Over 400 wetland, field and forest acres make up Holt Pond Preserve in Naples, Maine, including a 41 acre shallow lake (with a maximum depth of 10 feet). There's a Red Maple swamp area to meander through as well as hummocks, "nutrient rich glacial deposits where hemlocks take root". Grey Herons nest in the area, but beavers, a variety of fish, moose, minx, and numerous species of birds also make this area their home. Moss, pitcher plants, swamp rose, water lillies, and a variety of broadleaf and evergreen trees grow abundant. It's a quiet, meandering 5.3 mile walk through wooded paths and on bouncy boardwalks that rest on floating sphagnum moss.
In no hurry, we strolled along the trail, stopping often and looking for signs of spring. The swamp grass and broadleafs remain brown and yellowed from winter. We heard Canada Geese as soon as we reached the pond and soon they flew overhead, honking loudly. We searched for frogs along the pond's edges and swaying plant life beneath the water's surface, but only found Water Skiers flitting about the surface. Blue Jays squawked from the trees overhead.
We found different kinds of fungus and moss growing on both live and dead trees.
Cati searched and found some "baby" Fiddlehead Ferns just a few inches tall along the wetland areas. Fiddleheads can be harvested, cooked and eaten. (The taste reminds me of asparagus. Bleck! :wink:) Wintergreen was everywhere. The kids plucked some leaves to crush and smell.
We also located both male and female catkins. Can you tell which is which? (Hint: We call the male catkins 'bananas'.) Catkins are flower clusters on certain species of trees such as birch, willow, chestnut, and hickory and are either wind or insect pollinated. These males, old and brown from another season, are usually a yellow-green, but the females tend to be brownish cones.
Sam was quite fascinated with this grouping of plants in the middle of a ring of trees. The leaves felt "velvety" and were a vibrant green. (We're still working on identifying them.)
Along the way, we stopped for a snack break among some Fairy Houses that previous visitors had constructed. Inspired, Cati created her own house to go with the the others who were in "disrepair" from the winter months. Using only natural plants from around the area, she made a tipi-style house with an awning over the door, a garden of pine cones and a stick fence.
We decided to turn back after we reached about half-way and followed a narrow, deeply rutted dirt road back to the parking lot. It was getting warm and SOMEONE didn't pack enough food to satisfy the hikers. :wink: And trust me - hungry hikers make for grumpy explorers!