Tag Archive | Outdoors

Mount Pleasant

Near the end of October, the weather finally sent a hint of autumn. Within a week’s time, we saw 2 days of rain mid-week, a few days of sun and a nor’easter to finish up the month. The first rain was enough to push the bulk of green leaves to a golden brown, encouraging us to venture outside on one of those sunny days and head towards Mount Pleasant in Rockport. On Mount Pleasant Road, we soon found the trailhead for Mount Pleasant, as well as an alternate trail for Spruce Mountain, crossed the road towards our selected route and began our adventure.

The light was just right on this particular day that we stopped a number of times to take in the play of light through golden leaves. Perhaps it was the time of day, or maybe it was the time of year but there were several instances were a particular item was illuminated in such a way that we basked in the magic until the sun shifted and the moment was gone. The fuzzy remains of a flower was the one glowing item in an area cast in shadow. It felt good to be outdoors, experiencing the magic of the season.

Further on, we found two tree trunks with large boulders sitting on top of each trunk. It took us a moment, but once we realized that the trees had been cut, we surmised that the placement had to have occurred with human assistance. From this point, the trail became a bit narrower and wet. I could imagine that parts of the trail would be quite boggy in the spring.

In autumn, after a rain, we always forget that wet leaves cover wet rocks and there is a danger of slipping on the concealed stones. We managed just fine hiking along the leaf-covered path but then the trail went across a slanted ledge. I led the way across what appeared to be dry stone but soon slipped and fell and began sliding down the ledge. I managed to stop my slide but I could not figure out how to regain my footing and an upright position. Finally, I crawled across the ledge until I reached leaves and dirt once more, while my husband headed through the woods to avoid crossing the ledge. It wasn’t until were looking back at the stone from a different angle that we noticed the faint shadow of water heading down from the spot where I fell.

Safely on level ground, we continued on our journey until we reached a spot where there were views of a pond and mountains in the distance. The trail became more of a road at this point and we did not see any additional blue blazes. Assuming that we had reached the end of the trail system, we spent a few minutes studying the autumn landscape nearby and the fields below us before turning back the way we had come.

On the way down, we used my husband’s solution of pushing through the woods to avoid the wet ledge, returning to the trail when we deemed it safe to do so. Shortly after this point, I noticed some sticks on the ground that were covered in what appeared to be a rubbery like substance. I was intrigued by the curves and intricate design of what I later discovered was some kind of jelly fungus. After studying this fungus for a bit, we continued down the trail and soon reached the trailhead.

It had been a wonderful morning filled with inspiration and discoveries. A successful day indeed!

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Erickson Fields to Beech Hill

By the third week of October, the fall foliage was still sort of sparse and dull. Most of the trees were displaying a greenish-yellow hue, with very few reds or oranges on display. With less than two weeks left to October, the temperatures were still in the mid-60s with no rain in sight.  Perhaps the unusual weather had led to the subdued foliage season. Although not inspiring, it did provide us with some perfect days for hiking, so when my friend called to hike the new connector trail from Erickson Field to Beech Hill I readily tagged along.

We met in the parking field at Erickson where we proceeded across the bridge towards our adventure. As we crossed the bridge, I noticed some Wild Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace was still in bloom. The first part of our trip was a familiar one. We strolled along a path through the field before entering the woods. Once in the woods we headed right on the old Loop Trail. It wasn’t long before we turned again on to the Connector Trail.

Once on the new trail, it wasn’t long before we reached a bridge spanning over a wet area. I remembered a social occasion a few weeks before, when my husband and I received a preview of the unopened trail by the man who constructed the bridge. He had been mulling over how he wanted to span the mucky area to the trail beyond. That day, we had made our way across some rocks and up a small embankment before continuing our preview. I must say he did a really nice job; that bridge was such a work of art that my friend and I studied it from a variety of angles before proceeding on our journey.

We followed the connector through another field, where we passed the remains of an old cellar. There was too much foliage in the way to really study the remnants of this structure so we walked on. Then things got a little confusing. From where we stood, we could see Beech Hill Road and the path we were on would take us to that road. The problem; there was also a house not 15 feet from the supposed trail. We looked around but did not see any indication of another route towards the road. Since there was no “private property” sign, we hoped no one was home as we exited the trail and headed up the road towards Beech Hill. I did make a note to try and find out later where the official connector trail ends.

After exiting the Erickson Fields preserve, it was a short uphill walk to Beech Hill. We walked around the newly renovated gates to Beech Hill and proceeded up the road alongside the blueberry fields. When we reached the Beech Nut House, we explored the cottage and the surrounding land. During my investigations, I discovered a beautiful red dragonfly. I believe it was an Autumn Meadowhawk. While my friend continued to explore, I meditated on the fields below and the ocean beyond. The view was mesmerizing but soon it was time to go, so we headed back towards Erickson Fields and afternoon obligations.

 

Allen Whitney Memorial Forest

By mid-October, it was time to take my car to Augusta to have it serviced for the winter. But Augusta was an hour away and I didn’t want to waste the trip, so naturally I researched the hiking opportunities in the area. I found references to the Allen Whitney Memorial Forest but the trail map on the New England Forestry Foundation website was not the best. Once I settled for the map on the Maine Trail Finder site I was ready. With map in hand and husband with a bad back in tow I set out to towards Augusta. I had promised the husband lunch at one of the pubs in Hallowell so he tolerated the pain of his bad back and came along.

By 9:30 we were out of the dealership and looking for the Allen Whitney Forest. I had printed out directions from google maps and read a blog posting about parking at the Meeting House Church, but when we followed the directions and consulted the map, the church was not where google said it should be. Puzzled, we backtracked and parked at a pull out for the forest. With trails on both sides of the road, we opted to hike the paths on the west side of the street first, then if time and my husband’s back held out we would hike the east side.

Although there were a few places where additional trails branched off to our left, we stayed on the main road that would take us to Shed Pond. Once at the pond, we stood at the edge of the water and studied the hill on the opposite shore. There have been reports that the autumn colors were late this year and not as spectacular as previous years, but I found there was still enough color for me to rejoice in the colorful display.

Making our way back towards the road, we decided to investigate one of the side trails. This path led us to the far end of the pond where we were able to admire the view from a different perspective. At this end of the road, there were a few routes that branched off in various directions. I am sure that one of those paths would create a loop that would take us back to the road, but, since I was not able to print out an entire trail map we decided to retrace our steps.

Within half an hour we were back at the car. I allowed my husband to stretch out his back a bit before we crossed the street to explore the trails on the east side of the road. In this part of the forest, the trees were numbered, I assumed for forest management purposes. We found a notice that one section had been completely cleared of ash trees in order to demonstrate the damage the ash borer would create.

Leaving the numbered trees behind, we meandered along a lovely wide lane trying to identify the different trees. When the road continued through the portal of a stone wall, we stopped to watch a chipmunk scurrying around within the gatepost. A little further along, we discovered that the map wasn’t quite matching up with the actual trail and for a short time we thought we had reached a dead end. Looking around, we finally found a sign that indicated the path was for hikers and bikers only. It seemed to be heading in the right direction and so we waded through a small overgrown section before we found ourselves back on a wider lane.

The trail in this section of the forest was surrounded by old stone walls on either side. As we began to hear road noise, I looked to my left and found the remnants of a fireplace and foundation. A few minutes later, we exited the forest and found ourselves in a field behind the Meeting House Church. The Meeting House was located south of where we parked, not on the north side as google maps implied. We walked up to the road to the car and as promised, I took my husband to Hallowell for lunch. He was pleased.

Ridge to River Trail

During the second week of October, my friend and I decided to hike the Ridge to River trail in Searsmont. My goal for the day was to at least hike to the top of the ridge to take in the autumn views and possibly on towards the river, a distance of about 1.5 miles. If conditions were right, we could even enjoy lunch by the river.

After parking at the lot on Ghent Road, we made our way across the road and on to the trail. There was a lot of erosion on this portion of the path and I found the footing a bit treacherous. In fact, I had visions of repeating an episode that occurred a few years ago when I was hiking with my daughter at Payson Park. On that day, we were hiking along a ridge above a river when I lost my footing and had to make the decision to slide down the embankment or twist the other way. I leaned away from the ridge and landed on my shoulder, which I subsequently could not move by the time we returned home. On this trip, I made it safely beyond the narrow path and we continued on our way.

Our route took us through the woods for a short distance before opening out on to a field. We followed the trail through the middle of the field just as the wind came up, lifting milkweed seeds into the air. Hundreds of seeds swirled around us and we laughed at the thought of being in a magic place filled with fairy dust. It was truly one of those events where a picture cannot capture the magic or emotions that one experiences at the time. Another lesson we learned that day was to turn around and look at the landscape behind you. We remembered to turn around just before crossing Route 131 and were rewarded with a beautiful autumn landscape.

Once we crossed the road, we walked through a short section of woods before entering another field. We were a bit concerned about losing the blue blazes but there was a path along the side of the field, so we continued on. It wasn’t until we reached the next road crossing at Appleton Ridge Road that we realized we had lost the trail. We studied the map for a bit before walking up the road a ways until we found the blue blazes running alongside another field. We strolled along this path until the blue blazes directed us back into the woods.

It was a good thing we kept some distance from each other, because at one point my friend stopped short. A small snake was sunning itself right in the middle of the path, and it had no intention of moving out of anybody’s way. That snake stayed there while we took a number of photos. It still refused to move when we stomped on the ground nearby. Finally, after I kicked some leaves towards it, the snake moved slightly off the path so we could walk around it and continue on our way.

There were some uphill and downhill moments in this section, and each time things seemed to be getting steep we thought about turning around. Neither one of us wanted to make that decision since we really wanted to make it to the river but we were also afraid that the river might be beyond our reach. Ultimately, we would tell each other that we would travel on just a little bit further. Finally, my friend suggested we go a little further up the ridge towards a definite tree line, and there below us we found our body of water. We walked along the stream until we found a log where we could sit and enjoy our lunch.

After lunch, we made our way back towards Ghent Road. Along the way, we discovered where we had lost the trail. It was funny in a way, because I had commented about a red mark on a tree to our left. That tree had been directly across from the blue marked trail to our right. To be fair, the blue marker was far enough into the woods from the wider trail that it was easily missed. From this point, we quickly reached Ghent Road and the end of another wonderful hike.

Howe Hill

One day in early October, I received a last minute call from a friend asking me to join her on a hike. She also wanted me to pick out the hiking place. It was already well past lunch time, so I had to think of a place that was close by. I thought for a short time, before suggesting the nearby Hodson Rheault trail.

We followed the trail along the stream as we made our way to the bridge that would take us to the Rheault easement. Since September had been hot and dry, it was no surprise that the stream was completely dry. Even the mushrooms seemed to be done at this point, although we did find one interesting white fungus with 4 prongs furling out from the base.

My friend had never hiked this place before and she was delighted with the dark woods, the rock filled stream bed and the stone walls. I guess we spent the uphill climb pointing out different things and chatting about everything, because it wasn’t long before we had reached the blueberry field at the end of the easement. Since the farming season was over and the land trust had an agreement with the farm owners allowing hikers to follow a trail up to the top of Howe Hill, we continued on a dirt road towards the summit.

Walking through the fields we spotted some small pale yellow butterflies, flitting along the few remaining flowers of the year. Neither one of us attempted to take a photo of these elusive dancers, opting to continue on through the blueberry fields arrayed in their reddish autumn hues. Across the fields, I could make out Hatchett Mountain and the zig-zag hiking trail leading up the mountain.

Our journey ended at a large, flat stone with the “Howe” family name carved into the top. In front of us, we studied a contrail cloud rising up from Bald Mountain, giving the mountain the appearance of an active volcano. Then we sat and studied our surroundings for a while, talking about family, life, emotions, health and all sorts of things that friends talk about. Reaching no conclusions, we contemplated the landscape once more before heading back towards the preserve and the end of our spontaneous adventure.