Lichen Everything We See

The Tuesday morning Greater Lovell Land Trust docent tramps don’t typically have a theme–we just like to explore a property together to see what it has to offer and learn from each other. But this morning I tried to invoke one–lichens–since we recently had Maine Master Naturalist Jeff Pengel present a talk on the topic and a few days later he led a walk for us.

w-on the trail (1)

I’m happy to say, we are who we are and within minutes we found ourselves easily distracted.

w-many fruited pelt lichen

We did spot a variety of lichens and talked about their forms and substrates. The youngest among us at age 5 found this pelt lichen growing among the mosses.

w-Wes

In fact, he spotted it just after he’d jumped off what he deemed Jockey Cap, a rock that represented the 600-foot ledge that overlooks neighboring Fryeburg. We welcome his keen eyes and those of his siblings, for they see things we overlook and have a natural curiosity. (Don’t you just want to pinch those cheeks?)

w-green stain fruiting

In fact, his oldest brother was the first to spot this fungi, the turquoise fruiting bodies of green stain lichen that I used to think was a remnant trail blaze. The fruits are minute but the color spectacular.

w-scaly vase chanterelle

And so our eyes began to focus on other fungi, the fruiting bodies of which are a result of all the rain we received. Another great find today–scaly vase chanterelle. Our British docent, who is a fungi aficionado, reminded us, “It’s veys here, but back home I’d say vahz.”

w-ant pupa in heart shape

And then there was the heart that we had to love. One of our group had stumbled by a tree stump and some bark slipped off. Beneath it, the adults in an ant colony quickly went to work, moving their pupa to a safer location and we watched for a few minutes as they worked–the heart slowly losing form.

w-interns and young naturalists 2

All along the way, our interns took time to explain things to the younger set.

w-interns and young naturalists 1

And the younger set took time to practice what they knew,

w-poking a balsam blister

such as the fact that if you pop a balsam blister, the resin will ooze out. And your fingers may stick together. But it will smell like Christmas.

w-docents 1b (1)

It took us almost two hours to walk less than a mile and climb the “eagle nest” overlooking Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog.

w-docents 3 (1)

A few stayed below and made more discoveries.

w-pipsissewa

We finally reached Horseshoe Pond Road, turned right and slowly made our way back to the kiosk where we’d parked. But still, we stopped periodically and took in the sights, including the pipsissewa in bloom.

w-spider

And a spider that was dangling when first spotted by one, but on the dirt road when we all gathered round. Check out the design on its legs.

w-lungwort

After all but one had left, she and I chatted over our brown bag lunches and then ventured across the street to the Bishops Cardinal Reserve in preparation for tomorrow’s  Lovell Rec Summer Camp Nature Hikes. We offer two hikes–one for the younger set and another for the older kids, who wish we’d talk less and walk more. We can take a hint and so we do that for them. But still, there are cool things to see. We determined some fine stopping points today for the mammal theme, but the lungwort lichen also called out with its bright green coloration after yesterday’s rain.

w-Horseshoe Pond

Once we’d completed our reconnaissance mission, I decided to stop down the road at the Horseshoe Pond boat launch, ever in search of dragon and damselflies.

w-pickerel weed

It wasn’t warm or sunny enough, so I didn’t spy any of the odonatas.

w-pickerel and hoverfly 2

But I did notice hoverflies nectaring the pickerelweed flowers.

w-green frog

And a young green frog jumped into the water upon my approach. As I stood and looked at it, I heard rustling behind me.

w-snake 8

And in the grass, I spied the creator.

w-snake 9

Notice how thick its body was and the keels or ridges on its scales. Plus the coloration–dark brown to gray with reddish brown and even black splotches.

w-snake 1

It held its head up as if searching for me and I could see a variation of color on its neck.

w-snake 3

And then I moved again while it stayed still–the better to see it with.

w-snake 6

That’s when I realized that what I thought was a six-foot-long snake . . .

w-snake 4

turned into two three-foot-long Northern water snakes. Two? Why? They are known to be solitary. And mating season has since passed.

A few minutes later, a vehicle approached on the road above and slowed down. The driver reached out and grabbed a few blueberries from a high-bush shrub. We exchanged greetings and he told me he was stopping by for his daily dose on his way home from work. I asked if he’d seen the snakes, for I recalled seeing one in the same spot a year ago. As he jumped out of his jeep, he told me he’s caught water snakes in the pond while fishing, but he hadn’t seem them by the boat launch. And then . . . he said he wanted to pick one up and in a flash he did just that, catching one by its tail as the other quickly slithered into the water. I was a bit taken aback but the snake danced with such rhythm and force that he had to let go.

w-snake 11

It dropped into the water where we could admire its colors even more.

w-snake 12

And then it swung around–not necessarily to say hello. We noted a small frog nearby and commented on how still green frogs can be.

w-snake 13

Eventually, the snake moved off, all the while its forked tongue dashing in and out . . .

w-snake 14

and in and out some more as it snacked on insects.

So much for a lichen walk–instead, as always, everything spied on today’s adventure was worth liking.

 

 

 

Brief Retreat at HewnOaks Artist Colony

Brief Retreat

p-pyrola

Stepping out the door,

I immediately spot

the round-leaved pyrola

in bloom

with elongated pistils

arcing below

its petals of white

turned downward,

as if too shy

to share

its inner beauty.

p-mole ridge

Walking across the lawn,

I notice

a sudden change

in the ground

below my feet—

from solid to cushy,

where a raised ridge

about six inches across

snakes through the grass,

the work

of a mole

whose tedious tunneling

through the earth

is hardly ever

recognized as favorable.

p-red and white pines

p-red and white pines 2

Making my way

down the gravel road,

I find myself

in the land

of giant pines—

both red and white,

and so,

I bend my head

into a birder’s pose

to see their crowns—

so tall are they,

with branches and needles

intermingling,

even with

a neighboring hemlock,

as each vies

for the sun’s

life-giving rays.

p-trees kissing 1

Turning to the trees

beside them,

I spy

another white pine;

this one directly

connected to a hemlock,

like kissing cousins,

their trunks

naturally grafted,

providing internal support

as they

figure out

how to share

the space.

p-road

Moving downhill

with intention,

so as not to slip and fall

on the steep incline

and yet wanting

so desperately

to avoid the gnats

that harass my face

in their annoying fashion,

I wish for a breeze.

p-daylilies

p-daylily flower

Spying a splash

of vibrant color,

my attention

suddenly distracted

from the gnats,

I see Daylilies,

the perfect flower

with thee sepals

and three petals,

six stamen,

their anthers

loaded with pollen,

and one pistil

protruding straight out

as she seeks

the offerings of others.

p-meadowsweet 1

p-meadowsweet flowers

p-raindrop reflections

p-ants farming aphids

Rounding a corner

on the road,

I spy a clump

of meadowsweet

standing tall,

its buds

slowly opening

to flowers,

crazy full

of stamens

showing forth

a fireworks display,

and its leaves

holding raindrops

that reflect colors

of the canopy above,

while on one stem

ants farm aphids

in search

of the honeydew

they produce

from sucking

the sugar

out of the plant.

p-sweet-fern patch

p-sweet-fern leaves

Nearing the end

of my journey,

I pause

beside a patch

of sweet-fern,

which isn’t really a fern

for it has a woody stem,

but its presentation

of leaves

appear fernlike,

and I celebrate it

as much

for its look

of curly leaves

extending outward

in every direction,

as for its scent

that tickles my nose

in the most pleasant

of manners.

p-Kezar lake

Standing at last

beside the lake,

I watch dark clouds

flirt with mountains,

and it is here

that I meet

the breeze,

light as can be,

barely ruffling oak leaves

and only slightly swaying

boughs of hemlocks,

while creating

mere ripples

across the water’s surface

that give way

to gentle waves

lapping the tops

of mostly submerged rocks,

just enough

to distract the gnats.

p-HewnOaks 2

p-Hewnoaks

Revering the scene

before me,

I give thanks

for I’ve reached Kezar Lake

at HewnOaks Artist Colony,

where each year

due to

the generosity of others

I get to spend

two hours—

a time to listen

as Judith Steinbergh

shares poetry

in form and sound

and encourages all

to notice,

to hear,

to see,

to be,

and then sends us off

as if

we were world renown writers,

and in those moments,

I am renown

in my own world

as I listen

to my muse

and let thoughts form

first in my head

and then

on paper,

all the while contemplating,

writing and taking photos,

and come away blessed

by the voices

I hear

of the flowers,

and moles,

of the trees,

and ferns,

of the lake,

and this place.

Being.

I am.

It is enough

no matter

how brief.

Thank you,

Judy,

for once again

giving me

the opportunity

to retreat.

Embracing Quiet

If you are like me, you spend too much time racing from one moment to the next during this fleeting season of summer. With that in mind, I chose to slow down today.

m-stump islands

I know of few better places to do that than among the stump islands in the Upper Basin of Moose Pond. It’s been my place since I moved to Maine over thirty years ago.

Once upon a time, this was timberland–albeit prior to impoundment. A log sluiceway was built at the Denmark end in 1792 by Cyrus Ingalls, thus turning pastureland into the Lower Basin, so he could float logs to a nearby mill. In 1824, a more substantial dam was created and the height of that dam was raised by William Haynes in 1872 to create the current impoundment. While the Middle Basin of the nine-mile “pond” may be the largest at over 900 acres, its the 300-plus-acre Upper and Lower Basins that I like best to explore. And because the Upper is right out my summertime back door, I spend the most time there.

m-painted turtle

As I moved slowly, I greeted old friends like this painted turtle and even had the opportunity to pet a snapping turtle, so close to my kayak was it, but I paddled on.

m-newly emerged damsel 2

Actually, I didn’t paddle much once I reached the islands and stumps. Instead, I floated. And noticed. Before my eyes newly emerged damselflies pumped fluid into their bodies and wings, while their shed exuviae sat empty.

A family of three passed by in a canoe and I asked if they wanted to see something cool. When I told them about the damselfly, the father asked what a damselfly was and I told the family about its size and wing formation. They knew about dragons but had never heard of damsels. And didn’t want to stop and look. The mother commented on how magical it all was, but the father was eager to move on. I was sad for the son’s sake. He missed the real magic.

m-emerging damsel 3

Returning to my quiet mode, I found another, waiting as they all do, for the transformation to be completed. Do you see that the wings are not yet clear? I decided my presence was important, for I was keeping predators at bay.

m-orange bluet male

And then . . .

m-orange bluet 3

and then I met a new friend. An orange bluet–this being the male. I wanted to name him the Halloween damsel, but my field guide told me differently.

m-water shield and orange bluets 2

I kept waiting for him to meet her

m-orange bluets on water shield 1

and finally he did–

m-orange bluets mating

completing the wheel of damselfly love.

m-water shield 4

Because of the orange bluets, I also met the watershield flowers in their moment of glory. The flowers are described as being dull purple and inconspicuous. I found them to be various shades from mauve to muted red and lovely in presentation on day one of their life cycle.

According the US Forest Service Website, “On the first day the bud emerges above the water. Sepals and petals open and bend downward. Although stamens and pistils are present in each flower, on the first day of blooming, only the pistils emerge. Stalks of the pistils lengthen and spread outward over the petals. At night, the flower stalk bends and the flowers submerge beneath the water. On the second day, flowers emerge from the water again, but with the pistils retracted. The stamen stalks are lengthened and the anthers open. In this way flowers are cross-pollinated (Osborn and Schneider).

m-water shield old

Hardly dull, certainly unique. Even on day two.

m-newly emerged Hudsonian whiteface

Today, I also met a new dragonfly. And thought that I did it a favor, but I may not have. You see, when we first met, I noticed a web all around this immature Hudsonian whiteface (or so I think it is). With my paddle, I removed the web to free the dragonfly. But, um, it flew off and that’s when I realized it was several hours old and still drying its wings. Do you see how shiny they are? And the exuviae to which it clung prior to my “helping” hand? It’s best to leave nature alone. If it had been caught in the web, then good for the spider.

m-cotton grass 1

Speaking of spiders, I found some cotton grass gone to seed . . .

m-cotton grass with spider 2

and when I moved to photograph it with the sun behind me, I noticed what looked to be a camouflaged crab spider hiding in wait.

m-beaver lodge 1

Among the stumps, I’ve seen numerous beaver lodges over the years and know from the saplings they cut down on our property, that at least a few are active.

m-beaver scent mound 1

Today a recently visited scent mound added to that knowledge. Beavers pull aquatic plants and mud up from the bottom of the pond and create these mounds. They then secrete castoreum from castor glands beneath their tails to mark territory, deter predators, and say, “Hey baby, wanna check out my sticks?”

m-meadowsweet

The island flowers also grabbed my attention, including the fluffy heads of meadowsweet and . . .

m-grasspink orchid

grass-pink orchids now waning.

m-sweet-scented water lily

But . . . besides the dragons and damsels, I really went to see the aquatic flowers, like the sweet-scented water lily,

m-spatterdock

spatterdock,

m-pickerel weed 3

and one of my favs–pickerelweed.

m-pickerel weed

I love it for all its fine hairs and the way the flowers spiral up the stalk.

m-pickerel 2

I also love the coloration with two yellow dots on the upper lip providing a guide to the nectar it offers.

m-white face on leatherleaf 1

While I looked, another white-faced dragonfly, small in stature, kept following me. Finally, it paused on a leatherleaf shrub.

m-spatulate-leaved sundews with flower 2

And I paused beside the spatulate-leaved sundews.

m-spatulate--leaved sundew flower

I was about a week early, but one was in flower, with promises of plenty more to come.

m-pitcher plant 1

As I looked at the sundews, I realized that I’d never seen a pitcher plant in this place. As should happen, I was proven wrong, though I never would have noticed it if it didn’t have such a tall flower since its leaves were hidden by a mass of vegetation.

m-pitcher flower

Damselflies, dragonflies, and carnivorous plants–its an eat or be eaten world out there on the pond.

Bullfrogs bellowed from the edges, green frogs plinked, and fish splashed. I listened to Eastern kingbirds’ wingbeats as they dropped to the water to snatch insects, and red-winged blackbirds delightful conk-la-rees. I startled a great blue heron, the first I’ve seen on the pond all summer, and it flew off. In the midst of all the natural sounds and sights around me, I embraced the quiet on my four-hour paddle/float. And as Robert Frost might say, “That has made all the difference.”

 

Poking Along On Perky’s Path

Every Greater Lovell Land Trust trail is my favorite in any given moment and so it was that Perky’s Path received that ranking today.

p-beaked hazelnuts 2

I met my friend Pam in the parking lot and immediately our hunt for great finds began. We looked first at the basswood, but it was the shrub next door that heard us utter with delight–a beaked hazelnut showed off its fuzzy horned fruits.

p-hops on hop hornbeam

And then we walked back up the road a wee bit for at the entrance to the parking lot I’d spied a hop hornbeam also loaded–with hops.

p-striped maple sign

At last, we started down the trail, heading south where a self-guided tour begins. A small group of GLLT docents spent the winter months preparing signs for a variety of species along this route. It’s a task that requires choosing a particular trail one summer for the next, determining which species to ID, taking photographs, gathering and writing facts, creating and printing cards, laminating them, attaching them to posts, relocating the species and finally erecting the posts, which will be left in place until Labor Day. That’s a lot of work, so if you have a chance, take the tour. It includes trees, shrubs, flowers, ferns and more.

p-American toad

As we walked, the ground at our feet moved–in hopping fashion. We only saw one American toad, but plenty of frogs.

p-bloated female wood frog 2

All of them sported their camouflage colors, so after the ground moved, we had to focus in order to relocate them once they paused.

p-bloated female wood frog 1

This female wood frog’s robber mask was the only thing that helped us locate her.

p-young wood frog hiding under starflower leaf

You’ll have to use your own focus to find the baby wood frog that hid beneath a decomposing starflower leaf.

p-spring peeper

And another teeny, tiny one–a spring peeper with the X on its back.

p-common brown cup, Peziza varia

Because we were looking down all the time, we began to notice other things, such as the common brown cup fungi which looked rather like a wrinkled ear.

p-black trumpet Craterellus fallax

We also found a few black trumpets,

p-chanterelles 1

chanterelles (I’m leaning toward Cantharellus cibarius but don’t take my word for it–check with the Veitch brothers of White Mountain Mushrooms for positive ID is you are a forager.),

p-caesar's mushroom 1

and a couple of Caesar’s.

p-Indian cucumber 2

Though we found one Indian cucumber root that had been broken, its fruit continued to form.

p-round-leaf pyrola 3

Our hearts throbbed when we recognized that here and there hiding among the herb layer were round-leaved pyrolas.

p-round-leaf pyrola1

Their leaves were nearly round with petioles or stems no longer than the blade.

p-pyrola flowers 2

And their flowers–nodding.

p-pipsissewa flowers 1

Pam had shown me a photo of a pipsissewa that grew on her property and we then found a small patch just off the trail, their jester-hat flowers attracting small insects.

p-up close

What better way to admire those flowers than up closer and personal.

p-Pam's brackenfern hat 1

And then it was time to don a brackenfern cap for the mosquitoes were at times annoying–and biting.

p-Indian pipes 1

As we continued on, we noted that it is Indian pipe season. I asked Pam if she’d ever seen the pink version that occasionally occurs–and then we began to find several nodding heads . . .  all with a tinge of pink.

p-lichen sign

As we neared the platform overlooking the meadow and brook that flows between Heald and Bradley ponds, a sign of a different kind stood before a tree. Rather than focusing on one species, this one described the different formations of lichens.

p-lichen tree

And on the tree behind it–an example of all three, with several types of crustose (crust-like and look to be painted on), foliose (foliage) like the small ribbon lichen that is bright green and ribbony in the upper right hand corner, and fruiticose (think grape branches) of the beard lichens below the ribbon lichen.

p-lungwort 1

Behind that tree–another featuring lungwort lichen.

p-view to the south

For a few moments, we paused at the platform bench–taking in the sights . . .

p-looking north

and sounds as we wondered what may have passed through.

p-steeplebush

We also noted the difference in structure of the spireas, including steeplebush in bloom  . . .

p-meadowsweet 1

and meadowsweet not yet.

p-swamp candle, aka yellow loosestrife

Swamp candles added a tinge of color to the offerings.

p-blue bead lily1

Back on the trail, we were excited to find the porcelain beads of clintonia, one showing the transformation from green to blue.

p-dew drop 1

Dew drops shone white against their dark heart-shaped leaves covered in rain drops.

p-from the bridge

And further on by the primitive bridges that cross below the beaver pond,

p-tall meadow rue

tall meadow rue flowers presented a daytime fireworks display,

p-otter scat

while otter scat decorated a bridge slat.

p-end sign

We continued along, enjoying the offerings and quizzing ourselves on a variety of species, all the time pausing to read the self-guided tour signs. At last we reached the junction with the trail to Flat Hill and found our way back to the parking lot.

Perky’s Path is maybe a mile long, but it took us 3.5 hours to complete the tour as we poked along–rejoicing with each of our finds.

Nervous Nellie Mondate

Usually my guy asks me to recommend a trail for our Monday hikes. But this weekend he had one in mind. Actually, he wanted to conquer it on Saturday, but I put the kabosh on that plan because of predicted thunderstorms that didn’t develop here. We kayaked instead.

And then I was able to postpone it on Sunday because I thought we should do something more palatable for my left knee as I was recovering from a quirk in it due to training (LOL–two runs but plenty of cross-training activities) before participating in the annual Four on the Fourth Road Race. So yesterday, we drove to Bartlett, New Hampshire, and began our journey on the Langdon Trail with the intention of summiting Mount Langdon. But after meeting one couple on their descent and listening to them talk about the views from Mount Parker, we changed our minds mid-hike and climbed to the summit of the latter. It was a fun hike that at first seemed a wee bit boring (did I write that?) as it followed an old logging trail, but eventually the natural communities began to change and we really enjoyed the climb.

Because we often hike in companionable silence, that climb was filled with voices from so many friends who are currently dealing with a variety of difficulties–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I chatted with them along the way and lifted them on high at the summit–including those who suffer silently. May they all find a moment of peace in their lives.

But, it had to happen eventually and so today dawned. There were no storms on the horizon and after yesterday’s eight-mile climb, my knee felt fine. Darn. I’d run out of excuses. And so this morning I drove us to New Hampshire. At the stoplight in Conway Village, we could see the mountain’s craggy outline contrasted against the blue sky. I wanted to take a photo of a church spire in the foreground and mountain in the back, which seemed apropos for how I was feeling, but a large SUV blocked the total view at the stoplight. We continued on, turning onto the Kancamagus Highway for our trail of choice, for we chose the easy trail. Yeah, right!

c-waterfall 4

Our journey began with some easy hiking through a hemlock grove. I was liking it. We continued upward and at 1.5 miles reached a decision-making spot–turn left onto a loop by the waterfalls or continue straight. I’d read that the waterfall trail could be dangerous and that rescues were sometimes necessary, but agreed to go–stating, of course, that we had the option of backtracking.

c-waterfall 1a

The waterfalls, however, took my breath away–and my fear . . . for the moment.

c-water fall 1

I extended that moment by taking numerous photos in different settings of the same thing.

c-waterfall 2

Up and up we climbed beside them,

c-waterfall 3

and with every step the landscape changed. Watching water flow is like watching the flames in a campfire–each moment a glorious rendition of the same and yet a new statement.

c-wood sorrel

And at the same spot, a surprise–wood sorrel with its delicate candy-stripe petals.

c-waterfall stairs

At last we climbed the staircase to heaven–or at least back to the main trail.

c-ichneumon male

The higher we climbed, the rockier the trail became and so my focus was on the ground under my feet. But . . . a downed tree laden with lichen drew my attention for its beauty. As I looked, I realized something was flying about. In my current damselfly/dragonfly mode, I thought I’d spotted a spread-winged damsel until I took a closer look and realized it was a male ichneumon wasp.

c-ichnueomon wasp female

And in another spot below the downed tree, a female ichneumon, her lower abdomen twisted into a disc. My guy actually came back to watch with me as we saw her body throb–using her antennae, she must have honed in on a horntail wasp grub within the wood. Her intention was to drill and secrete a fluid into the grub and then deposit her eggs, which will eventually hatch and consume the grub. How cool is that?

c-northern bush honeysuckle

The trail became much rockier the further up we climbed. And I continued to look for things I haven’t seen recently, including Northern bush honeysuckle, its flowers still in their yellowish-green hue. Check out its long pistils. She’s a pistil!

c-looking for yellow blazes

A couple of hours later, we reached my moment of fate–when the treeline gave way to open rocks. At first it wasn’t so bad and I thought I could manage it.

c-view from lunch rock

Because the wind was more of an issue in the openness, we decided to find lunch rock before progressing further. The views were breathtaking as we looked toward Kearsarge and even our own Pleasant Mountain.

c-Mount Washington 1

Mount Washington was also part of the backdrop.

c-lichen lunch rock

And right under our butts–I was liken the lichens on lunch rock. I could have spent the rest of the day in their presence. And probably should have.

c-geology folds

But that was not to be. With other travelers on this mountain, we continued the journey from the false summit to the main summit. I tried to be positive as my knees buckled. I knew I wasn’t alone in that feeling as others also commented. But, I tried to stay focused and along the way, I realized I was looking at a fold as I channeled my inner geologist, Denise Bluhm.

c-summit view 1

Hand over hand, we scrambled up.

c-summit view 2

The views were incredible.

c-summit 4

Finding the trail wasn’t always easy and we all let the next know where the yellow blaze might be. Finally, after lots of scrambling, I realized I’d reached my ending point. A mental block flashed in my brain and I could go no further. My guy, however, despite his own fear of heights, wanted to give it a try. While he crawled the last 75 feet to the actual summit, I tucked into the mountain and became a trail guide, telling others where they should go and how to place their feet–like I knew.

c-after the summit

It wasn’t long before he descended–using the crab style that became our means of downward locomotion. We made it back to the treeline by the seat of our pants.

c-luna 1

From there, we were thankful to continue our downward descent. And then, less than a mile from the parking lot, we made a delightful discovery–a luna moth.

c-luna moth1

She seemed to embody our hike–clinging on as best she could. Her wings were a bit ragged and one ribbony tail missing. I too, was a bit ragged from the experience, and later discovered dried blood on my leg from an encounter with a branch. But, I lived. Sadly, she won’t live much longer–her main job to mate and then die.

Despite that, we were thrilled for the sighting. Seeing a luna moth is such a special treat and that fact that we saw it on the Champney Trail of Mount Chocorua even better.

I’ve spent about forty years avoiding that mountain and for good reason. But today, my guy pulled me out of my comfort zone–to a point. My nervous Nellie syndrome was well earned from my mom–Nellie. She, too, however, stepped out of her comfort zone many times and I have her to thank over and over again.