Category Archives: October 25

Taking to the town’s hiking trails both for recreation and service

When Tom Gorrill and his wife Barbara moved to Martinsville from Gray in September of 2015, aside from addressing needed renovations to their new-to-them mid-19th-century home, high on Gorrill’s agenda was finding a way to make a hands-on contribution to local conservation efforts. As vice-president of the Maine Appalachian Trail (AT) Club, he was naturally drawn to volunteer opportunities involving trail maintenance and development.

“When I first got here, I began looking around for local volunteer opportunities. I’m still involved very much with the AT, but that work has become more administrative now that we’ve moved further away.” For quite a few years, Gorrill notes by way of explanation, he had been Overseer of the Baldpate District of the Maine AT, with 31 maintainers working with him to keep that portion of the AT clear, groomed and in good repair. “So when we moved here I wanted to get back to being more involved with trails, to get out in the field.”

He checked out some midcoast conservation groups’ websites looking for ways to get involved. “Coastal Mountains Land Trust has a nice website. I hit the “Volunteer” button and they got in touch with me within a day.”

In short order he was going to Camden every Wednesday to join what he calls “an old-guy group” that went out and did maintenance. “And that was fun. But what I didn’t know about, and gradually got to know about as I was here longer and began attending Conservation Commission meetings, were the trails in St. George.” 

About a year ago, in line with the Commission’s informal way of welcoming volunteers and sharing responsibilities, Gorrill began coordinating with Ingrid Mroz, who up until then had been overseeing the Commission’s responsibility to “enhance public access” to town conservation lands “through the establishment and management of trails, kiosks and parking areas,” as it states on the town’s website. “Ingrid shifted over to helping me on the trails and I help her with her new focus, which is invasives,” Gorrill explains.

So now Gorrill no longer needs to make the weekly 50-mile round trip to Camden to satisfy his desire to do trail work. “These trails are local. It’s wonderful to have this system here. I can go out and walk my dogs, but I can also contribute locally and to me that’s important. I don’t want to have to drive an hour to get an opportunity. I don’t want to have to leave the peninsula.”

Gorrill hopes other St. George residents will discover how easy it is to support this particular part of the Conservation Commission’s work. 

“The Commision has always done a trail clean-up day, or a spring trail-maintenance day. And unofficially some people from the Commission have sort of looked after a trail, but the trail network has been expanding. We’ve now got High Island, which Les Hyde and the Commission worked with Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) to acquire, and there’s the Bamford property, which is a 35-acre tract down off Long Cove where the MCHT has just finished putting in a trail to the water. And then there’s the Meadow Brook preserve off Turkey Cove Road. That was purchased by the MCHT but turned over to the town so the town has all the maintenance responsibilities. There’s no trail there yet, so we will build it with the MCHT, but then we will have to maintain it. So the network is expanding, which is great—to preserve these areas and give everyone the opportunity to get out into these places to enjoy them, but we’re going to need more volunteers to help with the maintenance as that happens.”

There’s a wide range of volunteer opportunities, Gorrill says, starting with simply monitoring a particular trail every week or two to see if there are any maintenance needs to report such as blowdowns, a drainage issue or a need for clipping. “All that person has to do is call or email me the information and we’ll line up some trail maintainers to take care of the problem.” The biggest need in the summer, Gorrill says, is for clipping. “It’s amazing how quickly a trail can disappear. You want to keep the trail three feet wide, but stuff grows in the summer so if someone wants to get out and clip that’s very definitely a summer volunteer opportunity.”

Another way to help is to add your name to a list of volunteer maintainers who will be notified of work-day opportunities to help with trail construction or larger maintenance issues such as bog bridging replacement, setting stepping stones or installing waterbars. These are mostly seasonal activities.

Building the trail at the Meadow Brook preserve is a special case, where the fun is in creating a trail that users will find interesting. Here the new trail will likely be more of a wetlands nature walk similar to the St. George school’s nature trail. “In building a new trail you try to go by certain features so people can learn about them. And there are always some areas you can’t avoid, so bridging or stepping stones have to be put in. And obviously you have to clear the trail with the aim of making it accessible for all ages.”

The big thing to realize, Gorrill says, is that people don’t need many skills other than a willingness to go out and work and learn. “I’ve always found it’s a great time out there working with people. You can learn on the job so you don’t really need any particular skills. And you don’t need special equipment, either.”

Gorrill acknowledges that, despite its expanding nature, the trail system in St. George is very small-scale in comparison with the AT. But what Gorrill says he appreciates about St. George’s trails is the “variety of experiences for a variety of abilities” the system offers. 

“So for a guy like me who tends to like a longer trail, the Jones Brook Trail is great—you can go from the Town Forest Trail off Kinney Woods Road right over to Route 131. It’s about 2.5 to 3 miles, so you can really get a good hiking experience in. And from Route 131 it links up with the Fort Point Trail, which is a short trail that doesn’t take very long and you’re rewarded with a great view.”

Dogs are welcome on the trails, but should be leashed, more as a precaution against encounters with other dogs than anything else. And the trails are accessible much of the year, including winter (another option for volunteer work is painting trail blazes to mark the trails for all-season visibility). Hikers should avoid damaging muddy trails in the spring, respect the limitations hunting season brings and take common-sense precautions against ticks.

For more information on volunteer opportunities related to maintaining and developing the town’s trails contact Tom Gorrill at 372-8806 or at woodencanoeboy@gmail.com.—JW

The St. George School nature trail was re-dedicated in memory of conservation activist Les Hyde on October 20. Hyde was a moving force behind the expansion of the town’s trail system.

PHOTOS: Top, Maine AT Club, below, Betsy Welch

This is one honey of a mushroom

Nature bumming’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Pithy stalk

In my humble, fungal experience the two most frequently asked questions on mushroom explorations are, “Will it kill me?” and “Can I eat it?” And while the edibility and toxicity potential of a mushroom adds an air of excitement to any harvesting experience, those potentials just skim the surface of characteristics that make mushrooms cool and interesting. There are plenty of things to think about when dealing with mushrooms. How does it release its spores? Does the mushroom glow in the dark? Does the fungus help, hurt or just turn trees into dirt? Does it have a veil? Does it look like a “mushroom?” Is it found locally, regionally, circumpolarly, or even globally? Can it clone itself or is it at the mercy of sexual reproduction? Classic fungal questions. They can go on forever. 

With so much to think about and so many mushrooms out there, things can be a little overwhelming to the newbie mushroom watcher/fungus tracker. But what if I told you there was an easy-to-identify (pretty much) mushroom that is, was, and continues to represent most everything a mushroom watcher looks for in a ‘shroom? And to make things even better—they call this honey of a mushroom the Honey Mushroom! I know—you can’t make this stuff up!

To oversimplify, September is for Boletes and Amanitas. Then, in early October members of the Cortinariaceae (Corts) take over the spruce and fir forests with their purples, greys and oranges. And just when the dust feels like its settling on the fall mushroom bloom, there is an intense, thick burst at the base of trees, rising from subterranean roots, and erupting through tree bark up to 25 feet or more off the ground. Welcome to the world of Honey Mushrooms (Armilllaria mellea)! Let the dance begin. 

Typically fruiting in large clusters, Honey Mushrooms are known for their decurrent gills (they “run” down the stalks slightly and we love that) and (often) honey colored caps that are covered with dark, scaly tufts. Their stalk/stipes are tough, with a “pithy” interior and a bold white “veiled” ring. Their caps are edible, as are their “pithy” stalks once the tough outer layer is removed. (Pithy stalks cooked in olive oil are dreamy). And yet, Honey Mushrooms collected off spruce trunks and roots are more likely to make one become sick when compared to eating honeys collected off hardwoods. Yes, they are an edible mushroom that may make you sick! To make things even cooler, Honey Mushrooms and the fungus itself within the log or trunk glow in the dark, creating an eeirry green glow known as “foxfire.” These mushrooms are “on” both day and night!  

At times the Honey Mushrooms fungus is saprotrophic—decomposing the heartwood of plants, turning the non-living part of trunks and roots into soil.  And yet, when the decomposer lifestyle isn’t “cutting it,” Honey Mushrooms will send out “hyphae”—thread-like filaments that make up a fungus—through the soil in search of food. The thick, insulted groups of Honey Mushroom hyphae are called “rhizomorphs,” and they attack and begin to digest trees and shrubs with which they come into contact. This can cause and spread the destructive “white rot” throughout a patch of woods! They go from decomposer to parasite in order to feed their insatiable appetite. Adaptable and aggressive, the Honey Mushroom is a true survivalist.

As the fungus grows, it clones itself and continues its “individual” life by enlarging in size and extending its reach. In optimal conditions this results in grandiose specimens–as evidenced by the Honey Mushroom fungus in Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon. One Honey Mushroom mycelium—mat of fungal hyphae—in the forest has been measured at 3.5 square miles, and estimated to be at least 2,400 years old—the largest living “being” known to humans on the planet. Honey Mushrooms are not only circumpolar in the northern hemisphere, but are recognized as one of the most widely distributed mushrooms in the world as they can be found at the appropriate latitudes in the southern hemisphere as well. This is why Gary Lincoff says, “With some justification, Earth could be called the Honey Mushroom Planet.” Well put, Gary.

And just when it seems like this fungus can’t get any more perfect, it turns out the “Honey Mushroom” is actually at least ten different, but closely related and seemingly identical species! For most intents and purposes they are the same species and impossible to separate in the field. As our understanding and knowledge of fungus increases through DNA and other tests there are many “past facts” that will be corrected and will have to be relearned. There is so much “unknown” or “wrongly understood” within our knowledge of fungus it can be interesting to correctly identify a mushroom knowing in the back of your mind there’s a fair chance that the resource you are using will turn out to be wrong. For some reason I like this, the mystery of fungus. “Weird” Al Yankovic was right when he wrote, “Everything you know is wrong!”

Honey Mushrooms have it all, or at least most of it all! And they are growing in a patch of woods near you! We’ll see you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A special Tenants Harbor welcome

Mary Galbraith Wall and Geraldine Watts Wall stand by the original Tenants Harbor welcome sign on August 5, 1949

As you approach the village of Tenants Harbor through what some old-timers call “The Harbor Woods,” you see a sign that looks like the stern of a lobster boat named the “Welcome II” hailing from Tenants Harbor. Some of the same old-timers may remember the predecessor to that sign when it was located at the intersection of Main Street and Mechanic Street in front of the post office.

A July 1953 issue of the local paper­—the Courier-Gazette—contains a letter to the editor from Fred Romkey recalling the history of the earlier sign. The sign was erected in September 1929 by the Village Improvement Society, with a push from Harriet and Ernest Rawley. The Village Improvement Society was also responsible for such things as the wooden sidewalks that wound through the village to keep residents out of the mud.

Rawley’s letter also talks about “our one and only sign painter Roy” Meservey doing a decent job of painting the sign, even though it was “long over due.”

Rolling the clock ahead by at least 50 years, and with the earlier sign no longer in place, Martha and Bill Iliffe felt a new welcoming sign was needed. Taking on the role of Harriet and Ernest Rawley, Martha and Bill moved forward with the raising of funds, obtained an appropriate design, then had the sign placed on their property at the edge of the road to welcome everyone to the village.

As an interesting footnote, Bill Iliffe was the grandson of the author of the 1953 Courier-Gazette letter to the editor, Fred Romkey.

—­John M. Falla

It takes funds for a fun trip!

The eighth grade has started fundraising for our annual Québec City trip in the Spring. We will be going May 30-June 2. We will explore all of Québec’s unique features. We will go try different foods that we haven’t had yet, we will go to the mall to shop, and we will be staying in a hotel there. We will be practicing our French in all of those places.

Our first big fundraiser was last week’s Italian Dinner. Instead of having the normal spaghetti dinner, Willow’s parents, India and John McConochie, volunteered to make some delicious Italian-style food. They made pasta and red sauce with Italian sausage, polenta, and homemade garlic bread. They, along with other parents, also made some yummy desserts. 

At the dinner, we each had to work a shift, either setting up, serving, cleaning up, or doing admissions. Grandparents, and other family members and family friends came to enjoy this dinner. At $5 a plate, we made over $1,700 (our original goal was $1,000). This was the biggest crowd for the dinner and open house in the  recent history at the St. George School. People were lined up all the way along the gym walls and almost going out of the door. There were people who came who didn’t even have a child in the school. 

Our goal for raising enough money to get to Québec is $11,000. Our next few months of fundraising will be concessions at home basketball games this winter, a school dance in November, the local Christmas Craft Fairs on Dec 1st and 8th, and a Holiday Band Concert dessert. For fundraising in 2019, we will have the bottles at the transfer station in January, a dance in February, our annual March Madness basketball event, another band concert dessert in March, food at the St. George Business Alliance Fair, and another dance in April or May. With all this fundraising and hard work, the eighth grade class hopes to enjoy a trip to Québec City, Canada this spring. We are thankful for the tremendous support from the St. George community. Merci beaucoup!

—Sophia Miller and Gwen Miller, Grade 8

Maine artichokes

  This was a good artichoke year for us. Being Mediterranean plants, they liked the hot and rather dry weather, though we did work at keeping them watered. These are Imperial Star globe artichokes, bred for annual production. I start them in the greenhouse the beginning of February and when they are about six weeks old, put the plants in a cool, dark spot in the greenhouse for about six weeks so they think they go through a winter. Then they come out into the light and heat, and finally into the garden toward the end of May. By the middle of July: lovely and delicious artichokes. But I always leave a few to let them flower. They are members of the thistle family, so we get the hugest thistles ever. How’s that: food and flower both!
—Anne Cox, Hedgerow