Tag Archive | Maine

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.

 

 

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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.

Doyle Preserve

One morning in mid-September, I decided to head down towards Damariscotta to explore Doyle Preserve, a small trail system overlooking Pemaquid Pond. With the exception of driving past the dirt road turnoff and having to turn around, I found the directions to the preserve were pretty straight forward. As per the directions, I parked at the kiosk, walked down the road a bit past a private driveway and located the trailhead. My adventures were about to begin.

Not far into my forest walk, I noticed a log with some tiny white leaves scattered along the fallen limb. These leaves were so tiny and so white that I paused to study them more closely. Kneeling down for a closer look, I realized that they were not leaves at all, but small mushrooms. One even had the appearance of a butterfly, wings stretched out for a rest. I contemplated these for some time before moving on towards other discoveries.

Further on, I stopped to admire an erratic half covered with a black leafy typed fungus. The coloration of the rock, half black with the lichen and the bare side a pale shade of grey, reminded me of a whale leaping up from the ocean. It was an interesting image considering that I was in the middle of a forest.

As I strolled through the preserve, I realized that it was probably a good thing that I had not invited my exploration buddy along. Although the trail was well marked, the saplings on either side were close enough that the brushed against me as I passed by. There were also some sections were the path was almost hidden by the ferns that grew over the path.

But the biggest deterrent, was the number of times I had to step off trail and make by way through the woods and back to the path in order to avoid walking into a spider web. With the saplings so close to the footpath, these arachnids must have felt it was the perfect distance to set up shop. Looking back at the first one I encountered, I noticed not one but two giant webs across the trail. I was quite grateful that I had avoided this double whammy. I had to make a detour at least twice more to avoid walking into these almost invisible webs. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky near the end of the loop, noticing the delicate architecture just as I walked into it. After jumping up and down, dancing around and waving my hands all around for a bit, I concluded I had just completed about a week’s worth of aerobic exercise and moved on.

Prior to this final experience in the preserve, I reached the pond and strolled along the shore. There was a small island across from where I stood. With the rocks exposed between the island and the mainland, I could almost imagine that I could cross and explore the island but thought it wiser to observe it from afar rather than getting wet. Instead, I watched the numerous dragonflies playing along the beach before heading back into the woods. Spiders aside, it had been a wonderful day for new discoveries.

Brunswick Commons

The beginning of September brought cool nights and pleasant days; perfect weather for exploring the outdoors. Due to my exploration buddy’s health issues and long work hours, I had not dragged her on any adventures in quite some time, so I was surprised when she asked if I wanted to join her on a trip to Brunswick. She was thinking she might need a change and wanted to head down  towards the bigger town to scout out job opportunities. After spending the morning collecting applications, I thought I might be able to convince her to fit in a small exploration. She agreed to a simple walk and so we headed off to the Brunswick Commons.

We left the Main Street area and headed a short distance south of Bowdoin College before locating a decent size parking area for the Commons. Before setting out, my buddy did inform me that she was not going on any unknown loop trails (I swear I don’t do that….much) and only wanted to do a straight out and back trail. I agreed to this and soon we were walking along a wide path through the woods.

Prior to our trip, I had researched the Commons while looking for something that I thought my friend could manage. I had noticed that there were some comments from just a few years ago that complained that trails were unmarked and the newcomer could get confused in the network of trails. Perhaps, because we only covered a small section of the park and stayed on the “Main Trail” we only discovered one place near our turn around point, where an unmarked trail branched off the central corridor.

At one point I gazed longingly down a path called “Johnny’s Trail” but my friend laughed, commented about my desire to explore and refused to follow this side trail. I gave one last look down Johnny’s Trail before turning back towards the Main Trail. The path we had chosen was easy and since I did not have to worry about obstacles under foot, I had time to really enjoy my surrounding. I had already noticed, during my explorations throughout August that the wildflowers were turning, but now I noticed that September was beginning to speed up these color changes. I found a Maple sapling that had already turned red.

As we continued on our journey, we found a few informative signs that presented information about Pine Barrens (Pitch Pine Loop) and the Chestnut Tree. Again we kept to the central path, passing the other end of the Pitch Pine Loop, until we reached a point where the trail continued past two boulders. I assumed that the road continued to one of the surrounding neighborhoods, so we decided to turn back.

As we approached that second turn off to the Pitch Pine Loop, I convinced my friend to veer towards this section of the woods. She probably agreed because she already knew where this side trip intersected with the path that would take us back to the entrance. Walking through a different section of growth, I noticed once more that the small wildflower vegetation was done for the season and the ferns were well on their way. The summer had disappeared rather quickly this year. I suppose the long, wet Spring that extended well into June, left us only two short months of Summer before Autumn caught us by surprise. I could only hope that the new season would linger awhile.

Sweetgrass Winery

The first weekend in September there were errands to run, but naturally, I had to research any hiking possibilities nearby. My hunt for a suitable outing resulted in two possibilities, so after my spouse was done picking up tractor supplies and pining over the new tractors I dragged him off to explore the Carroll Farm Trail at the Sweetgrass Farm Winery nearby. The current owners of the farm, along with the local land trust, had laid out a series of trails through the fields and woods a number of years ago and this seemed like the perfect spot for a short hike.

Arriving at the winery, we spoke with a gentleman working near the barn to ensure that they were open for business, that we were okay to park where we did, and to ask about the trails.  He indicated a section on our map where the trail might not be clearly defined since they had just hayed the meadow, showed us the way around the field, then directed us to the back of the barn where the trail began. After stopping for a moment at the back of the barn in order to orient ourselves, we set off towards a sign at the bottom of field.

After walking across the grass, we discovered that the sign did indeed indicate the beginning of the meadow path and set off on our adventure. On either side of the trail we found goldenrod, milkweed and thistles mixed in with the tall grass. Given the nasty construction of thistle leaves we made sure not to stray off the path. We did stop to investigate the milkweed and discovered that most were already bearing seedpods. Only a few were ready to release their seeds. I only saw one butterfly flitting nearby but other people have told me that this was promising to be a phenomenal year for butterflies. So far I have not witnessed the abundance that others had promised.

It wasn’t long before we reached the hayed field, but, rather than circle through the field we decided to turn towards an obvious corridor that would complete the field loop and take us toward the forest loop. We did pause for a moment to watch some turkeys moving about in the distance before continuing our journey. In the wooded section on either side of this connector I observed a few different varieties of ferns, goldenrod and a cluster of small white flowers that I had been trying to identify for the last several weeks during our woodland walks. Completing some research after this walk, I finally discovered that these white flowers were Pearly Everlastings. Another flower to add to my repertoire!

Although the wooded road was marked it was a little hard to maneuver since some areas were a bit overgrown. We made our way with some difficulty through this section before reaching the Medomak River. After crossing a barely visible bog bridge we reached the other side of the field where we had observed the turkeys earlier. The grass and reeds were high enough that I could not get a good view of the river. In fact, we almost missed the sign that indicated that this area was a spot to put in canoes and kayaks. We were puzzled as to how anyone could push their way through the grass to get close enough to the river.

After studying the river, we walked along the road for a bit before the trail picked up again through the woods. We followed the path back to the beginning of the meadow loop and turned towards the winery. It had been an interesting hike but it was time to reward ourselves with a tasting before returning home.