Tag Archive | walks

Sagamore Farm Trees and Vernal Ponds

The first nature walk of 2018 sponsored by the Coastal Mountain Land Trust was held on the last weekend of April, and this year they were kicking off the season with a focus on tree identification and vernal ponds. Perfect! Given my tree identification skills this was a must attend event for us, so despite the misty weather we headed towards Sagamore Farm with the hopes of actually learning something new.

Since we had already explored Sagamore Farm in the fall, we knew that it was located behind one of the inns known as The Lodge, so once we located parking on the inn property we joined our fellow explorers at the small but already full parking lot near the front of The Lodge. From there, the group walked towards the back of the property to enter the preserve. We noticed the gloomy weather had kept our numbers down, but to me, that was a good thing, for that meant we would actually be able to hear our leader. We have already attended these events with well over 50 people, all trying to hear the topic expert while walking along a single file trail.

The first tree we studied was a red oak.  I learned that the red oak actually has red markings between the deep grooves of the bark. Although it is the most common oak tree in Maine, I was soon able to tell the difference between a white and red oak by the shape of the leaf (the red oak had more pointed leaves than the white). Most of you probably already knew this, but hey, this was all new to me!

From there, the coordinator of this adventure led us to a vernal pond. He had examined the pond the day before and that morning, discovering that the rain the night before had created ideal conditions for the “Big Night”, the night when the salamanders head down to the pond to lay their eggs. After explaining the importance of vernal ponds to the eco-system, he took us closer to the pond to point out the egg masses that had been laid the night before. I must confess that while we were listening to these interesting facts about vernal ponds my attention kept focusing on the perfect reflection of trees in the water.

Not far from the water, our next stop was a grove of white birch trees, looking rather ghost like in the mist. Here we learned that the grey birch is not as brilliant white as the paper (or white) birch and often has dark triangle shaped markings. We also spotted a yellow birch which, in addition to the yellow bark, is shaggier that the other birches.

We continued on our walk, with our guide pointing out the striped maples that were budding, and the mountain ash lined with sapsucker holes. At another stop I found a perfect yet delicate spider web; a lovely work of art on this overcast outing. All too soon our lesson was over and our allotted time was up. I did learn to identify a few trees but I had also found that nature can offer up some pretty impressive artwork even on foggy days.

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A Snowshoe Exploration

After clearing the roughly 13 inches of snow from the second nor’easter in a week, we decided to take out our snowshoes and explore the woods behind the house. Even though we knew that this had been a very wet snow, we were not expecting to hear the snow squish under our feet. The sound reminded me of walking on supposedly dry ground during mud season. Clearly there was a lot of water running underneath this wet blanket but everything was bright and fresh looking so we continued with our ramble through the woods.

It was early enough that the sun had not yet melted the snow and ice from the trees. I took a moment to admire the icing on the branches before heading off towards the drier side of the property. As we wandered around snow-capped branches and stone walls the white blanket started to melt, and soon we were being pelted by snow falling from the highest point of the trees around us. This still did not deter us from stopping to admire the ice ball crusted around a branch, or the shelf mushroom bearing a rather large white cap. I also paused to study the intricate design of a fungus attached to a twig on the ground. I almost walked by this find but the golden color and the unusual shape caught my eye so I had to stop.

It became harder to maneuver through the snow as we made our way to the wetter side of the property. There were many dead trees on this side and more bushy type vegetation, with a few sticker bushes thrown in. We found it more difficult to find a clear path through this jungle and soon decided to call it a day, but first, we had to force our way through this tangle of growth. Once we reached the road, we walked back towards the house anticipating a nice hot cup of tea.

Winter at Belfast Watershed

During one of the nicer days in early March, a friend and I decided to explore the Little River Community Trail in Belfast. The portion of the trail that we planned on hiking ran through property belonging to the Belfast Water District, a piece of land that was being studied for purchase by an aquaculture firm for salmon farming. Several questions had been raised by the community regarding polluting discharge into the water, transporting waste through the area since this town had dealt with these issues during a time when chicken and sardine processing had made the locality rather malodorous, and the future of the beloved Community Trail.

It was not a done deal for the firm but on the day we visited we could not help but notice the crews performing well testing and the surveyors as we walked into the woods. Indeed, the noise of machinery followed us into forest as we sought some place to experience the tranquility of nature. I wondered if this cacophony would become a permanent part of this trail and those seeking a peaceful place in nature would have to find it somewhere else.

Not far into our walk, we paused at the edge of the water to take in the views of the reservoir. I looked across the ice covered surface back towards Route 1 and the bay beyond. We then looked down at the fragments of ice at our feet. I was intrigued by the feathery slivers underneath the surface, adding a whole new composition to the crystalized formation above.

Our plan had been to travel this portion of the path to Perkins Road before turning back but we were not that far into our walk when we realized that decision would have to be amended. From the top of the ridge we looked down the hill towards an ice covered bog bridge and the steep snowy incline on the other side. My friend had undergone shoulder surgery in the fall and I was always concerned about falling even though my hip replacement was over five years ago, and so, reluctantly we turned back, leaving this adventure for another day.

Since our walk had been a short one and we weren’t ready to return home, we opted to visit the McLellan-Poor preserve on the opposite side of the reservoir. As we entered the woods, my friend noticed an old stone foundation buried in the undergrowth. Funny, I had not noticed this when I visited this trail in July, perhaps the vegetation in full bloom at the time kept this structure well hidden.

As the reservoir came into view once more, my friend noticed the light catching a damaged piece of bark. This particular piece of wood had been painted red (wound paint?) at some point and the sun was illuminating it in an interesting way. We studied this intriguing find until the light shifted and the image disappeared. We traveled a little further before being thwarted once more by a rather large section of snow and ice. It felt good to be out even for a little while but oh, the trials of traveling woodland trails during the in-between seasons.

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.

 

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.