Tag Archive | walks

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.

New Year’s Day 2017

Webaldrockjan17-1 have reached that age where it doesn’t matter how late we tuck ourselves in for the night, we are always awake by 6am. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep does not make for a productive day, so the only thing one can do is get outdoors and hope the fresh air and exercise will help banish that sluggish feeling. A New Year’s Day walk around Fernalds Neck would not be too strenuous but would get us outside.

After driving down the narrow, dirt road towards the preserve, we found that the road had been cleared as far as the baldrockjan17-2last house before the park. Much to our dismay, the road was closed from that point on and, looking down the avenue towards the parking area we could see that the gate was closed. I was disappointed since I really wanted to see what gifts the preserve had to offer during the off-season but, on this day at least, that was not to be. And now, we had to come up with a plan B.

Since it was close by, we finally decided on just walking the Multi-use trail in the Camden Hills State park up to the Bald Rock trailhead. baldrockjan17-3When we arrived at the ice-covered parking area, we discovered a number of people had the same idea. We grabbed the last parking spot, donned our spikes and set out on our walk.

It had precipitated the night before, with the usual wet snow turning to rain stuff that was becoming the typical storm pattern for this year. While I waited for my husband to retrieve his scarf from the car, I noticed that this warm/cold air pattern had left an interesting sponge like pattern to the snow cover. You could just tell that this white stuff was more ice than snow, not very good for either snowshoeing or skiing and yet we encountered people doing both as we meandered up the hill.  We could hear the skies chattering on the ice as skiers passed us wishing us a Happy New Year! Everyone was glad to be outside!

I enjoyed the play of light along the snow covered trail and through the trees around us. I thought that a leaf had a vague resemblance baldrockjan17-4to a lizard. My husband teased me about this, but I could definitely see a creature sitting in the snow, the ragged edges of the leaf like feet on the snow and the point of the leaf looked like the head, nose pointing out to sense what was going on around it.

I kept glancing at the sun, peaking through the spaces between the trees. As this bright orb traveled lower in the sky it made an interesting pattern as the surrounding trees dispersed the rays, creating blades that stretched out from the center disc.

We finally reached the Bald Rock trailhead where we rested a bit before turning around. We were outside on a clear, crisp day, enjoying the inspirations of nature and a cheerful greeting to everyone we met. There was no better way to begin the New Year!


Interpretive Trail in Winter

Lookingmerryspringdec16-1 back over my postings about Merryspring, I noticed that I seem to never stray far from the Interpretive Trail. (I really do need to get further into the park.) But the winter so far has brought that nasty type of weather that begins as snow, then turns to rain or ice before dropping the temperatures down into single digits, so, once again I decided to meander along the Interpretive Trail and explore the gifts of winter.  Because of the icy temperatures, I slipped my micro-spikes over my boots before heading off towards the trail.

Besides the occasional call of the Chickadee, the only sound was the crunching of the crusty snow under my feet. I followed merryspringdec16-2the signposts marked with the “i” for this trail until I reached the description of the natural spring flowing in the ravine below me. Without a clear view of the spring or the stream trickling through the ravine, I continued on my journey until I emerged from the woods. The trail continued slightly to the left and then right across the meadow, but I stayed and studied the brush before me. The area was still encased with the precipitation from the night before, so I paused and let the magic of this winter wonderland fill mymerryspringdec16-4 senses.

Before continuing one my way, I looked down the slope to my right in time to watch a hawk swoop down below the brush line. I waited a few moments and was rewarded with a second sighting as the hawk soared back above the trees. That was when I noticed a small trail leading down towards the spring. I took this short detour to get a closer look. The spring itself was surrounded by stones, perhaps marking the location. I meditated on the images, clearly reflected in that small circle of water before moving on.

I merryspringdec16-3followed the trail through the second meadow, pausing to admire the lone tree in the middle of the field and the benches in the distance. The snow was beginning to melt off the branches as the climbing sun encouraged nature to emerge from the shadows. Even so, I was able to enjoy the snow covered bench near the brush. It was a bit too cold to wipe off that white blanket in order to sit on a granite bench to contemplate nature, and I had agreed to meet a friend in about an hour, so I strolled on towards the arboretum section of the park.

I think merryspringdec16-5one of the reasons why I don’t stray further afield in this place is that we have always gotten turned around in the section known as the Kitty Todd Arboretum. Even when we have walked the trail that loops around the border of Merryspring, we have found ourselves suddenly lost in a maze of trails with numbers like A7 or A4 that do not correspond to the trail map in hand. Including these smaller pathways on the map might be useful for the unsuspecting travelers trying to find their way out of this labyrinth. Needless to say, I did not venture into the arboretum.

After meandering around the campus a little longer, I paused not far from the parking field to admire a grove of white birch trees. It had been a beautiful, invigorating walk but now it was time to meet my friend.


Appleton Preserve

Mid-November appletonnov16-1we took a late morning drive to the Appleton Preserve. The gusty winds from the day before had swept 80% of the leaves from the trees, the landscape was taking on that end of autumn look and the sun was shining. What a perfect day to explore some place new!

During the winter, we had snowshoed along the Canal Path, a companion preserve located just across the street from the Appleton Preserve. From the parking field, just to the left of the main trail was a short path leading down to the river. The Georges River seems to be aappletonnov16-2 favorite fishing spot and we found many side lanes heading towards the water as we walked along the main corridor.

The first part of the trail was bordered by the remains of golden rods, Queen Anne’s Lace and open Milkweed pods. One pod looked like it was still trying to spit out its fluffy seeds but they clearly were not ready to let go. Later in our journey I would spot numerous fluff balls that I would realize were not milkweed pods but some kind of tree or vine that I could not identify.

The trail appletonnov16-3followed the river for a bit before turning away from the water and leading us through a meadow. Here we had a choice, did we want to follow the wider path back to the road or continue to the interior of the preserve. We decided to walk through the meadow and complete the loop at the far end of trail before calling it a day.

The lane turned left at the far end of the meadow where we discovered we had to climb down a shallow, rocky embankment, cross a small stream and then climb up the other side. According to the brochure for the Appleton Preserve, this may have been the remains of a 19th century canal system. If the water was as shallow then as it was on this particular day, I’m not sure how useful appletonnov16-4that canal could have been, but it was an interesting discovery.

When we reached the loop portion of the trail, we opted to head left towards the river. This allowed us time to take in the views of the river and the fields beyond. There is something peaceful about water views and I find that these moments go a long way to healing the soul.

Continuing appletonnov16-5our journey around the loop, we found that there was still some surprises away from the river. Not only did we discover the ruins of an old chimney, but surrounding one side of this structure was a circular arrangement of stones. This was no accident but a planned placement of stones. It almost looked like it might have been an enclosed garden at one time, or could it have been a small hut from long ago. Nearby, I found small sprouts of red leaves closely resembling the leaf of a Japanese Maple but I was not sure of these were indeed some kind of maple. We finished our journey thankful for the hour spent in this quiet place.

Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary

It was a mastlandingoct16-3dreary mid-October day when I convinced a friend that we should head down to Freeport. Initially, I thought that we would head over to the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary but since the forecast promised rain, we decided to browse around the outlets as an alternate diversion. Our real adventure would consist of finding a new route to Freeport, avoiding both the route that would take us through the construction on Route 1 in Bath and the one through Augusta to 295. So with my friend acting as navigator, we meandered our way down a number of back country roads towards our destination. mastlandingoct16-1Ultimately, we discovered that it did not matter whether one travels to Freeport via the highway or the byway, it would still require an hour and half of driving time but at least the back roads option had some really nice views.

Once in Freeport, we started to roam around town through a few outlet stores but it wasn’t long before we both realized that neither one of us was in the mood for such activity. Since it wasn’t raining yet, we decided to implement our original plan and headed over to the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary for some outdoor exploration.

After mastlandingoct16-4viewing a trail map (which we later decided was not quite accurate), we planned on walking a loop by hiking the Ridge Trail to the Bench Loop Trail towards the Mill Stream Trail. From there, the service road would take us back to the car. Not long into our exploration, we found the remains of the Old Farmhouse Foundation (marked on the trail map). On this occasion, it was roped off and marked as an archaeological site so we moved on.

At the next intersection, wooden signs pointed straight to continue on the Ridge Trail or right towards the Deer Run Trail. We headed straight according to plan but it was interesting to note that the connecting trail towards Deer Run was not marked on the map. Although the day was pretty dreary, we were still able to enjoy the subdued colors or the season as we walked along. I stopped a few times to study some interesting lichen, fungus or a brightly colored leaf stuck in a pine tree before moving on to themastlandingoct16-2 next attraction.

As we headed down the back side of our loop, we passed two benches before reaching an intersection that was not clearly marked. We made our best guess, only to find ourselves in a maze of trails. Eventually, we reached a clearing with a single apple tree and joked that at least we would not go hungry. Finally, at the far end of the clearing we found a wooden sign pointing towards the Mill Stream Trail. We followed this trail along the stream before ending at the remains of the old mill site and dam. We studied the ruins for a bit before walking down the service road towards the car.