Mid-November my hiking buddy decided we should explore Thorne Head Preserve in Bath. She had read an article recently about a cave in the preserve and she wanted to check it out. My crazy side did think it would be interesting to check this out but my sensible side decided to remind her about the weather. Was she aware that a) the high temperatures for the day would be in the lower 20s and b) the wind gusts were predicted to be in the 20 mph range? I wasn’t overly concerned about the wind chill factors since I could always layer my clothing and the exercise would warm me up soon enough. I was more concerned about traipsing through the woods on such a blustery day. Trees were known to topple over on excessively windy days. I don’t remember how she managed to change my mind but soon enough we were headed down to Bath in order to find a cave.
Since it looked like the cave itself was not located on any specific trail but nestled between the Narrows and Ridge Runner trails it really didn’t matter how we decided to get there. One possibility would be to take the Whiskeag Trail to the Narrows Trail and then follow that around to the Ridge Runner Trail. The other, more direct route would be to walk the Overlook Trail to the Ridge Runner Trail. Needless to say, we took the longer, less direct route.
Shortly after entering the woods, my friend decided to explore off trail for a bit. While I stayed on the trail, I watched all the lovely conifers swaying in the wind. Soon I heard my buddy exclaim that the creaking sound was a nearby tree that had started to split. I thought of my earlier warning about walking through the woods on a blustery day but decided that maybe we should just speed up the pace a bit instead.
After averting the potential disaster of splitting trees, we settled into a rhythm of finding the next trail marker and just enjoying our time in the woods. The frigid temperatures had created some significant frost heave, and as a result, the ground crunched beneath our feet.
We must have gotten lost in our conversations, or the natural beauty around us but somehow we went off course at one of our intersections. The funny thing was that we both had noted the sign where the Narrows Trail met the Whiskeag Trail but we both forgot that when we started out we had decided that was the trail we needed to take. Instead of turning right, we turned left and continued along the Whiskeag Trail. We kept walking until one of us realized that we had been going on a long time and had not reached our destination. In fact, when we saw some boundary markers we knew we had made a wrong turn and needed to turn around. It took us about a thirty minutes to retrace our steps. Along the way we had to cross at least one rickety bridge (well I crossed the rickety bridge, my friend climbed down into the gully and up the other side). When we reached the sign for the Narrows Trail we couldn’t believe that we had made such an obvious mistake.
The trail kept close to the water at this point and the wind coming off the water was bitter cold. We soon saw a ledge and I commented on the ice floe coming down the ledge. I also pointed out to my buddy that I thought that might be her cave up there but she wasn’t so sure. After following the ledge around and climbing up via the Mushroom Cap Trail, we soon found the Ridge Runner Trail. I pointed out a small side trail that I thought might lead to the cave. The trail looked a little too steep for me, so I let my friend explore telling her to take a picture of the ice floe. It wasn’t long before I heard “your expletive ice floe is in front of my cave”! Well, she found her cave anyway.
We took the Overlook Trail back to the parking area where I got more grief when she realized the Overlook Trail had been only 10 minutes from the cave. Okay, so it took us 2 hours using the indirect route but we did spend a great time outdoors.