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October Visit to Clark Island

We had a friend visit us during the last weekend in October. There was no pressure to do anything or show him the sights, but he enjoyed birding, so we tried to take him to preserves that were popular to local birders. I knew that there was a birding group that wandered around Beech Hill once a week, so I thought that would be a good place. Maybe it was too late in the season and all the birds had migrated to their winter destinations, but the only birds he found were some yellow-rumped warblers. He actually found more birds at our backyard bird feeder each morning, where not only did we spot the usual suspects but we were also visited by the occasional red-breasted nuthatch and the red-bellied woodpecker.

On October 31st we decided to take our friend for a stroll around Clark Island. Although I had brought my camera I did not anticipate taking too many pictures since this was going to be more of a bird walk then me stopping every few feet to photograph a flower. In addition, with the leaves down and very few flowers still blooming, I find it difficult to find things to photograph during this time of year

As we walked across the causeway to the island, we noticed that tide was way out. Of course, that meant that the birds were not at all close to the beach area. Even the seabirds were going to be hard to find. Once we left the road that ran down the middle of the island and headed towards the east side of the preserve, we were a little further out from the mainland. Here, I took a picture of some grass that caught the sun just right to attract my attention. Later, I shot a picture of a small primrose for identification purposes, since the ones that I have seen in the past were closer to 4 feet tall.

Now that the path followed the water, our friend had better luck spotting some of the seabirds. Focusing his binoculars on a small rock island some ways out from where we stood, he spotted 3 seals resting on the rocks. I knew my 150 mm lens was not going to get a decent picture of them and it was just one of those times that I wished I had my 600 mm lens. Unfortunately, that lens was way too big for me to carry, and my Sherpa hadn’t thought about bringing it. (You just can’t get good help these days.)

Reaching the boundary line of the preserve the trail turned, leading us past the quarry and away from the shore. Soon, we were back on the road, headed towards the mainland. When we reached the sign for the West Trail, we hesitated for just a moment before deciding to explore that side of the island as well. I did not take any pictures of this section, but it was completely different from the previous trails. Here we walked through a moss-covered forest with some up and down sections. It looked like an enchanted fairy land.  Occasionally, we had some glimpses of water on this side as well, but it seemed more protected from the wind than the east side.  This loop was about a mile. After finishing up the loop, we headed back towards the mainland and home. It had been an enjoyable morning.

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Burkett Mill Preserve

My selection of new places to hike was not very successful this year. Traveling a narrow circle from our home was depositing us in some places that were a bit wilder than I would like. Most of these explorations had been in the Waldoboro area. My luck continued when I convinced my hiking buddy to join me on an exploration of the Burkett Mill Preserve on July 5th.

After driving down a dirt road for a bit, we found a pullout for 2 cars next to the kiosk. Our adventure began before we even left the car, when horseflies started hovering around the windows. We quickly decided that the DEET and the head nets would go on while we were still in the car with the doors closed. Only after donning our protective gear, did we open the doors.

Out of the car, we studied the grassy road for a bit before venturing a little way in to decide if we should continue. But first, we looked at the map which indicated that intersections were marked with letters. Given the number of bugs we already encountered, we decided to avoid the Bog Rim Loop and stick with the Farnsworth Brook Loop.

Within the first few minutes of our walk, we discovered that the grass was not that high and opted to continue with our adventure. We even stopped a few times to admire the Wintergreen and Partridge Berry plants that were now in bloom.

Things changed when we reached the first intersection. According to the map, if we stayed to the left at the “B” intersection we would be on the Farnsworth loop while veering to the right would put us on the Bog loop. At this fork, we saw a blue arrow pointing right and also spotted a blue arrow with a “B” on it hidden in the weeds. Believing we were at the proper point on our map, we continued straight. What we did not realize, was that this division of paths was not on the map and that those arrows really meant “this way to the B intersection”. In other words, we continued the wrong way on an old snowmobile trail.

It wasn’t long before things started to get pretty sketchy. We stood for a moment staring at the most dilapidated bridge we had ever seen. Not only was vegetation growing pretty high through the boards of this structure, but logs had been thrown every which way to construct the bridge. You would think this would be a warning and we would turn around. Nope, we continued over that bridge and bypassed around another bridge, which my friend called “tetanus waiting to happen”, by trekking through the woods. After successfully maneuvering around these two obstacles, we reached the end of the road at a “no trespassing” sign. That was when we realized we had made a wrong turn.

When we returned to the fork that was not on our map, we turned onto the correct path and soon realized that the actual lettered intersections were carved plaques. Any letter on a blue arrow was a “this way to” indicator. Still the signs were confusing.

My friend also took exception to the landmark descriptions on the preserve brochure/map when she asked if the area to our left looked like a “meadow” to me. It was grassy but I did note the swamp candle flowers at the edge of said area. Perhaps it was more bog than meadow. There was also the glacial erratic that we never found.

In the deep woods, the trail was dirt-packed and somewhat pretty but not the best trail I had ever been on. Given the dry weather, the brook was low and muddy. Then the trail conditions got worse. There were the patches of grass, lots of them. Since, I was leading, every time we went through one of those high grass areas my friend would brush off a tick when we reached the other side, and we are talking about me, the person who always wears permethrin treated clothing and gators when she hikes. Later that evening, my friend found one in her hair.

At some point, we reached a field with a spur towards the ledges. Given the disappointment so far, with not finding the glacial erratic (maybe they meant the ledge we passed earlier) and the meadow/bog and the grassy conditions, we decided not to seek out the ledges. Instead, we followed the loop through the vegetation towards the end of our journey.

Through all our previous adventures, I doubt that we were ever as glad as we were on this day to see the end of our journey. It had been another unsuccessful exploration of a new preserve.

Quarry and MVLT Founders Preserve

Our outdoor explorations had been pretty scarce of late. My hiking buddy was busy with life in general, I had not been motivated to do any solo hiking for quite some time, and I could not seem to drag my husband away from his projects. Finally, on June 28th, after researching some preserves around the Waldoboro area I decided to investigate the Reef Point Preserve.

Following the directions from the Midcoast Conservancy, I turned off Depot Road and drove to the end of the paved road to park in the bus turnaround. From there, I was supposed to walk down the dirt road past the last house, and continue for a half a mile down an old logging road in order to reach the preserve. And this is where my troubles began.

I could clearly see some old tire tracks heading down a grassy road. Unfortunately, the entire road was knee deep in grass. In earlier days, we may all recall seeing pictures of people standing or frolicking in fields of waist-high grass and wildflowers. That was before all the various tick-borne diseases were known. But, at that particular moment, I stood at the edge of that road and contemplated walking a half a mile down a tick infested lane. Even with Insect Shield clothing, I could be anemic by the time I reached the preserve! To be fair, I assumed that the Conservancy did not own the road, and therefore was not responsible for its upkeep. Still, I decided not to chance it and turned around.

Back at my car, I remembered passing another preserve on my way to the out of reach Reef Point Preserve. Not wanting to waste a trip, I decided to stop and see what the Quarry and adjacent MVLT Founders Preserve had to offer. I had not researched these linked preserves prior to my trip, so I was not sure what this location had to offer in the way of trails.

Once on the dirt road to the Quarry, I parked at a small parking area nearby. Here, I meet some people who had just arrived. They told me about the quarry and the blueberry field up the road. I asked about the trails, but they were not familiar with any trails up the road. Still, I decided to continue up towards the MVLT Founders Preserve to see what was there.

As I emerged from the woods, the road continued through a field, but I also noticed a private road to my left. I looked around me for a bit but saw no evidence of a trail. Finally, I spotted a kiosk to my right. Facing the kiosk, I examined the trail map which seemed to indicate that the trail was right in front of me. I saw nothing leading through the woods, but I did notice an extremely faint indentation along the edge of the field and the woods. This was not enough to convince me that this was a trail.

Frustrated by my attempts to find a trail, any trail, I decided to continue on the road through the field. If I couldn’t get a solo hike in, at least I could see what was blooming along the road. The summer flowers were just beginning to show themselves, and I was delighted to find St. John’s Wort and Black-Eyed Susan blossoms. At the end of the meadow, I found two stone posts on either side of the road. I was not sure if this was part of the Conservancy or private property, so I ventured no further. I did stop for a minute to admire the barn that was just beyond the stone posts. There was a sign indicating it might be a gallery of some kind.

After admiring the barn, I headed back towards the quarry. Here I found a trail on either side of the parking area. I walked a short distance on each side, but I did not see that these trails looped around the quarry. I studied the swimming area for a bit before deciding to call it a day. As far as solo hiking went, it was not a successful trip, but I was rewarded somewhat in finding some summer gifts in the field.

Trolley Marsh Trail

On April 21st one of my friends invited me to join her for a ride to the Warren area. Her agenda was to drop her dog off for an appointment and then walk either around the town of Warren or at a preserve she discovered, called the Trolley Marsh Preserve. We both opted for the walk in the woods versus the village.

Although it was technically still mud-season, things were better than they were in March so we thought we would be okay. The description we had read about the preserve described the path as almost 1 mile down an old logging road. Strolling down a road would be okay, right? Wrong!

When we arrived at the preserve, we noted that the trail did indeed match the description. From the kiosk, we looked down a long, straight, grassy road. So far, so good.

We committed ourselves to walking the whole length of the trail after encountering our first patch of mud. We had been lulled into a full sense of security, for it was a small patch of mud with more green grass on the opposite side of said mud patch.  But then, we walked through another mud patch and another. All told, I think we worked through at least 6 sections of mud. Perhaps, we should have known this was how it would be, considering that the word “marsh” was in the name of the preserve.

Aside from the mud, the time of year just wasn’t right for discoveries. By April, I was desperately hunting for signs of spring. We found lots of wildflower leaves sprouting but were unable to identify any of them yet. As much as I tried, I could not even find one promising bud.

The trees were a different story. There were enough leaf buds visible that you just knew with a few warm days, there would be plenty of green to see at eye level. At one point, I stopped to examine an interesting leaf bud. Studying the tufts of green on the same branch, we realized that this was a Tamarack tree (also known as a Larch tree).

We did eventually make it down to the salt marsh. We scanned the meandering trenches that indicated the flow of water through the area before turning around to battle the mud fields once more.

When we arrived back at the kiosk, I realized that I had dropped my sunglasses somewhere along the trail. My friend inquired whether I wished to search for the glasses while she picked up her dog, but I just could not trek through the mud anymore that day. On our way back, we passed through the village of Warren, and I realized we would have been better off walking around the green in town.

Thomaston Village

In my quest for acceptable walks or hikes during mud-season, I checked out some of the land trust sites and their trail descriptions. On the Georges River Land Trust site, I found the Thomaston Village Trail, which basically provided a map with a loop from Main Street down to the water and back up to Main Street. The designated trail was about 2.5 miles. On the beautiful sunny day of April 18th, I decided to check it out.

The trail description and map indicated two parking spaces. One was at the Mill River Park. The land trust site also mentioned parking at the Thomaston Green on Wadsworth Street, behind the Prison Showroom. There was a parking lot behind the prison but there were also signs warning that parking was for visitors to the Prison Showroom. I parked as far away from the showroom as I could and hoped that they wouldn’t mind. Later, I found 2 or 3 pullouts on William King Street that could have been used for parking. William King Street also went right through the green which is where the walk began.

Walking around the green was very pleasant. After walking down William King Street, I turned on to a tree-lined graveled path. At the end of this drive, there were some nice views of the George’s River. Along the way, there were plaques describing the history of the area.

After exploring the Village Green, I continued along the route outlined on my map. This section took me down Wadsworth Street through a residential neighborhood. After half a mile, Wadsworth intersected with Water Street. The map indicated I was to make a left on Water Street. I noticed what appeared to be a small parking area to my right overlooking the river, so I first turned right to explore another parking option. Then I turned back to walk along Water Street.

I found this part of the walk more pleasant than the previous section with some wonderful views of the water. I stopped several times over the next .3 of a mile to admire the sights. I turned briefly at the public landing to see if there was anything interesting to discover at the boat launch before continuing my stroll.

Back on Water Street, I walked a short distance before my directions had me turn left on to Knox Street. Here, I got a little mixed up when I missed the path right by the railroad tracks that would have kept me off Thatcher Street for a short while, at least. Other than spotting a beautiful looking tree with the tracks and the water behind it, this was a half mile walk down a residential street.

When Thatcher Street intersected with Roxbury Street, I found Mill River Park. I walked around the park studying the lines of the train trestle and the water beyond. Without realizing it, my photo of the trestle lined up exactly with the hills in the distance so that it looked like the hills were sitting right on top of the bridge. I then turned to finish my walk. The last mile, down Gleason Street was through another residential area.  In fact, most of my walk was through residential neighborhoods.

Although, it was great to be out on such a lovely day and I really liked walking down by the river, this was not my favorite walk. I preferred walking somewhere in nature, either gardens or woods, but I suppose if you were looking for a place to walk during mud-season this would be an option. If I return to this walk in the future, I will park at either Mill River Park or the small area on Water Street and limit my stroll to the waterfront.