When snow melts away in February, you can either pout about the lost ski and snowshoe days or find some other way to enjoy the outdoors.
I’m a pro at pouting (it’s a skill all little sisters learn), but on Feb. 21, as the sun beat down and the temperatures rose above freezing, I was happy to go outside for an icy walk. My dog, Juno, was happy, too. Slush, snow, ice, mud — she doesn’t care what she’s dealing with, as long as she can sniff around and do some digging.
I decided we’d take a trip to the midcoast region and visit one of my favorite state parks. (I have lots of favorites, all for different reasons.)
When we arrived at Moose Point State Park that morning, six vehicles were parked in a line outside the closed gates. I wasn’t surprised. Located right off Route 1 in Searsport, the park is a popular place. During the winter, the gates are closed, but people are still welcome to visit if they park outside and enter on foot.
A spell of unseasonably warm weather had melted all the snow and ice from the park’s paved driveway, though patches of soupy snow and ice still clung to the meadow that stretched down to the ocean. Near the water’s edge, a couple sat in lawn chairs, basking in the sun, provisions set out on the picnic table beside them.
Down on the beach, a young boy laughed as he inspected rocks with his family. I wonder if he knew that Moose Point is an especially good place to look at rocks, according to state geologists.
In May 2013, the park was declared the state’s “Geologic Site of the Month,” and geologist Woodrow B. Thompson wrote a Maine Geological Survey document about some of the interesting features you can find there. It’s sort of like a scavenger hunt, complete with photos. You can find the document online, at digitalmaine.com/mgs_publications/483/.
Featuring about 1.5 miles of easy walking trails, the park is a great place for families. The network is made up of three named trails: The 0.6-mile Moose Trail, 0.5-mile Big Spruce Trail and 0.4-mile Meadow Trail.
Two wooden staircases lead down to a long, rocky beach that’s open to everyone — dogs included. That was our first destination. I wanted to see if I could find some of the bedrock, boulders and glacial till described by Thompson.
I’m no geologist, but I’m pretty sure I found bits of bedrock jutting out of the gravel along the water’s edge. According to Thompson, I was looking at metamorphic rock of the Penobscot Foundation, which is approximately 490 million years old.
I also found plenty of granite boulders that I believe were glacial erratics, which are boulders that were moved and dropped by glaciers thousands of years ago. Glacial erratics differ in composition from local bedrock, so you’ll notice they’re different colors, textures and patterns.
What really excited me was finding a rock with deep scratch marks along its surface, all pointed in the same direction. My hope is that I was looking at what’s known as “glacial striations,” which are scratches left from a glacier, filled with rocks and gravel, moving over the rock.
Juno found an old, soggy baseball and some delightful heaps of driftwood.
We then walked the Big Spruce Trail, which travels near the shore under the shade of evergreens. The wide, smooth trail visits two overlooks with benches. At one of the overlooks, I spotted a couple nestled in a nook of a blocky ledge by the water. Sheltered from the breeze and bathing in sunlight, they looked quite comfortable.
Nearby, a man paddled a sea kayak. He spotted us and waved.
Heading inland, Juno and I turned onto the Moose Trail to circle back to the parking lot through a mixed forest. We then explored some of the Meadow Trail, which extends through a large meadow to one of the staircases leading down to the beach. We also visited a few of the dozens of picnic tables, as well as the gazebo and group shelter.
Our visit lasted about 1 1/2 hours, which left us plenty of time to take a detour to Fort Point State Park in Stockton Springs on the way home. With just under a mile of trails, Fort Point is home to an active lighthouse, the remains of Fort Pownall (built in 1759), a tidal sandbar and a stone marking the original burial site of Gen. Samuel Waldo, for whom Waldo County and Waldoboro are named.
My favorite landmark of Fort Point State Park is the small, white, pyramidal tower that was built near the water’s edge in 1890. Suspended from the tower is a 1,200-pound cast iron bell that once served as a fog signal. You can sit on a little wooden deck beside the bell and enjoy views of Penobscot Bay. It’s hard to pout in a place like that.