I can’t remember what year I began volunteering to haul food to the top of Pleasant Mountain for Loon Echo Land Trust’s Trek. I do, however, remember this–it was chilly that first time. I also remember some of the folks I hiked up to our location at the summit with–including JoAnne Diller, Carol Sudduth and Sara Stockwell. And then, at some point in the future my position was switched to the summit of Southwest Ridge and I’ve been there every since–along with my pal in crime, Marita.
And so it was that this morning she and I packed as much as we could into our backpacks and extra bags as we started up the trail at 7.
The fog had been so thick as I’d driven across the Moose Pond Causeway of Route 302, that I couldn’t even see the mountain. As we started up the trail, the morning light added a ghostly effect.
At viewpoints along the way, the mountains beyond remained invisible, but . . . we could see the work of others.
Webs decorated branches like Christmas ornaments decorate trees.
Despite the fog, we easily followed the hiking loon up the trail,
and eventually broke through into the sun.
As we continued to climb, we looked back, but our view was limited . . .
to mountaintops that looked like islands poking above a sea of clouds.
Finally, we reached our destination–just below the teepee at the summit of Southwest Ridge.
It was there that we set up our rest area with an assortment of goodies.
Some were quite local, like the salsa from Windham, Maine, apples from Five Fields Farm in Bridgton, hot pepper jelly from Massachusetts and coffee mug filled with Dreamlands coffee by Magnolia Coffee of North Carolina, which benefits Five Kezars Watershed Association in North Waterford. (Judy Lynne–I believe you know the origin of my coffee thermos. I’m still using it every day.)
While the temperature had cooled off a bit at the end of August, this mid-September day was hot and muggy–especially if one was hiking. But, we were ready to greet our guests with a smile and plenty of food. Our hope was that they’d gobble it all up.
Of course, being on the Southwest Ridge, one must look the part.
Slowly our guests trickled up–full of smiles despite the heat.
Our hikers for the six mile trek included families and friends, and even one dog.
Ever so slowly, the sun began to break through the sea of clouds.
Suddenly, as if in a poof, the mountains and lakes came into view.
After several hours, the Sweep came through and it was time for us to pack up and move on. And so we did–hiking across to the main summit, where the western views showed that Mount Washington was still in hiding.
It was at the summit that we met up with Loon Echo’s stewardship manager, Jon Evans, whose work we greatly appreciate.
His partner in crime was Loon Echo’s biologist, Paul Miller. Today, Paul taught us a new word: crepitation–the snapping or crackling sounds some grasshoppers make with their wings as they fly.
After chatting with them for a few minutes, we continued on across the ridge line, going backwards or so it felt for often we hike in the opposite direction. Just before reaching the point that the Bald Peak trail takes a sharp right hand turn downward, we paused among the pines to take in the view of Moose Pond and the causeway below.
Rather than turn down at the Bald Peak junction, we continued on. At the North Ridge, we passed through one of our favorite parts (though like I said to Marita–every part along this mountain is my favorite), passing through the narrow split in the granite.
Finally, we reached the summit of Shawnee Peak Ski Area where we paused at the last rest stop to enjoy some watermelon slices.
And then it was time to descend along the ski trails, first via the Main and then the Pine, traversing as we went to take the pressure off our knees.
It was there that the goldenrod grew and we admired the Painted Ladies seeking nourishment.
Though they look similar to the regal monarchs, we noted their characteristics–the painted ladies having forewings that are mostly orange, highlighted with black and spotted white. Their undersides really tell the story for they feature shades of brown, tan and white, with prominent veins, and row of blackish-blue spots along the margin.
Eventually, we left the flower zone as we continued down on grass. The lower we descended, the more our camp came obscurely into view. It’s framed in this photo, but unless you know it, you may not see it.
At the ski area, we helped ourselves to a free Allagash and lunch, then sat on the lawn to chat with friends who’d either volunteered their time or biked 100 miles (Go Alanna!).
We had one other visitor–a young water snake that seemed to have lost its way from the pond.
By the time we left in the late afternoon, we were tired, sweaty and stinky, but happy for the honor of serving as sherpas to haul food and set up the rest area in this annual event that helps protect the lands around us and those who live here–whether they be loons, painted ladies or water snakes.
Congratulations Loon Echo Land Trust on another successful Trek.