ice underneath.
We crossed the bridge at Brewster’s Brook with ease as we continued our journey towards the split between the two trails. It wasn’t look before we reached the stream crossing at Ramsey Brook and discovered there was no way to get across. Perhaps the water level was lower in the summer and making one’s way with a walking stick across the stones in the stream could be accomplished with little difficulty but attempting this in winter seemed an impossibility. This was no little stream! We stared at the blue marker about 20 feet on the opposite side of this body of water, wondering if there was some way we could continue. My husband walked a few yards along the stream in both directions but could not find a suitable crossing. I tentatively tested the ice, only to have my foot go through. Fortunately, the water did not flow over the top of my boot. We noticed that others had tried to cross by the footsteps that had broken through the ice. They had reached a small finger of land in the middle of the stream but it did not look like they had gone much further. My husband explored this option but did not think they could have gone over the dam of trees and brush that would have taken them to the opposite shore.
Disappointed, we turned around vowing to come back another day, although without drought conditions I’m not sure how we will be able to explore the rest of the McLellan Poor preserve.