When opportunity knocks, so they say, open the door. Today, it wasn’t really a door that I opened, but rather a trail that I explored. And it wasn’t a new trail to me, for I’ve ventured along the Mountain Division Trail in Fryeburg many times before.
But my morning and afternoon plans changed and I happened to be in the vicinity and I don’t think I’ve ever walked that way in late summer before–so I did what I love to do best and set off down the path beside the now defunct railroad track. And I was curious to discover who else might be taking advantage of it on this fine September day.
Within minutes, I made my first discovery–a monarch butterfly caterpillar crawled along the paved trail. I’d actually chosen this spot for I hoped to see a few monarchs and my chances suddenly increased.
Also using the asphalt were innumerable grasshoppers of several types including this red-legged, and crickets galore. In fact, between them and cicadas, I could almost not hear the traffic on Route 302 at the start. Almost.
Within minutes, however, the trail passed behind several businesses and then curved away from the road and toward Eastern Slope Airport. It was occasionally flat, occasionally straight, occasionally curved, and occasionally hilly. But always paved. And much quieter.
Constantly, the offerings changed. Knapweed with its pineapple-like base, which loves disturbed areas, had made itself at home. And a spider had used the structure to create its own home.
As I walked, I began to notice them–a monarch fluttering past here and another there. At last, I found one that had paused to take advantage of the nourishment offered by an aster.
I stood for as long as it would allow . . .
enjoying every pose presented.
A little further, I found something I only remember seeing for the first time a few weeks ago–I think it’s a crystalline tube gall on the oak leaf, but urchin gall would be my second guess.
On the same leaf, either a banded-tussock moth caterpillar or a Sycamore tussock moth caterpillar munched away, so similar are they. Check out all the bristles by the head–both an extra set of black and a more subtle set of white.
By what I assumed was an old mill pond fed by a small brook, the watery world quietly intercepted all other communities found along this path.
And today, a painted turtle watched nonchalantly from a log in the pond as the world passed by–runners, walkers and bikers on the path above . . . some who hardly noted his presence.
And dragonflies, including this mighty handsome green-eyed blue dasher, below. Do you see the hint of amber in his wings? One of the telltale signs.
Continuing on, I was surprised by a sight I’d seen before because I’d forgotten its presence. Pokeweed flowered and fruited and . . . poked through the fencing that formed a boundary along parts of the trail.
There’s also a short section where northern white cedar formed a wall, its woody cones all opened in an expression of giving forth new life and its leaves scaled like skinny braids.
Being a greatly disturbed zone, pilewort grew in abundance and its seeds danced and twirled and sashayed through the air like ghostly angels blowing in the wind. Actually, the graceful seedheads were much more attractive than the flower in bloom.
Queen Anne’s Lace had also bloomed profusely, but today showed only its winter weed form full of tiny seeds edged with rows of bristles. The better to ground itself somewhere when the time comes, I supposed.
Speaking of bristles, bristly sarsaparilla sent its many-fruited umbels out through the fence, perhaps in offering to those passing this way.
So many offerings I’d seen by the time I reached about the three mile mark and I knew there would be even more on the way back so I used my own imaginary turntable and began the return trip.
It was then that a web strung with great and amazing strength between two pileworts caught my attention. First, I couldn’t believe the distance between the two plants or the thickness of the anchoring web. And then I noticed something else . . .
An orb about two thirds of the way across, decorated with pilewort seeds that will take a little longer than usual to get established on the ground. Will they be viable, I wondered.
Another industrious arachnid had used one of the fence pipes to make himself a home. Can you see the funnel spider waiting in the tunnel for delectable prey to land on his web?
And then there were the goats, this one and two others who munched beside the trail. I called their owner because I feared they’d broken out of their pen (or someone had opened the gate). Her number was on a board attached to a tree as she’d advertised her daycare business to all who passed by. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation and I learned that she lets them out for an hour or so each day to feed on the weeds. Weeds? What weeds. All I saw where wildflowers aplenty. Anyway, if you go, do know that you may encounter the goats and they are not gruff at all.
While I saw a few more monarchs as I wandered back, a few other butterflies at least half the size of the royal ones moved with dainty motions. For the cabbage white butterfly, the asters were all the thing. But like so many of the wildflowers that have taken root in this disturbed place, this butterfly also disturbs people because it has a penchant for damaging crops.
Even smaller was the northern cloudywing skipper that stopped atop a red maple sapling. Males perch near the ground awaiting females, so his chosen spot made sense. His wing scales gave him such a satiny look as he shown in the light and his earth-tone colors included hints of purple.
It was all about the earth, I noted, as I walked along the Mountain Division Trail. Years ago, the path that I followed today had been used to construct the railroad track. And then in the 2000s, the rail trail had been built beside it. Over the years, I’m sure the railroad track had been enhanced. So the land was indeed disturbed . . . repeatedly.
And now, just as I took advantage of it to follow the well-constructed trail, so many others had done the same–both human and non. Not all were beneficial, but still they eeked out a life in that place. From insects and “weeds” to turtles and tree, there are so many advantages available along the Mountain Division Trail in Fryeburg, Maine.