LOVE ME, love me: Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

It had been four years since we last visited Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park and that venture took place at the end of November. We must have been Christmas shopping. Today, we were in search of a bug-repellant shirt for me (Spring shopping) and so our journey took us to Freeport. Not being a shopper, it was a quick in and out of the store and then onto Wolfe’s Neck Road.

There’s a 4.4 mile network of trails in this 200-acre park gifted to the State in 1969 by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence M.C. Smith of Freeport. One of the stand-out features is Googins Island where Osprey have been entertaining visitors for years as they raise their young on a huge platform nest they’ve built high up in a pine. Can you see it?

Here’s a closer view–and I assume (never assume) that Momma was the one sitting on eggs. The nest has been added to each year and though I have no idea of its actual size, Osprey nests can reach 10–13 feet in depth and 3–6 feet in diameter. The depth of this one appeared to be a few feet, but the diameter was substantial.

We followed the trails and enjoyed journeys to the water where we could take in the views of Casco Bay and its islands.

And before our feet, the mix of granite pegmatite and metamorphic rock. As much as my mom always loved to walk along a beach, she was equally enchanted by the rocky coast of Maine and whenever I encounter it, I feel her presence.

I know mom would have appreciated the artistic rendition of waves created by the water and mimicked by the rock.

Again and then again, the trail was interrupted by a set of wooden steps that led us back to the water’s edge.

It was there that we spied the Common Eiders as they floated and fished.

And . . . the first Dandelion blossom of the season–for us, at least. In my modest opinion, Dandelions are under-appreciated and that fact was driven home when my guy asked, “You’re photographing a dandelion?” Yep. Check out each golden ray of sunshine with its five “teeth” representing a petal that forms a single floret. Yes, each petal is a floret. Therefore, the bloom is a composite of numerous florets. And notice how each stigma splits in two and curls. What’s not to love. Oh yeah, and though we didn’t witness it today, the pollinators love them. (SO don’t pull up the dandelions in your yard!)

The thing about Dandelions is that they leaf out first and then flower, while their cousins, Coltsfoot, which we also found along the trail, flower first and leaf out later. The wonder of it all.

Our journey took us across stepping stones,

along park-like paths (because we were in a park, after all), over roots and rocks, with ups and downs, and even a couple of bog bridges.

The sights along the way included patches of Equisetum, a living fossil. These vascular plants reproduce by spores rather than seeds and dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests. Just imagine.

While that was a treat, one of my favorite surprises was the patch of Trout Lilies that decorated the forest floor. It’s one I don’t encounter often, but because of its maroon-mottled leaves that remind some of brown or brook trout, I’ve remembered it each time we’ve met.

The nodding flower that could have been a lantern in the forest with its petals and sepals bent backward, exposed six brown stamens hanging low.

And then, and then, one of my all-time favorites in any season, a Hobblebush, showed off its May glory in new leaves and flowers. Those in our western Maine woods aren’t as advanced yet, but trust that I am watching.

Our journey was quick for we had another commitment, but still . . . we made some wonderful discoveries and especially loved the opportunity to see the Osprey on its nest.

The second in our LOVE ME, love me series had come to an end. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park. ✓ Two down, 32 to go!

Mondate By the Bay

After lunch at Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport (haddock sandwiches and a brew–no PB & J today), my guy and I found our way to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park on Casco Bay. So, here’s the good, but scary part. We’ve been there before, but not in a long while–and neither of us had any recollection of it. That means today’s visit was like going there for the first time all over again. (Our dementia is setting in.)


Trails follow the coast and circle back to the Harraseeket River, passing through a variation of natural communities. We trekked over all but the North  Loop before we ran out of time. Actually, we finished up a wee bit after the park was officially closed for the night and were glad to find the gate still open.

red oak

By the forest floor, it was easy to name the predominate hardwood trees in any given area from Northern Red Oak to

beech leaves

American Beech to

big tooth aspen leaves

Big-tooth Aspen. Spruce, hemlock, pine and fir also fill this more than 200-acre forest given to the State in 1969 by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence M.C. Smith.

down the trail

Sometimes the path was packed dirt that made for easy walking.

stone pathway

In other places, a stone pathway had been carefully laid out before us.


And no woodland trail is complete without an array of roots and rocks.

blow downs

One of the noticeable features of this location is the number of uprooted trees.

blow down dominoes

The wind enjoyed a serious game of tic, tac, toe, three in a row or dominoes with this event. Here’s hoping that no one planned a picnic that day.

blow down every which way

And in other spots, it looked like the gale force winds of both summer and winter beat upon the landscape.


Always on the lookout for interesting sites, my eye was drawn to the wavy inner bark of this old birch. It could be locks of Rapunzel’s hair. Of course, I also see a mermaid swimming in the slightly darker wood. Isn’t that what a naturalist is supposed to see?

eye in the tree

And then there was the hemlock-green sideways-turned eye–taking a different view of the world.

pine needles

While I’m sharing some interesting shots, I thought I’d include this one–of pine needles. It was getting dark and I chose the wrong setting, but I like the artsy texture of it–tweed-like in appearance.

seeing red

And the most interesting of all. My guy–he could pass for the invisible man.

Casco Bay Islands

Of course, we were beside Casco Bay, so we spent time exploring the coast line as well.

islands floating in distance

My knowledge of the island names is less than limited, but it did appear that those in the distance were floating on water–a mirage.

Goggins Island

As part of the park, Goggins Island is an Osprey sanctuary. Though I respect that, I do have to wonder about the human impact on the bird’s mating season. We’ve seen Ospreys build nests atop telephone poles over highways and bike paths with successful births despite the continuous noise and disturbance. But . . . a sanctuary certainly provides an extra layer of protection.

osprey platform

We could only spot one cock-eyed nesting platform on the island–with no nest on it.

Osprey nest 1

We did spy a bird-made nest on the mainland, and rather close to the trail. Just saying.

Googins in sunlight

All nests are abandoned now as the birds flew to South America in September–with plans to return next year to this golden paradise where they’ll mate again. Ospreys are monogamous and repeatedly use the same nest site. That’s the amazing piece to me.

rocky coast

The rocky coast of Maine includes the lighter colored granite pegmatites and darker metamorphic rocks with their repetitive flattened layering.

islands--lines in the rock, sea and sky

I found it intriguing how each layer before us mimicked the next–from the rocks to the ocean waves to the islands to the clouds in the sky.

late afternoon light

And then it was time to bid adieu. The setting sun where the forest meets the bay–Casco Bay. On. A. Mondate.

A Baggywrinkle of a Mondate

We learned a new word on today’s Mondate–baggywrinkle. I love how saying it makes my mouth work. Say it five times fast and I guarantee it will put a smile on your face. Might cause a few baggy wrinkles to form, but it will be worth the fun.

What does baggywrinkle mean? Read on.

Our Mondate took a different tack today–you might say we were coming about in Portland Harbor.

Picton castle

Tall Ships Portland 2015 is a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of Fort Georges.

aqua bus

The fort is in the background, center right of the Downeast Duck.

OP bow

This year also marks the maiden voyage of the first square-rigged tall ship built in the U.S. in 110 years. Introducing the Oliver Hazard Perry–a self-contained experiential school. Am I too old to go back to school?

Oliver Perry

Another view of the OHP.


We boarded some of the boats and were filled with admiration.


I have to say that I have enough of a problem holding onto one line when I sail, never mind a zillion.


Or hoisting acres of sailcloth.


El Galeón Andalucía, a replica galeón class vessel is the only one in the world sailing these days. Her design dates back to the late 16th century when these fabled merchant vessels and war ships made up the early European navies.

galeon 2

A stern view.

galeon 3

Ready. Aim. Please don’t fire.

window view

The one I really wanted to see came into view from below deck on the Oliver Hazard Perry.

working harborfront

So we walked along the working waterfront.

Portland Observatory

And observed the Portland Observatory from a distance.

harbor seal

Standing in line for almost an hour was worth the wait–a harbor seal.


A young osprey on a nest.

golden eagle

And finally the gold(en) eagle. I’ve always wanted to see one–especially this one.

stars and stripes 2

Her stars and stripes pledged her allegiance in the ocean breeze.

coast guard logo

Till today, I’d only seen her in the distance–sailing up Long Island Sound from New London, Connecticut.

eagle 2

But finally . . . up close and personal in Maine waters.

Eagle 1

Like the winds that propel her, she has her own fluid beauty.

 flag messages

Flag messages speak her language.

a million ropes

A million ropes and cables and masts–so much to learn. On the Coast Guard Academy Web site I found this information: Built at the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany in 1936, and commissioned as Horst Wessel, Eagle is one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German navy. At the close of the war, the ship was taken as a war reparation by the U.S., re-commissioned as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and sailed to New London, Connecticut, which has been its homeport ever since. Eagle has offered generations of Coast Guard Academy cadets, and more recently officer candidates, an unparalleled leadership experience at sea.

I didn’t know that. No wonder I feel a connection in so many ways–sailing, Connecticut and now I learn that the boat has a German origin. My maternal grandmother was born in Hamburg.

baggywrinkle 2

The question of the day and apparently the number one question always: What is that seaweedy looking stuff on the cables? How did it get there? Why is it there? Does it keep birds at bay?


That, my friends, is baggywrinkle. Think about the winds shifting suddenly during a tack. Sails slap against the rigging. In a big blow, they rip. Not so with baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle is old rope that’s been unraveled, cut to length and then rewoven to cover the cables and protect the sails from chafing. Kind of like how we use vaseline.

Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. 🙂

Extended Mondate

Sometimes Christmas gifts are delayed at our house, though not quite the way they were when I was growing up. Back then, months after the holiday, Mom would discover a forgotten gift she’d tucked away in the hallway closet for one of us. It was a fun surprise–for us and for her.

This weekend, my guy and I shared a present I’d given him last Christmas–a weekend away, with a search for roots tied in.

We began with my roots actually–and spent Friday night and Saturday morning with my sister and brother-in-law. That, in itself, is always a gift. Plus the conversation, laughter, a delicious breakfast and chocolate chip cookies for the road. (Many thanks to the MacBuds! You are the best.)

And then we were on the road again–headed to Onset Beach in Wareham, Mass. Until this weekend, Wareham had always been a place that we passed through on our way to or from the Cape. Oh, maybe we stopped for  saltwater taffy sometimes, but that was about it.

This weekend changed everything. We didn’t stay there, but we spent plenty of time there–including in the Ford dealership because the check battery light came on when we were about an hour away. The nice mechanic replaced the alternator and belt and in less than an hour and a half we were on the road again. And thankful.

Finally, Onset Beach.

onset 1

This is the view we think my guy’s great grandparents enjoyed daily. Back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, they owned the Onset Hotel. We weren’t exactly sure which building it was at first, but my guy isn’t shy (as some may think) and he talked to almost everyone in town. We were looking for one person in particular because we’d been told he might have information that would help us. I’m surprised the police didn’t come looking for us as we walked up and down streets, chatted with anyone we encountered and knocked on a few doors. We even visited the kind dispatcher at the local fire department. As I said, we talked to almost everyone.

onset 4

This person told us about that person, who suggested we visit yet another person. Finally, we had confirmation–the hotel became condominiums in the 1980s/90s. The photo above is of a page from a 1925 booklet that a woman who owns a property management business showed us. She also called several people in town trying to get more information, to no avail. But we were thrilled that we could look  from her business and see the building.  And walk by it and enjoy the view and smell the sea air, just as his great grandparents had done all those years ago. If they had time, that is, because apparently they also owned a bar in Boston.

onset 2

There’s a condo for sale. Maybe we should think about it. I don’t think so. We really aren’t beach people, even though we both grew up along the coast. We enjoy visiting the beach, but . . .

onset 3

We spent Saturday afternoon stalking the area and returned there this morning. Finally, we’d located the man we were looking for. He gave us two more names–of people who may have some information, but they weren’t home today. Never fear, this story isn’t over yet. We have phone numbers.

bike path 1

And so the present continued. We drove over the Bourne Bridge to Falmouth, where my guy had spent many summers before his parents purchased a hardware store in Maine back in 1965.

Our first Sunday morning adventure was along the bike path.

allen, bike path

While he headed down the trail for a run to Woods Hole and back, I moseyed along with camera in hand. You may want to stop reading now.


I was surprised by the overwhelming amount of invasive species. It makes our neck of the woods look practically invasive-free.

bamboo 2bamboo

I expected panda bears to come out of this swath of bamboo. Fortunately, it’s only in one spot–at the moment.

Invasive species do always give me pause. On this land, I too, am an invasive. Just like the plants and insects that are not native, nor were my ancestors or my guy’s ancestors. They say what makes an invasive such is that there isn’t anything native that will feed on it, thus it will take over and smother the native species. Hmmm . . .

salt pond

On to prettier sites, like this salt pond beside the path.


And the ubiquitous common reed, an invasive which I’ve always admired. There’s beauty in commonness.

willow bud

Willow buds.


And soaring osprey.

osprey nesting

Nests on platforms or cross bars of power lines. So maybe man invaded, but he’s making amends by placing pallets on high.

beach by bike path

This beach was my turn-around point.

critter on bike path

If you do use the bike path, be forewarned. Panda bears may not be munching on bamboo, but you never know what you might see.

We went in search of the childhood cottage my guy’s dad had built. They sold the small house fifty years ago, and even though we’d last driven by about twenty years ago, it took us a bit to relocate it. Again, he approached a woman who was working in a neighboring yard. There were more houses on the road than he remembered, but it seemed to still be there–with a few changes. He didn’t knock on the door.

We did visit the beach where he and his siblings used to swim and cross the narrow channel to explore an island. On Google, I found the following: “A WW II Army amphibious Training base located in East Falmouth MA (Cape Cod). More exactly it was located on a peninsula now called Seacoast Shores in the village of Waquoit. The base was connected to a nearby island called Washburn Island by a bridge. We have circa 1950’s aerial photos showing the road and ramp to a bridge on the Washburn Island side but the bridge is missing. Aerial photos from 1942 to 1945 should show the bridge. Seacoast Shores is now a thriving waterside Community and Washburn has been returned to its natural state as a wilderness preserve in Waquoit Bay. ~Paul R. Flebotte, COL US Army Retired

looking toward island, seacoast shores

On the left hand side of the island is the site of the bridge Col Flebotte mentions.

skipping stones

The afternoon found us skipping stones.


Talking to herring gulls.

jingle shell

Admiring jingle shells (I don’t know their actual name, but as kids, we used to collect several in our hands and then shake them together to make them jingle).

nature art

And other works of art.


We paused at Nobska Lighthouse.


Explored Woods Hole.

woods hole pier

Reminisced about dinghies of our youth.

wooden boat

Which sometimes looked like this.


And realized that things are still on the quiet side.

silver sands

Then we explored more beaches.


Discovered life on a rock–the same and yet different from what we find in the woods.


And wondered about the crustaceous barnacles that are secured head-first. Talk about living in a small house. (My sister and I had been talking about living in small houses)


In the same fashion that lichens and mosses grow on the rocks around our western Maine home, providing a home base for others, so do the barnacles, mussels and oysters adhere in their habitat.

snail trails

Lest you think I wasn’t tracking–snail trails.

gnarly trees

Then there were the trees. I knew I was out of my comfort zone when it came to identifying some of these–especially with the gnarly behavior. Despite that, just as my guy stalked the good people of Onset, I stalked the trees of Falmouth.

am elm sign

Thankfully, someone made it easy for me. Signs.

American elm

The  elm’s light gray bark has furrows with a V  or diamond shape, but they intersect at longer lengths than on an ash tree.

amelm buds

And the branches are wiry with alternate buds/branching.


I loved the camouflage look of this bark and only just realized that it is a sycamore. It wasn’t wearing a sign.

syc 2

But it did have its signature calling cards–dangling brown fruits that some call button balls.

horse chestnut

Thankfully, the horse chestnut identified itself. 🙂

hc buds

It also showed off its opposite bud pattern, making for an easy id.

Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Honeysuckle/Viburnum (aka Caprifoliaceae) and Horse Chestnut–trees with opposite buds. MADCap Horse is one way I was taught to remember that little tidbit.

home sign

And then it was time to head for the hills. We had a delightful stay and will go again, I’m sure–especially since we have more to learn about the family roots, but this sign on a shop near the inn where we stayed says it all.

Our feet may have left our home for a few days on this extended Mondate, but our hearts were always back here, well rooted in the Maine woods.

Thanks for wondering along on this lengthy wander.