You remember the nursery rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day, we want to go outside and play”? Well, it finally rained yesterday and today, and many of us have greeted it with open arms. And we certainly didn’t let it stop us from going out to play.
This morning, I joined a group from the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust for a hike in South Eaton, New Hampshire. Had I not been racing for time, I would have stopped every twenty feet to snap a photo, but I did pause beside Crystal Lake.
After getting lost for a few minutes because I didn’t pay attention to the directions, I found the property. Eleven of us headed down Paul Hill Road, led by Jesse Wright of USVLT, and Nancy Ritger, senior naturalist with the AMC.
We paused to examine a variety of offerings, including the flat stems of the quaking aspens. It was the raindrops on the big tooth aspen, however, that drew my focus. One of the things Nancy spoke about as she had everyone feel a flat aspen stem, is how that very stem aids in photosynthesis.
The leaves tremble or quake, giving each more time in the sunshine–individual leaves, no matter where they are attached to the tree, share in unshaded glory for split seconds as those above them flutter. And, in the case of aspens, both sides of the leaf work to make sugar and release oxygen.
We spent a long time beside a beaver pond and pondered various aspects of it. We could see the lodge and beaver sticks in the water–that made sense.
But why a significant wall on at least two sides?
And a split stone by the water’s edge? What else had happened here? Jesse told us that there are numerous foundations that we didn’t have time to locate today, so we knew that though it seemed as if we’d traveled to the middle of nowhere, this place was once somewhere.
And to the local moose, it still is as evidenced by the prints we found in mud.
Our attention also turned upward as we admired raindrops dangling from fruticose lichen (think fruit-like branching).
Suddenly, the rain increased so Jesse asked if anyone wanted to turn around and received an overwhelming vote to continue on.
One of my favorite discoveries was a couple of larch trees. Larch or tamarack is our only deciduous conifer. Huh?
Like deciduous trees, the larch needles turn yellow each autumn and fall to the ground. Another cool fact: needles grow on stout pegs that look like wooden barrels.
We paused beside ash trees and tree stumps, and enjoyed the view of this pileated woodpecker excavation of carpenter ant tunnels–their favorite prey.
In the log landing that did become our turn-around point, we noted the early succession growth of Eastern white pines and sweet fern (not a fern). But again, we looked to our feet for the best views.
Candy lichen is a crustose (think–flattish or crust-like) lichen with green to bluish-green coloration.
Its fruiting bodies, however, are candy-pinkish disks atop stalks, even reflected in the raindrops.
Our journey back to parked vehicles passed quickly, indicating we’d not traveled all that far in two and a half hours. That’s normal when you take time to notice. Before departing, Jesse showed me a cemetery on the abutting property.
Small, unmarked stones made me think of a Civil War-era cemetery in Sweden, Maine–perhaps a sudden illness of young children called for quick burials.
One section was portioned off by split granite.
The Currier plot. A side road we’d passed by was named for the family.
The crustose lichens were intriguing on Rhoda Lodolska Currier’s stone. Rhoda died at age 26.
Her sister, Octavia, lived to be 53.
Most impressive was the age of Nancy Leavitt, her stone located just outside the Currier plot. Nancy died at age 90.
As we walked out, Jesse spied a cup-shaped vireo nest built in the fork of a beaked hazelnut. Life continued to circle in these woods.
And the autumn color undulated, mimicking the land. The sun tried to peak out for a few minutes when we arrived at our vehicles, but we were all appreciative of the rainy day wonders we’d found along the way.
And back in Eaton, a quaint New England village located beside Madison and Conway, New Hampshire, and the Maine border–beauty cloaked by the mist.
Thanks to Jesse, Nancy and the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust for a fine morning spent wandering and wondering.