Tag Archive | Maine

Solo Hike to Bald Rock Accomplished

In June, I finally accomplished my goal of a solo hike to the summit of Bald Rock Mountain. Although the experienced hiker would not consider this a difficult climb, it has presented some challenges to me. For one thing, my previous solo hikes were always on trails that had been relatively flat. I felt that there were some risks to solo adventures up mountains. There was usually the possibility of roots or stones catching one off guard, which could have resulted in a rather nasty fall. On steeper angles, I have been uncertain of my foot placement during the descent, sometimes just giving up and resorting to the sit and slide method.  And although most descriptions of this trail have called this a “gradual ascent”, I have found myself wheezing on the sudden incline after the Frohock trailhead and again on the incline shortly after turning on to the Bald Rock trailhead just before reaching the stone steps.

On that particular day in June, I decided if I was going to turn my walk up the multi-use trail into a success story of a solo hike I needed to significantly reduce my walking speed. Too often I would start this hike at a pace I could not possibly maintain, leaving me seriously out of breath by the time I made it to the stairs. It was hard but I slowed down to what seemed to be a crawl; slow enough that I was able to make it from the Frohock trail to the mile marker without stopping or wheezing.

Our best time for reaching the Bald Rock Mountain trailhead has been about 25 minutes but with my slower pace I added 5 minutes to that time. The trailhead has been another stopping point for me but I continued on, slowing my pace a bit more in order to make it through the next section that has always given me breathing troubles. I successfully made it to the steps, chose to avoid my 3rd stopping place and marched up the stairs.

At the top of the steps, the trail turned left. I rested here for a minute to catch my breath and to take a few sips of water. As I looked through the trees, I spotted a lone Lady Slipper in a small clearing, the only such flower I had seen on this trail.

From here, the trail would level out a bit before the last section towards the summit. When I reached this last steep portion of the trail I stepped slowly and carefully. This would require even more care on the descent due to the erosion that had occurred over the years. I was almost there.

In a few more minutes, I turned right on to the trail that would take me to the ledge on top of Bald Rock Mountain. I had done it! Ultimately, the trip that usually took us about 50 minutes took me an hour but that didn’t matter. I had decided to reach the summit alone and I had accomplished that goal. Hurray for me! I sat for a few minutes looking out across the water, past the islands below me and the mountains of Acadia beyond that. Then I took one last look at the harbors of Camden, Rockport and Rockland before returning home.





Winery Trail

We had planned to hike locally on Memorial Day with a friend, but early on she bailed out because it was cold and grey. Not letting the dreary weather stop us, we pulled out our map of the Camden Hills State park to view our options. As we studied the map, we discovered a trail near the operations side of the local winery that headed up towards Cameron Mountain. Here was our adventure for the morning!

We arrived at the winery well before 9:30 and parked not far from a small bridge that crossed over a culvert from the asphalt driveway. Once on the other side, we found a sign with an arrow on it and the words “Cameron Mountain”.

It wasn’t long before the trail slanted in an uphill direction. It was steep enough that we had to stop a number of times to examine the vegetation along the trail. The Eastern Starflowers and Canada Mayflowers were well established now, blanketing large portions of the forest floor. During one of our breaks, we found some starflowers that had two and three flowers on each plant. At another stop we were mesmerized by a Mayflower that looked like it was growing out of the middle of a fern. And then there were the ferns. Cinnamon, Interrupted, and what might have been Hay Scented Fern were everywhere.

Although there had been the typical brown state park sign pointing out this trail and it was marked on the trail map of the area, I found that this route was not as well maintained as others in the park system. It made me wonder if an official trail crew had actually constructed this trail. As the path continued uphill, there was quite a bit of washout forming a gully down the middle of the lane.

Despite the need to rest a few times and the difficulty maneuvering around the uneven terrain caused by the gullies, we soon found a loop with two picnic tables set in the middle. When we reached the midpoint of the loop, we found a set of stairs leading towards a gap in a stone wall. Once we passed through the opening in the wall, we discovered a narrow trail that made its way through a field. We had reached the top of Cameron Mountain! Even with all the stops it had only take about 30 to 40 minutes.

We stayed on the summit for some time, watching the fog drift across the mountains around us and the lake below.  A thrush called continuously from the woods below us. In the distance we could hear a woodpecker hammering away at some wooden post. After soaking in the sights and sounds of this sanctuary we retraced our steps back down the mountain. The hike, stops, the long stay at the top, and the return trip down had taken 1.5 hours.

Fore River Sanctuary

The Friday of Memorial Day weekend found us down in Portland running some errands. Since this would not take long, I researched where we could hike before meeting our daughter for a late lunch. After flipping back and forth between several options, I decided we should explore the Fore River Sanctuary just several minutes away from downtown Portland. It not only had the benefit of a wooded location within a city, but there was a small waterfall within the sanctuary as well.

The preserve could be accessed from several different parking areas, some of them less than ½ mile from Jewel Falls. Since the point of visiting Fore River was to explore the outdoors, we decided to park near the Congress Street trailhead and walk the 2 miles to the falls. We each had a 24 ounce bottle of water and figured this would be enough. I was not counting on the almost 90 degree heat.

Not far from the Congress Street trailhead was an Orthopedic Center / medical building that had 4 spots reserved for preserve parking (the entrance to the medical building was located on Frost Street). Signs near the parking spaces pointed the way to the sanctuary, so it was not necessary to walk along the busy street to the trailhead. We followed this path around the building and entered the woods. After descending a set of stone steps and crossing a small bridge, we reached the intersection with the official trail.

The day was already pretty hot so it was with some dismay that we discovered that a good portion of our walk was going to be out in the sun on a trail that ran alongside the salt marsh. We weren’t ready to give into the heat yet so we walked along the dirt lane, stopping every now and then to study the marsh. It wasn’t long before we reached our first sizable bridge spanning the marsh. Shortly after crossing the bridge, we spotted a Rose-breasted Grosbeak pausing for a drink.

A little further on, we entered a wooded area of birch and various conifers. Unfortunately, we were only in this shaded section a little while before we had to cross our next long bridge that stretched across the marsh. Beyond the straw colored vegetation of the marsh, I could see a stretch of green grass.

By now, the warm weather was beginning to bother me but once across the bridge we were back in the woods once more. The trail branched off in several different directions but a fellow explorer pointed us towards the shorter distance to the falls, indicating that we were not that far. We probably walked another 15 minutes before we found Jewel Falls. A set of stone steps headed up towards a beautifully constructed bridge that spanned the falls.

We rested for only a few minutes since we had to meet our daughter at a previously designated restaurant. I had almost finished my water at this point and we still needed to walk 40 minutes back the way we had come. The last of my water was downed in the car and the air conditioning was on high for the 10 minute drive back to town. After 4 large glasses of water I finally began to feel better. Carrying extra water probably would have helped but not hiking during an extremely hot day would have been the wiser choice. Still, I did enjoy our exploration.

Tanglewood 2018

Our mid-May Wednesday hike was one of those days when the thermometer indicated a warmer temperature than what we perceived. With a cool breeze blowing, we spent quite a bit of time deciding whether we needed jackets. We had agreed to explore one of the preserves closer to home and realizing that our walk through Tanglewood would be shaded, we opted to bring the jackets. Little did we know that those coverings would be a life-saver.

As I have mentioned before, Tanglewood is one of those places that is wet even during the dry season, so we did anticipate that we would need to work around some rather large puddles. To our advantage, the last few weeks had been rather dry but we still needed to walk around some mucky areas. What we had not taken into account was that this was the middle of May, the first week after Mother’s Day, and the black flies were out with a vengeance. I had never seen it so bad. When my friend stopped to hunt for frog and salamander eggs in one of the off-trail ponds, I soon grew tired of waving the bugs away and donned a bug net. If it wasn’t for the nets (and the jackets) we would have been forced to give up our ramble and head back towards the safety of our car.

Once we were appropriately attired, we were able to continue our exploration of the area. Except for the swarm of flies, this was the best time of year for observing the growth of the spring season. A few days before I had noticed the leaves of various wildflowers but no other color than the green foliage could be found. Now, we found new flowers springing up on a daily basis and I happily pointed out different wildflowers for my friend. As we walked along the Forest Trail, I pointed out sessile-leaved bellwort and painted trillium.

Our goal was to take the Forest Trail to the campground and then circle back on the River Trail. It took us some time to reach the camp since there were so many interesting things to study. In addition to the wildflowers, we also had to stop and take pictures of the Wood Frog that we had startled as we disturbed its hiding place in the leaf litter. We eventually reached the campground and had to stop to admire the suspension bridge that crossed the river at that point. The last time I saw this bridge was during  winter a few years ago. Now I noticed a sign with the word “Pitcher Pond” that pointed to a trail on the other side of the river. I wondered if that would be an excursion for another day.

From the camp, we followed the river back towards the entrance. Along the way, there were additional flowers to admire. I was not sure about some of them but I later identified one as a wood anemone. When we reached a grove of rather tall plants with ribbed leaves growing up from the center of the leaves beneath, I recognized this from my months’ long attempt at trying to identifying it when I spotted it in Central New York. I was happy to be able to name it as a false hellebore. (The plant is toxic to both animals and humans if ingested).

As we made our way back to the car, we noticed that the swarm of black flies had dissipated a bit. Perhaps they let-up during the afternoon hours. Even though we felt rather warm at this point, we were not inclined to remove either the jackets or the nets for fear that the bugs would smell fresh food and return. After we were safely in the car, we removed our protective layers and headed for home.


Morse Mountain

Recently my mid-week hiking buddy sent me a to-do hiking list for our summer to fall hikes. She started the list with 3 hikes but left space for another 7 suggestions. I felt some trepidation about 2 of the items on her list, for the Jack Williams Trail and the Ridge Trail in the Camden Hills seemed a bit ambitious after a sedentary winter. I added one ambitious hike of my own (Hogback Mountain) and filled in the rest with some easier walks. During the second week of May we decided to cross off one of those journeys and made our way to the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation area.

I researched the area before-hand and discovered that our exploration would be a 2 mile walk through salt marsh and woods before ending at Sewall Beach. As we drove down to Phippsburg, my friend commented that there was a fog bank offshore so I knew that we would be in for some overcast conditions once we reached the beach. Since it was approaching 11:30 by the time we reached the parking area, we decided to eat our lunch first before setting off on the trail.

The first part of the trail went through the salt marsh before leading us into the woods. Already, we had to stop and study the natural world around us (this is why I like hiking with this friend since she is like minded and doesn’t mind stopping for pictures and observations). On one side of the road a light mist rising above the channel, on the other, an egret landed in the grass, and before us was an interesting pine covered rock formation.

After we had our fill of these wonders, we entered the woods and began an uphill climb along a semi-graveled dirt road. Although the incline was slight we still ended up huffing and puffing along the way. It was a great time to point out the ubiquitous blanket of Canada Mayflowers, unfurling ferns, Trout Lilies and Wild Sarsaparilla.

It may have been at the half point towards the beach, when my friend took us on a detour to show off her favorite tree. It was a ghostly thing, with dead branches stretching up towards the sky but we could see some evidence that there was still some life left in this quiet giant. From where we stood, we looked out on the marshes once more and watched as a rather large black bird landed in the marshy grass. Even though my pictures were blurry due to the distance, when I consulted my resident wildlife expert later, she thought it might have been a glossy ibis.

The rest of the walk to the shore was pretty uneventful but once we were on the beach the fog rolled in. I was amazed at how quickly things disappeared. At some point while nearby islands faded from view, I could barely make out the waves nearby. Even my friend vanished as she walked towards the water.

As the fog lifted a bit, we walked along the shore stopping to study items of interest. Near a roped off section for nesting plovers, we found a piece of driftwood shaped like a horse. Not far from the nesting area, the beach curved along the channel and we studied the intricate patterns in the mud.

Here we followed footsteps of those who had wandered this section before us. Again we stopped to study the rocks along this section of the cove. As I examined this stone, I briefly wished that I knew more about geology for I could see a variety of rocks crushed into this one boulder; mica, quartz and other unknown rough white chips.

While we were still investigating this end of the beach, we hear an unfamiliar noise not far from where we stood. It took us some time to make out the plover running back and forth from the fenced nesting area since he blended it so well with the sand. Avoiding the panicked bird, we turned to retrace our way back to the trail that would lead us to the end of the journey. We had crossed off the first item on our hiking list.