I only got fake lost on my way to Old Point beside the Kennebec River in Madison this morning. The plan was that I would meet K.D., a Maine Master Naturalist student, near the monument honoring Father Rasle. All was going smoothly and I was almost to my destination by 10am–right on time. Maybe it was because I was feeling so smug about getting there without any hassles. Or maybe it was because I’m just not tech savvy.
Somehow, I either plugged the wrong address into Map Quest last night, or Map Quest decided that I should go to the wrong address. Anyway, I turned onto Blackwell Hill Road and drove along looking for the trail head and K.D.’s car. And then I reached the end of the road and had to make a choice. It was a T–turn this way or that (oh my, I’m tired and “turn” and “that” also begin with T). Instead, I made a U turn and headed back to town. Mind you, I had our cell phone with me, and K.D. had given me her number, but I never bothered to jot it down. Lesson learned? Probably not.
I kept hoping she’d stop being polite and just call me. Back in Madison, I pulled over and examined the Delorme map again. Blackwell Hill didn’t seem like the right place because I knew the trail was near the Kennebec River, but it looked like there might be trails off another road in that area, so I turned around.
Again, I hoped she’d call. After a third U-turn, she did. And she was on the other side of town. Yeegads. But as I said earlier, I was only fake lost. I could find my way home (sort of).
Like all rivers in Maine, the mighty Kennebec was roaring today. Snow melt and rain.
I was meeting K.D. because she’s working on her capstone project for the MMNP course. The focus, a trail that honors Father Rasle, a Jesuit missionary who lived among the Abenaki people and died there during an English raid. K.D.’s plan is to tie the historical aspect of the trail in with the natural world. I’m excited for her and can’t wait to see the final product. I just may have to return for her walk during Madison-Anson Days, but don’t tell her that.
This is the monument erected in 1833 on what is believed to be the site of the 1724 massacre.
Father Sebastian Rasle (there are several spellings of his name) lived here for 34 years. K.D. said that the western side of the river was the English side and the eastern side was the French side. I think I got that right.
During his tenure, Father Rasle taught the Abenakis and created a dictionary of their language.
Though we didn’t try to go down the steep embankment, in this photo is an island and here the Sandy River discharges into the Kennebec. It’s her understanding that the Abenaki people originally settled on the island, but moved to the eastern side, which in the end led to the demise of the reverend and some members of the tribe. Perhaps the vantage point wasn’t as good.
As we walked along, thinking about what had happened here, we also identified species. For K.D.’s project, she’ll stick to the Native American theme–how was it useful to them? I’m not sure about these Jelly Ear’s (Auricularia auricle), but they are a good find anyway–and we found plenty.
And then there was a large patch of Equisetum, the only descendant of ancient horsetail plants that grew during prehistoric times.
Occasionally, we saw evidence of beaver works. I’m glad that the person who cut this red oak left the chewed section as a monument to these industrious critters.
A cellar hole is filled with snow and evergreen wood fern. As it turns out, K.D. believes this was the home of one of her husband’s ancestors. His family dates back three generations in the area.
While my bird expertise ends at my backyard feeders that must come down soon, K.D. is an avid birder. With her, I saw my first ever Kinglets today. They are little round balls of action. Golden Eyes played on the river, Tree Swallows soared above and a Bald Eagle sat in a nest watching over all. In this photo–a Hermit Thrush. We watched it for a while and heard another singing nearby.
And then we got stumped. Yup, more bark. We think we figured this one out, but if you know better, holler. Black Locust. The bark, light gray, deeply furrowed and intersecting.
The ridges are finely cracked. Now that the snow has melted, we looked for leaves on the ground because the branches were high above us. Below each tree, we found what we believed to be dried leaflets that were about two inches long and had entire margins. Again, if you know otherwise, holler.
Curiously, we found these Black Locust saplings at a different site along the trail. Apparently, the thorns are found on the branches of young trees–a warning sign to animals. Ingenious.
After three hours (it seems like it always takes three hours), it was time for me to head southwest.
Once home, I couldn’t resist the urge to walk up to the vernal pool. The ice melted while we were away this weekend, and already there are wood frog egg sacs. I waited for some action, but between some rain drops and a breeze, they weren’t making themselves known.
And the other moment I’ve been waiting for–Red Maples beginning to flower. Time to sketch asap.
This sign was along the trail beside the Kennebec. I’m thankful for the opportunity to walk and wonder with nature today, to share it with K.D. Happy Earth Day!