Cameron Mountain 2023

By January 21st, we finally had some significant snow. It was time to get the snowshoes out and play in the snow. We called some friends of ours and agreed to meet at the Multiuse Trail early the next morning. The goal was to enjoy the trail before the snow was packed down by others.

We arrived at the trailhead by 8:30, and while we weren’t the first people out, there was still plenty of the white stuff for snowshoes to be useful. Although, we had mentioned heading up Cameron Mountain, we had not made any specific plans for this adventure. Since snowshoeing can be hard work, we just figured we would keep going until someone decided they wanted to turn around.

It was a great time to be out, not only for the activity, but for the beauty of the snow and the sun just hitting the tree tops. The four of us stopped a few times to take in the beauty of the winter wonderland. During our stops, I managed to photograph the sun lighting up the trees, as well as one with the sun flaring behind a tree.

During our uphill walk on the Multiuse trail, we stopped a few times to rest. This road is a bit hard without snow on the ground, never mind snowshoes. Eventually, we reached a point where the sun had come up enough to light up the whole area. I felt that it was the perfect spot to get some people in my pictures. Normally, I don’t like to have my picture taken, but I used the backdrop of the sun and the snow and convinced our friends to take our picture. I was pleased with the results.

Once we reached the Cameron trailhead, we decided to see how far towards Cameron Mountain we could go. This trail was wide enough to be considered a road, so there was no maneuvering along narrow paths. It was also relatively flat, except for one steep hill near the Cameron Mountain Spur.

As we walked along, we heard another party behind us. They were pretty far back, but we found it odd that they seemed to stop whenever we stopped. At some point, we stopped for a longer rest along the side of the trail and the party behind us caught up to and continued past us. As the passed us they thanked us for breaking the trail. So, that was the reason! We had been making it easier for them!

We continued our journey at a casual pace over the last hill before the turn off to the summit. Now, for the final push. That last steep walk up Cameron. When we reached the summit, we found the party who had thanked us for trail breaking. I thanked them for returning the favor. We enjoyed a snack and conversation with the other party before they continued on their journey. We stayed for a few more minutes before heading back down the trail.  


Darling Marine Center

Knowing that I was always looking for someplace new to explore, a close friend of ours told us about the trails at the Darling Marine Center near Bristol. This institution was part of the University of Maine system, dedicated to research and education in the marine sciences. He was taking some courses there and discovered the network of trails on the property. When my hiking buddy suggested that the day after New Year’s we should get out of dodge, I knew exactly where we would go. So, on January 2nd, we headed down to Walpole and the Darling Marine Center.

Once we parked at the center, we went into the administration building to sign in (which the website requested all visitors to do). There was no one around but a sign informed us we could sign in online, which I began to do. After about the 10th irrelevant question, I gave up, picked up a trail map and headed outside. From the parking area, we could see two trail kiosks on either side of the road. After studying the map, we laid out a plan to start on the Watershed Trail and make a loop that would end at the kiosk across the road.

To cover the most ground, we left the Watershed trail at the intersection with the North Ridge Trail which would eventually meet back up with the Watershed. Based on the cones alongside the path, I would say that most of the trees were spruce. The tree cover was pretty thick and there were sections of the forest that were pretty dark for mid-morning. From the storms over the holidays, there were a lot of small branches down, covered with various types of lichen.

The trails were well marked and we gave a lot of credit to the creativity of the trail blazer. Instead of the typical mark of two lines indicating a turn, this person actually painted an arrow curved towards the direction of travel. Even I was able to stay on track!

At 40 degrees there was no snow to enhance the beauty of the forest, but we did find a few partially frozen puddles. One frozen pond was illuminated by the sun, and displayed a wonderful reflection of the surrounding trees. We paused here for a minute just taking in the view.

At some point, the North Ridge Trail joined the Watershed trail and took a downward direction alongside a stream. It was steep enough to display a series of small waterfalls all the way to the Damariscotta River. Unfortunately, it was one of those sights where pictures did not do it justice. You really needed to experience it yourself.

Once we reached the Damariscotta River, the Watershed trail turned on to the River Bluff Trail. This path followed the river for quite a ways. When we found an access point to the beach, we discovered some sitting rocks where we could have lunch while enjoying the views.

After lunch, we continued along the River Bluff Trail until we reached the lower campus. From here, we found the Coveside Trail which would take us back to our starting point. The path followed Lowe’s Cove for most of our journey. We enjoyed the views of the cove, which was so different than the river-views. Near the end of our adventure, at the top of the cove, we had to make a difficult stream crossing; that consisted of an immediate climb up a bank after navigating the slippery rocks. After making it safely across, it wasn’t long before we were back at our starting point.

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!

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.

Little Ragged Mountain 2022

On December 5th, my husband and I decided to hike up Little Ragged using the Barnestown Road trail. We got a bit of a late start since my husband got lost in something else, and it wasn’t until I reminded him late morning that we had agreed to hike that day. At this time of the year, with sunset around 4, I really liked to be out of the woods by 3. We arrived at the trailhead at 11:30, so hopefully we had enough time to reach our goal.

The first section of trail was used to get to both the Bald Mountain trail and the Georges Highland Path that would take us up to Little Ragged. We started out following the path that went around a field and into the woods. With almost 2 inches of rain just a day or two earlier, even the flat areas were a bit wet and muddy. In fact, I slipped a bit walking around the field.

Once in the woods, the trail consisted of a lot of tree roots and boulders. In fact, this section was essentially a boulder field. You can get a sense of this by the stream flowing down Bald Mountain over the rocks in the first picture of this post. It wasn’t too far beyond this point that we reached an intersection. Turning towards the left would take us up Bald Mountain. We continued straight towards the Georges Highland Path.

With all that rain, there was enough water rushing over the rocks to create some impressive waterfalls. We paused at a few of these to admire nature’s power. At one of these, we actually stopped above and below the falls to study the flowing water from 2 different perspectives.

We continued maneuvering around boulders until we came to a stream crossing. There were no planks or bridges across this stream and with all the rain in the past few weeks, the water covered the rocks.  We made it across without any mishaps and continued to follow the trail up to the road. We crossed Barnestown Road to continue on the Georges Highland Path towards Little Ragged.

Across the road, the trail continued in a steady uphill direction. We discovered that there was a lot of mud hidden under the leaves, so we both did a bit of slipping and sliding as we made our way up the mountain. We also found that coming from this direction, it was sometimes difficult to find the next trail marker, but when we turned around the markers were quite clear. From this direction, the signs definitely needed a new coat of paint. In fact, at one of these markers some lichen had grown just above the paint forming a question mark. Even nature was questioning where we were supposed to go.

Our path continued to switchback uphill and at some point took us very close to a ravine. Eventually, we reached a new intersection with a sign post pointing out the new Round the Mountain Trail. Heading towards the left, we made our way up to the first ledge.

This granite section was surrounded by trees but there were still some views of Bald Mountain through the vegetation. I wanted to get to the bald ledge that had unobstructed views but it was already 1:00 and the sun was getting ready to go behind the ridge. We decided to have lunch where we were and then make it downhill before we lost light in the woods.

It was a bit colder than in recent days and we could see some patches of ice on the ledge where the rain had frozen. As we headed back downhill after lunch, I reminded my husband to watch out for the ice. Instead of watching, he stepped right on the ice and fell, landing on his side. As a result of the fall, his leg cramped and he spent a few minutes on the ground until his leg loosened up. I did wonder if he was taking a nap or if I would actually need to call for help. Eventually, he got up and we made it slowly down the mountain. This time, he listened as I called out to him where the patches of ice or mud were located and we made it safely down the hill. Although, we only went about a mile in one direction, this hike took between 2 to 3 hours due to the boulder field, roots, and the muddy, icy conditions; not to mention an injury. We made it safely home by 2:30.