Tag Archive | Maine

Regained Confidence

After my troublesome exploration of Waldoboro Town Forest, I wanted to try an easy stroll just to prove to myself that I had not developed a fear of striking out on solo adventures. Since the Coastal Mountain Land Trust had published a lovely guide describing all their land holdings along with trail maps, I flipped through the pages until I decided to seek out the St. Clair Preserve and Knight’s Pond.  According to the description in my pamphlet, the land trust trail was a mere 200 yards from the dirt road to the pond. Perfect! This should help me prove that my previous experience was just a fluke.

The fog was just lifting from the pond when I parked near the boat ramp at the end of a long, dirt road. I stood by the ramp for a few minutes enjoying the view of water and the fog drifting through the trees, thinking that this was be a perfect place to to paddle around in the kayaks. Turning north towards a small picnic area where my map had displayed the trail, I searched but could not find any clearly marked path. The section of water near this area was boggier in nature, containing lots of grass and water lilies.

My lack of success did not stop me from exploring the area. After a disappointing search for said path, I turned south back towards the boat ramp and decided to walk along the beach. As the waterfront began to curve west, I discovered a trail nearby. I climbed up a small embankment and soon discovered an orange blazed trail leading through the woods. Since this path was on the wrong side of the boat ramp, it could not have been the land trust walkway. I knew that parts of this area had been previously owned by the Nature Conservancy, so I wondered if this had been part of the Conservancy trail system. I also knew that the Point Lookout Conference Center maintained a trail system that lead down to this body of water, so that was another explanation for this unknown road. In any case, I decided to explore.

As I walked along this wooded road with the water always visible, I studied the forest for the signs of late summer. It wasn’t long before I noticed the bright red berries of the bunchberries, the yellow spotted leaves of the Wild Sarsaparilla, the occasional discolored fern and the reddish-green berries of some unknown viburnum. I continued exploring until a reached a small point jutting out into the water. From here I could see a large expanse of the pond, a small island in front of me, and a shoreline to my left with grass and waterlilies. I felt a calmness here and I knew that my previous adventure had been an aberration. In the future, I would be able to continue my solo excursions into nature.

After turning back towards the boat ramp, I studied some vegetation growing near the edge of the water. I never did find out the identity of this grass-like plant bearing the remnants of white flowers but I thought they were beautiful. When I was done studying this interesting plant, I conversed for a bit with a man throwing a stick into the pond for his dog. We talked about different hikes and this particular preserve. He informed me that you could keep going on that path I had explored and take it almost the full length of the lake. Sounds like a great adventure for another day.

My goal had been achieved. My morning successful. As I drove slowly back up the dirt road, I glimpsed what could have been a trail just near the picnic area. Proof of that path must wait for another day.

 

An Uneasy Vibe

After returning from Seattle, I concentrated more on exercise hikes up the Multi-use Trail in the Camden Hills, but now as late summer approached, it was time to return to some exploration walks. My choice for the last weekend in July was to re-visit the Waldoboro Town Forest, located on Route 1. Since my last visit two winters ago, the town of Waldoboro had worked on the trail loop and held an official re-opening of the trail earlier this summer. I was curious to see what I would find during a visit in a completely different season.

There was only one other car in the parking area when I arrived. This did not disturb me since I had been on plenty of solo adventures during the last few years. I left the parking field, walked past the two Waldoboro Town Forest signs and entered the darkly, shaded pine forest.

Once in the woods, it was clear the work had been done in this preserve. The trail was marked by fresh blue blazes and an occasional brown hiking sign, brush was piled along the side of the trail and some log benches had been created from some of the remains of the clearing work. As I walked, I discovered some of the vegetation was beginning to show the signs of late summer; the Indian Root Cucumber displayed a slight hint of yellow, the Wild Sarsaparilla had acquired yellow spots and the single leaf of the Canada Mayflower was also beginning to turn. Further down the trail I found some tiny bright red mushrooms which could not be photographed due to the abundance of biting insects.

Not far into my walk, I came to the beginning of the loop through the preserve. At the intersection was one of those new benches mentioned earlier. The trail in front of me displayed freshly painted blazes, but the blazes were pretty faded on the trail to my right so I continued straight. It wasn’t long before I encountered a bog bridge that disappeared in the ferns growing over the planks. I’m not sure why but I began to feel a bit uneasy at this point and turned back towards the intersection. Not giving in yet to my sense that something felt wrong, I turned down the intersecting trail, only to discover a little way down the lane that this path also narrowed as the grass and underbrush took over before it disappeared completely. The fact that two marked trails just disappeared within a month of being re-opened, suggested that this preserve was not heavily used. For some reason I was spooked by this notion. I decided to trust my gut on this one and returned to the safety of my car.

Summer Visit to McLellan-Poor Preserve

After returning home from our Seattle trip, we took a few weeks to get back into our normal daily routines before setting out on our next adventure during the July 4th holiday. The local land trust had just recently completed a second entrance to the McLellan-Poor preserve on Route 1, and, since we had been stopped by our previous endeavor to explore this preserve due to an impassible river, we decided to approach the same river from the opposite side of the preserve.

During our approach to the trail-head, we spotted the sign for McLellan Poor just as we drove by, so we pulled into the Belfast Watershed parking area just on the other side of the Little River in order to turn around. Observing the casually mowed trail beyond the kiosk my first thought was that anyone who has the slightest tick phobia would not like this path. But I dressed appropriately for this type of hike, so I wasn’t too worried about the trail conditions.

In the open meadow near the kiosk, there was an abundance of wild vegetation to study and identify, so we spent a few moments there. Near the sign was a rather tall plant with multiple flowers forming a crown at the top, similar to Yarrow but the leaves were different. I later identified this as a Valerian. The field was also filled with Cow-Vetch and some rather nasty looking Thistle Leaves. I assume the rather tall thistle not far from the path was a Bull-Thistle. There was also a number of small flowers about ½ inch across which I identified after we returned home, as Common Stitchwort

Once, we were done marveling at all the flowers in the field, we continued our journey towards the woods. The trail was still very narrow with vegetation alongside the path close enough to brush against our clothing. I knew a number of acquaintances in our town who would get the heebie-jeebies walking through this.  In fact, during this part of our adventure we followed the barely visible line of trail through a stretch of what we could only call a fern forest. Here again, we stopped multiple times trying to identify the various ferns.

It wasn’t long before we passed through the ferns and found ourselves deeper in the woods walking on a wider forest trail. We were occasionally treated to glimpses of the reservoir to our right. In a few places, the trees became more widely spaced and we were able to stand on the ridge for a few moments and enjoy a much better view of the water. As we journeyed towards our destination, we crossed several bog bridges. At the edge of one of these bridges I found a cluster of Wood Sorrel, which I carefully stepped over as I crossed the bridge.

During this adventure, we took the two loops displayed on the trail map in order to cover the entire preserve on this side of the river. Just beyond the intersection of the last loop with the Reservoir Trail we came to the waterway that had prevented the continuation of our winter explorations. We actually did not recognize it devoid of the snow covering the rocks, the footprints of those who went through the ice in an attempt to cross and the lower water levels. This time of year one could easily cross along the rocks that formed a small island in the middle of the river. I had heard that the field near the original trail-head was filled with lupines but it was getting a bit warm so we decided to turn back and prepare for our July 4th celebrations.

 

Gorge Trail – Acadia

A few days after hiking Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park, I found myself heading up to Mount Desert Island once more to make use of the 7 day visitor pass (the park does not issue day passes). I had offered my unexpired visitor pass to a co-worker and she mentioned that we should attempt the Gorge Trail on our next day off.

When I researched this trail, which heads up Cadillac Mountain, I found descriptions such as, “dogs are permitted on this trail though the upper section of the Gorge Trail is too steep and dangerous for many dogs”, or after reaching the top of the gorge there was still “500 feet to rise in only four tenths of a mile” . Huh? At this point I turned to my friend at said, “are you out of your mind!?” She swore that she was not interested in reaching the summit of Cadillac Mountain, she only wanted to reach the top of the stone steps and turn around. Given this assurance I agreed to attempt the hike.

Once at the trail-head, we descended a set of stairs towards Kebo Brook. We paused a few minutes to study the brook and the stone bridge spanning the flowing water. It was here that I realized I had found my new hiking partner; a kindred spirit who also wanted to take the time to meditate on her surroundings and photograph her observations.

After ascending a short series of steps on the opposite side of the brook, we continued on our adventures through a dark forest, crossing a bog bridge along the way. It wasn’t long before the terrain began to take on a rocky appearance and we were climbing alongside a stream. We stopped many times along the way to study the granite walls around us, wondering who lived in the cave-like holes carved in the stone. We also took delight in the numerous waterfalls along the trail. We certainly had amble opportunity to admire those waterfalls since the trail crossed the water many times. Near the top of our climb, we found the most beautiful cascade of our hike. With water rushing over the rocks, stairs ascending nearby and the surrounding greenery, we had truly found the spirit of nature. We certainly spent a bit of time meditating on the view.

At this point I was in the lead and, as a looked ahead I noticed that the trail was becoming more vertical. The flat stones used to pave the path were disappearing. I informed my friend that I had reached the end of the line but she went on for a  short distance before turning around. While I sat on a rock and waited, I noticed some vegetation growing on another boulder nearby. I went over to study the greenery, able to determine that there was definitely some kind of lily in the greenery. I later identified this as a Blue-bead Lily. Once again, two kindred spirits took some time practicing photographing the flowers before heading back down the trail. Our round-trip adventure was a little under 3 hours.

 

Beech Mountain

After our short visit to the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden, we headed towards Beech Mountain and the Beech Mountain Loop trail. When planning our trip to the Southwest Harbor side of Acadia, I had researched several hiking options in the area. Given all the rain in previous weeks, and consequently, our lack of getting out to exercise, I knew our endurance level would be low. There were a number of options that would take us to the top of Beech Mountain, but when I saw someone’s description of the “short-and-sweet Beech Mountain Loop” I knew I had found our trail.

Arriving at the trail-head we opted to walk the loop in a counter clockwise direction, which would take us up the longer trail first. A short way into our hike, we stopped to examine the flowers hanging underneath the leaves of some unidentified tree. I researched this flower after our trip and I believe the tree was a young striped maple.

In between the typical granite composition of the Mount Desert Island trails, there were some areas that were a bit muddy, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. The black flies were still around as well. I did not really notice the flies until I discovered a large bite later on. Despite all this, the day was sunny and it just felt good to be outside.

As we made our way up the path, the forest thinned out and allowed us some wonderful views of Long Pond. I believe I photographed this pond several times during our ascent. Soon the trees gave way to granite ledge, giving us a clear view of Long Pond. Following the trail around the ledge, we re-entered the forest for a bit. Here we found an old structure that had the appearance of an outhouse, now locked and decommissioned.

Pretty soon, we ascended a short flight of stone steps which deposited us just beneath the summit. We scrambled up the last section to the top of Beech Mountain and the base of an old fire tower. There was plenty of ledge for us to sit and rest a bit while we enjoyed the views of the Cranberry Islands and our snack.

After our snack, we decided to continue on the loop rather than return on the same section of trail we had just completed. This side of the loop was a bit more challenging, with a more rocky portions to scramble down. In a few places that required a long stretch, I used the sit and slide approach to make my way down to the next rock. My philosophy has always been that there are times when it does not pay to try and appear graceful. This was one of them. Since this was the shorter section of the loop, it wasn’t long before we had completed the loop. A few more feet and we were back at the parking lot. The clouds were beginning to return, so we called it a day and stopped for lunch before heading home.