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Piazza Rock

It was overcast on that holiday Monday in October when my hiking buddy called with the suggestion that we get out of town. She did not want to do any of the local hikes since we knew the trails would be overcrowded with autumn tourists. She had suggested weeks before that she wanted to do the Jordan Pond loop in Acadia but we figured the traffic there would probably be worse. Then she suggested going to the Rangeley area and hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail to Piazza Rock. I reminded her that the Rangeley area was 2.5 hours away and it was now almost 9 o’clock. Still she managed to convince me to take part in this adventure, and so, by 10 o’clock we were on our way.

We finally reached the parking area by noon, where I waited to make the left turn into the parking lot as a loaded logging truck came around the curve ahead of me and proceeded to list in my direction. I must say I did have visions of the truck rolling to its side on top of us but it succeeded in staying upright and I was able to turn safely into the parking field. From there we crossed that same highway to reach the trail-head where a sign indicated that our destination was 1.8 miles away.

The first part of the leaf covered lane sloped gently downhill. It was an easy stroll, which allowed us to enjoy the spectacular fall colors of Western Maine.  Not long into our walk, we reached a small metal bridge. We crossed the stream, stopping for a bit to take in the water flowing through the forest before resuming our journey.

The trail conditions changed quite a bit after we crossed that bridge. Almost immediately, we were confronted with a stony, steep climb and lots of tree roots. Once we navigated this portion of the path, my friend commented that she did not remember there being so many tree roots along the trail. We also had to navigate another stream by stepping carefully on whatever dry rocks we could find. After 1.5 miles we reached another trail sign and the sign-in registration box. I’m not exactly sure why you would put the registration box over a mile from the trail-head but we signed in before making our way the final .3 of a mile to Piazza Rock.

Eventually, we reached a rather large rock hanging out over the area. From our approach it looked like a flat stone suspended above the ground but from the other side it reminded me of some creature (a dinosaur perhaps) munching on the nearby leaves.

My friend wanted to climb to the top of the rock, and indeed, there were trail markers pointing the way. I squeezed myself in between a pile of rocks and examined the small space that I needed to maneuver. I did take some time trying to figure it out, but at last I gave up. The rock formation was placed in such a way where you had to bend your body in one direction and figure out where to place your foot in another direction, and I just couldn’t contort my body into that position. Once we realized I would not be successful in reaching the top of Piazza Rock, we enjoyed our lunch on the ground below the dinosaur formation before making our way back to the car and the long drive home.

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Grafton Notch

GraftonNotchFalls.01The weekend before New Year’s we headed 2.5 hours west to Bethel  Maine.  We would be spending the weekend with our youngest before heading back to the coast to celebrate New Year’s with friends. I heard that the father / daughter time of night skiing was “awesome”.  I have never done down hill skiing so I decided that with a new hip, now was not the time to begin a sport that had the potential for a hip dislocation.

Our plans for the next day were to visit GraftonNotchFalls.02Grafton Notch and view Screw Auger Falls which  “is right there, near the parking lot” and Moose Cave, further down the road. The next morning, we discovered 9 inches of fresh snow blanketing the area but the roads were relatively clear and the sun was shining, so we headed out towards the Falls.

When we arrived, we realized that we had neglected the fact that road plowing would take priority over parking lot parking. After parking along the side of the road, we proceeded to climb over the snowbank in order to enter the park. Trudging through the fresh powder we arrived at the Falls, where, to our daughter’s disappointment, we discovered the frozen Falls. GraftonNotchMooseCave.01I, however, thought that there was still a magical beauty to be found in this frozen landscape.

Our next stop was Moose Cave. Here, the parking lot had been cleared so there was no need to park along the road. As we stood in the parking lot, we looked across the street and watched the clouds skirt across the mountain; first casting the hill  in shadow and then allowing the light to dance across the landscape. On this very cold, clear day this truly was an impressive sight.

Turning back towards the trail, once GraftonNOtchMooseCave.02again we climbed over a snowbank in order to reach the trail below. After I took the sit and slide down the hill approach, we proceeded on the trail towards the cave. According to legend, a hunter heard a moose struggling while trapped in the cave. Instead of helping it escape, he killed the moose and served it up for dinner. However, I have not found any factual evidence to confirm the validity of this legend.

I have found many references to the varieties of moss and lichens in the park, but obviously they were not to be examined during this visit.GraftonNotchMooseCave.03 When we reached the cave, we were treated to yet another scene of frozen elegance.  The stalactites of ice, dangled from the rock face above, partially disappearing into the opening below. We stood in awe for some time, admiring the vision before us.

We finished up the 1/4 mile loop, said our farewells to our daughter and headed back towards the coast. It had been an inspiring day. I wondered about how much of nature’s beauty the average person misses by refusing to bundle up and head out into this enchanted world of winter. How sad!