It was a mere drizzle when we stepped outside and walked to Pondicherry Park, but eventually we needed to pull up the hoods of our raincoats. Our journey was rather quick as we followed first the Snowshoe Hare trail, and then the Pasture Trail, which led us to the Stonewall Loop, where two thirds of the way around, we diverted.
Our main intention had been to cross over the stonewall that marks the park’s boundary and explore the Pinehaven Trail owned by Lakes Environmental Association. It is on this land that the Maine Lake Science Center is located, but there are other cool features as well.
As the first sign informed us, we had arrived. And you can see by the moisture that it was raining in earnest.
Funding for the Pinehaven Trail signs and low-element course was provided by LEA Board Member Roy Lambert and his wife Mary Maxwell, summer residents of Bridgton who have made a huge impact on protecting the lakes and ponds we all love. Roy has brought the LakeSmart Program to LEA and Mary has spearheaded LEA’s invasive plant patrols.
Despite the fact that the sign warned us the course is “dangerous when wet,” we decided to test it out. After all, we were accompanied by a leaf as indicated.
Broken into four wonderful sets, each offering a variety of activities, we began by becoming birds on a wire.
Though I would have liked to say that I was a Barred Owl or Cooper’s Hawk, being a Nuthatch wasn’t so bad.
My guy . . .
was also a Nuthatch.
Set Two meant getting more practice in the art of walking on a balance beam. It looked so easy, but with each one, the level of difficulty increased a bit as our confidence did the same . . . for the most part.
And at first, our eyes saw only a few anomalies in the woods, but once we focused we realized each leg of the course was more involved than first anticipated.
The second set found us not only keeping our balance on the beams that zigzagged through the grove, but also on a swinging beam.
And then we had to step up and up and up.
One of my favorite parts was circling the tree like a rock wall climber might do.
In the process, I got to hug the pine, not that I ever need an excuse.
My other favorite part of Set Two was the bench. There were other benches along the trail, but I found this one to be the most aesthetically appealing. Even if you don’t want to try out the course, you can walk the trail and sit a bit. You might just see a deer–we did. And in the past I’ve seen other animals including a red fox.
As we walked on, not sure if there were more sets, we spied the first interpretive sign created by LEA’s Education Director, Alanna Doughty, and featuring her explanations and drawings. I LOVE them. And want to decorate my house with them. I didn’t tell my guy that. The other thing I loved about all the signage–it was mounted on rough-edged boards, adding to the natural look. Do I know the creator of those boards? A local box company perhaps?
Much to our delight, not much further on we came to Set Three.
The forest really was enchanted and we found ourselves using all four modes of operation in order to get from one piece of wood to the next.
There were lots of tree cookies to step on and more balance beams to conquer.
Sometimes we hopped like toads, who don’t leap as far as frogs with their longer hind legs.
Other times we had to channel our inner Cooper’s Hawk as there was no place to put our hands.
And in doing so, my guy figured out that pausing to wait for the wire to stop swaying made for an easier crossing. He succeeded. (I need to sneak back and practice this one some more as my knees were a tad too shaky.) We suspected that kids run across without giving it a thought. And so our excuse–it was raining.
Though it looked intimidating at first, moving across the log was fun, but I wasn’t so sure about the beam that turned out to be the highest one yet. It felt like crossing a brook and so after he finished I asked my guy to come back and give me a supporting hand. He laughed and asked if I expected him to stand in the imaginary water. Yes! Chivalry at its best. Once I started across while grasping his hand, I felt rather confident and soon let go. At the other side, I rejoiced in my success. And thanked him, of course.
Onward still, we encountered another one of Alanna’s signs, simple yet informative. And still, we were accompanied by a leaf. And no, we didn’t place the leaves on the signs.
This sign struck me as extremely important, not that the others weren’t. But . . . clean water is what the Lakes Environmental Association is all about.
At last we reached the final set, or first if you approach from Willet Road. Again, a leaf 😉
As for how good would we be as lumberjacks? Well, my guy would pass. I’d almost get there, but I have to work on my log rolling skills.
What I liked about the final set was not only the focus on various types of trees, but also that the same theme was executed in a variety of ways and so we crossed another swinging step bridge.
Sometimes, the choice to be a Nuthatch or Barred Owl didn’t exist and we had to become Cooper’s Hawks as we had nothing to grab onto while moving forward.
There were opportunities to be apes as well and then disappear around the back sides of rather large pine trees, their girth indicative of the fact that the land had once been agricultural and the trees grew in abundant sunshine after it was no longer farmed. So, do you see my guy?
Now you do! Circling around that tree was as fun as the first and it had ash tree foot and hand holds.
He Tarzan! And notice how the piece he was about to step onto was set on a log. Yup, it was a foot seesaw. There were several and we really liked them.
The last set included climbing a rope to the upper deck and then descending the ladder to another and on to a balance beam and then the log rolling. He did it all. I saved the wet log for another visit.
Just beyond the final set was Alanna’s last sign and a hot topic this year since last year’s mast crop of white pine cones, acorns, maple samaras, and beech nuts have meant a banner year for squirrels and mice. Remember, those little rodents don’t have as much food this year and they’ll become food for the predators and nature will try to balance itself once again. Oh, and not only are Alanna’s drawings beautiful but her humor and voice come through in the interpretive signs.
As for us, we had finished our balancing act, crossed the science center’s driveway, followed the second portion of the Pinehaven Trail and wound our way down to the board walk that passes back into Pondicherry Park. From there, we found our way home.
What a blast. I think we were both a bit let down that we’d finished the course.
Thank you LEA, Alanna, Roy and Mary, for providing us with a delightful Mondate Challenge . . . even in the rain. My guy and I highly recommend the Pinehaven Trail.