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Saturday, April 29, 2023

Prouts Neck Cliff Walk

Saturday, April 29, 2023 

Hi Blog!

After a short and fun visit with family, we have left Connecticut and now find ourselves in Scarborough, Maine. We last visited this area in August 2012, and the weather was warm enough that we were able to paddle Scarborough Marsh. Being here in April is completely different than August. Gone are all the summer beach goers and the tall marsh grass. We can now see the Nonesuch River and the various sinks and pans across from our campsite.

Several days of rainy weather are heading our way. This may be our only chance to get out and explore the area. After driving all day yesterday, we were not eager to go far. Lucky for us, we are just a few short miles from Scarborough Beach State Park and the Prouts Neck Cliff Walk. After failing to find parking at the east end of the Cliff Walk, we decided to park at the State Park and approach the Cliff Walk from the west end.

After paying our entrance fee, we walked out past Massacre Pond toward the beach. The area around Scarborough had been invaded by Europeans around 1631. At that time, the coastal areas of Maine were populated by the Sokokis Indians. They called the Scarborough area, Owascoag, "land of much grass," because of the extensive salt marsh. As more Europeans began to arrive, the local tribes attempted to run them off. Several settlers were killed. Hence the name Massacre Pond.

As we arrived on the beach, the tide was going out - a perfect time to hunt for rocks, shells and sea glass. Several locals were out walking their puppies on the beach. We had a lovely chat with two of them. One turned out to be the actor, Michael Murphy, while the other woman had grown up on Prouts Neck. They both lived nearby and had taken their puppies for a beach walk. They told us how the Cliff Walk had been closed since September when a tourist fell off the cliff and died. Several improvements to the trail had been made since then,  and it is now reopened.

We bade our new friends farewell and headed up the cliff.

The old pump house belongs to the Black Point Inn. Originally known as the Southgate House, it was once one of the many grand hotels to call Prouts Neck home. Today, its the last remaining hotel on Prouts Neck, and a true historical Maine hotel.

Prouts Neck was beloved by the famous painter Winslow Homer, whose family owned a cottage around the corner from the Black Point Inn. Mr. Homer spent over 25 years on Prouts Neck, painting and drawing inspiration from the sea. 

We also felt inspired as we trekked along the rocky shoreline.

There is so much color and texture. The light was constantly changing.

In one part of the hike, we were high above the surf. The next section brought us right down next to the water. Always on the search for treasure, Kathy scans the shore line.

A massive storm hit the Maine coast back in December. We noticed several lobster traps, buoys and general flotsam and jetsam along this part of the walk.

At first, we thought these two ducks were different. As it turns out, male Eider Ducks are white and black with a soft suffusion of green on the nape. Females vary from rich brown to cold grayish, always with extensive black barring covering body and wings.

As we reached the east end of the trail, Dave did his best William impression.

Kathy, on the other hand, was more interested in the tide pools. There were lots of clear looking critters swimming about. We later learned that they were lobster larvae. Lobster eggs get tossed about in the surf and can end up in tide pools, where they can hatch, and the little larvae, if they are lucky, can wait until the next high tide before floating back out into open water.

We found a memorial bench along the trail and it made the perfect spot to stop for lunch.

Before long, it was time to head back to Scarborough State Park.

We continued our search for treasure and found several common ringed plovers dancing along the surf.

As we made our way back to the Jeep, we discovered new life in Massacre Pond. The resident goose couple quickly led their three little charges away from the dangerous humans.

Back at the RV, we are preparing for several days of rain. We will see what indoor activities we can come up with. In the meantime, stay thirsty, my friends.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Hiking the Iron Trail in East Canaan, Connecticut

Hello, dear Readers!

It's been a full month since our last communion (with nature, that is).  During that time, we've been very busy with many non-bloggable events such as puppy-sitting for our daughter, and purchasing a forever-and-ever house.  Kathy got a week's outdoor adventure last week in Promised Land State Park, with a few kayak trout fishing expeditions (no success).  Ruby the Adventure Cat also got some great walks there:

Meanwhile, as Kathy was puppy sitting, David drove over to the new house every day to try to address some time-critical yard issues, such as a fallen tree that was hanging up in another tree but threatening to block the driveway.  David learned how to use a chainsaw and is now Officially Dangerous:

But we digress.

We are now back on the road again.  We scheduled this stop in East Canaan, Connecticut in order to visit our friends Nan and George, but, as it turns out, they haven't driven up to their Connecticut home from their (ahem) Florida home just yet.  As it turns out, that was propitious, because it gives us extra time to visit David's brother, who had sudden health issues.  We plan to see him and his wife this Thursday.  But, all this gave us a free day today and we decided to take advantage of a hiking trail less than 2 miles from our campground -- the Iron Trail.  No, it has nothing to do with Game of Thrones.  Rather, it has to do with the iron furnace industry that sprang up in various areas around the Northeastern U.S. -- and in this case, Connecticut, before, during and after the Revolutionary War.

The Iron Trail starts at the Beckley Iron Furnace, which is where we parked.  We had to explore history before we explored the trail.

Beckley Iron Furnace was built in 1847 and operated until 1919.  It was one of a large number of iron furnaces in the region, and sits on the banks of the Blackberry River.  The complex was larger than what is visible today --

-- and includes a dam at which the flowing water spun turbines to power air and preliminary heat for the furnace.  Below, Kathy explores the pool below the waterfall:

The process of melting iron ore into ingots of pure iron leaves residue, called slag, which consists of the other minerals in the iron ore that are essentially impurities.  Some of the slag includes silicates, which in the foundry process are melted into glass-like stone which resembles obsidian.  Below the waterfall, Kathy found numerous pieces of slag that were gorgeous emerald green, ranging to darkest black:

But enough history.  We crossed the Blackberry River to the trailhead of the Iron Trail (probably so named because it appears to be an old mining road paved in part with pieces of slag from the slag piles that sit on the opposite bank of the river from the furnace).  Here we started our own adventure:

The trail is marked with powder-blue blazes, of which this is the quirkiest example.  The only problem with the blazing was, that the blazes were too intermittent, and had not been refreshed in years, as a result of which we spent much of our hike trying to pick our trail out from the many forest roads and trails weaving a network through the public lands around Canaan Mountain:

At a few points along the trail, we spotted rusted relics of bygone days, but nothing very identifiable or remarkable:

The trail is maintained, although not consistently well maintained.  Where large trees have fallen, they have been cut to eliminate trail obstructions, but many smaller trees, branches and logs still cross the trail.  This particular fallen tree was freshly cut, and its cross section formed an interesting, beautiful pattern not yet rusticated:

The forest is old enough that many of the birch trees which first sprang up after the last clear-cut logging have now themselves fallen from old age.  Interestingly, the birch bark resists rot so well, that the inside of the trunk of this birch tree has nearly rotted away while the outside bark remains intact:

We didn't see much wildlife, but we were graced with the presence of this spry little woodpecker, who climbed a nearby tree to be safe from us, but stuck around to keep a wary eye on our passing:

This is obviously some of his handiwork:

It is early spring here in the Litchfield Mountains, and some delicate blossoms, such as this trillium, are starting to show through the leaf duff:

Our trail took us 1,000 feet up the north slope of Canaan Mountain, and then up and down around its western shoulder:

As we hiked around the western side of the mountain, we encountered many low areas filled with water from the recent storm.  The streams -- both regular and seasonal, were running fresh, and we had to pick our way across a number of them:

We almost missed these fungi hanging out on the tall stump of a dead tree with some unintelligble white blaze:

The area has some notable marble deposits, as well as gorgeous milk quartz stones and boulders:

The weather began to threaten and it was lunchtime, so we picked a spot about 3 miles out to sit on a convenient fallen tree trunk and eat our lunch.  A nearby sign informed us that we had entered the Centennial Watershed State Forest, which protects a Connecticut State Water Supply.  We understood that we should treat this area with care.

Our hike out had been generally uphill, so our return was generally downhill, and Kathy noted that she was happy to hike downhill while digesting her lunch.  We always enjoy out-and-back hikes, because the return is a wonderful blend of seeing new things we hadn't seen the first time from the other direction, and recognizing landmarks from the first half of our hike.  The threatening weather backed off and we enjoyed partly sunny warmth as we made our way back to the Jeep.

And how wonderful to only have to drive 2 miles or so to get back to our campground!  Hopefully, we'll have many more adventures like this as we continue our trip up to Newfoundland.  We plan to share all the outdoor highlights with you.