Tag Archive | walks

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.

 

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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.

 

 

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.