For Valentine’s Day 2018, I gave my guy the “Amazing Race–Our Style,” which included a list of monthly adventures. And if you kept up with us, you soon discovered that we had challenges to meet along the way as we competed with “imaginary” teams.
And then dawned Valentine’s Day 2019 and I wasn’t sure how I could outdo myself until . . . the proverbial light bulb went off, or rather, on, and a plan took shape.
With that in mind, I walked into Bridgton Books to find just the right card. What could be better than a Maine original by woodcut artist Blue Butterfield in Portland? I did enhance the card a wee bit when I added the heart on the trail. But one of the things I love about this card besides the subject and colors–the shadows: of the trees and the people and the people shadows could almost be bears. Just sayin’.
Inside the card I informed my guy that our next challenge would be to ❤️ ME, ❤️, me. Get it? LOVE Maine, Love, me. Naturally! I thought it was rather brilliant and had no idea at the time that Maine will turn 200 years old in 2020.
The plan is this–we’ll get to know our state better by visiting its 34 state parks. Mind you, this won’t all happen by March 15, 2020, and we may not even finish for another five years, but that’s fine. Nor will we have to compete with anyone along the way or complete challenges. All we need to do is show up, hike together, and appreciate our surroundings.
And so today we finally had a chance to begin and decided to launch our LOVE ME, love, me adventures at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. Though we’ve visited some of the parks before, neither of us had ever stepped foot on this one that had been acquired from the Federal Government in 1939 and became one of five original state parks in our grand state.
Others had, for more years than we’ll ever understand, but we did see lots of remnants from the 1800 and 1900s, including this boxy looking structure that we assumed was a pound.
Thank goodness for signs to confirm our assumptions. The pound was used to keep stray cattle, sheep, and pigs once upon a time.
Not only did the pound give us a hint, but by the stone walls, we knew the property had been farmed. By the ledges, we knew where some of the stones had come from.
Trail conditions were such that we walked on well-packed snow and lots of ice, so a break in the wall offered the perfect spot to sit and pull on micro-spikes.
Though the snow wasn’t deep like it is here in western Maine, the ice was quite thick, though water coursed through carving a trough providing a glimpse of the glacial activity that formed the natural features of the mountain.
In fact, striations from the glaciers were still visible upon stones in the trail.
Or not. For really, they were scratches created by snowmobiles because the park is open (for a fee) to hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, horseback riders, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers. There are also picnic tables and camping areas. What’s not to love?
And did I mention that it’s also open to critters? With a large swath of it being a hemlock grove, we weren’t surprised to see deer activity. And pileated works as well.
Of course, I had to check out the pileated wood pile, and delighted in seeing the cinnamon color of its inner bark. Salmon also came to mind.
And what else should I find within the wood chips–why bodies galore from a scat broken open. Based upon all the holes in the trees we knew the pileated had found the mother-lode of carpenter ants and the scats proved the point.
A little further along, we spied watery ice of a different color than that under our feet and suspected that hiding below the leaves and rocks under the snow cover of the surrounding woods are some amphibians waiting for a certain Big Night when they’ll make their traditional journey to their natal vernal pool.
At the far end of the pool, another shade of salmony-cinnamon greeted us.
A springtail frenzy was taking place where the ice had started to melt. Ahhhh.
Not far beyond the vernal pool, we reached the 485-foot summit. It’s not much as mountains go, but . . . the view was expansive–and we could see the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s also a favorite place to watch the hawk migration and we spent some time chatting with hawk counter Zane Baker who spends six days a week from mid-March to mid-May scanning the sky for raptors. Today was slow, he informed us and you can see by the chart that he’d only recorded four sightings. But today was on the cool side and Zane suspected some birds had ventured north in last week’s bit of a warm-up and the rest were waiting to make the journey.
We sat below and dined on leftover chicken/cranberry relish salad sandwiches while Zane continued to scan the sky with his binoculars and scope. Nada. But still, it was a beautiful spot and we were happy to be there before the crowds arrive.
On the way to the summit, we’d circled around the base of the mountain via a couple of trails, but chose the .3 mile descent via the switchback trail. Steeper and well shaded by an overstory of hemlocks, it wasn’t quite as quick of a descent as it might have been. Thank goodness for spikes. Because I was always looking down to see where to place a foot, I was happy to finally discover that the canopy was changing as evergreens gave way to beech and witch hazel.
We had almost completed the downward climb when we happened upon a chasm that didn’t make sense.
Until we learned that it once served as a feldspar quarry. According to the Maine Geological Survey for Bradbury Mountain compiled by Henry N. Berry IV, “Feldspar is the most abundant mineral in granite, and in pegmatite the individual feldspar crystals can be very large. Feldspar was mined from pegmatite bodies like this in many places across Maine in the early 1900s. The quarry itself, now overgrown with large trees, is about 150 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. It was crushed and separated to be used in making ceramics or as an abrasive. By the mid-1900s, feldspar mining had moved to other parts of the country and the world.”
Once we’d finished hiking on the West Side, we decided to walk across Route 9 and explore the East Side of the park. We covered lots more miles of trails, but noted only a few things along the way. One was the sweet sight of partridgeberry poking its evergreen leaves through the melted snow. There was even one tiny red berry still intact.
Again, the stone walls were numerous and by the time we had finished hiking, we suspected we’d zigzagged through a few, crossing them more than once.
The terrain was much more level and the mixed forest more open, so the trail conditions were easy.
As we neared the end of our journey, we spied a foundation of stone with a brick fireplace near the Old Tuttle Road.
It reminded us of our own old farmhouse, though our utensils are a bit more up to date. That being said, I’m always a wee bit annoyed when I discover artifacts lined up by a foundation. I guess I’m of the opinion that they should remain where they were and if someone stumbles upon something–great. Let people make their own discoveries. (Enough of a rant for today.)
At last we reached a monument we’d seen denoted on the map. We’d been wondering what it meant.
It turns out that the generous Spiegel family, who’d founded Quoddy Moccassins, had gifted some land to the people of the state of Maine. As two people of the state of Maine, we gave thanks.
Four hours and lots of miles later, our first in our ❤️ ME, ❤️, me Series had come to an end. Bradbury Mountain State Park. ✓ One down, 33 to go!