By Rich Bard, SLT Executive Director
I arrived at Fuller Farm just as after the sun had risen over the far ridge – not such a difficult feat on the morning of the Winter Solstice when the sun rises at 7:11am. The first and only other time I had hiked these trails was in late summer, when the freshly mown hay was drying in the field before being baled and stored to feed livestock on winter days like this. With so many different ways to explore the trail system, I decided to start simple and take the outermost loop headed counter-clockwise.
The low sun shone right in my eyes as I headed roughly southeast adjacent to the road. It wasn’t long before I turned onto the Bird Trail and descended into the Nonesuch River valley, although the river isn’t visible until a bit later in the hike. As I made my way down the gentle slope, the sun seemed to reverse itself and disappeared behind the low hills across the river, leaving me in peaceful twilight. Although the trail is well-trodden by people and their dogs, signs of wildlife were evident for the observant visitor. Coyote tracks are easily lost among the dizzying array of large and small dog tracks that crisscross the trail. It took me a few minutes to find what I was looking for: a single set of dog-like prints that departed the trail and headed straight up a hill and out of sight. This was no playful dog running laps around his human companion, but a serious canid who was on his way to somewhere in his or her territory. I’ll often strike out on a tangent and follow these trails, but this morning I was focused on experiencing the hiking trails, so I stayed the course and continued on.
After walking a short spur on the snowmobile trail, I finally got a view of the Nonesuch River as it flows beneath the snowmobile bridge. It was almost frozen over except where the flow is fastest. As the longest river in Scarborough, the Nonesuch is a conservation focus for Scarborough Land Trust. Since I’m new around here, I’m always observing how this small, but important river winds its way through so many different areas of town. I headed back to the Maine Trail, which constitutes most of the outer loop of the Fuller Farm trail system.
Since my plan was to stick to that outer loop, I resisted the allure of the Brook Trail the first time I saw signs for it. The second time that trail intersected with the Maine Trail, though, I couldn’t resist the sign that read “To Waterfall.” I am so glad I decided to vary from my plan. The Brook Trail is absolutely lovely, with steep slopes overlooking a stream below. The sun peeked through the hemlock trees and lit up the straw-colored beech leaves that remain attached to the branches. (Did you know that beech are one of the only deciduous trees whose leaves remain attached to the tree all winter? Many oak leaves hang on for a while, but the branches are bare after a few heavy wind or snow storms.) There wasn’t much of a waterfall to see since the brook was frozen over and covered with snow, but the water burbling as it passed under the bridge let me know that there was indeed a brook there!
I completed my loop of the trails on the Hayfield Trail, the smooth snowy surface highlighting the undulations of the field. It was here, just before I completed my loop that I first saw signs of cross-country skiers and snowshoers, who had set off across the field to explore another corner of this very diverse 220-acre preserve.
This hike was a lovely way to welcome the beginning of my first winter in Scarborough. I look forward to exploring SLT’s other properties and sharing my observations. Happy Holidays to all!