Lord of the Hill Mondate

My guy graciously agreed to a slower than slow walk along Sucker Brook at the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve this morning. It was still frigid and moving slowly meant we felt it. But . . . I’d lost a magnetic name tag while leading a hike there on Saturday and wanted to try to find it.

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It was also a good excuse to spend some time taking in the beauty of this place as

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mid-morning sun bounced off the frosted rock pillows.

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Unfortunately, trail debris blown down during this weekend’s wind event obscured the green and white tag and we never found it. If you hike there and see it, please grab it for me.

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We did, however, pause so I could take a few more photos of the owl cough pellet we saw the other day. A rodent became dinner. I hope the pellet is still there for our owl prowl on Friday night. Oh, by the way–thank me for not sharing photos of the pristine mammal entrails we found on a rock beside the pellet. From the same animal? We aren’t sure. From the same predator? Again, we aren’t sure. Maybe a hawk used the same tree to remove the intestinal tract of another mammal. But why? We discussed several reasons on Saturday as we hovered over the sight: lousy taste; harmful bacteria; low nutritional value? A natural mystery.

My guy and I backtracked to the kiosk, then crossed the road and started up the Bishop’s Cardinal Trail. Conditions varied from a bit of snow that was crusty and crunchy under our micro-spikes to almost no snow under some of the larger hemlocks. I like that x marks the spot where two predators passed–assumably at different times, though I do think it was the same night. Diluted now, I’ve a feeling their prints would have been clearer on Saturday.

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Our eyes darted back and forth as we looked for our next finds. We know where they hide and visiting in winter provides a clearer vision.

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Beech trees. Bear trees.

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We envision the black bear that climbed up and perhaps sat on the branches above gorging on beechnuts. Bears eat a large variety of plant species. They also dine on insects, ripping apart tree stumps  or rotten logs in search of grubs or turning over rocks looking for ants. And they will scavenge mammal carcasses or even prey upon live deer fawns and other small mammals. But when it comes to the beech nuts, raspberries and blueberries–well, they’ll travel quite a distance–their keen sense of smell kicking in and telling them the location of a food source.

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The good news in this landscape is that the large, mature trees provide abundant nut crops, while those trees that have fallen harbor insects. And where openings exist, raspberries and blackberries fill in, providing other food resources.

The Greater Lovell Land Trust owns the Bishop Cardinal Reserve on the upper side of Horseshoe Pond Road and the property abuts the National Forest. Recently, I’ve noticed that someone generously repainted the boundary–quite generously. My guy wishes he’d sold them the paint.

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We passed from the GLLT property onto the old jeep trail leading to the summit. Along the way, we found lunch rock. We’ve dined here before.

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So has another. A red squirrel to be exact based on the hemlock cone that has been cleaned to the cob–its scales and even a seed or two left behind.

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The weekend winds brought down more hemlock debris–cones, scales, seeds and tender twig tips.

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While the scales have been removed from the cob or core of the cone, you can see where the winged seeds fit inside each. Two seeds/scale.

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We were out of the breeze, but hot cocoa warmed our own core.

After lunch, we continued climbing. Predator and prey prints were visible everywhere. One  prey species I’ve only seen a few times so far this winter is the meadow vole. Typically, it tunnels through the subnivean layer between the snow and the ground, but in these conditions, that layer is frozen solid and so the tunnel shows at the surface.

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Soon the hemlocks find themselves in the company of white and red pines. Cones of the three: white and red pinecones, hemlock cone (remember, a hemlock cone is not a pine cone). Like all things in nature, they each present themselves in their own way, so once you get to know one, you recognize all of its relatives.

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Before we reached the ledges, we caught sight of Horseshoe Pond and watched someone set up the blue ice house below.

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And then the trail opened to the ledges, where in winter the view is best and the reason for the pond’s name well understood.

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We climbed to the top, where the bonsai tree forever leans–a red pine stunted in growth by the winds.

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Funny thing–beside it stands another that, though not as tall as its relatives in the woods nearby, certainly received the stand straight family genes. I wonder why the difference between the two.

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And then we followed the trail to the Lord Hill Mines, known as a mineral collection site since the late 1870s.

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Among the finds in this granite pegmatite, feldspar, topaz, smokey quartz, blue apatite and mica.

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My guy contemplated his fortune.

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Based on the tracks leading to and fro, I’m afraid the snowshoe hare have already beat him to it.

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As we headed down via the main trail, we passed through a birch and beech neighborhood where the bark and snow complimented each other and spoke of winter.

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More than once, we crossed iced-over streams where frost feathers formed.

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We slipped back onto the GLLT property and followed the blue trail. Beside the path, a pileated woodpecker had done some serious work on a dead snag.

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Its chisel marks left an impressive monument for all to admire.

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We were almost back to the road when a tree root grabbed my attention. I’m wowed by the beauty of the roots and moss that flow together like waves. But there’s more.

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A hole with tracks and debris leading to it. Squirrel tracks.

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And on the other side, another hole. I wanted to explore it more, but my guy was way ahead. Note to self: return to this spot soon. It’s worth exploring further.

Ya know–I made a mistake. For Valentine’s Day I bought him a pair of micro-spikes. Prior to that, my guy used some Maine-made cleats that continuously slipped off his hiking boots. And even when they stayed on, he slipped. But that meant that I could almost keep up with him. Not so today. He’s got the grip now–and can practically fly through the landscape. You could say he’s lord of the hill and I’m his lady in waiting–well, maybe he’s lord of the waiting and I’m lady of the hill. Whatever. We both enjoyed our Mondate on Lord Hill in Stoneham.

4 thoughts on “Lord of the Hill Mondate

  1. Can never get enough outside time, Faith–though today is a bit of a mess–a four season day with snow, sleet, rain so far, thunderstorms and wind predicted. Temp rising at the moment. Oh, and a bit foggy. Welcome to Maine in the winter!

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