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.