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Ash Point

January proved a bit erratic in the weather department; dropping several inches of snow one day followed by rising temperatures and an inch of rain another day.  But one day towards the middle of the month, the temperatures were seasonable and with the ground covered with snow we decided to explore Ash Point Preserve in Owls Head.

Not knowing what to expect, we threw both the spikes and the snowshoes in the car and headed towards this new trail near the Owls Head Lighthouse.  The trail at Ash Point was new, having only been opened sometime last summer. I was pleased to see that the preserve was clearly marked and the parking area had been cleared, saving us from parking along the road. Seeing that the trail was really packed down, we donned the spikes and headed on our way.

The first part of the trail ran along the property line of a private residence. Once we walked beyond the back of the house and through a gap in a stone wall we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. While admiring the snow covered woods, I discovered a tree bearing the biggest burl I have ever seen. We joked a bit about the line in the movie Kindergarten Cop about “it’s not a tumor” but then we followed it with “well, yeah it is” before continuing on towards the shore.

The trail curved and we meandered some distance along the coast. One of the problems with hiking through snowy terrain is that the white stuff on the ground tends to hide the obstacles underneath. Sure enough, I caught an almost ground level stump and found myself sprawled face down in the snow. (The beauty of snow is that when one falls, the landing is pretty soft). Once I righted myself I found that there were many opportunities to stop and really take in the icy views. On one side of the trail, I found icicles hanging from a nearby pine tree. Turning towards the water I had to study a white blanketed island in the distance.

Most of the coast line was below us but there were a few places where we could have headed towards the rocks for better views. Given the potential of ice underneath the white carpet, we decided to satisfy ourselves with glimpses of the water from the safe distance within the woods.

Eventually, the trail curved back away from the water. At one point, my husband grabbed the camera to try to get a picture of the snow-covered trees lining the path but once he was done with that he turned the camera towards me. Now, I hate having my pictures taken but he just kept shutting away, even catching me sticking my tongue out at him. It wasn’t until I picked up some snow and aimed it at him (he also captured that on camera) that he stopped. Once we continued on our way, it wasn’t long before we were back in the car heading towards another new trail a few miles up the road.

 

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Slow Times

Although the hiking news has been quiet of late, we did get out for some short outings during the Christmas holidays. Christmas Eve we hiked the Erickson Field loop with our son-in-law before settling into a somewhat lazy week. Snow came Christmas Day and we all settled down to our respective projects, stopping occasionally to watch the snow. I did notice that nature’s paintbrush had been at work on a long abandoned spider web on the porch, dusting the remnants with strands of snow.

After Christmas the temperatures took a dramatic dive into single digits and negative numbers. There was at least one day, that the high never got above -2, certainly a day to stay indoors and work on those 4 quilt projects I had going. Even though it was bitterly cold, we did decide to bundle up mid-week and snowshoe around the Hodson Preserve with a friend. We returned to a warm fire, coffee, and scones, enjoying the time spent with a friend.

Later that week, we were supposed to attend a Christmas Tree Burning Party but with temps dropping to -12 that night, the party was postponed to the following week. It was still cold the next weekend, but off we went with our contribution to the fire to watch the last reminders of the holidays slowly return to the earth. After the last tree was gone we all headed inside for hot chocolate, dessert and conversations with new people.

As I waited for the temperatures to climb into a zone that is safer and more comfortable for exploring some new places, I reflected that the last few weeks were not wasted. We should never consider time shared with family and friends as having been wasted. It strengthens ties and reconnects us to each other. It is time well spent.

Georgetown

Just prior to the Christmas weekend, we received an invitation to visit friends in Georgetown. After their summer stint at one of the campgrounds in Acadia, they had lined up a new gig working on an estate near Reid State Park. Since there was a fresh few inches of snow on the ground, it seemed like the prefect day to explore a new place. And so, we headed an hour south towards Bath, and turned off towards the Georgetown peninsula just before the bridge. Soon, we were turning onto a snow covered road that led towards a wonderful little cottage.

After chatting a bit, we all bundled up, donned our spikes and took off to explore. One of the tasks that our friends were involved with is putting trails throughout the property. Our walk took us down towards the main house first, where the views of the Sasanoa River where spectacular. Near the edge of the water someone had erected a small cairn. I paused to admire the artwork before hurrying to catch up with the rest of the group.

There were a few places where the terrain was a bit icy underfoot, making the uphill and downhill portions somewhat tricky but we got by them with no mishaps. While maneuvering around these difficulties, I was still able to admire the artistic gifts of nature; the icicles hanging underneath the moss covering a rock, an odd shaped tree and the ever present views of the water. When the cold started to make us uncomfortable, we headed back to the cottage, where we chatted for a while before headed towards Bath for lunch.

After lunch, we wished each other a Happy Holiday and went our separate ways. I was a little envious of our friends’ new location. I could only imagine what it would be like to live on your own private preserve where there are spectacular views from your window and numerous places to explore every day.

Meadow Brook Preserve – Hauk-Fry Trail

Over the years, I had come to realize that if I want to explore the outdoors I needed to do so early in the day. There have been too many times when I assumed that I would go on a hike after lunch and it somehow never happened.  So when the second weekend in December brought clear weather and seasonable temperatures, we decided to explore the Hauk-Fry trail of the Meadow Brook preserve in Swanville.

The Meadow Brook preserve consists of three separate tracts of land with a mile long trail on each of two of the tracts. Since the local land trust has been placing highly visible signs on the various preserves, we assumed that we would locate this spot and a parking pullout without any problem. Alas, after we drove way too long, we were forced to turn around and looked more closely for the preserve designation on our return trip. We eventually found a small off-road sign for each of the two pieces of land but neither one provided a pullout. The directions to this piece of land did indicate that we should park on the road and we did so with some reservation since the lane was a bit curvy.

The day was still cold enough that the morning frost had not yet lifted and as we walked along the trail, I marveled at the icy designs on the surrounding vegetation. We walked along a narrow path and across some slippery bog planks along our journey towards Hurds Pond. As we traveled, I realized how each preserve we have hiked has its own unique character. This particular spot of land was punctuated by moss covered rocks scattered around the trail, which created its own challenges for moving around these obstacles. On one rock, I counted at least 3 different types of mosses (actually 2 types of moss and reindeer lichen) and found a 4th on a nearby stone.

As we got closer to the water, we found a number of trees felled by beaver activity. The sharpened stump of the downed trees were all the remained. Of those logs that remained, they were all stripped of their bark and left behind. Walking around this area, we soon arrived at a picnic table overlooking the pond. Directly across from us, we had a wonderful view of a rather larger beaver lodge. We stood admiring the water views for a bit before retracing our steps to another fork that would take us to a stone dam, which according to our guide book could take us to the island across the river. When we arrived at the dam, we looked across at a series of blue blazes but did not feel comfortable crossing the ice covered stones and the beginnings of what appeared to be new beaver construction. I was not sure if this construction raised the water level across the stone dam but it was high enough for me to deem the crossing unsafe. It was interesting to note, that another blogger who had explored the second trail of this preserve, commented that the back end of the loop was difficult to maneuver because the beaver activity in the area had made that portion of the trail very wet. We studied our options for a little bit before deciding to call it a day and turned back towards the preserve entrance and lunch in Belfast.

On the way back I reflected on the frost covered vegetation, the variety of mosses and lichens, the water views and beaver activity and realized that it had been a wonderful, discovery filled morning.

Gibson Preserve

During the first weekend in December, the temperatures were still fluctuating between a balmy 50 and more seasonable night-time lows in the 20’s. On one of those spring like moments, we decided to explore a section of the Gibson preserve. Since the two sections of the preserve were not connected, we opted to explore the larger area, leaving the 1 mile trail for another day. Our exploration for this outing would also give us the option of exploring a portion of the Ridge to River trail if we so decided since the two trails were directly across from each other.

First, we had to get to the trail-head. The directions on the Georges River Land Trust site indicated that after turning on to Ripley we should park off the road, walk across a bridge and veer right at the fork. Unfortunately, we misinterpreted the road as Riley and had to turn around when we reached the second section of the preserve. Once we corrected our mistake, we made our way to the dirt road that would lead to the two trail-heads. Well, it may have been dirt lane at one time. We stood for a moment, gazing down a long river before making our way alongside this large expanse of water. The thought crossed my mind that I would sure hate to see what this preserve looked like during the wet season, not only because of the water but I also thought about the number of black flies and mosquitoes that must inhabit this area!

Examining our map, we decided that we would be able to create a nice loop by combining the Orange, Yellow and Blue trails. Once on the orange trail, we found the ground was still spongy beneath our feet. In fact, most of Gibson consisted of a lush ground cover of a variety of mosses. Not far into our walk, we found a downed tree covered in Beard Lichen. The long whitish-green hairy growth was lovely to behold. Directly across from this artwork, I found another fine specimen of the orange jelly fungus I had first seen during our exploration of the Mount Pleasant preserve.

Not long after our discoveries, the orange trail began to follow the St. George River. From where we stood, I assumed that we were looking at the second section of Gibson preserve just across the river. For a number of years now, there has been statements on the land trust web site that they have been trying to find ways to connect the two sections but nothing has ever happened. Judging from the width of the river I am not sure that they could easily connect the two parts. For now, we continued towards the orange loop.

Soon, we arrived at the beginning of the orange loop. There was a lot of blow down and damaged trees in this area and we decided to deal with the tree blocking one portion of the loop at the end of our adventure. For now, we continued straight, stopping to admire the artistic swirls within another freshly downed tree.

At the first intersection with the yellow trail, we opted to continue on the orange trail but did side-step onto this trail to study a vernal pond not that far in. Making our way around the orange loop, we noticed that this section of the preserve consisted of cedar, white pine and spruce trees. There were quite a few elongated pine cones on the ground which we assumed to be from the white pines.

Turning on to the yellow trail, we continued to notice the various conifers above and the mosses below. At some point we crossed a bridge and I noticed from my map that we completely missed the blue trail. We turned back towards the bridge and looked across the water where we could see blue blazes deeper in the woods but there had been no sign of a turnoff towards that trail either at the bridge crossing or further up the trail. Since we had already passed both places where the trail intersected the yellow, we decided to abandon the exploration of the blue trail and headed back towards the entrance. We made our way around the downed tree where the yellow trail met the orange, managed to avoid falling into the river that made up the road leading back to our car and heading home for lunch. It had been a beautiful hike.