Some Monday’s we look for new places to explore or mountains to climb, but today found us visiting an old favorite that is gorgeous in any season.
Because it’s still winter (and she’s not letting go right away), we knew our hike would be extended by more than a mile on either end. We parked by the Leach Link Trail on Stone House Road and followed the telephone poles in.
These are my favorite telephone poles in the world–well, for today that is, for they show the works of the clever bears that inhabit this place. The wood has been scratched and bitten, while the shiny pole number was mutilated. This was pole 5. I suppose it still is.
Hair sticks out from splinters. Bear hair.
We found lots of it on several poles today. More than we’ve seen in the past.
I’m thinking that the bears in the area have a fondness for 5. Or a dislike, for pole 15 also received rough treatment. There are more, but it was on 5 and 15 that we noticed the number destruction.
Despite that, the bears in this area are most welcome. Because the signs are new, I asked my guy what he thought the bears will do when they emerge from their dens soon. In my mind, I saw a similar behavior to the other poles and imagined that when we return again we’ll see that the signs have also been destroyed because that’s what bears do. My guy’s response, “Clap.” Indeed, they should.
At last we reached the gate where we usually park to hike the Stone House property and Blueberry Mountain trails. The Stone House property encompasses about 890 acres surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. In 2011, the owners, David Cromwell and Sharon Landry, established a conservation easement held by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. The easement allows for traditional uses including commercial agriculture and forestry, but prohibits development and subdivision in perpetuity. Thus we have both this couple and the GLLT to thank for today’s adventure.
When we finally reached the Shell Pond trailhead, a black cherry immediately jumped out at me. The property was last logged in 1977 and features a mix of hard and softwoods. My bark eyes love the diversity.
And my bark mind appreciates the kindred spirit of the trees that manage to support each other despite their differences–in this case a beech and red maple.
I’m not the only one who likes bark–the work of pileated woodpeckers,
and even insects was evident throughout our three-hour tour.
As we hiked, my dad was also on my brain. I’d received a message this morning from his former boss at Yale University who fondly recalled Dad and his brother Bob. Though quiet men, he and his brother had a twinkle in their eyes, a love for music, especially opera, and always a good joke or prank up their sleeves.
When I saw this tree in the shape of a Y, I knew it was for Dad. Even the sky spoke of the university–though several shades lighter than Yale blue. And with that came the memory that any paint my father mixed had a touch of Yale blue in it–thus was his way. It was all meant to be for Mr. Cromwell, the property owner, is associated with Yale.
I couldn’t help but think that Dad would have loved the idea of our Mondates. He also would have loved my guy, but sadly they never met. Dad died of a heart attack only days before he and Mom were to spend a weekend with me in Maine–thirty years ago. But, my guy continues to wear a Yale sweatshirt when he runs, which he did this morning. In that way, he’s made his own connection. Yeah–that’s my guy!
Now that I’m writing through tears, I’ll get back to the trail, which is delightful in winter because it offers more views of Shell Pond below.
And the icy ledges above. Later in our journey, I noted the trail to the ledges had been well used–probably by rock/ice climbers.
Trail conditions were such that we walked on top of the hardened snow, though I did wear micro-spikes for the entire tour. Someone waited to put his on and did a little slipping and sliding along the way. Brook crossings required stepping low and high, so deep is the snow still.
While I marveled at a castle made of ice,
my guy spotted a Christmas tree.
We even found a few hints of green. These polypody ferns were opened, indicating warmer temps and today we certainly noted the difference compared to the brisk weekend.
Of course, on another rock, some were still curled in their cold formation. They were under a hemlock and more shaded.
Any bit of green is a welcome sight about now and I was surprised to see partridgeberry poking through the snow.
At last we reached lunch bench, which my guy stood upon. Yup, that’s the granite bench under his feet.
We sat on it to eat our PB&J (with butter for me, of course) sandwiches. And tried to keep from sliding right down to the pond.
Lunch view included Shell Pond and the Baldfaces in the background. All along, we’d noted mice, squirrel, mink, fisher, coyote, bobcat, ruffed grouse, turkey and moose tracks. But as we ate we listened to the whales groan–so moaned the ice in the afternoon sun.
A short time later we reached Rattlesnake Brook and the orchard, where the natural community transitioned and appeared almost bucolic.
One of my favorite finds along this section is the ostrich fern. The structure of its fertile frond makes me smile.
From the orchard we moved on to the old airfield and wondered if the family ever flies to their summer home. Though I don’t think it’s used these days, the airstrip was apparently built in the 1940s by the military for practice landings and takeoffs during World War II.
Again, the views were breathtaking.
As hikers, we’re reminded by signs to stay on the marked trails, thus protecting the land and giving the family some space. I’m in awe of their home. The Stone House was built in the early 1850s by Abel Andrews. He quarried the large, hand-hewn granite slabs from Rattlesnake Mountain and built the 40-foot by 25-foot house for his wife and thirteen children.
I did stay on the trail most of the time, but occasionally I heard the landscape calling my name and had to investigate. Fortunately, my guy stayed on the trail all the time and kept us honest.
We walked back out to the truck and then decided to take a quick detour before driving home. Being on Stone House Road, we were only a mile from the winter closure point for Route 113 in the White Mountain National Forest. The road forms the state line between Maine and New Hampshire for several miles. And then it passes into Maine at the gate by the Cold River Campground and The Basin. And it’s there that you’ll find this iconic sign.
Welcome to Beautiful Maine and another scenic Mondate.