It just so happened that my guy and oldest son had to work today and our youngest is exploring Chicago for a few days before heading home for the summer. So, on this Mother’s Day, I did what I do–went for a hike by myself.
Thanks to the efforts of Loon Echo Land Trust, and the people who support this organization, there is a network of trails that loop around and over Bald Pate in South Bridgton. Initially, the land was purchased from a paper company to protect it from becoming the site of a TV tower. The Bald Pate Mountain Preserve encompasses 486 acres and has 6.7 miles of trails. I covered most of them today.
The Moose Trail was at times dry and other times wet. Though this sign directs hikers to the Beech Thicket, really, much of the lower part of the mountain is covered in beech–an indication that the land was previously disturbed.
Along the way, I found Woodland Horsetail, an Equisetum. The whorled branches apparently reminded those who came before of a horse’s tail.
A few Hobblebush Viburnums were in full bloom. One of the extraordinary things about this plant is that the showier outer rim of flowers are sterile, while the inner flowers have both stamens and pistils. Today’s lesson–male flower part, stalk is called filament, pollen producing sac at tip is the anther, together they form the stamen(stay men); pistil–female flower part, the stigma at the top receives the pollen, which is sent down the style, a tube-like structure, leading to the ovary, where the potential seeds or ovules are located. (She’s a pistil) Phew! Got through that discussion.
Indian Cucumber Root is the double-decker of the plant world. When it has two tiers, such as this one, it has enough energy to produce a flower. And the root is edible. This I know first hand. I’m not the forager some of my friends are, but the root really does taste a bit cucumbery.
Another plant with an edible root, Wild Sarsaparilla was used as a tonic and was the source of root beer–until we learned how to make it out of artificially flavored syrup.
I followed the squiggly trail marker to the summit, hiking from the Moose Trail to the South Face Loop Trail and continuing past the Pate Trail. The trail is well marked and maintained. On the climb up, I kept looking for my favorite signs.
Found some. Bobcat prints in the mud.
Coyote scat filled with apple skin and seeds. The property abuts an orchard. In fact, at Five Fields Farm, winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dog sledding on a network of trails through the orchard and onto the preserve.
A coyote print dried in the hardened mud.
And a garter snake slithered away from me. I actually saw another later on.
I found beech nuts on the trail, but no bear claw marks, which surprised me considering the number of mature beech trees. And interestingly, while some of the beech trees suffer from infection due to the beech scale insect, many are quite healthy.
One black bear did carve its initials into bark. We only raise intelligent black bears in these parts.
Ascending via the backside of the ledges, I soon came to the view of Peabody Pond and Sebago Lake beyond. The only other people I saw was a family of five at the summit.
Pitch Pine trees are the most fire resistant in Maine and the summit features a community of these.
While White Pines have a bundle of five needles, Pitch Pines have three in a bundle.
And prickly-scaled cones.
The “bald” mountain top is the reason I am who I have become. Being outside and hiking have always been part of my makeup, but when our oldest was in fifth grade, I chaperoned a field trip up this mountain that changed everything. The focus was the soils. And along the way, Bridie McGreavy, who at the time was the nature educator for Lakes Environmental Association, sat on the granite surrounded by a group of kids and me, and told us about the age of the lichens and their relationship to the granite and I wanted to know more. I needed to know more. That was the beginning and I give thanks to LEA, Loon Echo Land Trust, the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Maine Master Naturalist Program for continuing my education.
There was so much more to see, like this view of Foster Pond from the Foster Pond Lookout Trail.
And these bell-shaped flowers. I’ll be back when they turn to fruit. There will be plenty to pick.
I may have been soaking up my alone time (or maybe that was just sweat–it was hot), but my thoughts were of my three guys.
Happy Mother’s Day to all. As one of my college friends wrote the other day, “whether we are mothers to children, aging parents, pets, or all of the above, we deserve to celebrate!!” Love that sentiment, BMD 🙂
And I love that you’ve taken the time to wonder along with me. See, I wasn’t alone after all.