We had no idea when we set out what today’s hike might involve. Oh, we’d read the trail description and studied the map, but still, other than it being six miles long and of moderate ability and owned by a land trust and located in western Maine, we knew nothing. Yikes, that sounds like a lot, but follow along and you’ll see what I mean.
Our goal these past months has been to hike less traveled trails. That said, we’ve done some old favs that are everyone’s favs, but we’ve also made some discoveries along the way and gotten to know our neck of the woods just a wee bit better. This was such a trail. It began much like a walk in a park.
Within moments it led us to a swimming hole that we might have enjoyed had the temperature been a wee bit warmer. But still . . . it was delightful and as the trail continued we soon realized the brook would accompany us for our entire journey, murmuring and gurgling with each step we took.
Periodically we crossed it via bridges new and old . . .
and listened as it sang–hearing it rejoice for the recent rain.
Along the path from the trailhead to the summit, Pearly Everlasting looked ready to enhance a winter bouquet.
Meanwhile, a Red Clover pretended it was still summer.
A little further on, many willows unwittingly played host to a gall gnat midge with plans to overwinter in a structure created by the reaction to a chemical released by the larva.
What would have been leaves were forced to harden into a pinecone-look-alike.
Those weren’t the only galls along the way. A small aphid, Melaphis rhois, laid an egg on the underside of a Staghorn Sumac leaf, causing it to secrete material that created a sac over the egg where a number of generations of aphids formed inside. For such small aphids, it’s a rather large gall.
And speaking of aphids–we actually saw some as we approached the summit.
Theirs was an assemblage bigger than any I’d ever encountered–each speck of Wooly Alder Aphid made up of a waxy, curly, white wool, excreted from the insect’s abdomen. While it always strikes me that the filaments keep them warm in the winter, actually they help keep the little creatures from being eaten.
Birds also enhanced the seen, though not so many today as might have been there a month or three ago. But still we heard a few and saw a nest perhaps created by a cardinal or catbird or another who built a cup-shaped structure about three feet off the ground.
And in the midst of the trail, one scat–left behind by a bobcat, segmented and tarry as it was.
An hour and a half and two miles after beginning, we reached the final lookout point where the view embraced the White Mountains to the west.
It was behind us that we met Mother Maple standing tall over all her offspring.
And back below, we followed the same brook as we crossed the road and watched it journey south toward its outlet. The brook that is.
It was there that we met Father Maple and wondered about all that he had seen and heard, the stories he knew and history he’d observed.
Upon an esker we did finally journey, our trail in constant change the entire way. That was part of what made it such a joy to hike.
For a few moments before our journey ended, we sat upon a bench and expressed our gratitude to the woman who wanted 400+ acres of her land conserved after her death, the land trust that did so and now manages the trails and built bridge crossings and even a few steps, and what we assumed were members of a local Congregational Church for providing a place of contemplation beside a river that the brook we’d followed emptied into.
Amazingly, we encountered only two people on the trail.
Ours was a real McCoy Mondate.