Ridge to River Trail

During the second week of October, my friend and I decided to hike the Ridge to River trail in Searsmont. My goal for the day was to at least hike to the top of the ridge to take in the autumn views and possibly on towards the river, a distance of about 1.5 miles. If conditions were right, we could even enjoy lunch by the river.

After parking at the lot on Ghent Road, we made our way across the road and on to the trail. There was a lot of erosion on this portion of the path and I found the footing a bit treacherous. In fact, I had visions of repeating an episode that occurred a few years ago when I was hiking with my daughter at Payson Park. On that day, we were hiking along a ridge above a river when I lost my footing and had to make the decision to slide down the embankment or twist the other way. I leaned away from the ridge and landed on my shoulder, which I subsequently could not move by the time we returned home. On this trip, I made it safely beyond the narrow path and we continued on our way.

Our route took us through the woods for a short distance before opening out on to a field. We followed the trail through the middle of the field just as the wind came up, lifting milkweed seeds into the air. Hundreds of seeds swirled around us and we laughed at the thought of being in a magic place filled with fairy dust. It was truly one of those events where a picture cannot capture the magic or emotions that one experiences at the time. Another lesson we learned that day was to turn around and look at the landscape behind you. We remembered to turn around just before crossing Route 131 and were rewarded with a beautiful autumn landscape.

Once we crossed the road, we walked through a short section of woods before entering another field. We were a bit concerned about losing the blue blazes but there was a path along the side of the field, so we continued on. It wasn’t until we reached the next road crossing at Appleton Ridge Road that we realized we had lost the trail. We studied the map for a bit before walking up the road a ways until we found the blue blazes running alongside another field. We strolled along this path until the blue blazes directed us back into the woods.

It was a good thing we kept some distance from each other, because at one point my friend stopped short. A small snake was sunning itself right in the middle of the path, and it had no intention of moving out of anybody’s way. That snake stayed there while we took a number of photos. It still refused to move when we stomped on the ground nearby. Finally, after I kicked some leaves towards it, the snake moved slightly off the path so we could walk around it and continue on our way.

There were some uphill and downhill moments in this section, and each time things seemed to be getting steep we thought about turning around. Neither one of us wanted to make that decision since we really wanted to make it to the river but we were also afraid that the river might be beyond our reach. Ultimately, we would tell each other that we would travel on just a little bit further. Finally, my friend suggested we go a little further up the ridge towards a definite tree line, and there below us we found our body of water. We walked along the stream until we found a log where we could sit and enjoy our lunch.

After lunch, we made our way back towards Ghent Road. Along the way, we discovered where we had lost the trail. It was funny in a way, because I had commented about a red mark on a tree to our left. That tree had been directly across from the blue marked trail to our right. To be fair, the blue marker was far enough into the woods from the wider trail that it was easily missed. From this point, we quickly reached Ghent Road and the end of another wonderful hike.

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I Must be Crazy

Normally, I am the type of person who is pretty obsessed about finishing one project before beginning another, so what am I thinking to have 4 quilt projects going on at the same time! And if 4 assignments are not enough, I still need to attach a label to the comforter I finished in the spring. I must be crazy! Either that, or like a wooly caterpillar that puts on an extra layer of fuzz to predict a bad winter I am lining my nest with things to do during the inclement winter months. Just a theory.

So, how did this happen? I am currently still working on my Friendship Twist quilt. It is half-way through the hand quilting phase and I would like to get it off the quilt frame before the holiday guests arrive in December. But sitting in front of the frame one day, I thought about another donation quilt. Soon enough, I am in front of my fabric cabinet pulling out contenders for this gift. I am told that charities are very appreciative of receiving items geared towards boys, so out comes a dinosaur print and matching material.

In the meantime, knowing how annoyed I was to discover a black water ring on a bedroom night-table that was brand new, my husband has stripped and refinished the table. With this in mind, I pull some fabrics to create table mats for both guest room night-tables and a small display table near the living room. The guest room tables will be a light tan floral print surrounded by a green leafy material. Because these table are larger than the display stand, I will add borders on each side. These mats are currently assembled and I am in the hand quilting phase. I would like to have at least the covers for the guest rooms finished by Christmas.

A quilt blog that I read regularly, From My Carolina Home, just put up a quilt along pattern for the month of October. I am so excited by the colors and patterns for this Stars on Autumn Lane quilt that I pull some Artisan Landscape oranges from my stash to get started. I decide to reverse the background from light to dark and pull a green to compliment the oranges. I may call my project Autumn Stars.

My first task on the last three activities is to prewash the fabrics with color catchers and make sure they do not run. The place-mat fabrics are fine, but alas the greens for both the donation and autumn projects turn the color catchers green. In addition the brown fabric with interlocking squares and the black with stars for the dinosaur quilt also run. Fortunately, as mentioned in my Fabric Color Story, I have discovered Retayne which is a dye fixative. This does mean that I have to spend a morning treating these fabrics in the utility sink, then re-washing them in the machine with new color catcher sheets. To be on the safe side, I decide to save a step and just treat the Artisan Landscape orange fat quarters. As expected the sheets come clean in the next washing. I am now ready to cut pieces for the dinosaur and autumn quilt.

As I am telling an acquaintance about my one project at a time philosophy and going crazy with 4 (or 5 if you count the quilt that needs a label) simultaneous assignments, she stops me and says, “oh so you are now a quilter”. So with multiple works in progress for the first time in my life, I have finally become a quilter.

 

Howe Hill

One day in early October, I received a last minute call from a friend asking me to join her on a hike. She also wanted me to pick out the hiking place. It was already well past lunch time, so I had to think of a place that was close by. I thought for a short time, before suggesting the nearby Hodson Rheault trail.

We followed the trail along the stream as we made our way to the bridge that would take us to the Rheault easement. Since September had been hot and dry, it was no surprise that the stream was completely dry. Even the mushrooms seemed to be done at this point, although we did find one interesting white fungus with 4 prongs furling out from the base.

My friend had never hiked this place before and she was delighted with the dark woods, the rock filled stream bed and the stone walls. I guess we spent the uphill climb pointing out different things and chatting about everything, because it wasn’t long before we had reached the blueberry field at the end of the easement. Since the farming season was over and the land trust had an agreement with the farm owners allowing hikers to follow a trail up to the top of Howe Hill, we continued on a dirt road towards the summit.

Walking through the fields we spotted some small pale yellow butterflies, flitting along the few remaining flowers of the year. Neither one of us attempted to take a photo of these elusive dancers, opting to continue on through the blueberry fields arrayed in their reddish autumn hues. Across the fields, I could make out Hatchett Mountain and the zig-zag hiking trail leading up the mountain.

Our journey ended at a large, flat stone with the “Howe” family name carved into the top. In front of us, we studied a contrail cloud rising up from Bald Mountain, giving the mountain the appearance of an active volcano. Then we sat and studied our surroundings for a while, talking about family, life, emotions, health and all sorts of things that friends talk about. Reaching no conclusions, we contemplated the landscape once more before heading back towards the preserve and the end of our spontaneous adventure.

Megunticook Trail

Most of our explorations in the Camden Hills State Park have been on the trails located on the backside or the northern section of the park. We usually park at the lot at the corner of Youngtown Road and Route 173, put our entrance fee in the stile near the kiosk and head up to Cameron or Bald Rock Mountains. But the last day of September, we changed our routine and headed towards the official park entrance and the Megunticook Trail.

Once in the park, we showed our passes to the attendant, walked past the camp sites and soon veered left on to the trail that would take us up to Mount Megunticook. The dirt road to the trailhead seemed a little steep, so we stopped to discuss photography techniques and composition for a few minutes. After a number of years with my existing camera, I finally decided that I really wanted to figure out how the more advanced features worked, hence the photography lesson. We stopped again at the trailhead for another lesson, while I photographed the bridge and some of the few remaining flowers. Most of the wildflowers were done for the year. Only the goldenrod, wood asters and flea-banes remained.

 

After crossing the bridge, the trail soon started its steep, rocky ascent. In fact, most of the trail seemed to be composed of stone steps that went on forever. I was grateful for the few smooth spots that allowed us to catch our breath before we had to ascend the next set of stairs. About ¾ mile from the trailhead, an intersecting trail headed left towards Adam’s Lookout. Since our trail map indicated that the two trails would intersect near Ocean Lookout in another ½ mile, we opted to stay on our current course. Later, I would discover that the Adam’s Lookout Trail was more rocky and steep than the Megunticook Trail, so we certainly made the right decision.

Eventually, we made it to the Ocean Lookout view and, given the steep ascent we were surprised to see so many people standing or sitting along the rock ledge. As soon as I saw the rock formation here, I remembered a time years ago when we were younger and in better shape. We had hiked here with the children and as we sat on that ledge, we watched the fog roll in underneath us, completely obscuring the town below. It was an eerie feeling. While the sun shone on our position, the fluffy, white tops of the clouds spread straight out before us. But this day was sunny and that particular spot of ledge was crowded, so we walked a few more feet further up the ledge to admire the view. In one direction, I could make out the ski trails of Ragged Mountain. In the other I looked south and could make out the Rockland Breakwater  in the distance.

We did not reach the 1385 foot summit that day. Hikers come down from the summit, indicated that it was another half mile and since we had to head to Portland in a few hours we made our way back down the Megunticook Trail. We thought about getting a bite for lunch in town, but Camden was overflowing with people, causing us to grab lunch at home, change and head to Portland for a concert that evening. The perfect finish to a great day.

 

 

Newman Preserve

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to organize an event; nature or circumstances just keep throwing things in our way until those original plans completely unravel.  That is how I felt that last full weekend of September. My plan was to hike a trail we hadn’t done in quite some time but things just happened, leaving me completely frustrated. Friday had the ominous look of rain about it, Saturday my significant other had promised to help a neighbor take down a tree, and Sunday I worked. Things continued that way even into Monday, when I called a friend to join me on a hike but discovered she wasn’t home. Not feeling completely comfortable with the idea, I decided to explore on my own.

For late September, that Monday was incredibly hot and humid but I was determined to get in an exploration outing. After my disappointments from the previous few days, I decided to ditch my original hiking plans and set out to explore the Newman and Breslin Preserve in Northport. I found the parking area without any trouble, and crossed the street where the trail began. The mile long route, which switched-back down a ridge, would eventually take me to the edge of Pitcher Pond. I was half way down the ridge, struggling with the humidity, when I realized that I had left my phone in the car. Since this preserve was a little bit off the beaten path, I had to hope that nothing would happen that I would need to call for help. Instead of turning around, I decided to continue on towards the pond and see what wonders nature had to offer.

As I was making my way downhill, I realized that I was passing quite a few mushrooms. In fact, when I stopped and looked around, I discovered large colonies of mushrooms extended from the side of the path well into the woods beyond. They may have been Honey Mushrooms but I could not be sure. Further along, I spotted a number of golden mushrooms, all edged with a brown ring. I passed many more varieties as I made my way towards the pond, some I had seen on previous explorations but many were new to me.

When the trail leveled out for a bit, I watched a rather hairy, pale green caterpillar with 2 black spikes on either side of its body, racing along the leaf litter. I believe it was an American Dagger Moth Caterpillar. I seemed to remember reading somewhere that the fuzzy bristles of this creature caused a skin irritation in those who touched it, so I left it alone and continued on my way. I was soon surprised by a green leaf suspended in midair. At first glance it was not attached to anything, it was just levitating at eye level in the middle of the trail. It took me a while but I soon found the almost invisible insect strings that ran from tree to tree, holding the leaf in place.

A short time later, I finally reached the pond. I stood for a few minutes, studying the small diamonds of light playing along the water. With no shade for protection, it was very hot by the water’s edge so I did not stay long. The inclines of the trail and the heat had made the hike a bit difficult but readjusting and salvaging my plans for an outing had eased the mounting frustration. I was at peace now and ready for the week ahead.