McLellan Poor Preserve

There mclellanfeb17-1had been just enough snow during the first few days of February for us to get outside and enjoy the benefits of a winter wonderland but not enough for us to dust off our snowshoes. Since we also did not want to deal with a treacherous uphill climb, we looked around for something that would take us through some relatively flat terrain. We thought we found our answer in a land trust preserve called the McLellan Poor Preserve located on the opposite side of the Belfast reservoir and the Little River Community Trail.

We brought our micro-spikes just in case but with the fluffy white groundcover we assumed we would not need them. In fact, as soon as we slipped out of the car we grabbed the spikes in order to continue our walk. At the kiosk we discovered we had a choice of two trails, one that would take us towards the reservoir and another loop through the interior of the preserve. The access to both, required crossing a bridge over mclellanfeb17-2Brewster’s Brook and a stream crossing which was notated on the map as “no bridge, a walking stick may be helpful.” We assumed that if there was no bridge the stream crossing should be manageable so without any further thought on the matter we set off.

There is a special beauty about walking in a pine forest in the winter, something that brings peace to my soul. The trail followed a ravine and we stopped a few times to just soak in the beauty of it all. mclellanfeb17-3We also took the opportunity to give thanks for having the right gear for this hike, noticing that those travelers who had gone before us had slipped a number of times, brushing the fine snow away to reveal the ice underneath.

We crossed the bridge at Brewster’s Brook with ease as we continued our journey towards the split between the two trails. It wasn’t look before we reached the stream crossing at Ramsey Brook and discovered there was no way to get across. mclellanfeb17-4Perhaps the water level was lower in the summer and making one’s way with a walking stick across the stones in the stream could be accomplished with little difficulty but attempting this in winter seemed an impossibility. This was no little stream! We stared at the blue marker about 20 feet on the opposite side of this body of water, wondering if there was some way we could continue. My husband walked a few yards along the stream in both directions but could not find a suitable crossing. I tentatively tested the ice, only to have my foot go through. Fortunately, the water did not flow over the top of my boot. We noticed that others had tried to cross by the footsteps that had broken through the ice. They had reached a small finger of land in the middle of the stream but it did not look like they had gone much further. My husband explored this option but did not think they could have gone over the dam of trees and brush that would have taken them to the opposite shore.

Disappointed, we turned around vowing to come back another day, although without drought conditions I’m not sure how we will be able to explore the rest of the McLellan Poor preserve.

 

 

Jones Brook Area

With the jonesbrookjan17-4weather continuing to be relatively warm for the last weekend in January, I decided we should explore someplace new. I was originally thinking two short separate hikes on the upper St. George’s Peninsula; the ½ mile Fort Point trail on the west side of the peninsula and the ¾ mile Town Forest or Kinney Woods trail. Then I started researching our hike and discovered that a few years ago, the George’s River Land Trust connected the two trails with the 1.5 mile Jones Brook Trail; a perfect hike of about 5 miles.

Initially, we thought we would do the short Fort Point trail first before crossing the road to the Jones Brook Trail. After parking at the trailhead parking lot, we decided we should scout out where exactly the Jones Brook trail was located across the street. As we were making our way towards the street, we saw water flowing out of a pipe at one end of the parking lot and several people getting out of their cars with large water jugs to fill them with the spring water flowing from the pipe. Next to pipe was a sign with a jonesbrookjan17-2full analysis of the water from the spring, and everyone told us it was the best around.

After crossing the street, the only thing we could find was an historic homestead and what appeared to be a private road. We walked along the road in front of the homestead for a bit, before we spotted some posts with blue paint along the side of the historic property. We had found the Jones Brook Trail. Later, when we were returning towards Fort Point, we found a small painted land trust sign hidden by the tall grass along jonesbrookjan17-3the road.

We walked through the field, following the blue painted posts before entering a wooded area. As we meandered along the dirt road, we noticed all the trees had relatively small trunks. This was a young forest. Looking into the woods, we saw that the area was very wet.

Soon, jonesbrookjan17-1we found a small GRLT (Georges River Land Trust) sign pointing left. We followed this trail around a small rounded ravine that seemed to exhibit the characteristics of a quarry. The side opposite us was littered with rather large shells but since my husband pointed out that there were not enough to be remnants of something historic, we came up with a story of someone going to the local fish market and enjoying a meal here.

After this point, the woods became more mixed but we were too busy maneuvering our way around the wet, muddy trail to take too much notice. Once past this wet area, I notice a floodplain a short distance away. In a few more minutes, we found ourselves in a more grassy area walking alongside the ice flooded area. I thought I saw a beaver lodge, but my partner pointed out that the surrounding trees did not bear the marks of those hardworking lumberjacks. jonesbrookjan17-5But, in a few more minutes I found the sign I was looking for; a double tree that had definitely been felled by beavers. Straight out on the ice from this tree we found the lodge.

We continued on the trail into a more conifer inhabited woods. The trail followed the brook and in some places it was interesting to study the design the tributaries left in the forest below us. A little further on, we found a small, dark pool of water at the base of a waterfall. Crossing a planked bridge over this section of the stream, we entered the Kinney Woods trail.

Wejonesbrookjan17-6 strolled around the Kinney Woods Trail enjoying the gifts nature had to offer before making our way back towards the Fort Point trail. The Fort Point trail was very muddy and we continuously had to find walk arounds from the trail. On a very short section of the path, planks had been place to help visitors over the mud but it wasn’t the first time we joked that the entire length of the trail needed a boardwalk.

After hiking the longer trails, the walk along the Fort Point Trail took no time at all to reach the area where a fort had been located on the Georges River. It was very windy along the point, so we only spent a few minutes looking down the river and studying the berm that was the remnants of the fort before heading back to the trailhead.

 

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.

 

 

Maiden Cliff in Winter

There maidencliffjan17-2were a few days in the beginning of January where the days were bitterly cold, but with the melt from rain and warmer temperatures the week before we decided to attempt a more ambitious hike up to the cross on Maiden Cliff. Our hope was that with the melt in recent days and the steeper angle of the Maiden Cliff Trail encouraging greater runoff, we would encounter little or no ice. Still, we brought along our spikes just in case.

During the first part of our journey, the trail was dotted with maidencliffjan17-3patches of ice that we could easily avoid during our uphill adventure. Unfortunately, we soon reached a patch that we could not traverse without donning our spikes. What we had not taken into account when we assumed that the steeper grade would allow for runoff, was that rushing water coming down the trail would very quickly freeze when the temperatures dropped. For the rest of our walk, we were obligated to follow a routine of taking spikes off, walk a bit, put them back on, walk a bit take them off. When you maidencliffjan17-5have reached a point in your life where you are not as flexible as you were in your younger days, this routine was a lot harder than it seemed. I for one, needed to find a place to sit, physically pull my leg up and then pull the spikes over my boot.

Once we were equipped to travel across the ice we continued our explorations. The trail followed a ravine part of the way up the mountain and we stopped for a bit to watch and listen to the water running down the ravine. From our vantage point we were also able to make out ice formations hanging from the tree roots near the flowing stream. Further along, we found some wonderful crystal formations in the middle of the trail where the maidencliffjan17-4water running down the path had frozen once more.

Behind us, we heard a scream followed by laughter of two young women attempting the trail without spikes,as they slipped and tried to right themselves on the icy route. Even without the proper gear, their youth allowed them to soon pass us and quickly move out of our sight. For a moment I wished that I was young enough to regain the speed, agility and flexibility to be able to move as those young women did but then I remembered that it was not winning the race but the finish that mattered.

We removed our spikes for the rocky middle section of our adventure. It was a bit difficult maneuvering through this slightly steeper section where I had to watch the placement of each step and deal with the sharper incline, but maidencliffjan17-1soon we were back to a level, ice filled section. We thought we could get through this section by just walking along the side of the trail or treading carefully, but once I slipped and continued sliding towards the open side of the trail I decided to crawl on all fours to a safer spot where I could put on the spikes once more.

At this point we were nearing the end of our journey. Walking along a level section we met the young women who had passed us earlier, now making their return trip downhill. They had not stayed long to admire the views from the top for they claimed that it was very cold on the exposed ledge, but then their coats were open and I am not sure if they were wearing hats. Since we were wearing layers and zippered up coats we had no trouble enjoying a snack near the Maiden Cliff cross while we looked across the frozen lake towards the ski bowl before heading back down the mountain.

 

Quilt Finishes 2016

As 2016 quilts2016-2was coming to a close, I was rushing to finish my annual quilt projects. With two projects completed and one nearing the finish line I present my creative journeys of wandering around the quilt block for 2016.

My largest project, begun at the end of 2015 and continuing to the very end of 2016 was my Home Garden quilt. This was a log cabin quilt with alternating flower blocks. quilts2016-5As mentioned in a previous post, I did have to take it off the quilt frame and complete it using a 12 inch hoop when I realized the leaders were reversed on the frame. The quilt design was a simple flower in the log cabin blocks and an 8 pointed flower resembling a fleur de lis in the floral blocks. I used a leaf stencil to create a chain in the orange border and finished up with butterflies along the outer border. I created the binding using the remaining yellow and red fabrics from the floral blocks.

Next up, my daughter and I collaborated quilts2016-3on a baby quilt for a nephew and his wife who greeted their first daughter in October. My daughter already had the Under the Sea panel, so we brain-stormed on a block design for the border then contributed fabric from our individual fabric collections.  Once a pattern was designed we each contributed 10 fish blocks (Hmm. Looking at the finished product now, I just noticed that there is an extra fish, so someone completed 11 blocks). My daughter has a much better artistic view of things than I do, so she assembled the quilt and completed it on her longarm machine using an overall sea grass and bubble design.

Finally, quilts2016-4my challenge quilt. I normally restrict myself to squares, rectangles and half or quarter square triangles in creating my quilts. But this year someone kept challenging me to do something with curves so I found a leaf design that seemed to fit the bill. I have completed the piecing for the quilt and I must say, I am not sure that I would do curves again. I did have quilters tell me after I had created stencils for cutting out the pieces, that things would have been easier if I had a curved ruler and a tiny rotary cutter for cutting out the pieces (right tool for the job and all of that) but I don’t know how much that would have helped. I discovered 3 problems with doing curves. The first was in quilts2016-1piecing the curves; no matter how many pins I used and how slow I ran my machine to keep the pieces against my ¼ inch seam foot, my seams ran from a quarter inch to almost non-existent. The second problem was a problem I also have with triangles; when too many seams meet in one place there is just too much bulk for the machine needle to easily go through all the layers. This also prevents the block from lying flat. Finally there was the block assembly with each block consisting of four leaf blocks. One would expect that when you sew two squares together the finished product would be an even rectangle but some of my rectangles came out looking a little more like a “V”. My only fix at that point was to trim or square the finished block for final assemble. As a result some of the edges of the leaves were clipped a bit. I finished the piecing and put together a back for quilt using a brown fabric and a yellow / orange starburst fabric before the close of December. Hopefully by the end of January or February I will have completed the quilting of outlining the leaves and adding vein lines to the leaves. So yes, I took up the challenge and the quilt doesn’t look that bad for a first attempt but unless I can either find a class on curved piecing or have someone show me how to do it or give me pointers, I am not sure I would attempt another.