Completing the Multi-Use Trail

The last weekend in August we decided to up the ante on our hiking level and attempt the entire Multi-Use trail at the Camden Hills State Park. Not wishing to punish ourselves too much, we parked a car at either end of the trail so that we would not have to complete a death march of 10 miles. Leaving one car at the park entrance on Route 1, we drove to our usual starting point in Lincolnville and set off on our adventure.

The first portion of our hike was the familiar mile or so up to the Bald Rock and Cameron Mountain trailheads. From there, we began to notice some variation in the woodlands and accompanying vegetation as we moved along. There were more aster type flowers on this section of the road, both white and purple with sparse petal arrangements as well as some tiny yellow flowers, possibly in the fleabane family. I did not get clear images of the leaf arrangements on these plants so I just had to go with the general category of asters. (If you look at any field guide most seem to lump the majority of flowers into the aster family, including the daisy and fleabane, so I would not be wrong to assume these were all in the aster family.) We also noticed more Indian Root Cucumbers in this area, with the tell-tale red center that it displays at the end of its season.

As we traveled on, the forest to our left seemed to thin out some distance from the path, allowing more light to shine through the woods. We could only assume that the area most have been wet. When we referenced the trail map later in the day, we saw that the area was indeed designated as bog. It wasn’t long before the vegetation changed again and I noticed the bounty of Wild Sarsaparilla along the roadside. For the most part they had lost the green and summer and now displayed some interesting variegated green and yellow hues.

A little past the half way point we reached the ski shelter. It was an interesting cabin with a wonderful stone fireplace facing the trail. We peeked through the windows and discovered several picnic tables and plenty of floor space for camping. Behind the cabin were additional tables for those who just wanted to enjoy the outdoor scenery. Not far from the picnic area I could see evidence of a brook, dry at this point in the season. Across from the shelter, was a sign for the Slope Trail but I was a bit skeptical about the bridge one must cross to begin that adventure.

Leaving the cabin and continuing on our journey we did stop to investigate the stony brook bed. There were just a few puddles that we could see but what really intrigued me were the stones just at the edge of the trail overlooking the brook. At first I thought someone had played around and piled up a cairn by the side of the road. On closer inspection I saw that it was a stone man protecting the brook beyond.

By the time we reached mile 4, I was beginning to get tired. It didn’t help that my legs never seemed to loosen up for this trip, so every incline was a struggle. It also didn’t help that there had been work done on the Multi-Use trail over the previous 2 weeks and we had to deal with the uneven terrain from the construction.

After 2 hours and change, we finally reached the park entrance and decided to seek out a place for lunch. This was not to be the end of our weekend adventures, though. The next day we did an additional 5 miles with friends when we took them up to Cameron Mountain. That seem evening, other friends invited us for dinner and a walk through the trails at Erickson Fields (another mile and half). Needless to say there was some inability to move by the end of the weekend.

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Sagamore Farm

Mid-August we decided to explore a relatively unknown trail system a little closer to home. I knew about Sagamore Farm as a result of an email I received some time back about an organized  walk through the trail system. Unable to attend that walk, I spoke to the person who had led that walk and got directions to the trail head. His instructions included the advice to take a picture of the map at the trailhead before we set out.

The trail was located behind one of the local inns whose owners had generously allowed hikers to park at the far southern end of their property.  We were a bit deceived by the kiosk nearby, thinking that it was where the adventure would begin, but the map informed us that we needed to walk across the property, past the office and behind the lodge before searching for the path. Before setting out to hunt for the trail, we were amused by a chipmunk sitting on a post, eating the local berries nearby. We watched him for some time before moving on.

Once behind the lodge, we walked past the trail and needed to back track to find our starting point and only found it after referring to the map. It was rather hidden to say the least. At the opening that would lead us into the woods, I stopped to study a Queen Anne’s Lace. I had read that there is a dark purple heart-shaped flower in the center of the “lace” and wanted to see it for myself. I did not see the purple-heart on this particular flower but found an equally delightful gift, a ladybug sitting right where the identifying heart would be.

Given the recent town meeting discussions I had read, about the board not wanting to commit to a permanent trail system, I was surprised to find that the paths were clearly marked with blue blazes. Apparently, several years ago, the Midcoast Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association agreed to build and maintain routes throughout this piece of land. Between the blazes and our photographed map we had no problem exploring these woods. Our route did switchback on itself quite a bit but that would be the nature of a mountain bike system. On the other hand, perhaps because the population is considerably smaller than that of my previous home in New York, we did not see the extensive damage that we had witnessed when exploring trails designed for mountain bikers. It was a surprising but pleasurable experience.

We walked through a dark wood of mostly pines and oaks, with plenty of ferns and moss for ground cover. At one point during our adventure, we found some yellow stagshorn fungus partially hidden by the leaf litter. A little further on, we startled a toad that hopped off the path to hide beneath a fern. He was a fairly big fellow, one of three that we found during our walk. It was turning out to be an outing of animal discoveries; first the chipmunk, then the ladybug and finally the toads.

After following the twists and turns of the trail uphill, we soon noticed the path taking a downward trend. Along the way we discovered a tree so littered with pileated woodpecker holes that it was amazing there was anything left. Arriving at a more open area near the end of our journey, we found a Mountain Ash bearing brilliant red berries, its bark mottled with a ring of sapsucker holes the entire length of the tree. We attempted some tree identification at this point, both the Mountain Ash and the Mulberry Tree nearby, but these identities had to wait until we arrived home and could consult our guide books. Done with our hike we returned to our vehicle just as the rain came in.

Harkness Revisit

Looking back, I realized that it was 4 and a half years since I last visited the Harkness Preserve in Rockport. It had been early spring and a mere 6 months after my hip replacement. I had meandered over a lot of trails both in the woods and in my personal life since then, so I thought it would be a nice time to revisit this land trust property. It would also be another test of my ability to continue solo explorations.

We had tried to snowshoe through Harkness last winter but the small pull-out parking area was blocked by a mound of snow and there were signs clearly stating that street parking was forbidden, forcing us to adopt a Plan B. But early August was a different story. The pull-out was quite visible, allowing me to park and quickly head into the woods. Quickly was the optimum word here, since I was certainly walking with greater ease than I had been during my last visit.

The first thing I noticed was that the numbered sign posts for the interpretive trail were missing. In fact, when I reviewed the trail map for the Harkness Preserve there was no mention of any such interpretive guide. The blue blazed path was still in place but I guess a decision was made to abandon the stops that provided educational information.

Early on, I stopped to study the berries of a Canada Mayflower just beginning its color change from green to red, a sure sign that the end of summer was near. I also found a rather impressive golden mushroom nearby with a spoke-like appearance. I had seen another mushroom of this type while walking in the Camden Hills recently. At the time, I thought it resembled a star.

There must have been a family of crows living in this section of the woods because they made quite a racket both at the beginning and end of my trip. I ignored their abuse and continued on to a quieter portion of the park. I crossed over a stream bed that was more rocks and mud than water, before discovering an interesting object along the trail.

I was unaware of any deviation in the path from my last visit, but I could not recall ever seeing the remnants of an old lime kiln chimney cap along the trail. Perhaps, I was concentrating on keeping my balance while walking through the woods at the time, but I am pretty sure that my husband would have noticed it and pointed it out.  It was enough of a distance from the lime kiln remnants at the Rockport Harbor for me to wonder what it was doing in this particular place.

Passing the historic remains, I began the second loop within this preserve. A cheeky, red squirrel scampered up a nearby tree and once it knew that it was safe, made a brave show of scolding me from a distance. Well, he sure showed me!

Pretty soon, I arrived at a ledge that overlooked the harbor. It was a very clear summer day and I must say, the views of the clear sky and boats floating lazily on the water was mesmerizing. The stone chair was still there, looking more inviting than on the cold, gray spring day from four years ago. I spent some time admiring the views before retracing my steps back to the entrance. It had been a longer journey than my visit to Knight’s Pond but it proved I was fully capable of continuing some solitary adventures.

 

Regained Confidence

After my troublesome exploration of Waldoboro Town Forest, I wanted to try an easy stroll just to prove to myself that I had not developed a fear of striking out on solo adventures. Since the Coastal Mountain Land Trust had published a lovely guide describing all their land holdings along with trail maps, I flipped through the pages until I decided to seek out the St. Clair Preserve and Knight’s Pond.  According to the description in my pamphlet, the land trust trail was a mere 200 yards from the dirt road to the pond. Perfect! This should help me prove that my previous experience was just a fluke.

The fog was just lifting from the pond when I parked near the boat ramp at the end of a long, dirt road. I stood by the ramp for a few minutes enjoying the view of water and the fog drifting through the trees, thinking that this was be a perfect place to to paddle around in the kayaks. Turning north towards a small picnic area where my map had displayed the trail, I searched but could not find any clearly marked path. The section of water near this area was boggier in nature, containing lots of grass and water lilies.

My lack of success did not stop me from exploring the area. After a disappointing search for said path, I turned south back towards the boat ramp and decided to walk along the beach. As the waterfront began to curve west, I discovered a trail nearby. I climbed up a small embankment and soon discovered an orange blazed trail leading through the woods. Since this path was on the wrong side of the boat ramp, it could not have been the land trust walkway. I knew that parts of this area had been previously owned by the Nature Conservancy, so I wondered if this had been part of the Conservancy trail system. I also knew that the Point Lookout Conference Center maintained a trail system that lead down to this body of water, so that was another explanation for this unknown road. In any case, I decided to explore.

As I walked along this wooded road with the water always visible, I studied the forest for the signs of late summer. It wasn’t long before I noticed the bright red berries of the bunchberries, the yellow spotted leaves of the Wild Sarsaparilla, the occasional discolored fern and the reddish-green berries of some unknown viburnum. I continued exploring until a reached a small point jutting out into the water. From here I could see a large expanse of the pond, a small island in front of me, and a shoreline to my left with grass and waterlilies. I felt a calmness here and I knew that my previous adventure had been an aberration. In the future, I would be able to continue my solo excursions into nature.

After turning back towards the boat ramp, I studied some vegetation growing near the edge of the water. I never did find out the identity of this grass-like plant bearing the remnants of white flowers but I thought they were beautiful. When I was done studying this interesting plant, I conversed for a bit with a man throwing a stick into the pond for his dog. We talked about different hikes and this particular preserve. He informed me that you could keep going on that path I had explored and take it almost the full length of the lake. Sounds like a great adventure for another day.

My goal had been achieved. My morning successful. As I drove slowly back up the dirt road, I glimpsed what could have been a trail just near the picnic area. Proof of that path must wait for another day.

 

An Uneasy Vibe

After returning from Seattle, I concentrated more on exercise hikes up the Multi-use Trail in the Camden Hills, but now as late summer approached, it was time to return to some exploration walks. My choice for the last weekend in July was to re-visit the Waldoboro Town Forest, located on Route 1. Since my last visit two winters ago, the town of Waldoboro had worked on the trail loop and held an official re-opening of the trail earlier this summer. I was curious to see what I would find during a visit in a completely different season.

There was only one other car in the parking area when I arrived. This did not disturb me since I had been on plenty of solo adventures during the last few years. I left the parking field, walked past the two Waldoboro Town Forest signs and entered the darkly, shaded pine forest.

Once in the woods, it was clear the work had been done in this preserve. The trail was marked by fresh blue blazes and an occasional brown hiking sign, brush was piled along the side of the trail and some log benches had been created from some of the remains of the clearing work. As I walked, I discovered some of the vegetation was beginning to show the signs of late summer; the Indian Root Cucumber displayed a slight hint of yellow, the Wild Sarsaparilla had acquired yellow spots and the single leaf of the Canada Mayflower was also beginning to turn. Further down the trail I found some tiny bright red mushrooms which could not be photographed due to the abundance of biting insects.

Not far into my walk, I came to the beginning of the loop through the preserve. At the intersection was one of those new benches mentioned earlier. The trail in front of me displayed freshly painted blazes, but the blazes were pretty faded on the trail to my right so I continued straight. It wasn’t long before I encountered a bog bridge that disappeared in the ferns growing over the planks. I’m not sure why but I began to feel a bit uneasy at this point and turned back towards the intersection. Not giving in yet to my sense that something felt wrong, I turned down the intersecting trail, only to discover a little way down the lane that this path also narrowed as the grass and underbrush took over before it disappeared completely. The fact that two marked trails just disappeared within a month of being re-opened, suggested that this preserve was not heavily used. For some reason I was spooked by this notion. I decided to trust my gut on this one and returned to the safety of my car.