We love a friendly challenge and today’s Mondate posed just such an opportunity.
Our destination: Province Pond via the Province Brook Trail in South ChatHAM, New Hampshire. About a year ago we passed this way and decided it was worthy of another visit. Though the sign on South Chatham Road indicates that there is trail parking ahead, the gate is closed and so we parked on the road and began our journey from there. It’s a 2.5 mile upward hike to the trail head. Easy enough given that it’s a forest road and is usually used by snowmobiles–not so this year. We found less snow here than in nearby western Maine.
And then began our challenge to each other. The last time we hiked this way, we found bear claw marks on a beech tree. Both of us pictured the tree in our mind’s eye, but exactly where? We had no idea. So . . . after passing through a hemlock grove and into a beech/hardwood forest, we moved off the trail and began searching high and low.
Guess who found it first. My guy, of course. I saw it and wondered, but he was steps ahead of me and credit goes to him.
Bingo! We had our tree. And then the idea of another challenge struck us. Friends Pam and Bob live in this neck of the woods during the summer months. They wanted to know where this tree was after we located it last year. So . . . we decided to challenge them. Going forth, Pam and Bob, this one’s for you. And anyone else who passes this way.
Clue #1: The bear tree is right above this paper birch that leans over the forest road at about two miles from the gate.
And it’s right before this rock. We hope you are up for the challenge because we have some other natural items for you to locate–and just for fun they are not necessarily in the order we found them.
A pileated tree. Clue: It’s not too far from the bear tree as you head toward the trail head.
The world’s largest squirrel drey. Clue: It’s on the opposite side of the road, but not opposite the bear tree.
Not a clue, though the touch of spring did make us smile. The trail head at last.
Tree over rock. Clue: Yellow birch tree, blue-gray crustose lichen giving both an aqua hue.
Tinder conks on old snag. Clue: Though it would be fun if you could find this exact tree, you will find horse-hoof shaped fungi throughout this forest.
Split stone. Clue: This statue stands beside the trail–to your right as you head toward the pond.
Tangle of roots. Clue: Look to your left for a yellow birch with spindly legs–a reference to another tree that nursed this one to life.
Polypody. Clue: Rock with bad hair day. Today, the temp was in the 20˚s with a breeze so the fronds have curled inward. During the summer, they won’t be so curly.
Bear face. Clue: So this one may be a real challenge, but it looked like the face of a bear to me. It’s on a hemlock above a couple of trail-side rocks that are slanted. Across the trail, we found the perfect lunch rock.
Now we’ll take a brief challenge break. Lots of mammal tracks, but we were looking for this and not disappointed. Moose print.
Moose bed. We found three. The back of the moose is at the top of the photo, head above my mitten and legs to the lower right.
Moose hair. Within the bed, where the body heat turned the snow to ice, moose hair got stuck.
Ah, scat. Moose scat. I find it humorous that it’s located below a hobblebush that’s been left untouched.
Moose skid. Even the moose are slipping and sliding on the ice below the snow. They need my micro-spikes.
Hobblebush. We were in the land of one of the moose’s favorite treats. These leaves and flower bud have been overlooked for the moment.
Back to the challenge: Moose browse. Hobblebush and red maple trees along the way show plenty of browse. Several moose frequent the area. Look for tags like this. Moose don’t have upper incisors. Instead, they rip buds with their lower incisors and a hardened upper palate–leaving a “tag,” which is their calling card. Deer do the same. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which of the two ungulates has dined. Your challenge is to find examples of browsing.
Between a rock and a hard place. Clue: hemlock growing on/between two rocks, not far from Province Pond.
Another challenge interruption. Province Brook below the dam at Province Pond.
Province Pond looking toward Mount Shaw. If you look closely, you’ll see the moose tracks leading up from the lower left and moving along the dam, where they turned left again and headed off into the woods.
Province Pond looking toward the shelter on the far shore–snow on the roof.
Return to the challenge. Trail blaze on a rock. Clue: Between the dam and shelter.
Hemlock growth. Clue: On the way to the shelter. I’m not sure it’s a gall, but it’s certainly a rosette type of growth on the outer bark.
Decaying paper birch. Clue: On the shore trail to the shelter. Notice how time has treated this tree.
My guy reading the shelter messages. Clue: Province Pond Shelter. Find this man 😉
Carved messages. Clue: Shelter floor. Can you find this exact location? The walls were painted last summer, but the floor was left alone.
Another brief break. Shelter view looking back toward the dam and Peaked Hill.
Gall on meadowsweet. Clue: Robin’s pincushion gall on meadowsweet found near the shelter.
Sensitive Fern. Clue: Near the shelter. This is an easy find for you and a treat for me. I don’t often see sensitive fern leaves in their winter formation as they are usually flattened beneath the snow.
Sweet Fern. Clue: Again, near the shelter. You won’t find it in this form when you arrive in the summer, but it’s worth a look.
Feather. Clue: Attached to the shelter. I’d love to know if you find it there. Grace-filled in the breeze.
Artists’ conks. Clue: On the trail above the shore trail, not far from the shelter.
Red-belted polypores. Clue: Umm, on the way back. And on a hemlock, of course.
Lungwort. Clue: I didn’t see any on the way up, but found a lot of this on the way back down the trail. Always a good sign of forest health.
Couldn’t resist. Clue: Porcupine Pee. Go as you go. While my guy waited patiently, I followed the trail for a bit, but never found the den. Let me know if you find it.
Mossy maple polypore. Clue: In a crack of a maple tree. 😉
Take your time. We both did. Have fun looking for these wonder-filled sights along the way.
And by the way PB–aka Pam and Bob–and anyone else who accepts this challenge (I know a few friends who would love to join you and their names begin with “J”)–invite us along and we’ll provide lunch. You know what we’ll pack. PB&J, of course.