Tag Archive | walks

Great Salt Bay Farm

A hint of summer was in the air when I decided to head down to Damariscotta and explore the Great Salt Bay Farm. I arrived mid-morning and stood for a few minutes near the kiosk trying to locate the trail. From where I stood, I could see an expanse of lawn and a pond but no clear direction around the area. A gentleman finishing up his morning walk pointed the way and I was off.

The first section of the trail, took me through lush, green fields sprouting wild strawberry flowers, violets and dandelions. This area was also filled with bird song. I watched as birds flitted about, unable to identify any one of them but one bird did stand out. I spied a rather large black and white bird as it settled in the grass, flew a short distance and settled down again. After consulting my bird book, I was pretty certain that I spotted an Eastern Kingbird.

Reaching the top of a hill, I studied the area in all directions trying to determine where the mowed trail continued before heading downhill away from the water view. For a few minutes I wondered if I had made a mistake as I schlepped through a rather wet muddy area, but no, the path continued towards a wooded section of the property. When I thought about walking this area, I had decided since it would be flat, I would be okay with sneakers rather than boots but I soon discovered that I had made a poor choice since more than 50% of the area was wet.

Entering the woods, I found a blanket of the ubiquitous Canada Mayflower leaves, along with Wild Sarsaparilla. The ferns in this area had almost completely unfurled, although a few still displayed some artistic curls as they continued the unfolding process. I soon came to an area where several rough shelters had been erected around the trees. Here, I had to look around a bit to locate the continuation of the trail.

The path soon left the woods behind and led me near a marshy area of the farm. Not only did I have to cross a rather questionable bridge across the water, but, when I reached the other side I had to struggle a bit to climb up the eroded bank. Back on the grassy lane, I encountered two women coming from the opposite direction. We chatted a bit before one of them pointed out an osprey carrying a fish towards its nest. We watched its flight for a while before continuing on our respective journeys.

I made my way towards the point, where the women told me I would see the shell middens. I found this rather odd since I knew the large midden was on the opposite side of Route 1 but I headed towards the point anyway just to explore what was there. A few benches had been placed around the point for travelers to pause and watch the activity on the bay. A short distance further on, I spotted a patch of Red Columbine. Interestingly enough, they were growing in an area that was covered with shells.

Returning from the point, I walked the Chestnut Grove loop, passing underneath the osprey nest. It was getting warmer and I was getting tired, so I opted out of the Bay loop, continuing on the most direct trail towards the car. It had been a lovely hour of exploration but now I had fabric to buy for my next quilt project and needed to get on with that task.

Perimeter Trail at Merryspring

During the first week of May, there was finally a break in the rain long enough for me to grab my adventure buddy and head over to Merryspring. This time, I decided to venture further afield by conquering the perimeter trail, without getting lost in the maze of trails known as the arboretum. Since my husband and I have experienced this confusion every time we have attempted walking the perimeter of Merryspring, he joked that I should have my phone, a GPS, map, flares and several days’ worth of food before setting out. Part of the problem was that not all the arboretum trails were marked on the trail map available at the kiosk, but after carefully examining the map, my friend and I figured that we just needed to keep to the right in order to stay on trail “1”.

Even though it was May, there was still not much green showing on the trees. The lack of leaves did enable us to get a clear view of ponds, streams and a couple of rock wall surrounded wells. With the abundance of rainfall over the last few weeks, not only was there plenty of moss growing everywhere but the trails were quite muddy. On one downward section of trail, I lost my footing in the muck and was down on my knees. No damage done, we continued on our journey.

As we walked, I noticed that ferns were just beginning to poke through the damp soil, the fuzzy curled up leaves just waiting for a few more days before sprouting up. Near the dreaded “A” marked trails, I found the tell-tale single first leaf of the Canada Mayflower. In fact I had noticed a carpet of these leaves all over the various trails we have hiked and I wondered if a few warm days would see an explosion of white flowers throughout the woods.

Keeping to the right, we managed to avoid getting lost this time around and it wasn’t long before we spotted the greenhouses and gardens near the entrance. Since my friend wanted a copy of upcoming programs and her own trail map we entered the main building where I took the opportunity to ask if there was a separate trail map of the arboretum area. I was surprised that the person we spoke to mentioned that he always got lost there as well and they were in the process of remaking a map for that area. Good to know that we were not the only ones to suffer this experience. When I mentioned that I was also disappointed that I had not spotted any flowers in bloom this late in the season, this staff member mentioned that things were blooming over by the vernal pond. Of course, I had to drag my buddy over to the vernal pond to see what was there. Once I found the blooming Blood-root I was satisfied. We walked the perimeter trail without getting lost, found new growth of ferns and Canada Mayflowers, and visited a few flowers in bloom; our day was complete.

Bowdoin Pines

By mid-April the snow was almost gone and I was ready for a road trip with my adventure buddy. April was also the month for the quilt shop hop in Maine. Although my friend did not quilt, she was willing to go along for the ride. If everything worked according to plan, we would also find a place where we could explore the outdoors.

With an agenda sketched out, we set off for the 2 hour ride to Freeport to visit our first quilt shop. There was one small glitch when we discovered that the store was not in its previous location but it wasn’t long before we arrived at the new destination, closer to the center of town. After admiring all the pretty fabric for a bit, we were off towards our next destination.

I had decided that it would be nice to walk around Bowdoin Pines in Brunswick. Having obtained descriptions and directions, I knew that there was parking behind the alumni house of Bowdoin College where we would find a kiosk with maps at the trail head. I found the parking area without any difficulties but there was no kiosk or anything else nearby to mark the trail head. At one end of the parking area, we found what looked like a trail leading through the woods. With a “what could go wrong” attitude we set off to explore the wooded area.

Walking through pine forests can be a bit tough as far as locating a trail is concerned since there is no undergrowth that would help distinquish a trail from the rest of the wooded area. Fortunately, the area probably received enough use from the college students that we could make out some kind of path through the trees. As we meandered along, my friend began collecting bird feathers (and there were a lot of them) while I focused on the pine trees themselves and the long runoff ditch beside us.

Eventually, we were forced to make a choice of ending our stroll at the back of a shopping center or crossing the railroad tracks and hoping the trail continued on the other side. Needless to say, we opted for crossing the tracks. Shortly after crossing the tracks, I found a few Skunk Cabbage in bloom. There was enough of them there that I found one that allowed me to study the green spiky ball inside the plant. After I took a picture, I stood up and looked around only to discover that I was surrounded by hundreds of Skunk Cabbage. It was another one of those moments when you finally see something and discover that that particular object is everywhere!

At some point the woods became increasingly wet, until the trail became impassable. We retraced our steps across the tracks and headed towards our next destination. Ultimately, we visited four quilt shops and a pine forest; a productive day indeed.

A short stroll along the Belfast Rail Trail

After our difficulties hiking in Tanglewood during the melting season, we decided to find some place that would get us outside and not be so taxing on us, physically. This would be tricky, for not only were we dealing with slushy snow but we were approaching mud season; a most unpleasant time for exploring hiking trails. In fact, the forecast for the next day was another 3 to 5 inches of snow, letting us know that even though the calendar said April, winter was not done yet. I finally suggested that perhaps the Rail trail in Belfast would be manageable as it meandered along the Passagassawaukeag River and was more exposed to sun.

Since I last visited the Belfast Rail Trail, the path has been connected to the downtown area of Belfast. With this in mind, we decided to park in town and walk along the paved path by the river towards the pedestrian bridge and the Rail Trail. We encountered many people enjoying their stroll within the confines of the town; a clear indication that “if you build it they will come”. It certainly served to get people outside even though the trail conditions in other venues were no longer ideal.

Once we passed the pedestrian bridge and continued underneath Route 1, we were pretty much on our own. The Rail Trail was created with fine gravel, so I thought this would be better than hiking through slush or mud but even here the snow was still firmly in place along the trail. Although the snow was a bit slushy, it was not as arduous as our hike through Tanglewood the week before, however, given the consistency of the snow, we decided that we would walk to the next parking area before turning back towards town.

It was pleasant walking along the river, so we stopped a few times to admire the view; a stream running down the hill towards the river, the remnants of an old bridge and the vegetation beginning to bud. Along the way, I discovered a leaf that had left its impression in the melting snow. It was amazing that the dark color of the leaf was enough to cause the snow under it to melt faster than the surrounding area.

We soon reached our turn around point, where we paused for a moment to look further down the trail before turning back towards town. Even trails like this will just be easier after the snow is gone for the year.

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.