Tag Archive | Hiking

Snowshoeing the Hodson Loop

After the snowstorm of March 14th brought a foot of snow to our area, we were blessed with another chance at snowshoeing. Our first thought was to check out the Harkness preserve in Rockport, but when we saw the “No Parking” sign almost directly in front of the preserve we decided to head back and just take a walk around the block. As we got closer to home, I suddenly had an inspiration that we should check out the loop trail at the Hodson preserve, so turning left instead of right we parked along the road and donned our snowshoes.

Shortly after entering the pine forest section of the preserve, we knew we had made the right choice. The combination of shade and sun filtering through the trees and reflecting off the snow was magical. We paused a bit just to soak in the serenity of the scene before moving on.

It wasn’t long before we stopped once more to enjoy another snow covered scene. Here, we stood to watch the water of a narrow stream rush downhill under an artistic covering of ice. The icy blanket was precariously poised on the edge of a downward section of this body of water and I wondered what forces were holding it in place. Further along the trail, there was more sunlight filtering through the trees shining on a more open section of this winding tributary. Surrounded by snow covered banks there was still some magic to be found along the water.

Soon we reached the bridge that would take us across the stream, leaving us the choice of continuing along the Hodson Loop or taking the Rheault Easement to the top of the hill. We realized that we had never really done the Hodson Loop, so we decided to continue along the trail for some new sights and adventures.

This ended up being an excellent decision, for we now found ourselves snowshoeing through virgin snow. Odd that everyone continued uphill instead of trekking around the loop. We soon discovered that we weren’t the only ones who had come this way, for the area was full of turkey tracks. We followed the arrows half way around the loop before these rather large birds decided on a different route through the trees. At some point, we noticed cat prints running parallel with the turkeys but no signs of a confrontation. Then again, I’m not sure a cat could tackle a turkey.

The trail began to loop back along a stone wall. Although covered with snow, I could still follow the line of the wall running through the trees. It wasn’t long before we came full circle and soon reconnected with the common path that would take us back across the stream towards the entrance to the preserve. It was time to end our journey and prepare to host our St. Patrick’s Day Celebration with our neighbors.

 

Dusting off the Snowshoes

The ericksonfeb17-2first free day after our week of snow, we grabbed our snowshoes and headed out to Erickson Field. In the parking field we met a man who had just returned to his car for his snowshoes, informing us that they were definitely needed in walking along the trail. Since we move at a slower pace, we let him getericksonfeb17-1 ahead of us before setting off.

A pretty stiff wind was blowing across the field, and it was interesting watching the winter weeds dancing in the breeze. A lone mullein plant stood tall above the rest. Continuing on our way, we found that our snowshoes were a necessity in negotiating the meadow, for there had been very little traffic along this route. This was surprising, since it was now several days after the snowstorm and mostericksonfeb17-3 people in the area do like their outdoor activities. But then, we entered the woods and discovered the trail was packed down by those who had hit the trail before us. Interesting! The snowfall had been light and fluffy, so the wind across the open spaces was strong enough to erase any trace of previous use.

Once in the woods, we meandered along the loop trail stopping now and then to admire the beauty of some snow covered scene. The man we had met in the parking field passed us twice and we commented about his speed. He did claim that his dog was setting the pace, so we didn’t feel too bad about our progress. I do think that we had the better experience by keeping a stride that allowed us the time to enjoy the beauty around us. It certainly allowedericksonfeb17-4 us to notice the snow-capped mushrooms climbing up the remains of a birch tree!

When we finished the wooded loop and came back out to the meadow, we found that our tracks had also been swept away by the breeze. We stopped once more to enjoy the remains of some wild plants visible above the snow before completing our first and possibly only snowshoe adventure this winter.

 

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.

 

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.