Tag Archive | Outdoors

One Last Winter Hike?

By beechhillfeb17-1the end of our snow filled weekend, the temperature climbed once more into the balmy region and the water poured off the roof as the snow began to melt. Three days were all we were going to have to enjoy some winter activities. With this in mind we decided to test the conditions of the trail up towards Beech Hill.

Beech Hill is not a long or difficult climb but it does offer some fantastic views from the top of the hill. As we walked around the field, beechhillfeb17-2the snow texture ranged from firm to slushy depending upon whether there was sun exposure or shade. Once the trail began its gentle ascent up the hill, it became more difficult to maneuver around the ruts and holes left by those who had gone before. We had to constantly watch the ground in order to avoid falling through the sometimes icy, sometimes slushy, uneven terrain.

Since the snowfalls over that week had been of the dry snow variety, there were beechhillfeb17-3many bare spots near the top of the hill where the wind had swept away the white carpet. This also applied to the trail, where the dirt patches had turned to mud with the warming temperatures. I was disappointed in the thought that “mud season” would soon be upon us, a condition that would limit our outings for the near future.

At the top of the hill, we looked out across the bay towards beechhillfeb17-4Acadia National Park and its snow covered mountains. It was quite windy on the open hilltop, so we lingered for a few minutes in the protection of the Beech Nut House veranda. Safely tucked away from the cold gusty breeze, I admired the line of mountains in the distance. We admired the views for a few minutes before heading back down the hill.

Halfway down the hill, I paused to admire the artistry of one more winter plant contrasted against the snow. I thought the beauty of all the seasons, even in the remains of this plant that would soon disperse those seeds and cover the hill with the beauty of spring.

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.

 

What a Strange Winter this has been

What a strange winter this has been! Although December and January proved warmer than usual, which should have provided enough exposed food to keep the turkeysjan17-1wildlife well hidden, we still had an infestation in our yard one day. A noise coming from the direction of our birdfeeder caused us to look out back and discover that we had been invaded by no less than 36 rather large turkeys.  To the dismay of our local squirrels, this ravenous tribe quickly scoffed up the seed scattered around the feeders before returning back into the woods. But this wasn’t the end of it. The next morning while I was in that state between sleep and consciousness a sound made its way into my dreams. When it came a second time, although still in a state of sleep, I was able to discern that it was an animal of some sort. Finally struggling into wakefulness, I looked out my window to be confronted by a rather fat turkey staring at me from the other side of the glass. Again they had come to scout out the food situation. They stayed for a few days before moving on to better food sources, but it was interesting to watch our local wildlife up close for a little while.

The warming trend continued through the end of January, confusing some plants into a springtime growth. On January 28th, I was walking through town when something caught my eye. I had to stop and kneel down to get a closer look at what would not have happened in a normal winter. But there they were; the first crocus shoots pushing up from the earth. I only hoped that the winter temperatures predicted for the next 10 days would not destroy these brave soldiers of spring.