Tag Archive | walks

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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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.

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.

Harkness Revisit

Looking back, I realized that it was 4 and a half years since I last visited the Harkness Preserve in Rockport. It had been early spring and a mere 6 months after my hip replacement. I had meandered over a lot of trails both in the woods and in my personal life since then, so I thought it would be a nice time to revisit this land trust property. It would also be another test of my ability to continue solo explorations.

We had tried to snowshoe through Harkness last winter but the small pull-out parking area was blocked by a mound of snow and there were signs clearly stating that street parking was forbidden, forcing us to adopt a Plan B. But early August was a different story. The pull-out was quite visible, allowing me to park and quickly head into the woods. Quickly was the optimum word here, since I was certainly walking with greater ease than I had been during my last visit.

The first thing I noticed was that the numbered sign posts for the interpretive trail were missing. In fact, when I reviewed the trail map for the Harkness Preserve there was no mention of any such interpretive guide. The blue blazed path was still in place but I guess a decision was made to abandon the stops that provided educational information.

Early on, I stopped to study the berries of a Canada Mayflower just beginning its color change from green to red, a sure sign that the end of summer was near. I also found a rather impressive golden mushroom nearby with a spoke-like appearance. I had seen another mushroom of this type while walking in the Camden Hills recently. At the time, I thought it resembled a star.

There must have been a family of crows living in this section of the woods because they made quite a racket both at the beginning and end of my trip. I ignored their abuse and continued on to a quieter portion of the park. I crossed over a stream bed that was more rocks and mud than water, before discovering an interesting object along the trail.

I was unaware of any deviation in the path from my last visit, but I could not recall ever seeing the remnants of an old lime kiln chimney cap along the trail. Perhaps, I was concentrating on keeping my balance while walking through the woods at the time, but I am pretty sure that my husband would have noticed it and pointed it out.  It was enough of a distance from the lime kiln remnants at the Rockport Harbor for me to wonder what it was doing in this particular place.

Passing the historic remains, I began the second loop within this preserve. A cheeky, red squirrel scampered up a nearby tree and once it knew that it was safe, made a brave show of scolding me from a distance. Well, he sure showed me!

Pretty soon, I arrived at a ledge that overlooked the harbor. It was a very clear summer day and I must say, the views of the clear sky and boats floating lazily on the water was mesmerizing. The stone chair was still there, looking more inviting than on the cold, gray spring day from four years ago. I spent some time admiring the views before retracing my steps back to the entrance. It had been a longer journey than my visit to Knight’s Pond but it proved I was fully capable of continuing some solitary adventures.

 

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.