Thursday, October 09, 2008

Maiden Cliff trail

Letterboxing in Camden Hills State Park

I've never driven to the top of Mt. Battie in Camden.
I had never hiked any of it's trails.
Whenever we drive past the Mt. Battie autoroad we are either on another mission or the fee at the entrance gate overrules my wish to drive up.

I still want to drive up the autoroad (just once!) but Sara and I decided to spend Saturday hiking the Maiden Cliff trail on the back side of the park.

To look for Letterboxes, of course.

What a beautiful day! Fall colors have only just started changing here. We got kind of a late start and ended up in Camden after 12:30. Due to my navigational skills (or lack there of) we went past Rt 52 and down into the traffic congested center of Camden. I had it in my head the turn off for the trail was on the other side of town and Rt 52 must join Rt 1 for a bit. NOT!

We decided to eat at Subway before starting our trek so it worked out well in the end. We can declare "we meant to do that!" with sincerity. We were hungry and it was probably the safest/easiest bet for food in Camden at rush hour anyway. Still took forever to be waited on, but at least there was a real bathroom for one last stop before hiking.

Once we back-tracked through traffic and found Rt 52 again, it turns out there are 2 hiking trail parking lots very close together. As navigator, I had just suggested if we come to a fork in the road we should stay right as we kept an eye open for a brown trail hiker sign. Needless to say we parked at the first hiker sign, without ever coming to a fork in the road.

We set off up the trail to the first marker before realizing something wasn't adding up. This trail would not lead us to the Maiden Cliff cross or the 3 Letterboxes hidden somewhere along the way. Recent logged "finders" promised reasonable success.

For those actually hiking on the correct trail.

Back to the car for a drive further down the highway until we found the 2nd parking lot. It looked full and cars were parked along the road as well, but Sara drove in with innocent confidence there would be a space. A car started backing out to leave at that exact moment and she could not believe her luck.

Neither could the SUV who had driven past the space, who looked as it he felt the space was his. As he backed past us to leave, for the roadside parking no doubt, if looks could deflate - Sara would have had 4 flat tires!

We got out as if we owned the space - possession being 9/10ths law - is that the saying? - and never made eye contact again, for my part.

Our compass skills not being much better than my navigational skills, the first clue began: "Just before stepping onto the first of two wooden bridges to cross the stream bed, take a reading of 160 degrees. Follow your gaze to a twin-trunked hemlock seemingly growing out of rock." We probably could have worked it out just from the description but it was like grand central station. The place was crazy with hikers coming from every direction. We decided to catch this one on the way down.

Box 2 was among a pile of rocks following the clue - easily spotted because the plastic was showing. The trail was very wet due to all the recent rain and the hiding place may actually be getting stepped on as people try to avoid the mud. I put more rocks around the box to try keeping it hidden better but there's a pretty good chance hikers will come close enough to knock it out again.

Box 3 was down over the ledge holding a giant cross commemorating a young girl who fell to her death many years ago. I had seen the cross from the road years before, but how cool to stand from behind and read the dedication.

As for the box: Sara the Brave went down into the ravine and onto the ledge to look for it. I would probably have walked away although it turned out to be much wider than it looked at first glance. This box clue also had a compass reading so once she found the box Sara cross checked the reading.


We now understand how to hold & read the compass and once we were back at box 1 - with much less traffic - the direction was easily found without wandering around in a full circle looking for a tree growing out of a rock. YAY! I've been wandering around the house taking compass readings of everything in sight.

Following a beginners compass tutorial - which makes much more sense now - from the spot I'm sitting at using their example...there should be a letterbox in our old BBQ pit.


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