Dan and Hannah Prepping for California 2022

I just never know when someone will give voice to my unspoken yearnings.  Way back in December 2014, our friend Tree Mercer over coffee at the Roast Crumb in York, Maine gave words to what I knew to be true in my heart and lungs.  She said that she and her hubby Scott go to California in the winter in large part because of their desire/need to both be outside and exercise outdoors more than they comfortably can in the cold of coastal Maine.

That’s me to a T! That rhymes with E. Eureka! (That’s rhyming stretch, I know.)

The next day I bought tickets for Hannah and me to fly to California for two weeks in January.  A few years later, we spent one winter month in Santa Barbara and then the following January and February in nearby Carpinteria. 

Sidelined by Covid from traveling to the Golden State in the winter of 2021 and then whacked on the side of the head by wildfires in September 2021, we look forward to finally returning to California in 2022.

In the meantime we are getting our exercise and fresh air locally, albeit in the frozen tundra of coastal Maine. Here’s how we do that in pictures.

Locally, often on Sunday morning we drive six miles north to take to the beach in Ogunquit and along it’s Marginal Way.

Ogunquit Beach at low, low tide just after sunrise.
The Ogunquit Harbor at the end of the Marginal Way paved walking trail.

When wanting to walk out our front door, we walk through the woods to Chases Pond.

Even when we travel, as we did over Thanksgiving to Ithaca, New York, we find a trail, specifically the South Hill Trail with our daughter Robyn.

The rails to trail South Hill

When the temperature hits the upper 40s we bundle up and bike on our country roads.

Chases Pond Road
Reflective vest and bundled up

In town, we take to the Cliff Walk from York Harbor Beach.

York Harbor’s Cliff Walk at sunset
Low tide at Dusk at
York Harbor
Mid-December after sunset (Stage Neck Inn in the distance)

Two major trails in town head to the Harbor Beach – Through Steedman Woods and the Fisherman’s Walk.

Steedman Woods along the York River
Passing under Route 103 looking out to the winter quiet York Harbor
Fisherman’s Walk

With snow still not covering the ground we head the fairways of the York Golf and Tennis Club.

Or we drive five miles to the base of Mount Agamenticus to hike the Ring Trail around the mountain.

That is rain-soaked bedrock to the left of the sign.

Fortunately we have had no snow as of Friday, December 17. And then it is all about to change in a big way as nine inches of the white stuff is predicted for later tomorrow! The universe is telling us it’s time to go golden in the Golden State!

Post-script December 19, 2021. We on Chases Pond Road dodged a bullet with just 3″ of rain-soaked snow by morning.

Looking north from our mailbox on Chases Pond Road
Out our front door Sunday morning

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at Warren’s Woods in York, Maine

What would you like your legacy to be?

A good and decent friend? An ally to those out of the mainstream?  A courageous sort speaks to me? A career in service to others rings a bell for all you teachers?  A happy extended family who lived lives of purpose – whoa, that would be impressive?

Well, one part of Deb and Warren Taylor’s legacy is Warren’s Woods, the forested twenty-two acres they donated to the York Land Trust as a conservation easement.  Thanks to D and W, the public gets to enjoy this one-mile trail just across Corn Swamp from our house on Chases Pond Road.

Let me set the scene how we discovered this trail. Hannah and I are in the midst of quarantining after getting a Covid test at the York Hospital Clinic on Route One.  You see, we had close contact with our son-in-law Tip who has a sore throat and headaches. You see, earlier he was in close contact with his brother-in-law who contracted Covid.

In the interim while we wait for the results, Hannah and I are looking for just-the-two-of-us outdoor activities on this mid-October Saturday.  A bike ride in and around the rural Fall Mill Road near our home fits the bill. As part of that mellow ride on Sunrise Terrace, Hannah spots a permanent display that we soon realize is at the trailhead through Warren’s Woods.

Learning that we’d have a one-mile hike through the woods between Scituate and Chases Pond Roads, we decide to return later this afternoon to explore this trail.

Around 4 PM, we bike the two and a half miles to the trailhead. 

With the leaves turning burnt browns, mellow yellows, and rust reds, we follow the white blazes within sight of distant neighborhood houses.  Every so often we look around for the next white blaze, but in time we always find the trail.

Let the pictures below take you on our counterclockwise circumambulation of this loop trail.

A mile of local joy
Let the trail begin guided by mistress of the forest
Guided by the white blazes
I think Jimmy would approve of this trail.
Who knew?
The innards of this oak grab my attention.
If you look carefully, you’ll see the vernal pool. Vernal pools are seasonal small ponds similar to the one in our front yard.
The rock wall suggests that in the 19th century these forests were productive fields for local farmers.
We always eventwally found the white blazes guiding us around this one mile loop trail.

Within 30 minutes we are passing Tominy Pond back to the trailhead.

A simple 15 minute bike road home has us celebrating this little trail right under our very noses. Come hike it with us.

PS  As we expected, our Covid test results showed that we were negative for the coronavirus.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Brave Boat Harbor Farm Lane Trail in York, Maine

On a Sunday in early April 2021, Hannah and I notice cars parked by the side of the Route 103 as we approach Kittery coming from York.  The collection of vehicles has the feel of a Sunday afternoon family gathering in this rural shoreline part of York.

The unmarked trailhead is just above the 103 on this map.
The York/Kittery line is at the curve at the far end of the road.

Little do we know until this morning, we have two to three miles of farmland paths wide enough for a 19th century wagon to easily pass through the shoreline forest of oaks and firs.  We’ve lived here for nearly forty years and never knew that this unmarked trail existed.

Again, at the curve in the road is the trailhead on the left.

Parking roadside one hundred yards from the trailhead, Hannah and I have the tidal river to our right and are freewheeling straight ahead on what appears to be a one-time farm lane, easily wide enough for two.

Tidal creek that divides York and Kittery

As shoreline trails in southern Maine often are, this farm lane skirts the expanding tidal creek without much gain in elevation.   The trail that would handle a four wheeler doesn’t appear to have seen mountain bikes or motorized vehicles of any sort.

A freshwater stream crosses our path, but a few well placed rocks allow us to easily step across.

Maybe a mile and a half in, we take the hard right towards the tidal river.

Passing the Payne Cemetery, we walk out on a marshland berm with the mudflats and the wetlands bracketing the trail.  Soon we are looking over to the Kittery shore, not far from the Cutts Island Trail (Click here for that blog.).

The man-made berm through the marsh.

The trestle posts from the one-time railroad from Portsmouth, NH to York, ME.

Doubling back on this 55F degree morning, we hike on our own until near the trailhead we we run into a woman with her free-ranging, friendly dog. Not a fan of out-of-control canines, I even pet this amiable golden retriever.

Heading back to the trailhead

Fifty minutes later we return to the unmarked trailhead knowing we have found a hiking jewel for families and nature lovers who come to visit us.  Please do.

Ten days later we hike this same trail with our local friend Karen.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Little Harbor Trail in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A week ago in mid-April, Hannah and I biked to the main beach in Ogunquit in tee-shirts and shorts on a 70F day.  This morning we woke to this scene out our front door.

Let me say, you have got to be committed to hike in Maine in April.  You may think April is springtime and tulips in New England. Often not. As T. S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land, April is the cruelest month. Amen to that!

With the temperature near freezing, we are not going to be imprisoned in our home.  (Whoa sparky, that seems like a little self-pitying, tad inflammatory verb!) Dressed in winter coats, winter gloves, and a winter ski cap with umbrellas at the ready, we drive ten miles from home to Portsmouth, NH.

Parking at the far end of the historical South Street cemetery with gravestones from the 18th and 19th centuries, we walk a paved road for a half of mile to the trailhead of the 1.5 mile Little Harbor Loop Trail.  The Creek Farm Reservation of coastal woodlands and freshwater wetlands of 35 acres welcomes us down a rain-soaked driveway to where the trail begins at Sagamore Creek.

Parking by the South Street Cemetery in Portsmouth, NH
The trail begins on a paved driveway towards the Sagamore Creek

Pools of rain on the trail do not deter us as we soon head out to the sand bar at low tide.  We see parents with preschoolers who are damned sure that they are not spending one more day inside, no matter the weather.

Barely 32 degree Fahrenheit

The historical Wentworth Mansion in the distance with people on the sand bar mid-distance

Extending our hike/walk down to the shoreline at the Wentworth House, we look out to the tidal Piscataqua River thankful we never bought a boat of any kind.  Neither of us is a sailor or a mariner of any sort.  In early 17th century, we would have been ones who stayed in England and wished the Puritans bon voyage.

The Wentworth House
That must have been a helluva ship that needed that anchor.

And don’t get me started on fishing?  I have never found the love of the sea that my dad had; he would cast in the surf at Montauk on Long Island for stripers and blues or sit in a boat forever at my brother Richard’s Arnold Lake hoping to hook some small mouth bass.  You see, I like catching fish, I just don’t like sitting in a boat holding a fishing pole for hours on end.

The trail from the Wentworth House back to the trailhead begins here.

The trail continues through the woods of pines and hardwood oaks.  The trail to the view turns out to be muddier than we wish to negotiate.  We make a 180 and turn back towards the trailhead.

It was as messy as it looks this April morning.

With side trail and sand bar distractions, our hike takes just over an hour.  After a long winter, April hikes are joys no matter the weather or the conditions.  And there are no mosquitos or ticks.  Win/win/win.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Emmons Preserve in Kennebunkport, Maine

Pumped by the news that our sister-in-law Becky is coming to Maine, Hannah and I have just the trail for us all to hike.  Thanks to the recommendation of our friends, Donna and George, we head 30 minutes north from our home in York for the Emmons Preserve curated by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.

Yes, that Kennebunkport, home of the presidential Bushes (41 and 43).  By the way, we are tight with Becky as she married Hannah’s older brother, Doug.

Let me tell you Becky has lived a full life.  She spent a year as a child in Australia with her family, went to college in Colorado, earned a piano performance Master’s at our Ithaca College, worked aside her hubby Doug for twenty years on a buffalo farm, dealt with Doug’s early death at the age of 56, came to Maine to care for her mom, spent a year WOOF-ing (volunteering on farms and homesteads from South Carolina to Arkansas to New Mexico for no pay but for room and board), and currently resides in North Carolina as a talented musician with her guy Derek.

Meeting on a Friday in late May at the spectacular Emmons Preserve in Kennebunkport, we three lunch on Hannah’s cole slaw and chicken salad on the visitor’s center’s upper deck.  Becky has brought a frog to place on Hannah’s Frog Wall and Hannah found a mug from Becky’s Diner (Portland, Maine) for our Becky.

Hannah’s latest addition to her Frog Wall
The trail begins! Love spring green in May

Heading out on the wide Batson River Trail (detailed trail map at the end of the blog), we stumble upon and are blown away by the stone labyrinth of rocks donated by locals to commemorate a loved one. 

We walk the walk.
Cool is the rule!

Crossing the creek, we have a clearly marked trail into the wilds of Kennebunkport.  In mid-May the spring green leaves spread a softness all around us.  We catch up on Becky’s adult kids out Oregon way and share our times with our five grandchildren in Massachusetts and New York state.

Yellow blaze of the Batson River Trail

After 45 minutes we have still not reached the terminus of the Batson River Trail but turn around to return to the trailhead for our good-byes.

Batson River
The wilds of Kennebunkport

Fact is, there are no good-byes.  There’s just see you soon, raccoon and blow a kiss, jellyfish.

(portrait mode on my iPhone12)

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Highland Farm Preserve in York, Maine

Taking a break from our daily workouts at our Coastal Fitness gym in mid-April, Hannah and I drive down Route 91 in York towards South Berwick to the trailhead of the 151 acre Highland Farm Preserve.

Having passed this trailhead a million times, today is the day we lace up our hiking boots for the field crossing appetizer before we get to the entre – hilly forest trails.  This preserve connects thousands of undeveloped acres between Mount Agamenticus and the York River.

We begin on the green trail through the fields and then mostly hike the yellow trail into the hills.

For all you fans of Peter and his kindred cottontails, the York Land Trust is working to restore 30 acres of thickets to support the return of the endangered New England cottontail rabbit.  The Town of York holds a conservation easement on this land that protects it from future development and guarantees public access.

Crossing the hayfield, we soon head up into the forested hillside. 

Mid-April in Maine

A gentle climb

On trails that are very well-marked and colored coded, we find a map at each juncture of the trail that shows hikers where they are and a full map of the entire preserve’s trails.

Different from the level trails of the shoreline here in York and Kittery that we’ve hiked over the last few days, we have some elevation gain on these rooted and stony trails – a good Dan and Hannah workout.

Overlooking the fields below through the trees that as yet have not leafed out, we have a mid-April Wednesday morning getaway pretty much to ourselves.

Over 70 minutes we cover 80% of all the trails at the Highland Farm Preserve.  Just ten minutes from home, we have another hiking jewel in our crown of local trails to share with you when you come to southern Maine.

For you fans of Owen and Max: I’ve added five pictures from last weekend’s hike on Cutts Island that Hannah and I did with Owen and Max.  Click here to see the Cutts Island blog updated. Scroll to the bottom of the blog for the new pix.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Norton Preserve in Kittery, Maine

Given a hot tip for hiking in the nearby town of Kittery by our friend, George Derby, Hannah and I have a free Saturday afternoon to explore the trails of the Norton Preserve. You see, our grandson Max’s seventh birthday party has been postponed one day due to unusually cold early May weather.  Though the trailhead to the conservation land of the Kittery Land Trust is unmarked, George’s direction are as solid as a full house over a kangaroo straight.

Driving down Route One from York to Kittery, we, after the Pig’s Fly Bakery, turn left on Lewis Road.  After a mile or so, Lewis Road ends at Norton Road, which is where we turn left down the dead-end toward the trailhead.

Large yellow house (to the upper left) is where the grassy path (below) begins.

Well, mostly grassy!

Down this country/residential road, we park on the right side one hundred yards from the road’s end in one of the six parking places.  Walking up to a wide grassy path past a country estate with its own tennis court, we, in short order, reach the sign showing the four color-coded trails at our disposal.

Let the white trail begin!

Hiking left on the white trail through a forest of oaks, pines, and trees long since dead and spread around like pick-up sticks, we have regularly spaced white blazes on the trees to guide us.  I never knew the origin of the term “blaze,” the colored markers on trees to guide hikers, until Hannah pipes up that we are blazing a trail.  One good thinker.

Reaching the junction of the yellow trail, with the wetlands to our right we head north towards the Kittery/York line. Stepping around a small creek where logs have been placed for us to cross without sinking into the gooey ooze, we soon notice that the yellow blazes have ended.  Entering the unmarked trails (as of May 2021) of the York Land Trust, we easily hike our way to Bartlett Road in York.

Trail rerouting by the York Land Trust

Returning the way we came, we eventually take a left on the orange trail that weaves in and out on a path parallel to the yellow trail.  

After an hour, we return to the trailhead pleased that a ten-minute drive from our home has us hiking in the woods of southern Maine. 

The next day the sun shines for Max’s seventh birthday party with both sets of his grandparents and local cousins.  We do so appreciate celebrating outside together after a pandemic year.

Max with his Omi and Poppa

Dinosaur Crunch is Max’s favorite ice cream from the local Sully’s Ice Cream Stand. It’s on his Omi’s chocolate cupcake with M and M’s atop cream cheese icing.

Later in the week, we add our Peace flag to our front yard.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Brave Boat Headwaters in Kittery, Maine

The second of our daily double of short local hikes is just over the York line into Kittery.  (Click here for the first, the Fuller Forest Preserve in York.)  Travel south on Route 103 from York Harbor and on your right after two miles or so you’ll see the trailhead parking for this hiking jewel developed by the Kittery Land Trust.

This mid-April late morning finds women with their dogs and a mom with her three-month-old papoose.  The trail is often wide enough for the two of us to walk side-by-side through the forested land.

Crossing the little creek on wooden puncheons with roof shingles for traction, we are minutes from home but really away into the Maine woods.

Ever the Mr. Cool with his shades.

Having hiked this trail before with our grandsons Owen and Max, today we discover the new Sawyer Farm Trail spur at the far end of the loop trail; red plastic blazes on the trees guide us all the way to Bartlett Road near the York/Kittery line.

Without haste but walking steadily, Hannah and I cover the mile and a half or so of trail in forty some minutes.

Paired with the Fuller Forest Preserve trail not five minutes away, the Brave Boat Headlands trail gives those new to hiking/walking and those seeking the solitude of nature a double-barreled hiking experience.

Five days later we took our friend Karen to explore this same trail.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Fuller Forest Preserve in York, Maine

Finding outdoor alternatives to working out at our local gym, Hannah and I discover the Fuller Forest Preserve right here in town.

From the center of town, take Lindsay Road, cross Sewell’s Bridge by the York Golf and Tennis Club.  Take the gentle right onto Southside Road.  After a half mile, take the first left onto Bartlett Road, and voila, the extensive trailhead parking is to your right within 0.3 of a mile.

Thanks to the generous donation of the Fuller Brown family to the York Land Trust, York has the first stages of a forest trail at its doorstep.  As a conservation area, this 220 acre parcel is part of 1300 acres of contiguous undeveloped lands in southern York County. 

Let me give you a little background of how this land came to be set aside for the public.  In 1986, Marion Fuller Brown founded the York Land Trust.  In 2017, her heirs sold this acreage at a bargain rate to the York Land Trust and then donated some of the proceeds back to the YLT.  They are our local version of Warren Buffet and MacKenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife).

This trail stump was criss-crossed by a chainsaw to let precipitation in to help decompose it.

Evidence of a recent wind storm that fell conveniently to the side of the trail

Currently, the Red Oak Trail is 0.75 miles through forested wetlands and remnants of coastal agricultural of a bygone era.  With new wood plank puncheons over swampy areas which are fed by seasonal vernal pools, we hike among the oaks, maples, and firs just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.  For you Ice Age buffs, this land was under a mile of ice during the last Ice Age some 11,000 years ago.

With Hannah in the foreground, volunteers build another wood plank puncheon over low lying wetlands.

Encountering pickleball friend Gary working on a new set of puncheons with another volunteer this mid-April Tuesday, we see the beginnings of a new trail all the way to Dolly Gordon Creek.

The next trail is beyond the two volunteers.

In April 2021, the less than a mile trail takes just twenty minutes of ambling.  Come back this fall and surely next spring to see the fine trail work of the volunteers of the York Land Trust.

Hannah is a real cut-up.

For more information about the Fuller Forest Preserve click here.

Returning to the trailhead.
Check out the twists in this pine.

Five days later we hiked the Red Oak trail with our friend Karen. The picture below is of the same tree that trapped Hannah.

More Hannah and Karen on the same puncheons where the volunteers were building the day we hiked.

Karen and Hannah on the trail after an all-day rain storm two days ago.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally on Cutts Island in Kittery, Maine

On an overcast mid-April morning, Hannah and I head to the Maine coastline to explore the Cutts Island Trail on the Rachel Carson Nature Preserve in Kittery.

Though 70 degrees filled our Saturday past, today Monday, it’s a blustery 48.  You may not know it, but April in Maine is a tempest, a volatile lover.  Driving south from York on coastal Route 103, we turn left on Cutts Road for a few hundred yards to a stop sign.  At the junction of Sea Point Road, we veer left over the small bridge, within sight of the modest trailhead parking on Cutts Island.

Chauncey Creek at the trailhead

The trailhead is at the lower left of the map. The “YOU ARE HERE” on the map is when we were nearly to the Salt Marsh on this 1.8 mile round-trip trail.
Hannah on the puncheons, albeit during a dry spell

Pulling behind a van with Oregon plates, we have before us nearly two miles of flatland trails along Chauncey Creek on to the Salt Marsh.  The forest ahead is a collection of brown pick-up sticks of fallen oaks, maples, and pines among the healthy trees ready to leaf out.  In a month, the softness of green will bracket the trail and calm the winter beast within us all.

The stone walls suggest a bygone era when men were men and women were women and stone walls were made of real stones.
Chauncey Creek at high tide
Dan on the trail hiking in his LL Bean zip-offs and his Merrell hiking shoes. He’s nothing if he’s not trendy.

With a trail of soft dirt that is easy on our feet, we head out on level terrain exploring to see if this is a suitable trail for our grandsons, Owen (8) and Max (6).

Signs directing us at junctures of the trail tell us of quite the American hero, Rachel Carson. 

As an American biologist, Rachel Carson wrote on environmental pollution and the natural history of the sea.  Her book, Silent Spring (1962), was the spark for the modern environmental movement as well as five alarm fire for the need to control pesticides, including DDT.  A graduate of Chatham College in Pittsburgh, PA, incidentally where my mother earned her B.A. in French and Latin, Ms. Carson in the prime of her life was weakened by breast cancer and died of a heart attack at 56 in 1964. 

Trail’s end

Chatting up the Oregonians, fully masked thirteen months into the Covid-19 pandemic, we learn they are vandwellers traveling the country.  Vandwellers!!

Following this encounter, I think how appealing it would be to travel the Lower Forty-Eight in a van as William Least Heat Moon described in Blue Highways (1982).   Staying wherever we want for as long as we want.  Hiking, visiting family and friends as modern day free-spirited, albeit upper middle class, hobos.  Of course, I would be doing this alone since Hannah wants no part of van-ity.

Even with all our stops to read the informative trail signs, we are back at the trailhead in 50 minutes.  Have hiked with Owen and Max before, we know this hike will easily take an hour and a half as they climb trailside logs and boulders, scamper down to the water’s edge, and throw whatever is close at hand.   

Can’t wait.

What do you know, during a “24 Hours with Owen and Max,” one month late (mid-May 2021) Hannah and I brought the boys to Cutts Island.

We assisted Margo (someone I just asked if she needed help) with her kayak from the car to Chauncey Creek.
Owen and his Omi as the leaves start filling in.

Meeting three others, we were fortunate that they lent Max (in the picture) and Owen their binoculars to see the birds of the marsh.

Bunny ears are always a popular photo option at the end of the trail at the marsh.

And yes, I occasionally make the cut of the photo editor.