Our plan was to hike up Blueberry Mountain and continue on to the summit of Speckled in Evans Notch today, but as we drove toward the White Mountains I mentioned that a friend had shared a photograph of ice inside a mine near the Basin on Route 113. And so in an instant said plan changed.
We parked near the iconic Welcome to Beautiful Maine sign and ventured off in search of the mine. Of course, I’d forgotten where exactly it was located, so we walked about a mile on a snowmobile trail until we spied private land in front of us. That was our turn around point, but . . . me thinks we should have continued because I later learned that the mine sits between public and private property.
We didn’t mind for we knew we’d return with more accurate directions. It wasn’t the first time we’ve erred. And besides, the gray birches were beautiful.
After we’d covered about three miles, we headed back to the truck and drove to Stone House Road, where we parked near the trailhead for the Leach Link Trail. We could have continued toward the Stone House since for the first time ever, it was plowed, but the lane was narrow and had we met another vehicle, it would have been a challenge to back up. Besides, I love to walk the road for there’s always something to see . . . like the lemonade stand. Who knew?
My other favorite sight along the road–telephone poles. In the past year the poles had received more attention–from black bears. Last year it seemed that any number with a 5 in it drew the most attention. Smart bears around here.
But it appeared that the bear(s) had added a new number to their count–#7, or in this case, #17.
I didn’t have my macro lens with me, but found bear hair attached to some of the scrapes. It was light colored, indicating it had bleached out in the sun.
So why telephone poles? It’s my understanding that males rub their shoulders and neck to leave a scent and may also claw and bite a pole during mating season. Bites leave nearly horizontal dots and dashes–can you see them? Think of the bear’s upper and lower canine teeth meeting. How cool is that?
Eventually, I promised my guy that I’d stop pausing to check on and photograph them, but he noted that I couldn’t resist every time we passed by one. I was just looking.
To my guy’s relief, we soon reached the gate, where the power line went underground.
Near the airfield, we turned and paused to enjoy the view of the Baldfaces, and promised ourselves a return to those trails in the late spring or summer.
Our choice of trails today was the Stone House Trail. And no hike up is complete without a stop at Rattlesnake Gorge. First we looked north.
Ice and water, ice and water–I couldn’t get enough of the freeze and flow.
And then we looked south–with continued awe.
We’d thought about eating lunch at the gorge, but moved on up the trail. From lunch log, where we dined on peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches, we took in the view of Rattlesnake Pool.
Any time of year it’s a magical place, but on a winter day–ah . . .
that emerald color.
The brook above offered its own touch of wonder.
After lunch, we continued our climb on conditions that ranged from ice to snow to bare rocks. But mostly ice and snow. Microspikes served us well.
At last we crossed from the Stone House property into the White Mountain National Forest as denoted by a rustic sign.
All along we searched beech bark for bear sign. And found one–a very smart bear had left a sign indeed–indicating the way of the trail. We kept climbing.
At last we reached the summit. It was later in the afternoon than we’d intended when our morning began because of our mine mission, and so we decided to skip Speckled Mountain, but were happy to check out the views from Blueberry. On the Lookout Loop we did get off trail for a bit as we missed a cairn buried under the snow. At that point we did a lot of post holing, sinking as we did to our knees and above. But finally we found the right trail.
It’s there that the red spruces grew–their yellow green needles pointing toward the tip of the branches and dangling reddish-brown cones seeping sap.
And then we found the view that stretched from Pleasant Mountain (our hometown mountain) on the left to Kearsarge on the right.
Below us, Shell Pond on the Stone House Property, showed off its conch shell shape.
We took one last look at the mountains and valleys under a blanket of clouds before following the loop back to the main trail and retracing our steps down.
It was on the down that I got my guy to stop and examine a mammal track with me. I’d noticed it on the way up and he’d been ahead, but we both remembered that it was located at the point where the community switched from hardwoods to soft. Do you see the large prints? And distance between. It had been warmer yesterday and those prints looked like they’d been created then.
Black bear prints! Oh my!
It was the five large toes that first drew my attention as we climbed up. Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing? The pattern of the overall track was a bit different than what I’ve seen in the past where the rear foot oversteps the front foot because in snow black bears tend to direct register like coyotes, foxes and bobcats–one foot landing on snow pre-packed by another foot.
Bears are not true hibernators and this guy or gal must have been out foraging during yesterday’s thaw.
We didn’t find any bear paw trees or see the actual bear, but we were thrilled with our telephone pole signs and the prints left behind.
Indeed, it was a beary special Mondate on Blueberry Mountain.
(Corny humor comes with teacher training)