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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.

 

Summer Visit to McLellan-Poor Preserve

After returning home from our Seattle trip, we took a few weeks to get back into our normal daily routines before setting out on our next adventure during the July 4th holiday. The local land trust had just recently completed a second entrance to the McLellan-Poor preserve on Route 1, and, since we had been stopped by our previous endeavor to explore this preserve due to an impassible river, we decided to approach the same river from the opposite side of the preserve.

During our approach to the trail-head, we spotted the sign for McLellan Poor just as we drove by, so we pulled into the Belfast Watershed parking area just on the other side of the Little River in order to turn around. Observing the casually mowed trail beyond the kiosk my first thought was that anyone who has the slightest tick phobia would not like this path. But I dressed appropriately for this type of hike, so I wasn’t too worried about the trail conditions.

In the open meadow near the kiosk, there was an abundance of wild vegetation to study and identify, so we spent a few moments there. Near the sign was a rather tall plant with multiple flowers forming a crown at the top, similar to Yarrow but the leaves were different. I later identified this as a Valerian. The field was also filled with Cow-Vetch and some rather nasty looking Thistle Leaves. I assume the rather tall thistle not far from the path was a Bull-Thistle. There was also a number of small flowers about ½ inch across which I identified after we returned home, as Common Stitchwort

Once, we were done marveling at all the flowers in the field, we continued our journey towards the woods. The trail was still very narrow with vegetation alongside the path close enough to brush against our clothing. I knew a number of acquaintances in our town who would get the heebie-jeebies walking through this.  In fact, during this part of our adventure we followed the barely visible line of trail through a stretch of what we could only call a fern forest. Here again, we stopped multiple times trying to identify the various ferns.

It wasn’t long before we passed through the ferns and found ourselves deeper in the woods walking on a wider forest trail. We were occasionally treated to glimpses of the reservoir to our right. In a few places, the trees became more widely spaced and we were able to stand on the ridge for a few moments and enjoy a much better view of the water. As we journeyed towards our destination, we crossed several bog bridges. At the edge of one of these bridges I found a cluster of Wood Sorrel, which I carefully stepped over as I crossed the bridge.

During this adventure, we took the two loops displayed on the trail map in order to cover the entire preserve on this side of the river. Just beyond the intersection of the last loop with the Reservoir Trail we came to the waterway that had prevented the continuation of our winter explorations. We actually did not recognize it devoid of the snow covering the rocks, the footprints of those who went through the ice in an attempt to cross and the lower water levels. This time of year one could easily cross along the rocks that formed a small island in the middle of the river. I had heard that the field near the original trail-head was filled with lupines but it was getting a bit warm so we decided to turn back and prepare for our July 4th celebrations.

 

Snowshoeing the Hodson Loop

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.

 

One Last Winter Hike?

By beechhillfeb17-1the 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, beechhillfeb17-2the 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 beechhillfeb17-3many 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 beechhillfeb17-4Acadia 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.

Interpretive Trail in Winter

Lookingmerryspringdec16-1 back over my postings about Merryspring, I noticed that I seem to never stray far from the Interpretive Trail. (I really do need to get further into the park.) But the winter so far has brought that nasty type of weather that begins as snow, then turns to rain or ice before dropping the temperatures down into single digits, so, once again I decided to meander along the Interpretive Trail and explore the gifts of winter.  Because of the icy temperatures, I slipped my micro-spikes over my boots before heading off towards the trail.

Besides the occasional call of the Chickadee, the only sound was the crunching of the crusty snow under my feet. I followed merryspringdec16-2the signposts marked with the “i” for this trail until I reached the description of the natural spring flowing in the ravine below me. Without a clear view of the spring or the stream trickling through the ravine, I continued on my journey until I emerged from the woods. The trail continued slightly to the left and then right across the meadow, but I stayed and studied the brush before me. The area was still encased with the precipitation from the night before, so I paused and let the magic of this winter wonderland fill mymerryspringdec16-4 senses.

Before continuing one my way, I looked down the slope to my right in time to watch a hawk swoop down below the brush line. I waited a few moments and was rewarded with a second sighting as the hawk soared back above the trees. That was when I noticed a small trail leading down towards the spring. I took this short detour to get a closer look. The spring itself was surrounded by stones, perhaps marking the location. I meditated on the images, clearly reflected in that small circle of water before moving on.

I merryspringdec16-3followed the trail through the second meadow, pausing to admire the lone tree in the middle of the field and the benches in the distance. The snow was beginning to melt off the branches as the climbing sun encouraged nature to emerge from the shadows. Even so, I was able to enjoy the snow covered bench near the brush. It was a bit too cold to wipe off that white blanket in order to sit on a granite bench to contemplate nature, and I had agreed to meet a friend in about an hour, so I strolled on towards the arboretum section of the park.

I think merryspringdec16-5one of the reasons why I don’t stray further afield in this place is that we have always gotten turned around in the section known as the Kitty Todd Arboretum. Even when we have walked the trail that loops around the border of Merryspring, we have found ourselves suddenly lost in a maze of trails with numbers like A7 or A4 that do not correspond to the trail map in hand. Including these smaller pathways on the map might be useful for the unsuspecting travelers trying to find their way out of this labyrinth. Needless to say, I did not venture into the arboretum.

After meandering around the campus a little longer, I paused not far from the parking field to admire a grove of white birch trees. It had been a beautiful, invigorating walk but now it was time to meet my friend.