My guy completely surprised me this morning when I asked where he wanted to hike and his response, “Province Brook Trail.” Though we’ve travelled many trails repeatedly, he often prefers to explore a new place. Me–I love those repeats for there’s always something new to see, as well as the familiar.
From South Chatham Road in South Chatham (pronounced chat-HAM), New Hampshire, I turned onto Peaked Hill Road, which leads to the trailhead.
And quickly parked the truck for the gate was still closed. That meant an almost three-mile hike to reach the trailhead. We didn’t mind as it’s a Forest Service Road and easy to walk upon, even as it gradually climbs.
Along the way, we noted where some of our favorite bear trees were located, but decided to leave them for another day. Instead, we were eager to move on and hoped to be able to get to the shelter. We weren’t sure what the water conditions might be, so promised ourselves only Province Pond. The shelter would be icing on the cake if we got there.
Right away, the trail’s tree spirit whispered a welcome.
And another of our favorite trees begged to be noticed again. It’s an ancient yellow birch that has graced the granite for more than a century. The tree itself, wasn’t in good health, but the roots atop the rock were still dramatic.
Conditions were different on the trail than the road, and though it’s a wide space used by snowmobiles in the winter, we had to watch our step for we encountered snow, ice, rocks and mud. But one rock was especially appealing and I’m not sure we’ve ever seen it before. A perfect split revealed a heart tucked within. As it should be.
Onward and upward, we heeded the sign.
And then hunger overtook our desire to wait until the pond, so we found lunch rock and enjoyed the feast we’d prepared. PB&J topped off with a Clementine and Extra Dark Chocolate Truffle, with water to drink, of course.
Province Brook rushed past while polypody ferns provided a head of hair atop one of the boulders.
After lunch, we had a wee bit further to travel before reaching Province Pond. At the dam, our excitement heightened for we discovered moose tracks in the snow.
And more in the mud.
Before us, the pond and Mount Shaw created a pleasing picture. We listened to the wood frogs wruck, though we couldn’t see them. Nor could we see any moose, but we hoped.
As usual, I got hung up on the reflection of the mountain and the subtle colors of spring, which was about a week later than back down the road.
As I stood on the dam built to prevent beavers from creating their own, my guy took his first ever iPhone photo. I had to chuckle for it was the same view of me that I typically get of him. And do you notice who carries the pack–on the way up when it’s the most full with lunch and water? He always gets it for the descent, which works for me.
From the dam, we looked across the pond toward the shelter, a tiny speck of roofline almost visible on the far shore, just right of center. And still we wondered, would we be able to get there?
Before trying, I noted leatherleaf with buds. Within a month, I suspected those tiny buds will become bell-shaped flowers.
Beside the leatherleaf, the overlapping burgundy and white scales of sweetgale catkins provided a delightful contrast beside the sky’s reflection on the water.
We moved on, following the trail to the hut–and made it, the water we needed to cross over not being high at all. Built in the 1930s, the shelter has many stories to tell, and my guy read a few of them.
We’d actually saved our dessert, our form of icing on the cake, and so enjoyed the view as we finished lunch.
On our way back down the trail, the brilliant green upper leaf of lungwort drew my attention as it has always done. The bright green was due to yesterday’s rain, which set the algae into production. The underside was pale with pockets of cyanobacteria, known as blue-green algae. Though it’s named for its resemblance to lung tissue, it does have a lettuce-like look. According to Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski, lungwort is “found in rich, unpolluted and often very old forests.” Bingo!
What surprised me was that we found some on the ground, this batch on snow. Moose have a preference for lungwort. Had they pulled it off a tree?
More surprising was that some had apothecia, its spore-producing structure. Do you see the tiny tans specks along the lobe margins? It’s uncommon to see these and was a first for me. Typically, lungwort reproduces by granule-like masses called soredia that form on the surface, break off, land on a suitable substrate and grown into new lungwort lichens.
About nine miles round trip and our journey was completed. Old joke, but I can’t resist for I was lichen the Province Brook Trail from the start and it just kept getting better and better.