The sun is throwing a temper tantrum. On my way to today’s hike with the Royal River Conservation Trust’s Rain or Shine Club, large luscious raindrops splattered against my windshield. When my year-old daughter and I arrived, the sun peaked its head out from behind a cloud just long enough to make me rethink my long-sleeve shirt, pants, Smartwool socks, and rain jacket. Before I had time to ditch any of my extra layers of skin, it again meandered into obscurity.
Despite the fickle weather, my little lady and I were not the only ones who have decided to join Kyle Warren, the Stewardship Director of the Royal River Conservation Trust, at Pineland Public Reserved Land in Gray for a weekly outing with the Rain or Shine Club.
We are among a half a dozen parents who were undeterred by the fickle forecast and have come in search of some fiddleheads of the Ostrich fern variety, new forest trails, and friendly conversation.
The club meets each Thursday at 10:00 a.m., rain or shine, for a child-friendly outdoor excursion on one of the more than three thousand acres conserved in Gray, New Gloucester, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, Pownal, and Durham by the Royal River Conservation Trust or their community partners. The group’s upcoming hikes can be found by visiting their website or following their Facebook page.
After a brief review of the trail conditions, we embarked on our endeavor with the toddlers in the group excitedly leading the way. Their enthusiasm about the wildflowers, moss, and lichen that line the trail is infectious, and the group is frequently sidetracked as one or more of the hikers pulls out a guide and attempts to identify the plants in question. I quickly learn that the fiddleheads with the gauzy white heads were not the delectable wild edibles we were searching for. Many young fronds with tightly coiled tops can be found in the shaded, boggy banks along the Royal River, but the only ones that are edible are covered with easily-removed wispy brown scales and feature a smooth stem. More information about how to forage for and identify fiddleheads can be found on this detailed fact sheet by the University of Maine.
The only edible fiddleheads in the vicinity required the forager to make a serious sojourn off of the beaten path, so my toddler and I opted to remain trail bound and hopefully tick-free with the majority of the other hikers and enjoy a snack break on the lip of the lovely Royal River. The non-mom minute of adult conversation while my distracted daughter engaged with the other children is worth far more than any wild vegetable that we might have discovered.
Although we left the trail with hands devoid of the ever-desired native greens, we made a far more valuable acquisition: friends and an newly discovered, mostly untrodden footpath. We’ve already added this coming week’s excursion to Flowing North Preserve in New Gloucester to our calendar and intend to participate – rain or shine.