Updated: Oct 13, 2020
After a summer of fun and flexibility, our return to school has been a swift kick in the pants. Outside of school and work, we are conserving energy wherever we can and decided to opt for an easy trail close to home this past weekend. We invited a neighbor (plus her two dogs) who suggested the Stroudwater Trail because her dogs love the river and it's shockingly never busy. We've been on this peaceful trail several times, but I tend to forget it's there. Lucky for us, our neighbors have energetic dogs to run and they remind us of all the best spots.
This 3.3 mile trail follows the banks of the Stroudwater river and includes packed-earth, boardwalks, bridges, wood and stone stairs. There are also benches and scenic outlooks along the way. The middle of this trail (near the Blueberry Road trailhead) is closed during winter months to protect Portland's deer habitats. This is the section that gets a bit more difficult, so I would only recommend it if you're up for hilly trails through dense forest. Eventually, it leads to Westbrook and Smiling Hill Farm.
Now for our heart clues and directions to the trailhead. From Portland, take outer Congress Street to River's Edge Drive. Take a quick right into the small parking lot as soon as you get onto River's Edge Drive. It feels like you are pulling into a private residence, but there are several parking spaces and you will see the Portland Trails sign. The address is 13 River's Edge Drive, for all of you who rely on GPS (no judgement, I'm right there with you).
Once you reach the trail, take the long stone staircase and follow the winding path along the river. You will cross several bridges and walk about a mile before you come to the heart we left for you. My apologies if it's more or less than a mile, or not even close. I was talking to my neighbor and not really paying attention to distance...at all. The good news, I took pictures with some helpful clues. The first is to look for this tree and the pile of dead trees beyond it, piled up in the river.
Here is another picture of it. Look closely and you will see the top half of our heart, which is located just next to the trail.
This picture was taken before we filled in the heart with pinecones.
In truth, none of this heart may be here by the time you arrive...the impermanence of nature. Still, I hope these hidden hearts lead you to new trail explorations and at least some heart remains for you to rebuild. In the spirit of Andy Goldsworthy, the British artist and naturalist, these hearts are transient, just like nature. In his words "movement, change, light, growth, and decay" are the lifeblood of nature. Maybe the hearts teach us something about that. Maybe I am making excuses for myself because we can't seem to come up with a solid structure...or last stay in one place long enough to create one. Either way, here's to new adventures, and found hearts, in all states of disrepair.