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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.

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Newman Preserve

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to organize an event; nature or circumstances just keep throwing things in our way until those original plans completely unravel.  That is how I felt that last full weekend of September. My plan was to hike a trail we hadn’t done in quite some time but things just happened, leaving me completely frustrated. Friday had the ominous look of rain about it, Saturday my significant other had promised to help a neighbor take down a tree, and Sunday I worked. Things continued that way even into Monday, when I called a friend to join me on a hike but discovered she wasn’t home. Not feeling completely comfortable with the idea, I decided to explore on my own.

For late September, that Monday was incredibly hot and humid but I was determined to get in an exploration outing. After my disappointments from the previous few days, I decided to ditch my original hiking plans and set out to explore the Newman and Breslin Preserve in Northport. I found the parking area without any trouble, and crossed the street where the trail began. The mile long route, which switched-back down a ridge, would eventually take me to the edge of Pitcher Pond. I was half way down the ridge, struggling with the humidity, when I realized that I had left my phone in the car. Since this preserve was a little bit off the beaten path, I had to hope that nothing would happen that I would need to call for help. Instead of turning around, I decided to continue on towards the pond and see what wonders nature had to offer.

As I was making my way downhill, I realized that I was passing quite a few mushrooms. In fact, when I stopped and looked around, I discovered large colonies of mushrooms extended from the side of the path well into the woods beyond. They may have been Honey Mushrooms but I could not be sure. Further along, I spotted a number of golden mushrooms, all edged with a brown ring. I passed many more varieties as I made my way towards the pond, some I had seen on previous explorations but many were new to me.

When the trail leveled out for a bit, I watched a rather hairy, pale green caterpillar with 2 black spikes on either side of its body, racing along the leaf litter. I believe it was an American Dagger Moth Caterpillar. I seemed to remember reading somewhere that the fuzzy bristles of this creature caused a skin irritation in those who touched it, so I left it alone and continued on my way. I was soon surprised by a green leaf suspended in midair. At first glance it was not attached to anything, it was just levitating at eye level in the middle of the trail. It took me a while but I soon found the almost invisible insect strings that ran from tree to tree, holding the leaf in place.

A short time later, I finally reached the pond. I stood for a few minutes, studying the small diamonds of light playing along the water. With no shade for protection, it was very hot by the water’s edge so I did not stay long. The inclines of the trail and the heat had made the hike a bit difficult but readjusting and salvaging my plans for an outing had eased the mounting frustration. I was at peace now and ready for the week ahead.

Doyle Preserve

One morning in mid-September, I decided to head down towards Damariscotta to explore Doyle Preserve, a small trail system overlooking Pemaquid Pond. With the exception of driving past the dirt road turnoff and having to turn around, I found the directions to the preserve were pretty straight forward. As per the directions, I parked at the kiosk, walked down the road a bit past a private driveway and located the trailhead. My adventures were about to begin.

Not far into my forest walk, I noticed a log with some tiny white leaves scattered along the fallen limb. These leaves were so tiny and so white that I paused to study them more closely. Kneeling down for a closer look, I realized that they were not leaves at all, but small mushrooms. One even had the appearance of a butterfly, wings stretched out for a rest. I contemplated these for some time before moving on towards other discoveries.

Further on, I stopped to admire an erratic half covered with a black leafy typed fungus. The coloration of the rock, half black with the lichen and the bare side a pale shade of grey, reminded me of a whale leaping up from the ocean. It was an interesting image considering that I was in the middle of a forest.

As I strolled through the preserve, I realized that it was probably a good thing that I had not invited my exploration buddy along. Although the trail was well marked, the saplings on either side were close enough that the brushed against me as I passed by. There were also some sections were the path was almost hidden by the ferns that grew over the path.

But the biggest deterrent, was the number of times I had to step off trail and make by way through the woods and back to the path in order to avoid walking into a spider web. With the saplings so close to the footpath, these arachnids must have felt it was the perfect distance to set up shop. Looking back at the first one I encountered, I noticed not one but two giant webs across the trail. I was quite grateful that I had avoided this double whammy. I had to make a detour at least twice more to avoid walking into these almost invisible webs. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky near the end of the loop, noticing the delicate architecture just as I walked into it. After jumping up and down, dancing around and waving my hands all around for a bit, I concluded I had just completed about a week’s worth of aerobic exercise and moved on.

Prior to this final experience in the preserve, I reached the pond and strolled along the shore. There was a small island across from where I stood. With the rocks exposed between the island and the mainland, I could almost imagine that I could cross and explore the island but thought it wiser to observe it from afar rather than getting wet. Instead, I watched the numerous dragonflies playing along the beach before heading back into the woods. Spiders aside, it had been a wonderful day for new discoveries.

Harkness Revisit

Looking back, I realized that it was 4 and a half years since I last visited the Harkness Preserve in Rockport. It had been early spring and a mere 6 months after my hip replacement. I had meandered over a lot of trails both in the woods and in my personal life since then, so I thought it would be a nice time to revisit this land trust property. It would also be another test of my ability to continue solo explorations.

We had tried to snowshoe through Harkness last winter but the small pull-out parking area was blocked by a mound of snow and there were signs clearly stating that street parking was forbidden, forcing us to adopt a Plan B. But early August was a different story. The pull-out was quite visible, allowing me to park and quickly head into the woods. Quickly was the optimum word here, since I was certainly walking with greater ease than I had been during my last visit.

The first thing I noticed was that the numbered sign posts for the interpretive trail were missing. In fact, when I reviewed the trail map for the Harkness Preserve there was no mention of any such interpretive guide. The blue blazed path was still in place but I guess a decision was made to abandon the stops that provided educational information.

Early on, I stopped to study the berries of a Canada Mayflower just beginning its color change from green to red, a sure sign that the end of summer was near. I also found a rather impressive golden mushroom nearby with a spoke-like appearance. I had seen another mushroom of this type while walking in the Camden Hills recently. At the time, I thought it resembled a star.

There must have been a family of crows living in this section of the woods because they made quite a racket both at the beginning and end of my trip. I ignored their abuse and continued on to a quieter portion of the park. I crossed over a stream bed that was more rocks and mud than water, before discovering an interesting object along the trail.

I was unaware of any deviation in the path from my last visit, but I could not recall ever seeing the remnants of an old lime kiln chimney cap along the trail. Perhaps, I was concentrating on keeping my balance while walking through the woods at the time, but I am pretty sure that my husband would have noticed it and pointed it out.  It was enough of a distance from the lime kiln remnants at the Rockport Harbor for me to wonder what it was doing in this particular place.

Passing the historic remains, I began the second loop within this preserve. A cheeky, red squirrel scampered up a nearby tree and once it knew that it was safe, made a brave show of scolding me from a distance. Well, he sure showed me!

Pretty soon, I arrived at a ledge that overlooked the harbor. It was a very clear summer day and I must say, the views of the clear sky and boats floating lazily on the water was mesmerizing. The stone chair was still there, looking more inviting than on the cold, gray spring day from four years ago. I spent some time admiring the views before retracing my steps back to the entrance. It had been a longer journey than my visit to Knight’s Pond but it proved I was fully capable of continuing some solitary adventures.

 

Regained Confidence

After my troublesome exploration of Waldoboro Town Forest, I wanted to try an easy stroll just to prove to myself that I had not developed a fear of striking out on solo adventures. Since the Coastal Mountain Land Trust had published a lovely guide describing all their land holdings along with trail maps, I flipped through the pages until I decided to seek out the St. Clair Preserve and Knight’s Pond.  According to the description in my pamphlet, the land trust trail was a mere 200 yards from the dirt road to the pond. Perfect! This should help me prove that my previous experience was just a fluke.

The fog was just lifting from the pond when I parked near the boat ramp at the end of a long, dirt road. I stood by the ramp for a few minutes enjoying the view of water and the fog drifting through the trees, thinking that this was be a perfect place to to paddle around in the kayaks. Turning north towards a small picnic area where my map had displayed the trail, I searched but could not find any clearly marked path. The section of water near this area was boggier in nature, containing lots of grass and water lilies.

My lack of success did not stop me from exploring the area. After a disappointing search for said path, I turned south back towards the boat ramp and decided to walk along the beach. As the waterfront began to curve west, I discovered a trail nearby. I climbed up a small embankment and soon discovered an orange blazed trail leading through the woods. Since this path was on the wrong side of the boat ramp, it could not have been the land trust walkway. I knew that parts of this area had been previously owned by the Nature Conservancy, so I wondered if this had been part of the Conservancy trail system. I also knew that the Point Lookout Conference Center maintained a trail system that lead down to this body of water, so that was another explanation for this unknown road. In any case, I decided to explore.

As I walked along this wooded road with the water always visible, I studied the forest for the signs of late summer. It wasn’t long before I noticed the bright red berries of the bunchberries, the yellow spotted leaves of the Wild Sarsaparilla, the occasional discolored fern and the reddish-green berries of some unknown viburnum. I continued exploring until a reached a small point jutting out into the water. From here I could see a large expanse of the pond, a small island in front of me, and a shoreline to my left with grass and waterlilies. I felt a calmness here and I knew that my previous adventure had been an aberration. In the future, I would be able to continue my solo excursions into nature.

After turning back towards the boat ramp, I studied some vegetation growing near the edge of the water. I never did find out the identity of this grass-like plant bearing the remnants of white flowers but I thought they were beautiful. When I was done studying this interesting plant, I conversed for a bit with a man throwing a stick into the pond for his dog. We talked about different hikes and this particular preserve. He informed me that you could keep going on that path I had explored and take it almost the full length of the lake. Sounds like a great adventure for another day.

My goal had been achieved. My morning successful. As I drove slowly back up the dirt road, I glimpsed what could have been a trail just near the picnic area. Proof of that path must wait for another day.