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Head of Tide 2022

After finishing our exploration of the Stover preserve on December 11th, our adventure continued at the Head of Tide preserve across the street. Since the two preserves were so close together, we walked down the road a short way to the trailhead. The trail map showed two loops, each one about a mile long. For this excursion, we decided to investigate the blue loop, which would take us towards the river.

From the kiosk, a path ran through a field. Judging from the remains of the summer vegetation, I assumed the vegetation could get quite high during the growing season. At the end of the field, a small bridge crossed over a wet area. In that small pond were some interesting ice crystals poking up from the ice. On closer examination, I discovered that the ice crystals were clinging to grass that was poking through the frozen pond. These amazing gifts of nature were quite beautiful, so we took some time admiring the artwork.

Not far from the bridge, we found the two loops. The red loop went off to our right into the woods. The blue trail went straight. On the blue trail we walked briefly through a small wooded section, before the trees gave way to a field. Here, there were tall sticker bushes on either side of the trail. This was a bit problematic, since there were a few tiny ice skating rinks that we had to avoid. During these evasive maneuvers, we came very close to those stickers.

Just past the field, there was an intersection indicating that straight would head towards the red loop while a left turn would keep us on the blue trail. We turned left and entered the woods. Eventually, the path ran adjacent to the river. I spotted some ice in this section of the stream, but unfortunately we were on a ridge and it was quite wooded here so I could not get a good look at the water. A little further along, I found a bench overlooking the river. It was located in a beautiful section of evergreens facing the water, but as you can see the trees blocked the view a bit. Still, it looked like a wonderful place to sit and contemplate the gifts of nature.

From this point there was a small downhill section and I continued looking for a way to get closer to the river. When we reached a bridge crossing over a ravine, I looked right and noticed a trail heading towards the water. At last, we found a way to get close to this interesting aqueduct! We spent a few minutes watching the rapids and just listening to the music of the flowing water. I found it very peaceful but my friend thought it was a bit loud. Still, I found it refreshing.

Returning to the bridge, we crossed over the ravine. The trail was uphill from here, until we reached the meadow leading back to the beginning of the loop. Soon, we were back at the kiosk and making our way back to the car. Although very cold, it felt good to be out. As my friend put it, “we got a chance to recycle the air in our lungs.” Indeed!

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Stover Preserve 2022

There was a significant temperature drop by December 11th but that did not stop my hiking buddy and I to get outdoors and discover something new.  The temperature hovered around 13 or so, when we made our way to the Belfast area to check out some preserves. Our first stop was the Stover Preserve, which consisted of a one-mile loop.

Once on the trail, we stopped almost immediately to admire the ice clinging to the leaves of some very green ground cover. I did attempt to identify this later, but without any luck. Perhaps the ice crystals confused the various plant ID applications. In any case, after enjoying the overall beauty of this artwork, I decided to get a closer look with my macro lens. I was amazed that I could pick out the hexagonal designs on the ice-covered leaves.

After taking way too much time photographing this plant, we realized how cold it was. Our fingers actually hurt from the cold. This was one of the downsides to taking pictures in winter. There was just no way you could manipulate a camera while wearing gloves or mittens. Fortunately, my friend had brought along some hand warmers, so we quickly inserted them in our gloves and continued on our journey.

Now, that we finally wandered away from the parking area, we noticed that the ground was frozen enough to crunch under our feet. Everywhere we looked, we found some form of ice, either clinging to objects partially submerged in the various streams or laced along the vegetation near the trail. We also found some nice specimens of needle ice. I have always had trouble getting a decent picture of these columns of ice pushing through the ground, because they are generally covered with dirt and to me just don’t look nice. On this day, I think I captured a pretty decent example of needle ice.

Eventually, the trail turned into a beautiful pine covered lane, surrounded by evergreen trees. Below us, we could see the Passagassawakeag River. We stopped for a few minutes to admire the rushing water. Throughout this preserve, we found several examples of the beauty of nature. It felt so refreshing!

As we made our way through the back side of the loop, we discovered a set of 3 small wooden steps or so, leading to a stony stream crossing. In warmer weather, this would have been an easy crossing. Today, the water flowed over the stones. I wasn’t concerned about getting wet since I was wearing a good pair of waterproof boots. My concern was the slippery conditions that were the result of the invisible ice just under the water. I cautiously made my way across, giving directions to my hiking buddy as to where the safest and driest places were for her to follow me.

After making a safe crossing of this stream, the rest of the hike was easy. Due to the temperatures, we decided to enjoy our snack within the warmth of her car, before heading to the next preserve across the street.

Fernalds Neck 2022

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my hiking buddy and I decided it was time to walk off all that holiday eating from the previous three days. We kept it local, and headed for Fernald’s Neck in Lincolnville. Whenever we walked in this preserve, we always travelled the trails in a clockwise direction. This time, I declared that we should shake things up a bit and take the Orange trail in the counter clockwise direction. It was interesting to discover that not only did things looked different when approached from another way, but the brain was more alert as well.

At this point in the year, there were not too many new discoveries to behold. Flowers were long gone, but the mushrooms had vanished as well. We did come across a beautiful orange jelly fungus, but alas, I had not paid enough attention to my camera settings and the pictures taken at a way to slow shutter speed were completely blurry.

Approaching a ledge around the midpoint of the loop, I noticed that during one particularly steep section, I had an easier time taking this segment in the uphill direction than when we took our usual route and cautiously came downhill. Continuing along the ledge, we came across a field of Reindeer Lichen. It was then that we heard movement in the woods beyond this field. We stood very still and were soon rewarded with a deer sighting. We must have disturbed him while he was enjoying his lunch.

We continued wandering through the woods, just enjoying the experience of being out in nature. It wasn’t long before the trail skirted the edge of Megunticook Lake. We found a spot near the water to enjoy our lunch while meditating on the water and the Camden Hills beyond the lake. Bad weather was predicted for that evening but for now I soaked in the beauty of the cloud formation above the hills.

Finished with our snack, we continued our journey past Balance Rock and on towards home. It was a great end to a long weekend.

Edwin M Griffin Preserve

Leaving the Hatcher Garden Preserve, we made a brief stop in downtown Spartanburg and walked the length of Maine Street for a bit before searching for our next destination. With just one minor glitch, we found one of the parking areas for the Edwin M. Griffin Preserve hidden within a residential district.

The Edwin Griffin Preserve was a 115-acre nature area just minutes from the downtown area. The primary trail was the Cottonwood Trail which looked like it ran through the center of the park. There was about 5 miles of trails to explore, most of them branching off from the Cottonwood Trail.

Once out of the car, we studied the maze of trails on the posted trail map in order to come up with a plan. Since we still had to make our way to Charlotte before the end of the day, we decided on a short loop by following a section of the Cottonwood Trail to our right, looping around the Loblolly Trail and back to the Cottonwood Trail to return to our starting point.

The Cottonwood Trail was a lovely, wooded path that ran next to Lawson’s Fork Creek, so almost our entire walk was within sight of water. We found some plants that we knew since they were also abundant in Maine, including Christmas Ferns, Goldenrods and Asters. Others, we were familiar with but seemed to grow in abundance around here, including English Ivy and Holly. In fact, the Ivy covered most of the trees in many of the parks we had visited. I also spotted some tiny white flowers (pictured here) all along the trail, which I identified as Mexican Clover. Every few minutes we would smell something sweet, so we finally decided to trace the source and discovered tiny white flowers on the trees lining the path. When I investigated later, I narrowed it down to either a Thorny or Autumn Olive.

A short while later, we could see a school and parking area through the trees. We had reached the end of the Cottonwood Trail and turned on to the Loblolly Trail to make our return journey. At the entrance, we found a bench and finished off the cheese and crackers we had bought the day before. While we enjoyed our lunch, I studied an intriguing butterfly sculpture nearby. Since the light was reflecting through the butterflies, some of the colors were illuminated, particularly parts of the blue butterfly and a small orange portion of the upper one. This lighting certainly added to the artwork.

After finishing our lunch, we continued our drive towards Charlotte. Early the next morning we were heading back to Maine.

Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve

On Monday, October 3rd, we left the inn in Greenville, South Carolina in order to make our way to the hotel near the Charlotte Airport. Since our flight was on Tuesday morning, I had already investigated things to do in Charlotte but during my research I got the feeling that the city layout was a bit confusing and busy. This inspired me to come up with another plan for the day. Continuing my research, I discovered a few things to do in the city of Spartanburg, about 40 minutes outside of Greenville.

First up was a tiny, little gem called the Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve. This preserve was created by Josephine and Harold Hatcher over 50 years ago, when they created a sanctuary in their backyard. What began as a garden on 3 acres of land, expanded to about 13 acres by the time the preserve was donated to the Spartanburg County Foundation. I must say they packed a lot into those 13 acres.

At the entrance were two interesting sculptures, one of a rather large caterpillar resting on the top of a fence. He did take up one side of the fence, so I was justified in saying that it was large. The second sculpture was the butterfly shown above.

From here, we began our exploration on a perimeter trail through the garden. After finishing the perimeter loop, we made another circle on the inner loop.  I think the layout of the garden is what made it so charming. There seemed to be a maze of trails throughout the sanctuary. The perimeter loop was paved and now I could not remember if inner loop trail was paved or packed dirt.

The maze of paths within the woods seemed like suggestions, inviting people to explore.  There were numerous benches in these wild areas where visitors could contemplate the streams and waterfalls throughout the park. All the bridges looked brand new, which added to the beauty of the place. There were also a few gazebos and a deck overlooking the stream. In some areas, we found little free libraries so people could sit in nature and enjoy a book. To me, it doesn’t get any better than that!

The only unfortunate thing was that we were visiting this garden after the flowering season was over. On the preserve website, I saw over 100 plants and flowers listed over the four seasons. I would have loved to see the butterfly garden when it was in bloom. We spent over 45 minutes exploring the various sections of the garden. Without a map, I don’t know if we hit everything there was to see, but during the flowering season I know I would have spent more than an hour here.