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Lobster Cove Meadow

By May 2nd, the temperatures had risen to the mid-seventies. Although I am not overly fond of hot weather, the sun was shining and nature was calling, so I arranged to meet my friend in Rockland on my way down to Boothbay Harbor in order to explore one of the preserves down that peninsula. We had several places in mind and eventually zeroed in on exploring Lobster Cove Meadow.

It did take us a few tries to locate this preserve. When we found ourselves in downtown Boothbay Harbor, we realized that we had missed the turn-off for Route 96 and needed to turn around. On the return side, we did see a sign for the turn-off but my friend swore there was no such sign on our way down. The next missed turn was when we passed Eastern Avenue, another unmarked street. (These are the reasons why directions include distances to the next turn-off; too many streets are not marked!). I also missed the preserve due to the small road jutting off to our left. If I had looked down that short street I would have seen the kiosk. Finally after our third turn-around, we reached our destination.

Now that we were where we wanted to be, we walked the short easement trail into the woods. Our first stop was to greet the Nuthatch who had worked his way down the nearby tree to study us. He certainly was not intimidated by us, staying long enough for us to get a good look. Eventually, he flew off and we resumed our journey.

The warm weather had certainly encouraged the vegetation to grow. Just a few days before, there was no sign of the wildflowers that appear this time of year but now I noticed that the forest floor was covered with a blanket of the distinctive single leaf of the Canada Mayflower. The flowers would come later but for now I was glad to see this familiar carpet all around us.

Soon the trail headed downhill. As we made our descent, I noticed a different ground cover. The leaf was familiar but I could just not place it, other than knowing it was some kind of lily. As we reached level ground once more, we found a few yellow flowers of this lily had bloomed. The first wildflower in bloom! Hurray! I later identified it as a Trout Lily and had the “but of course” moment.

We continued to the end of the preserve where we paused to take in the wonderful views of Meadow Cove Creek before moving on. Our intent was to proceed along the historic Indian trail that connected the Lobster Meadow Cove Preserve to the one mile loop of Appalachee Preserve but it was hot and we were running out of steam. After a short stop on the Indian Trail where we had a great view of a beaver dam across the water, we turned back towards Lobster Meadow Cove.

We still stopped a few times to study various things. My friend is more observant than I and, noticing movement in the water she paused to watch the small fish swimming about. While observing this activity, she found a salamander blending in with the dirt and decaying leaves below the water’s surface. Further on she discovered a tree that had been carved into a unique artistic form before being rejected by the local beavers.

We finished our walk by taking a short loop through a meadow and along the water, before heading uphill towards the car. After such a great nature walk, we rewarded ourselves with a slice of pie at Moody’s on the way home.

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Fernald’s Neck 2018

By April, winter was still holding on. Daytime temperatures lingered in the 30s and we were still experiencing mixed precipitation when the middle of the month arrived. And yet, there were signs that spring was beginning to push the previous season out of the way; ice-out had been called April 12th, I spotted the small yellow flower known as Coltsfoot the next day, the loons were calling by the 17th and the Peepers sang loud and clear by the 20th. At last spring had arrived and we were all itching to get outside. I called my hiking buddy and we headed over to Fernald’s Neck for some explorations.

As we walked towards the Orange trail we noticed that the several nor’easters we endured throughout March had not been kind to our nature preserves. Many trees had snapped or been uprooted by the relentless winds. Clean-up crews had come through to clear the trails and there were fresh cut logs lining the sides of the path we were on. I don’t know if this was a boon for the wildlife but I did notice that someone had used a fresh stump to enjoy their dinner. The remains of this meal left me wondering how much energy is actually in those tiny pine cone seeds.

There were no wildflowers visible yet, so we spent some time trying to find the bird singing nearby. Bird identification, either by sight or sound, is not one of my talents, although I do wish I was better at it. The first problem was to determine where the sound was coming from. Once we had the direction we scanned the trees high and low before my friend located our feathered friend. We did get to watch it for some time but the best either one of us could do was to call it a sparrow of some kind. (I identify trees the same way; oak, maple or coniferous tree of some kind).

The trail followed the lake for a short time and we had some great views of the Camden Hills. I even spotted the cross on top of Maiden’s Cliff! From there, the Orange loop took us away from the water and began to gently head uphill. We passed a boggy area where we paused to listen to the frogs hidden in the vegetation.

In this section of the preserve, the melting snow formed streams not far from the trail. The sound of running water was very soothing to the winter weary soul so we just had to stop to listen and to watch the tiny waterfalls. We left the preserve feeling sure that spring had finally arrived.

 

Plaisted Preserve

After finishing our hike around the Ash Point Preserve in Owls Head, we headed towards North Shore Road hoping to explore another  preserve I had read about in a recent blog posting. According to that post, the Plaisted Preserve, not far from the Owls Head Lighthouse, consisted of a short trail that would lead one towards Broad Cove. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the preserve, which surprisingly had a plowed parking area, there was a sign informing us that the trail was still under construction. What to do?

We stood at the kiosk and contemplated our next move. After I peered into the snowy terrain and discovered that some of the trees were bearing either orange or blue markers, or tied with blue ribbons, my adventurous spirit pushed into the woods. I figured if we just followed the ribbons we would be able to reach the cove. Since no one had walked through the preserve before us, I figured that even without trail markers, we would not have to worry about finding our way back. We just needed to follow our tracks through the snow back towards the parking field.

Without a clearly defined trail, it was a little difficult moving forward. We followed the blue ribbons through and around a variety of obstacles along the way. Being the first ones through the preserve after the recent snowfall, we found ourselves in a beautiful winter wonderland and stopped to admire the scenery.  At one point, we heard the tell-tale sound of ice cracking underneath us, but that did not stop us. We continued on until we stood facing a wall of tightly packed trees and brush. There was no way we were going to be able to bushwhack through that to reach the coast. Our exploration of the Plaisted Preserve would have to wait for another day.

 

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.

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.