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Dusting off the Snowshoes

The ericksonfeb17-2first free day after our week of snow, we grabbed our snowshoes and headed out to Erickson Field. In the parking field we met a man who had just returned to his car for his snowshoes, informing us that they were definitely needed in walking along the trail. Since we move at a slower pace, we let him getericksonfeb17-1 ahead of us before setting off.

A pretty stiff wind was blowing across the field, and it was interesting watching the winter weeds dancing in the breeze. A lone mullein plant stood tall above the rest. Continuing on our way, we found that our snowshoes were a necessity in negotiating the meadow, for there had been very little traffic along this route. This was surprising, since it was now several days after the snowstorm and mostericksonfeb17-3 people in the area do like their outdoor activities. But then, we entered the woods and discovered the trail was packed down by those who had hit the trail before us. Interesting! The snowfall had been light and fluffy, so the wind across the open spaces was strong enough to erase any trace of previous use.

Once in the woods, we meandered along the loop trail stopping now and then to admire the beauty of some snow covered scene. The man we had met in the parking field passed us twice and we commented about his speed. He did claim that his dog was setting the pace, so we didn’t feel too bad about our progress. I do think that we had the better experience by keeping a stride that allowed us the time to enjoy the beauty around us. It certainly allowedericksonfeb17-4 us to notice the snow-capped mushrooms climbing up the remains of a birch tree!

When we finished the wooded loop and came back out to the meadow, we found that our tracks had also been swept away by the breeze. We stopped once more to enjoy the remains of some wild plants visible above the snow before completing our first and possibly only snowshoe adventure this winter.

 

Finally Winter

Winter stormfeb17-1arrived the weekend before Valentine’s Day when the first of 3 storms descended upon us within the span of one week. It started with about 8 inches of snow on Monday, followed by another 6 on Wednesday and ended with a blizzard on Sunday.  By the end of that week, the final totals seemed to be about 18 to 24 inches of snow.

Between the first two storms, I watched our backyard inhabitants scurrying about as they prepared for the final storm. Small creatures stormfeb17-2travelled back and forth between the two woodpiles as they carried food to the various compartments within. I was amused by a squirrel who occasionally popped up from the snow as he tried to reach the seeds beneath the birdfeeder. During all of this activity, I wondered if the wildlife exhibited the same human tendencies to stock up on large quantities of food before a storm (what is it about bread stormfeb17-3and milk anyway?).

As the final storm approached, everyone hunkered down for the duration. From our own safe harbor, we watched the falling snow block our view of the street as the winds increased. At times the world seemed to disappear. During the times when the wind died down, I spied one poor Cardinal hunched down on the birdfeeder and wondered if this was an indication that the storm would soon be over.

While we waited for the blustery weather to move on, we thought about dusting off our snowshoes in anticipation of finally participating in some winter activities. The snow ended on Monday evening but the best part of such a snowfall was watching the sunlight illuminate the landscape as it climbed over the ridge.

What a Strange Winter this has been

What a strange winter this has been! Although December and January proved warmer than usual, which should have provided enough exposed food to keep the turkeysjan17-1wildlife well hidden, we still had an infestation in our yard one day. A noise coming from the direction of our birdfeeder caused us to look out back and discover that we had been invaded by no less than 36 rather large turkeys.  To the dismay of our local squirrels, this ravenous tribe quickly scoffed up the seed scattered around the feeders before returning back into the woods. But this wasn’t the end of it. The next morning while I was in that state between sleep and consciousness a sound made its way into my dreams. When it came a second time, although still in a state of sleep, I was able to discern that it was an animal of some sort. Finally struggling into wakefulness, I looked out my window to be confronted by a rather fat turkey staring at me from the other side of the glass. Again they had come to scout out the food situation. They stayed for a few days before moving on to better food sources, but it was interesting to watch our local wildlife up close for a little while.

The warming trend continued through the end of January, confusing some plants into a springtime growth. On January 28th, I was walking through town when something caught my eye. I had to stop and kneel down to get a closer look at what would not have happened in a normal winter. But there they were; the first crocus shoots pushing up from the earth. I only hoped that the winter temperatures predicted for the next 10 days would not destroy these brave soldiers 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.

 

Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary

It was a mastlandingoct16-3dreary mid-October day when I convinced a friend that we should head down to Freeport. Initially, I thought that we would head over to the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary but since the forecast promised rain, we decided to browse around the outlets as an alternate diversion. Our real adventure would consist of finding a new route to Freeport, avoiding both the route that would take us through the construction on Route 1 in Bath and the one through Augusta to 295. So with my friend acting as navigator, we meandered our way down a number of back country roads towards our destination. mastlandingoct16-1Ultimately, we discovered that it did not matter whether one travels to Freeport via the highway or the byway, it would still require an hour and half of driving time but at least the back roads option had some really nice views.

Once in Freeport, we started to roam around town through a few outlet stores but it wasn’t long before we both realized that neither one of us was in the mood for such activity. Since it wasn’t raining yet, we decided to implement our original plan and headed over to the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary for some outdoor exploration.

After mastlandingoct16-4viewing a trail map (which we later decided was not quite accurate), we planned on walking a loop by hiking the Ridge Trail to the Bench Loop Trail towards the Mill Stream Trail. From there, the service road would take us back to the car. Not long into our exploration, we found the remains of the Old Farmhouse Foundation (marked on the trail map). On this occasion, it was roped off and marked as an archaeological site so we moved on.

At the next intersection, wooden signs pointed straight to continue on the Ridge Trail or right towards the Deer Run Trail. We headed straight according to plan but it was interesting to note that the connecting trail towards Deer Run was not marked on the map. Although the day was pretty dreary, we were still able to enjoy the subdued colors or the season as we walked along. I stopped a few times to study some interesting lichen, fungus or a brightly colored leaf stuck in a pine tree before moving on to themastlandingoct16-2 next attraction.

As we headed down the back side of our loop, we passed two benches before reaching an intersection that was not clearly marked. We made our best guess, only to find ourselves in a maze of trails. Eventually, we reached a clearing with a single apple tree and joked that at least we would not go hungry. Finally, at the far end of the clearing we found a wooden sign pointing towards the Mill Stream Trail. We followed this trail along the stream before ending at the remains of the old mill site and dam. We studied the ruins for a bit before walking down the service road towards the car.