Last month the Greater Lovell Land Trust purchased a new property along Long Meadow Brook that further develops the wildlife corridor. A couple of weeks ago I first visited it with GLLT’s Executive Director Tom Henderson and a number of the land trust’s volunteer docents. As we left the property, Tom said to me, “I didn’t oversell this, did I, when I said this will become one of the docents’ favorite properties.” Indeed.
And so I couldn’t wait to get back there myself to spend a few hours exploring the almost one-hundred-acre reserve.
Because the land was last logged by the previous owner in 2014, it’s in the early succession stage of regrowth.
And so, it’s a place where those who like disturbed places tend to grow, such as the common mullein. What surprised me most was that I found a few still offering blooms.
Of course, it reminded me that I was in the great West–WESTern Maine, that is–with its occasional cacti-like form.
Scattered throughout are also the seedheads of white lettuce, waiting for release in lampshade-like formation.
Orange-peel fungi fruited prolifically in the gravel logging road.
That was all before I even reached the future parking lot, which had served as the log landing a few years ago. Already, sweet ferns and berry bushes have made themselves known.
The leaves of sweet fern, which is really a shrub rather than a fern, exhibited their version of autumn hues.
If you go, I encourage you to look for the blue ribbons that indicate where a future trail will be placed. It’s a loop trail that summer interns Hannah and Aidan laid out and leads to two focal features.
The trail nears a neighboring property, which just happens to also be under conservation easement thanks to the foresight of its owners. I stepped off the blue flag trail and started to follow the wall for a bit–noticing that soon it changed from a double (garden or plowed land) wall to a single wall. A large pasture pine grew at the change-over point.
And where the wall switched to single formation, barbed wire indicated its former use a pasture boundary. And white pine scales indicated its current use–as a red squirrel’s dining room table.
After moving away from the wall, I noticed the mountains in the offing and ferns and young trees already filling in the empty spaces.
One of my favorite mountains to climb stood tall in the backdrop–Mount Kearsarge.
My bearings were off a bit, but I knew where the eastern boundary was as I moved across this opening.
Walking along the back edge, my tree passion was ignited yet again.
Several pitch pines grow in this space. While the bark is similar to that of red pines, it’s platier (is that a word?). And the tufts of needles that grow along the trunk were a dead give-away.
But . . . I always quiz myself and so I looked around. And right below the trees, pitch pine cones and the triple needle bundles common to this species.
It was here that I discovered wintergreen growing by the base of a tree stump. What made me wonder was the amount of fruit on each plant. Yes, wintergreen grows prolifically in all of western Maine, but I can’t recall ever seeing so many little red globes dangling below the leaves.
From my half-circle around the opening, I wasn’t positive about my whereabouts and so decided to follow the land downhill because it looked like there may be an opening below. A few minutes later, I realized I was in a marshy spot where the cinnamon ferns grew. And the earth beneath my feet was rather spongy and damp.
I reached what I thought was the meadow I sought–only to realize that I was looking at a beaver lodge. I knew that beaver lodge, but from a different perspective–the neighbors’ property.
And then something else caught my attention.
Tamarack (aka larch) trees–our only deciduous conifers, which had turned a golden yellow as is their autumn habit.
The spray of tamarack needles reminded me of witch hazel flowers, which also grow on this property. But soon, the former will drop, leaving only their barrel-like stems as a reminder of their presence.
I left that spot, retraced my steps and headed to the north on a cross-country bushwhack, where the mauve colored maple-leaf viburnum grew.
I saw lots of mammal sign and even a few birds, including turkeys who are loving the fact that this is a mast year for acorns.
At last I emerged onto the trail I remembered and headed downhill again.
And then . . . I was rewarded for my efforts. Long Meadow Brook and the mountains beyond provided a WOW moment.
I looked to the east for a few minutes.
And then turned west again, where the layers and colors spoke of diversity.
Even the dead snags added beauty.
Cat-in-nine tails added to the view and I noted others who like wet feet including steeplebush, meadowsweet and bulrushes growing along the old beaver dam. It’s also a place for a variety of evergreen species–hemlock, white pine, balsam fir, red spruce and tamaracks. Future teaching moments await.
My intention to stick to the trail was soon thwarted when I spied hobblebush.
Like all trees and shrubs, the future was already encased in a bud–in this case a bud we refer to as naked because it doesn’t have the waxy coating of most others. Methinks its furry presentation offers the same protection from winter’s cold.
And as I studied the back side of fallen leaves, I paid attention to the venation–reminiscent of the bud’s pattern.
In the glow of sunlight, I felt like I’d found the pot of gold.
A short time later I reached the second opening that Hannah and Aidan’s trail encompasses. And what to my wondering eyes should appear–a meadowhawk dragonfly.
It provided a sharp contrast to snow on the Baldface Mountains.
It was at this six-acre opening that I poked around for a while longer. And watched a goshawk fly to a pine tree with something dangling from its talons. Did I take a photo? No, of course not. I was too mesmerized to focus my camera. But sometimes, the photo doesn’t matter. Being there in the moment does.
I’m thankful for such opportunities made possible by organizations such as the Greater Lovell Land Trust. I know that ultimately this property is for the mammals that travel through and I saw plenty of evidence that they use this place. But then again, I’m a mammal who also appreciates the land bridges created and opportunity to observe the connectivity. I spent the day getting to know the way of the land at Long Meadow Brook Reserve–and can’t wait to return.