Tag Archive | Outdoors

Head of Tide 2022

After finishing our exploration of the Stover preserve on December 11th, our adventure continued at the Head of Tide preserve across the street. Since the two preserves were so close together, we walked down the road a short way to the trailhead. The trail map showed two loops, each one about a mile long. For this excursion, we decided to investigate the blue loop, which would take us towards the river.

From the kiosk, a path ran through a field. Judging from the remains of the summer vegetation, I assumed the vegetation could get quite high during the growing season. At the end of the field, a small bridge crossed over a wet area. In that small pond were some interesting ice crystals poking up from the ice. On closer examination, I discovered that the ice crystals were clinging to grass that was poking through the frozen pond. These amazing gifts of nature were quite beautiful, so we took some time admiring the artwork.

Not far from the bridge, we found the two loops. The red loop went off to our right into the woods. The blue trail went straight. On the blue trail we walked briefly through a small wooded section, before the trees gave way to a field. Here, there were tall sticker bushes on either side of the trail. This was a bit problematic, since there were a few tiny ice skating rinks that we had to avoid. During these evasive maneuvers, we came very close to those stickers.

Just past the field, there was an intersection indicating that straight would head towards the red loop while a left turn would keep us on the blue trail. We turned left and entered the woods. Eventually, the path ran adjacent to the river. I spotted some ice in this section of the stream, but unfortunately we were on a ridge and it was quite wooded here so I could not get a good look at the water. A little further along, I found a bench overlooking the river. It was located in a beautiful section of evergreens facing the water, but as you can see the trees blocked the view a bit. Still, it looked like a wonderful place to sit and contemplate the gifts of nature.

From this point there was a small downhill section and I continued looking for a way to get closer to the river. When we reached a bridge crossing over a ravine, I looked right and noticed a trail heading towards the water. At last, we found a way to get close to this interesting aqueduct! We spent a few minutes watching the rapids and just listening to the music of the flowing water. I found it very peaceful but my friend thought it was a bit loud. Still, I found it refreshing.

Returning to the bridge, we crossed over the ravine. The trail was uphill from here, until we reached the meadow leading back to the beginning of the loop. Soon, we were back at the kiosk and making our way back to the car. Although very cold, it felt good to be out. As my friend put it, “we got a chance to recycle the air in our lungs.” Indeed!

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Stover Preserve 2022

There was a significant temperature drop by December 11th but that did not stop my hiking buddy and I to get outdoors and discover something new.  The temperature hovered around 13 or so, when we made our way to the Belfast area to check out some preserves. Our first stop was the Stover Preserve, which consisted of a one-mile loop.

Once on the trail, we stopped almost immediately to admire the ice clinging to the leaves of some very green ground cover. I did attempt to identify this later, but without any luck. Perhaps the ice crystals confused the various plant ID applications. In any case, after enjoying the overall beauty of this artwork, I decided to get a closer look with my macro lens. I was amazed that I could pick out the hexagonal designs on the ice-covered leaves.

After taking way too much time photographing this plant, we realized how cold it was. Our fingers actually hurt from the cold. This was one of the downsides to taking pictures in winter. There was just no way you could manipulate a camera while wearing gloves or mittens. Fortunately, my friend had brought along some hand warmers, so we quickly inserted them in our gloves and continued on our journey.

Now, that we finally wandered away from the parking area, we noticed that the ground was frozen enough to crunch under our feet. Everywhere we looked, we found some form of ice, either clinging to objects partially submerged in the various streams or laced along the vegetation near the trail. We also found some nice specimens of needle ice. I have always had trouble getting a decent picture of these columns of ice pushing through the ground, because they are generally covered with dirt and to me just don’t look nice. On this day, I think I captured a pretty decent example of needle ice.

Eventually, the trail turned into a beautiful pine covered lane, surrounded by evergreen trees. Below us, we could see the Passagassawakeag River. We stopped for a few minutes to admire the rushing water. Throughout this preserve, we found several examples of the beauty of nature. It felt so refreshing!

As we made our way through the back side of the loop, we discovered a set of 3 small wooden steps or so, leading to a stony stream crossing. In warmer weather, this would have been an easy crossing. Today, the water flowed over the stones. I wasn’t concerned about getting wet since I was wearing a good pair of waterproof boots. My concern was the slippery conditions that were the result of the invisible ice just under the water. I cautiously made my way across, giving directions to my hiking buddy as to where the safest and driest places were for her to follow me.

After making a safe crossing of this stream, the rest of the hike was easy. Due to the temperatures, we decided to enjoy our snack within the warmth of her car, before heading to the next preserve across the street.

Little Ragged Mountain 2022

On December 5th, my husband and I decided to hike up Little Ragged using the Barnestown Road trail. We got a bit of a late start since my husband got lost in something else, and it wasn’t until I reminded him late morning that we had agreed to hike that day. At this time of the year, with sunset around 4, I really liked to be out of the woods by 3. We arrived at the trailhead at 11:30, so hopefully we had enough time to reach our goal.

The first section of trail was used to get to both the Bald Mountain trail and the Georges Highland Path that would take us up to Little Ragged. We started out following the path that went around a field and into the woods. With almost 2 inches of rain just a day or two earlier, even the flat areas were a bit wet and muddy. In fact, I slipped a bit walking around the field.

Once in the woods, the trail consisted of a lot of tree roots and boulders. In fact, this section was essentially a boulder field. You can get a sense of this by the stream flowing down Bald Mountain over the rocks in the first picture of this post. It wasn’t too far beyond this point that we reached an intersection. Turning towards the left would take us up Bald Mountain. We continued straight towards the Georges Highland Path.

With all that rain, there was enough water rushing over the rocks to create some impressive waterfalls. We paused at a few of these to admire nature’s power. At one of these, we actually stopped above and below the falls to study the flowing water from 2 different perspectives.

We continued maneuvering around boulders until we came to a stream crossing. There were no planks or bridges across this stream and with all the rain in the past few weeks, the water covered the rocks.  We made it across without any mishaps and continued to follow the trail up to the road. We crossed Barnestown Road to continue on the Georges Highland Path towards Little Ragged.

Across the road, the trail continued in a steady uphill direction. We discovered that there was a lot of mud hidden under the leaves, so we both did a bit of slipping and sliding as we made our way up the mountain. We also found that coming from this direction, it was sometimes difficult to find the next trail marker, but when we turned around the markers were quite clear. From this direction, the signs definitely needed a new coat of paint. In fact, at one of these markers some lichen had grown just above the paint forming a question mark. Even nature was questioning where we were supposed to go.

Our path continued to switchback uphill and at some point took us very close to a ravine. Eventually, we reached a new intersection with a sign post pointing out the new Round the Mountain Trail. Heading towards the left, we made our way up to the first ledge.

This granite section was surrounded by trees but there were still some views of Bald Mountain through the vegetation. I wanted to get to the bald ledge that had unobstructed views but it was already 1:00 and the sun was getting ready to go behind the ridge. We decided to have lunch where we were and then make it downhill before we lost light in the woods.

It was a bit colder than in recent days and we could see some patches of ice on the ledge where the rain had frozen. As we headed back downhill after lunch, I reminded my husband to watch out for the ice. Instead of watching, he stepped right on the ice and fell, landing on his side. As a result of the fall, his leg cramped and he spent a few minutes on the ground until his leg loosened up. I did wonder if he was taking a nap or if I would actually need to call for help. Eventually, he got up and we made it slowly down the mountain. This time, he listened as I called out to him where the patches of ice or mud were located and we made it safely down the hill. Although, we only went about a mile in one direction, this hike took between 2 to 3 hours due to the boulder field, roots, and the muddy, icy conditions; not to mention an injury. We made it safely home by 2:30.

Fernalds Neck 2022

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my hiking buddy and I decided it was time to walk off all that holiday eating from the previous three days. We kept it local, and headed for Fernald’s Neck in Lincolnville. Whenever we walked in this preserve, we always travelled the trails in a clockwise direction. This time, I declared that we should shake things up a bit and take the Orange trail in the counter clockwise direction. It was interesting to discover that not only did things looked different when approached from another way, but the brain was more alert as well.

At this point in the year, there were not too many new discoveries to behold. Flowers were long gone, but the mushrooms had vanished as well. We did come across a beautiful orange jelly fungus, but alas, I had not paid enough attention to my camera settings and the pictures taken at a way to slow shutter speed were completely blurry.

Approaching a ledge around the midpoint of the loop, I noticed that during one particularly steep section, I had an easier time taking this segment in the uphill direction than when we took our usual route and cautiously came downhill. Continuing along the ledge, we came across a field of Reindeer Lichen. It was then that we heard movement in the woods beyond this field. We stood very still and were soon rewarded with a deer sighting. We must have disturbed him while he was enjoying his lunch.

We continued wandering through the woods, just enjoying the experience of being out in nature. It wasn’t long before the trail skirted the edge of Megunticook Lake. We found a spot near the water to enjoy our lunch while meditating on the water and the Camden Hills beyond the lake. Bad weather was predicted for that evening but for now I soaked in the beauty of the cloud formation above the hills.

Finished with our snack, we continued our journey past Balance Rock and on towards home. It was a great end to a long weekend.

Sunrise Hike on Beech Hill

I had been wanting to do a sunrise hike for quite some time, but the problem with hiking up a hill to watch the sun come up is getting out of bed at some ungodly hour in order to enjoy the show. Heading up our favorite mountain for this event, means getting to the trailhead at least an hour and a half ahead a time. Knowing that it takes us at least an hour to reach the summit and we really need to be up there 30 minutes before the sun is actually visible. That means for an October sunrise time of 6:30, we have to be at the trailhead no later than 5. No thanks! So I need to either find a shorter hill to climb or make this trip closer to the shortest day of the year.

Eureka! I push my husband for a hike the day before the winter solstice, when sunrise is at 7:07. We will call it a Solstice celebration, where we can say goodbye to the short, dark days of winter and watch for the lengthening of days. To make this journey even easier, I suggest we walk up Beech Hill which is at most a 25 minute walk. This means we can get to the preserve by 6:15 and be at the top of the hill in plenty of time to enjoy the pre-show.

As we drive towards Beech Hill, I notice that the moon is not that far above the horizon. Perhaps, because it is not that far from the sun’s location, there is a brightness about the crescent moon, enough for me to see a shadowy outline of the entire sphere. It seems magical!

We arrive at the trailhead by 6:10. As we make our way along the path, we discover that the trail is completely covered in hard-packed snow that is more like ice. Not realizing that it was the time of year to keep the micro-spikes in the car, we need to make our way cautiously up the hill without them. The journey is also bitter cold and very windy. I did not count on this either. Despite all this, we reach our destination in 20 minutes.

Once we reach the summit, we seek the shelter of the hut located there. It is not open, but the porch of the building blocks the wind a bit. The sky is just beginning to show some color and I notice that the moon is about 45 degrees above the horizon. I pull off my mittens to take some pictures of the moon greeting the sunrise, and by the time I put my mittens back on my fingers hurt from the cold.

As we watch the sky get lighter, we realize that there are quite a few clouds along the horizon. This is not going to be the best sunrise we witness, but I take it in stride and decide that the clouds will be my focus today. Early on, I notice three separate layers of cloud; a smooth layer, a layer of wispy clouds beneath this and finally a layer of clouds with fluffy tops. I risk getting frostbite to get some pictures.

Finally, the sun sends a yellow-orange greeting above the cloud cover. A new day has arrived. We contemplate the new day, close to the Winter Solstice and a New Year, and wonder what new adventures and experience we will meet in the coming year.

Happy New Year to all!