Our usual celebration of the vernal equinox begins with a hike up Bald Pate Mountain with Loon Echo Land Trust, but either we missed it or we slept through it this morning even though we awoke before sunrise. Given that, we chose a different summit on which to welcome this new season.
Our great debate, be it all one-sided, centered around which trail to follow in order to reach the top of the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s Amos Mountain. Knowing that the route from the Flat Hill parking lot would be mostly via the snowmobile trail, we (or I) decided on the Gallie Trail located off Route 5.
From the start the snow was a bit crusty and hadn’t been traversed since the last storm, though a few critters had crossed it. We plodded along at breakneck speed, my guy trudging first while I followed and packed those spots between his prints.
The hike begins with a gradual rise, but still I welcomed opportunities to take a rest, so quickly were we moving. It was the white target on beech bark that slowed me down. I knew what I was looking at but hadn’t seen it in this formation previously. In several spots on this tree, the beech scale insect presented itself in bull’s eye formation as it filled in small crevices on the bark.
All winter the insects, in their nymph stage, have been blanketed with a wooly wax. Now that it’s spring, I need to keep an eye on this tree for the nymphs will emerge as short-lived second instars that will soon molt to become adult females. Will I see it happen? Will I know what stage I’m looking at? Stay tuned.
My guy tolerated my curiosity and then we moved on, bypassing the old foundations where I suspect everyone was undercover. Certainly, the picnic table at the base of the Amos Andrews Trail had kept warm all winter.
A picture of the man for whom the mountain was named hangs from a tree by the table.
And along the way, terraced stonewalls on the east side speak to his occupation.
It was a boulder on the west side of the trail, though, that made me stop again. This time I really needed a break. The temperature had risen and black snow pants were absorbing the heat. Gloves–off. Hat–off. Sweater and turtleneck sleeves–pushed up. What caught my eye was the rock tripe that showed off its dry and wet forms. Lichens come in a variety of colors, but once wet, they turn green as the algal component kicks into action. Snow topped the boulder and its melting pathway was obvious.
I wasn’t the only one who was shedding clothing as we neared the summit.
Just before we got there, I spied some dried sweet fern leaves poking out of the snow. Sweet fern is a woody plant, rather than a fern, and its developing catkins were a sign of the transition that is slowly occurring. The good news about sweet fern is that not only does it smell wonderful, but it’s also a good insect repellent.
Speaking of insects, next to the sweet fern I saw this tent caterpillar mass–a matrix of 150-400 eggs. It’s a shiny, varnished structure that encircles the branch and is a bit wider than a pencil. The sweet fern won’t have any influence on the tent caterpillars or beech scale insects, but will help keep mosquitoes at bay.
An hour after starting, we reached the summit, having followed the Homestead, Gallie and Amos Andrews Trails.
Lunch bench offered a great spot to sit and cool down.
And take in the view–of Heald Pond on the left and Kezar Lake on the right, plus the mountains beyond.
Our trek down was like a walk in the park and we practically floated. The snow had softened and our trail was packed making for a quick descent.
But, we still had one more stop to make and I reminded my guy to turn left at the yellow birch–the most beautiful yellow birch on this route.
I wanted to locate this very spot that is off the beaten path.
And I wasn’t disappointed as we watched the water boil up through the sand in mesmerizing movement. We’d found the spring once again.
Indeed, we found spring in our steps on this Mondate.