Tag Archive | walks

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.

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.