When the leaves begin to change, that can only mean one thing here in Maine. It is time to get into the car and go for a nice fall drive. Now that there are fewer annoying bugs and humid days, we are free to enjoy the great outdoors once again. We decided to take a drive to the Belgrade Lakes Region, the as one of last fall’s adventures in the area. It isn’t too far of a drive but brought a whole new feeling to the state. This was partly due to there being fewer changed and fallen leaves in this part of the state. At home, many of the leaves were gone already. This year in particular was a pretty quick season due to a few factors. First, there were two frosts early in September and this kicked off the changing of the leaves fairly early on. The second, after a very dry August, we finally received a much-needed rainstorm, but with the storm, came a lot of gusty winds, and there went a lot of the leaves that fell off of the trees. We also lost power for 24 hours…once again.
The first of the trees to change and lose their foliage were the aspens (Populus) and maples (Acer). The majority of the remaining foliage is that of the beech trees (Fagus) and a few other species of trees still holding on. In some cases, many of the leaves didn’t change at all, they just fell off. In this area, other than the eastern white pines (Pinus strobus), the maples and aspens make up the majority of the trees. With them gone, so went our beautiful and vibrant fall foliage. This has been one of the fastest foliage seasons we have experienced in our almost being here for seven years. Every year we experience something a little odd, so why would this year be different? At least we can always count on there being various rates of change throughout the state and the season isn’t over just quite yet.
We decide on taking a hike on the Mount Phillip Trail in Rome, Maine. This would be a new adventure for us as we have never taken this trail before. Last year at this time, we hiked French’s Mountain Trail Loop and over the winter, we hiked the Mountain Trail. We had a great time exploring the other two trails and the day was perfect to get outside. We had sunshine with a few clouds and in the low fifties.
The Mount Phillip Trail trail is a 1.3-mile loop with moderate difficulty with a few opportunities to view the area from different vantage points from the top. If you are interested in doing this hike yourself, I would recommend a decent pair of hiking boots, because it was quite a rocky trail and slippery in some spots. It could be pretty rough on your ankles without the proper footwear. As far as wildlife goes, we heard and saw several black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), and American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).
The trail is pretty rocky at the beginning and then leads up a steady incline covered in a mix of hardwoods and evergreens.
When we finally arrived at the 755-foot summit, we enjoyed vibrant fall views of Great Pond and the Kennebec Highlands from the rocky ledges. The views were incredible for photography and I would have to say this area had many more leaves on the trees. This is probably due to a large number of oak trees (Quercus) in the area. Oaks tend to keep their leaves longer than other species of deciduous trees. This would also explain the abundance of eastern chipmunks and American red squirrels in the area. They sure enjoy the beneficial nutrients of the acorns that the oaks provide. I even gathered a few acorns for the red squirrels back home, because we have so few oaks on the property. I figure this will be a treat for them over the winter and this will perhaps make up for the fact they don’t have access to my bird feeders anymore. I did the same thing last fall and I think they appreciated these treats.
Here we were back to the very start of our hike. On the way back there were fewer rocks and here you can see just how rocky the beginning and finishing point of the loop was.
We then decided to run down to be closer to the lake in the town of Belgrade. Our first stop was grabbing a cup of coffee from the Day’s Store and then paying a quick visit to Peninsula Park with wonderful views of Long Pond. We have been to this park several times before and it is always a beautiful place to visit during every season.
With a quick walk across the street, we found these mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) enjoying an afternoon swim. Did you know that a group of ducks can be called a “raft” of ducks, a “team” of ducks, or a “paddling” of ducks?
During our visit to the park, I was hoping to see common loons (Gavia immer), but there were none to be found. Maybe, I will have better luck next time. At the end of the day, I got to think back about the day’s events while I enjoy my seasonal pumpkin spice coffee on the car ride home. I hope you enjoyed the views and thank you for reading. Enjoy your fall as well.