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Follow the Tracks to Skolfield Shores

By Ed Robinson

Just when you thought Harpswell was due for another green Christmas, December 16 brought a storm system to the region. Two inches of snow gave me an excuse to visit one of my favorite places in town, the Skolfield Shores Preserve. This 19 acre parcel, located next to Merruncoonegan Farm on Route 123, has been one of the most popular Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) properties since its acquisition in 2002.

Skolfield is worth visiting any time of year for the mixed forest of beech, oak, birch, maple and a fine stand of mature hemlocks. With fields, salt water marsh and over 4,000 feet of shoreline on Middle Bay Cove, Skolfield is well suited for digging clams or spotting a wide range of birds from meadowlarks to roseate terns. I needed some exercise, and the chance to read tracks in fresh snow was just the excuse I needed to get out.

Parking just off the highway by the HHLT kiosk, I followed signs down to the shore, hoping to find sea ducks near the shore at high tide. The view to the south was misty but still rewarding. Immediately I spotted tracks made by a few gulls, now resting on an ice floe just offshore.

Next I found the Hemlock Loop Trail, and walked just back from the shoreline, the large trees sheltering me from the wind-driven snow. An optimistic soul had earlier walked a dog a few hundred feet on snowshoes, and then turned back, probably finding the going awkward without more snow. Sharp pointed tracks at the base of a hemlock revealed a squirrel had been out checking on his winter cache of mast. One hundred yards further on, a fox had crossed, his meandering tracks indicating that he was hunting for food. I wondered if he would find success as most creatures waited out the storm.

Crossing a log bridge put me on the Merruncoonegan Loop Trail, heading north. Soon I spotted the Y shaped tracks of a rabbit threading her way through the underbrush. I completed the loop, enjoying the view of the salt water marsh on both sides of the highway, now in the grip of winter.

Back over the bridge, I turned east to complete the Hemlock Loop. As I neared the field, I soon had my answer regarding the fox. His tracks showed where he had leapt a few feet and landed with a spray of snow, quite likely snapping up an unsuspecting field mouse or shrew.

At a brisk pace on foot, you could manage both loop trails in 20 – 30 minutes but what’s the hurry? With winter coming on, strap on your snowshoes and make some lazy tracks of your own. You will surely enjoy this special place with Nature in full view on all sides.

December 2012