Frye Headwaters

Early in the summer, I had read about a new trail opening for the Georges River Land Trust called the Frye Headwaters Trail in Searsmont. This recently developed path was 14 miles in length and designed to connect the Ridge to River Trail in Appleton to Frye Mountain in Montville. Now, my hiking buddy and I were by no means up to a 14-mile exploration one way, round trip or in other way but, after our recent experiences with overgrown, tick-ridden trails we felt that a short hike on a brand new byway might not present the same problems. On July 31st, we set out for the Frye Headwaters Trail.

At the trailhead, we found a mowed path through a grassy area with quite a few Black-eyed Susans, Fleabanes and Queen Anne’s lace. Once in the woods, we continued our adventure on a semi-grassy trail, with quite a few Bunchberry plants loaded with red berries, on either side of this road. Continuing our walk we found some Dewberries, a new find for me this year. We also found lots of Haircap Moss.

Pretty soon, the markers made a detour into the woods for a short distance. I assumed that the detour might have been around a wet area. In any case, the woods were very pretty here. There is just something about a path that is lined with pine needles that is not only soothing, but easy to walk on.

Once past the detour, the trail went through some slightly muddy areas which we knew would be quite wet in a normal rain year. For now, there were worn logs laid across these areas to assist in the hikers’ progress, but I wondered if these bridges would be underwater if it ever rained again. In places that were a little more uneven, the trail went along the high ground to avoid the wet areas.

After a while, we came to a rather sketchy looking bridge across a wet area. At this point we seriously considered turning back. The slats were pretty far apart, and I was just not that sure about my balance. While we studied the situation, my friend commented that we were standing on top of a beaver lodge. Sure enough, this bridge went across the lodge and the wet area. Finally, my friend went across the bridge first, then stretched out her hands to support my crossing. It was just having something or someone’s hands to hold on to that gave me the confidence to cross.

As you can probably see from the photo, once over the bridge the trail was pretty grassy. In fact, we were waist high in it. Since it was a very short distance to the woods, we gritted our teeth and went for it, making sure to do a tick check when we reached the clean, dirt path once more.

At this point, we only went a little bit further before turning around. This summer had been pretty hot and humid, and we were both feeling it. During the return journey, I was getting overheated, and we stopped frequently for water breaks. There were many hot days last summer as well, but this year seemed worse, so we just weren’t hiking that much this year as a result. I think this exploration occurred because we both felt the need to be outside, but at this point September can’t come soon enough.


Gibson Preserve 2022

It had been five years since we last visited the Gibson Preserve. At that time, the trail we explored was located down a rather interesting road. We had to park somewhere along the side of that road, walk across a bridge and then walk down an old logging road that was 2 inches under water. Since then, the land trust purchased additional land, and relocated the trailhead. On June 12th, we decided to explore that new section, but first we wanted to walk another part of the preserve located on Route 173. This portion of the preserve offered a trail that was just about a mile in length, so we would have plenty of time to explore both trails.

The parking lot on Route 173 overlooked a field with a mowed path leading towards the woods. The field was filled with Bedstraw, Vetch, Hawkweed, and I think the occasional Daisy. Whatever was growing in the meadow was certainly attracting the butterflies. We watched the activity for a short time before heading towards the woods. Since the Bedstraw was just coming into bloom, I would have liked to have gotten a picture of the plant but every single one was covered with what my hiking buddy called “bug spit”, so I gave up on that venture.

Not far into the woods we found a bench with “today is the day” carved into it. The first letter of that statement was quite beautiful. I could not get the lighting quite right for the carved statement to really pop, even with post-processing so this image would just have to do.  We would find another intricately carved bench further on in our journey that was even more elaborate.

The first part of the trail was quite lovely, with carpets of Bunchberries on either side. Later, when we got closer to the George’s River, there were some areas that were a bit overgrown with ferns. This did not bother us too much, for we have never encountered ticks when walking through ferns. The overgrowth just made it a bit difficult to see where we were stepping.

We paused in a few places by the river before continuing on the loop. On the back side of the loop, I found a tree stump filled with small mushrooms and thought it made for an interesting picture. As we continued our journey back towards the meadow, this part of the trail passed a section of the river with more interesting views. I particularly liked the view of a rather wide tree on the opposite bank. The fullness of its leaves and branches made a perfect reflection in the water.

Back in the car, it was just a short distance to the second trail in this preserve. This path was on the opposite side of the river, at the end of a dirt road. Again, we were greeted with a trail lined with a carpet of Bunchberries, as we made our way into the woods.

This portion of the preserve was a little bit more rugged and we found ourselves dealing with more bugs. In fact when we reached the river we decided it would be wise to don our head-nets. We stopped briefly to admire the boulder at the edge of the river before backtracking to the trail.

Our goal was to take the blue trail to the second intersection with the yellow trail that was indicated on our map in red. It most have been an older map, because when we reached the intersection of the Gibson Preserve with the Ridge to River trail, we realized we had gone too far. At some point that second intersection of the yellow trail had been removed. Now we had to turn around and make our way back to that first yellow marker through some pretty rough trail conditions, back through some grassy sections where we could not see the rotten bog planks (which I discovered when I stepped on the broken section of plank). We performed tick checks each time we passed through this section and removed about 3 in each direction. Through this portion of the preserve, we also provided the mosquitos and black flies with a hefty lunch. It was not time for our lunch, so after hiking about 3.5 miles we headed home.

Thanksgiving Exploration of Appleton Preserve

Quite a lot of rain fell the week of Thanksgiving. By Friday, it was just overcast and gloomy looking. It was enough for my husband to head out to either finish up his wall building project or clean up the leaves before the cold weather came in. I decided to meet up with one of my hiking buddies at the Appleton Preserve for a short hike.

The Appleton Preserve consisted of one trail that ran alongside the St. George’s River with a lollipop loop near the end. At least that is what I remembered. In any case, once we arrived at the preserve we proceeded to follow the trail along the river. With all the rain that fell over the past week, the river was flowing pretty swiftly over the rocks. We followed a few side trails to get a closer view, pausing for some time trying to determine the right spot for a picture on such a dreary looking day.

Once we returned to the main trail, we set our sights on what beautiful gifts nature had to offer during this time of year. We were surprised to find quite a few pleasing sights around us. First up was the water droplets hanging from the branches. I was glad I was the first one to take the opportunity to get a photo of this, for when my friend attempted a picture, she got too close to the branch and touched it with her camera. It was pretty funny, but she obviously did not take it to heart as she proceeded to knock the water off of every tree we passed.

Next up on our nature study was the remnants of last summer’s flowers. The dried remains displayed a different kind of beauty. We came across many different types, spending quite a bit of time just admiring the symmetry.

We finally reached a bridge, where the trail would continue on towards the lollipop section of the trail. This is where my memory failed me, for just before the bridge we noticed a road and a blue blazed trail nearby. I did not remember a second trail from my last visit, but that trip was at least several years ago. Along the road was a post with the number 3 painted on it, with no explanation. We opted to follow the blue blazed trail nearby which headed off into the woods.

On such a grey day, the woods were dark indeed. I did not take much notice of the trees but I did note that there was plenty of moss and the remains of last season’s bunchberry leaves along the ground. As we continued our journey, we discovered another post with the number 20 on it. Based on the previous observation of the first post along the road, we were on a loop but traversing it from the opposite direction.

Perhaps because it was a cloudy day, I did not noticed anything too spectacular in this section of the preserve. Due to the previous rainfall we had to maneuver around quite a few wet areas. In fact, as we neared the end of this trail, the path was more of a river than dirt. We somehow found our way across this obstacle and continued toward the end of this loop where we passed the number 3 post once more.

Back at the trailhead, we studied the map and discovered there was a forestry interpretative trail. It was unfortunate that there was no trail guide available to interpret the numbered stops along the way. I researched the trail later and discovered that this section was opened in 2018 so I was pleased to know that my memory wasn’t completely shot.

Palermo Preserve

When we saw that Sunday, September 6th was going to be a beautiful sunny day, my friend and I selected another place not far from Liberty to explore. The week before we had climbed Haystack, finishing up with a visit to John’s Ice Cream Factory. This time we would pass the ice cream place and hike the Palermo Preserve in Palermo. We joked about stopping for ice cream on the way home.

To start the adventure, I followed my directions from the week before making the right onto Route 173 in Searsmont (or at least I thought I followed my directions). After driving for some time, I realized not only did things not look familiar to me, but I had not yet seen the Gibson Preserve which I knew was on this road. Eventually, I straightened myself out and was soon on the correct path. Seems I had made the right in Searsmont just a bit too soon. Now that I was back on track, I could follow the directions I had printed out. Once I turned on to Turner Ridge Road, I discovered that the preserve was closer to 3 miles down the road not the 2 miles on my map. I texted this information to my friend so she would know that she had not passed her destination.

Now that we had both safely arrived at Palermo, we opted to walk the shorter loop first then return to the kiosk to explore the second loop. The Patricktown loop led us a briefly through a forested area before ending at the Sheepscot River, where we found 2 plastic chairs placed by the river for someone to sit and admire the beauty of the water flowing over some stones. It was so very peaceful here. I could imagine spending some time just listening to the river  as time passed by. There was also a stone abutment nearby which stirred up questions about its past. While we were mulling over this question, a mink ran by and disappeared into the spaces between the stones of this structure. We were amazed. We stood quietly for a moment waiting for the mink to return, but he declined to honor us with another visit. Once we were back on the trail we found ourselves at the top of this stone structure. Looking across the river, we noticed that an overgrown road seemed to continue directly opposite, so we concluded that there must have been a bridge across the river at some point in time.

Back at the kiosk, we proceeded down the White Trail towards the river. Near the river we found some large coral fungus which we studied for a few seconds before my friend was distracted by the frogs splashing in the water. I noticed a Cardinal Flower hiding in some bushes while my friend wondered if the bush might be an Elderberry. As we continued walking along the river, there were additional opportunities to get a better view of Cardinal Flowers but not close enough to get a decent picture, so I eventually gave up. I was soon intrigued by the way the water was flowing around some obstruction in the water so I took a photo and thought I would investigate it later. Once I enlarged the picture I noticed that it was a red leaf in the middle of the stream. Amazing! Further down the trail we both noticed the perfect opportunity to get my Cardinal Flower picture. Success at last!

Shortly after this point, the trail was supposed to turn away from the river. We soon found a detour, perhaps due to erosion issues, which took us up a steep hill. Once we reached the top of the hill we soon found the blue trail markers. We continued on as planned following the Blue Trail back to the White Trail and the parking area. We had a quick lunch in the parking area before heading home. Oddly enough, we both decided that neither one of us needed ice cream. Even without the ice cream it had been a wonderful outing.


West Branch – Part II

We did not get back to the West Branch Preserve the following weekend, since the weather during the holiday weekend was not that great. It was around July 10th before we finally made it back to finish the northern side of this park, taking the Katie’s Way Trail and the Lean-to Loop. As we approached the kiosk, another couple emerged from the woods wearing shorts and tank tops and proceeded to perform a tick check. We asked about the bug situation which they mentioned was quite buggy. Then they told us it was very grassy as well. We looked down at our chemically treated clothing, thanked them for the info, sprayed on the Deet and entered the woods.

The bug situation was not so bad that we needed the head nets but then again we had sprayed ourselves with bug spray which probably helped. It had rained  briefly the night before so we did have to take care on the bog planks which were quite slippery. Since the ground was still very dry,  we walked next to the wooden planks most of the time. We did have to take care a little while later in maneuvering down the slippery logs placed as steps down to the road. After we crossed a road we entered the woods again for a short time before we reached an open area. The couple we met at the kiosk were not kidding! The grass through a good portion of this part of the park was at least knee high. I would have turned around if I had been dressed like they were!

The grassy area took us near some wire fencing that looked like it might have been some type of ranch or game preserve. In fact, the brochure did mention that part of the property was a former big game preserve. Looking towards the open area on the other side of the fence, we spotted an animal running through the field. It looked like a fox but considering how far away it was we thought it was kind of tall for a fox. Ultimately, we decided we were right the first time. Once the animal was out of view, we continued on our way.

Since most of the trail was grass, there was very little in the way of trail blazes or signs indicating that visitors were indeed on the trail. The tall grass also hid the fact that the area was pretty wet underneath. While walking through this wet area we did see lots of Swamp Candles, so that was a good find. When we finally got into the woods, I discovered that somewhere after taking pictures of the Swamp Candles I had lost my lens cap. While I waited in the shade, my poor husband retraced our steps through the tall grass to look for it. By some miracle, he actually found it!

This section was a bit more shaded but the damage was already done. I was getting overheated. We continued walking towards the Lean-to Loop, stopping on a bridge to get views of the Old Mill and watch the Damsel Flies flitting above the water. Not far from the bridge, we found the Lean-to tucked in the far corner of a field filled with Black-eyed Susans. We waited along the side of the trail while a man on a mower came through to maintain the trails, which made the return trip a little easier since the grass was matted down and no longer knee high. Once he went by, we completed the Loop and returned to the bridge to enjoy water and a snack while watching the Damsel Flies.

I had always had trouble with hot, humid weather but it seems that as I got older the situation has gotten worse, to the point where I was really distressed. The mile long journey back from the bridge was difficult. I had to stop numerous times for water and to recharge a little bit for the next few feet. At some point, my husband took my backpack and my camera as we walked the last section back to the car. With the air conditioning on full blast in the car, I revived a bit about half way home. Once home I consumed several glasses of water while I thought about autumn and cooler weather.