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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.

 

Appleton Preserve

Mid-November appletonnov16-1we took a late morning drive to the Appleton Preserve. The gusty winds from the day before had swept 80% of the leaves from the trees, the landscape was taking on that end of autumn look and the sun was shining. What a perfect day to explore some place new!

During the winter, we had snowshoed along the Canal Path, a companion preserve located just across the street from the Appleton Preserve. From the parking field, just to the left of the main trail was a short path leading down to the river. The Georges River seems to be aappletonnov16-2 favorite fishing spot and we found many side lanes heading towards the water as we walked along the main corridor.

The first part of the trail was bordered by the remains of golden rods, Queen Anne’s Lace and open Milkweed pods. One pod looked like it was still trying to spit out its fluffy seeds but they clearly were not ready to let go. Later in our journey I would spot numerous fluff balls that I would realize were not milkweed pods but some kind of tree or vine that I could not identify.

The trail appletonnov16-3followed the river for a bit before turning away from the water and leading us through a meadow. Here we had a choice, did we want to follow the wider path back to the road or continue to the interior of the preserve. We decided to walk through the meadow and complete the loop at the far end of trail before calling it a day.

The lane turned left at the far end of the meadow where we discovered we had to climb down a shallow, rocky embankment, cross a small stream and then climb up the other side. According to the brochure for the Appleton Preserve, this may have been the remains of a 19th century canal system. If the water was as shallow then as it was on this particular day, I’m not sure how useful appletonnov16-4that canal could have been, but it was an interesting discovery.

When we reached the loop portion of the trail, we opted to head left towards the river. This allowed us time to take in the views of the river and the fields beyond. There is something peaceful about water views and I find that these moments go a long way to healing the soul.

Continuing appletonnov16-5our journey around the loop, we found that there was still some surprises away from the river. Not only did we discover the ruins of an old chimney, but surrounding one side of this structure was a circular arrangement of stones. This was no accident but a planned placement of stones. It almost looked like it might have been an enclosed garden at one time, or could it have been a small hut from long ago. Nearby, I found small sprouts of red leaves closely resembling the leaf of a Japanese Maple but I was not sure of these were indeed some kind of maple. We finished our journey thankful for the hour spent in this quiet place.

November Outing

It was time for the augustancnov16-1first service on my car and though I did not have the recommended miles for that service, we wanted to at least get it ready for the winter. Since this required an hour’s drive to the dealer in Augusta, we planned on walking around the Augusta Nature Center before heading home. Of course, this meant I had to go through the two rotaries on the way to the dealership and then back towards the nature center but for once I did not cross the bridge multiple times in my attempt to exit either rotary. Safely back on the correct side of the Kennebec River, we parked at one of the Coney Street entrances and set out on our exploration.

This time, we headed left towards the Hawthorne Trail and Blueberry Bend. Not far into our walk, we found a small teepee structure leaning against one of the pines located in this section of the woods. When we reached Blueberry Bend there was some confusion as to augustancnov16-2which direction we needed to take in order to stay on the Hawthorne Trail. Fortunately, we remembered to bring the trail map with us this time. After studying the maze of trails, we headed across the blueberry field along a barely visible path.

We continued along the Hawthorne Trail, past Ovenbird Corner then on to the Lower Hemlock Trail and the Red Line Trail which loops along the border of the preserve. We walked the Red Line Trail for only a few feet, before turning right on the North Brookside Trail and the Quarry Road Trail(as you can see it really was a maze of trails).augustancnov16-5 I had been hoping to verify that I had reached Dead Man’s Cave during my last visit but things looked different approaching it from the opposite direction and I never found any signs suggesting we were there. From our position on the Quarry Trail, we did see a clearing below us that may have been the Granite Quarry but since it was blocked off, we could not get close enough to confirm this.

Further on, the South Brookside Trail branched off from the Quarry Road trail and headed down towards the water. Here there was a clearing that may have served as some sort of amphitheater. Granite ledge created a natural augustancnov16-3border for this area, where wooden structures had been placed to provide some seating.

Our expedition took us along the brook, past bridges and a lily pond. On the far side of the preserve, we explored Bruce’s Wood trails. Here I found a white fluff (a feather or seed perhaps) stuck in a bush, fluttering in the wind but firmly stuck to the branch. On the loop back towards the Whitney Brook Trail, I noticed quite a augustancnov16-4few yellow maple leaves bearing an interesting black splotch. I wondered if the discoloration was caused by some kind of fungus or if it was just the natural autumn progression of color for this particular leaf. Heading back towards the parking area, we climbed on to Beaver Bridge to meditate on the view from the bridge.

As we made our way back to the car, there was some confusion as to whether we were actually on the Red Line Trail. Our original thought was to take the Red Line Trail back to the parking area but since we seemed to be going in circles between that trail and the White Oak Trail, we bailed out when we found a sign for the Hemlock Trail. Once on  Hemlock, we easily found our way to the exit and headed home.