Our journey began with a couple of detours this morning as a friend and I made our way to a particular trailhead in New Hampshire.
First there were the birds along the old course of the Saco River to listen to and welcome home including Red-winged Blackbirds and Canada Geese.
Then there were some friends in New Hampshire to surprise with a quick visit.
Finally, however, we parked on the side of the road knowing that because we couldn’t drive to the trailhead, we’d have to walk along the snowmobile trail all the way in. That was fine with us for as the sign instructed, we took it slow. (And saw only two snowmobiles during the entire journey even though it was a super highway of sorts–apparently that particular season is also slowing down.)
There were artist’s conk fungi to admire for the white pore surface that invites those who sketch to do so.
After that find, we followed raccoon prints until they literally disappeared into midair. Well, maybe up a tree.
In the brook beyond, we found spring whispering her sweet songs as she enticed us with reflections of a season to come.
And then it was more artist’s conks that garnered our attention for their juxtaposition within a hemlock’s hollow center.
They numbered many on the trunk’s outside as well and presented themselves as stepping stones . . . perhaps for a squirrel.
And at least one small rodent had dined, probably on more than one occasion.
We took advantage of the feast as well as we focused our cameras on every possible angle.
Further along, we spent time following bobcat and moose tracks, but each time eventually finding our way back to the trail, where a fungus of another kind begged our attention.
By its youthful presentation, the common name doesn’t always make sense.
But its mature structure certainly does: Red-Belted for the upper surface.
And Polypore for the lower, so named for the many pores on the underside.
Bobcat and moose tracks soon led us to another site where bark had been scaled off a hemlock by either a woodpecker or nuthatch. Their search was for insect larvae. My search was for scat, but I found none and hoped they were more successful.
The cool thing about this if I’m interpreting it correctly, is that I could see lines where the bird’s beak had worked hard to remove each bark scale.
Behind the tree, those moose tracks I spoke of again captured our focus.
And we noted where it had browsed upon the buds of a maple. It appeared that the large mammal’s spit had frozen after it used its lower incisors to rip the buds off the tip of a twig and even left a “flag,” but really, it was probably a bit of sap. Still, I love the thought of the animal’s spit left behind.
Three hours later, and more than four miles for so wandering was our manner, we reached the trailhead we sought.
Because we’d gone slow as the sign early on had encouraged us, we tried to beeline to reach a certain pond before the sun set. Thankfully, as we approached the pond at last, another sign again encouraged us to go forth slowly. And so we did.
And we were rewarded–with a bluebird sky and view of Mount Shaw and the pond. For a few moments we stood still and took in the scene and wondered. And wanted to cross, but knew conditions might not be as pristine as they looked. It would be a long way out with wet feet.
Beside us was the dam and outlet.
It formed the headwaters for a brook bearing the pond’s name, which flows beside our friends’ home.
As we hiked back down the trail, we again beelined, but occasionally gave ourselves permission to pause. Sometimes it was to enjoy the little things such as Hobblebush flower and leaf buds readying for a future display.
Other times it was to listen: to the birds; but also to the million wild animals we swore we heard, and sometimes even sniffed, but never actually spied. They were there. We were certain of that.
As long shadows cast across our path, we made our way back, and then deviated a bit from our journey in, heading out to the paved road in a more direct line than we’d started. Pam suggested we might see other things.
She was correct. Back on the pavement, we had to walk a wee bit up South Chatham Road to my truck for we’d gone in via Week’s Brook Trail and then crossed over to Peaked Hill Road via the snowmobile trail and totally missed this sign.
Chat-HAM as it’s pronounced for H-A-M spells ham, is the site of Province Brook and Pond, and the Province Brook Trail. It’s also a mighty proud town–with a population of 300.
The sign made us smile and we gave great thanks for taking the time to read it and for the opportunity to travel over nine miles in this wee province of New Hampshire.
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you: Maine that is. And more specifically, its state parks. To that end, my guy and I have been traveling at a snail’s pace since we began this journey a year ago,. In 2019, we checked two off the list. But today . . . the number finally more than doubled.
Our journey began with lunch at Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth. Shout out to several local businesses and friends: Pam and Justin Ward of Bridgton Books for the book bag in which we packed today’s picnic, Sierra Sunshine Simpson for the bee’s wax wrap that kept our sandwiches fresh, Fly Away Farm for the sourdough wheat bread and grape jam that enhanced our Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, and my sister for the chocolate-covered McVitie’s digestive biscuits that rounded out the meal.
Lunch completed, we began to look around and right beside the picnic table grew ever-hairy Staghorn Sumac twigs with heart-shaped leaf scars surrounding new buds. What’s not to love?
At last we headed off onto the trails. Do you see what I see? Or rather, do you not see what I don’t see? Snow. Back home, it’s quite deep, but along the coast, it seemed to be non-existent.
Eventually the trail led to the Atlantic Ocean and the infamous rocky coast of Maine. It’s really my mom’s rocky coast of Maine for she was always in search of such. Having grown up in Connecticut like she did, I understand her fascination.
My limited understanding of geological folds created by heat and pressure during the mountain-building process was enhanced by crashing waves.
Within the complexity of the geological formations was another with its own history written throughout its structure.
Sunburst lichen, foliose to umbilicate, spreading extensively, yet loosely attached, smooth to somewhat wrinkled, featured a complex organism that arose from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of fungi in a mutualistic relationship that included yeast in the mix. How’s that for a simple life form?
Step by step, one amazing feature after another made itself known, including a quartz vein cutting a quartzite bed.
Eventually we came a rock that could have been a sculpture of a bald eagle. Or perhaps a story written that still needed to be deciphered.
We continued to walk along the edge, enjoying the action of the waves as juxtaposed beside the prehistoric rocks. Part of the splendor, in fact, a major part, included the color. Our western Maine eyes don’t mind the blues and browns and greens and whites of winter, but beheld the beauty and bounty that was the splendor of this winter day.
We stood in wonder as the waves moved in, met the rock with splashes high and lo, and then retreated.
At last we walked higher ground, but still noted buckets of wonder as waves interacted with rocks to the southwest.
Beside the well-worn path we walked, others who have known this way from one generation to the next offered their winter forms, such as this Queen Anne’s Lace.
The woody form of Evening Primrose also greeted us in the midday midst.
Bulbous and colorful, yet equally full of flavor (so noted in days of yore by my father) and vitamins , rose hips offered their own take of winter.
I soon learned as we stepped away from the coastline that we weren’t the only soles who wandered the area. A vole had traveled in the subnivean layer between the ground’s surface and snow that had been–leaving its telltale tunnel.
After we circled about the edge of the 41-acre property, we headed “inland” toward the reason for its special upkeep as a state park. Once upon a time this had been a prime piece of land that offered a protective layer to Portland’s port. While a battery had been constructed, with clear points of view and contact, as well as enemy protection, no guns had ever been fired.
About a tenth or two down the road, a mini harbor provides protection for any who travel the fingered coast of Maine.
Because it offered smaller rocks among its mix, I asked my guy to look for hearts. Seek and ye shall find.
Seaweed and seashells added to the array and provided another colorful hue to this mid-winter day.
Across the harbor from our stance stood one of the two former lighthouses for which the area was known.
No longer in use, its light warned ocean farers of the rocky coast. Life has changed since its day of service, but as we stood nearby we could hear the toll of its well-revered friend, a bell buoy.
In the opposite direction of the lighthouse, the folded rocks bespoke their ancient form.
Beside such, we could feel the bend and imagine the creation.
Stepping atop, we looked back and took in the landscape.
And then we moved on, stepping out toward a beach whose shape rendered its name.
Walking upon its much softer coastal offering, we noted artistic “trees” that appeared to be deer hiding in the sandy forest.
And then there was the moss-colored seaweed making us think of the Emerald Isle miles and miles beyond.
After crossing from the seaweed-covered rocks to an upland piece, we then stepped down toward the water again where red sand greeted us and if your imagination is in as full gear as ours was, you may see a heart within the sandy artwork.
In places where water flowed over rock faces, we rejoiced in the interface of ripples upon ridges.
Up close and beyond, the scenery and the scents filled the innermost recesses of our souls.
And the artwork of those who had come before touched our whimsical sides.
After we’d reached the southwestern edge and turned back, the reason for this state park’s name became most obvious: Crescent Beach.
Walking back, we continued our quest for the shape of a heart. I found one in the suds of the retreating tide.
At exactly the same moment, my guy found one in a more rounded form among the stone offerings.
And then a gull captured our attention. He appeared to have found a hamburger roll upon which to dine.
For a few minutes he played with his meal, perhaps softening its texture in the low water.
When he finally did partake of his meal, he swallowed it all in one piece and if you look carefully at his neck, you may see the bulge on its way down.
Our third and final park of the day, for so are they closely located along the roads of Cape Elizabeth here in Maine, was Kettle Cove. Of course, it’s located between the other two, but we saved it for last.
On another day we’ll revisit it and take a look at the tidal pools that it offers, but the sun was growing low in the sky when we arrived and so our journey was on the rather quick side and didn’t do it the true honor it should receive.
In the end, however, we were thrilled with the opportunity to explore three state parks in our quest to get to know Maine better. Today’s LOVE ME, love me tour included Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, and Kettle Cove State Park–three gems in a row.
My hostess wasn’t home when I ventured upon her land today, but I went with her blessings. And in return was blessed.
I’d barely stepped into the woods when a female pileated woodpecker called for attention as she tapped with intention and sloughed off pieces of bark in a quest for insects.
My own quest was to check on beaver activity, for I’ve traveled this land before and knew their previous hangouts, but . . . by the level of water behind the first dam the water was a wee bit low and I sensed no one was at home nearby.
Just below the dam, a tall sculpture created last year indicated that we grow ’em big in these parts. Beavers, that is. But really, last winter the water was higher and so was the snow, so it wasn’t a super hero beaver after all who had gnawed and shouted, “Timber.”
A wee bit downstream stood dam number 2, also not in current use. But . . .
By the path through broken ice, I suspected that an otter had checked out the scene rather recently.
Perhaps he had high hopes of finding someone at home. When I knocked, no one answered.
Dam number 3 was also defunct and I began to wonder if there were any beavers in the neighborhood.
And then . . . and then I spotted a tell-tale sign: fresh incisor marks on a single tree. Do you notice how they are oriented left to right? A beaver must turn its head to the side in order to scrap the tree trunk and reach the inner bark with its upper and lower incisors.
Beyond the new works, were plenty of old, the shades of the wood telling the story of years of activity.
And on some trees, new met old, adding more colors and designs to the art work.
An old lodge stood in the middle of the wetland that was fed by a brook and stream, where ice sealed the world above from the world below.
A closer look at the lodge revealed that it had been compromised, and the memory of an exploration last winter reminded me that a predator had been attracted to it but didn’t seem to find anyone at home. Today, it seemed, the house was still an empty chamber.
As I continued along the edge of the wetland, I found one tree where a beaver merely took a quick taste and perhaps didn’t find it to his liking. Or . . . a predator happened along and he skedaddled back through the icy water to the safety of home.
It became apparent that someone was indeed home, just not in the first lodge. And by the color of the wood, the logging operation had occurred rather recently.
Wood chips on the ice added to the assumption that this was a recent harvest and if you look beyond, you’ll see two dome-shaped lodges in the offing.
From the shore, both looked well mudded, like we might add insulation and Typar to our homes to keep winter temperatures at bay. This technique also makes it resistant to attack from predators. What it doesn’t keep out is other undesirable visitors often in the form of hordes of insects.
The closest lodge was rather skyscraper in height and I began to wonder, was it the living room and the shorter one perhaps the kitchen? Did you know that beavers heap sticks until they are well above water and then gnaw their way up into the structure to create a chamber?
Much of the color surrounding the houses and throughout the wetland was provided courtesy of leatherleaf and its upright leaves and future flowers stored within the tiny buds.
Not far downstream from the two lodges, an infinity pool any homeowner might die for gave proof that someone was indeed home. Keeping the water high is important for beaver survival since they need to access their food supply of munch sticks stored underwater near the lodge and come and go from said homestead via a secret entryway. Secret to us and most of their predators, that is. Water snakes came find them in season. And otters can find them at any time, especially when the possibility of enjoying a meal of a young one seems a possibility.
Below dam number 4 water rushed and ice formed.
Dam number 5 was along a different stream, and though it hasn’t been in use for several years, its structure is worth honoring.
The meadow above invites others to take advantage and in the spring muskrats and wood ducks were seen in this place.
That’s the thing about beavers; they create wetlands that create habitats for others to enjoy, such as the deer that left behind some rubs on trees by dam number 1. From the raggedness at both ends of the rub and smooth wood between, I knew a buck had roamed this land and rubbed his antlers, leaving an inviting scent for a doe to notice.
And a chipmunk hole surrounded by hoar frost indicated someone was eating and breathing within.
But . . . not all chipmunks have decided to retreat to their underground homes just yet. The funny thing about a chipmunk is that it can pose as still as possible for minutes on end so a predator won’t spy it, but the minute it decides to move, it chirps. Why is that?
Certainly, it seems, it sends out a message to others like the bobcat who left behind a print or two or three on several patches of snow.
I traveled this land today because of the generosity of my hostess and so for her I found a bunch of fungi and decided to honor her with a false tinderconk as my way of giving thanks for letting me trespass almost anytime I want.
I’d gone to check on the beavers and was pleased with the discoveries I made for I know where they are and aren’t active. And I’ll return because those five dams and four lodges are only a taste of what her land has to offer.
But, it was the ice that once again stopped me in my tracks. Like the water it forms from, I’m always awed by the artwork created, in this case chandeliers dangled.
Seriously. Seriously, my heart stopped when I found a three-dimensional heart sticking up from a rock. Seriously.
My favorite find of all though, was a reflection of my face as I rejoiced in the unexpected.
This next month I hope you’ll make time to do the same.
It was just after noon when my guy and I parked on Knapp Road to complete trail work along the Southern Shore Trail of Lakes Environmental Association’s Holt Pond Preserve. We should have completed such sooner, but prided ourselves on waiting until after last week’s Nor’easter because there were many trees and branches that needed attention.
Some were too big for us, but we did the best we could to make the trail enjoyable for all. And then, even though we’d completed our section, we continued the journey along the 5.3-mile trail, clearing as we went.
It was while in a sunny spot that I did the “I swear I’ll never do this” task–I took a selfie featuring me and my dragonfly pennant. It was my happy moment.
Another happy moment occurred once we’d circled around to Chaplin’s Mill Road and then down through the Emerald Field via the Muddy River Trail.
Beside the river I spied the makings of a fresh beaver mound, where bottom muck and leaves had been piled up and a certain scent, almost vanilla in odor, deposited.
Last April, LEA Education Director Alanna Doughty and I had discovered tons of beaver action in this area and the tree beside the water on the left-hand side still stands as a monument.
Other monuments included three to four-foot gnawed stumps scattered throughout the area that served as reminders of last year’s snow depth. Either that, or the beavers stand as tall as deer in these here woods.
This is an area that the giant rodents have known for many moons as evidenced by hemlocks they chose to girdle in hopes their least favorite trees might fall. Instead, the trees tried to heal their wounds and show the beavers who is boss of this territory.
All along the river, water flowed over beaver dams, much the same way it would have flowed over a mill dam in a different era and we loved the juxtaposition of man and nature. Or was it nature and man?
Onto the boardwalk system and through the Red Maple Swamp did we trek, and of course I stopped beside the Pitcher Plants because . . . just because. But notice the water. So, we’ve had a lot of rain, but also we suspected the beavers had something to do with the high level.
Out of curiosity, we stepped onto the boardwalk out to the Muddy River to check on some beaver lodges.
And there just happened to be an Autumn Meadowhawk upon the wood. I wasn’t sure it was alive, for it didn’t move as we stepped past it.
We made it almost to the end of the boardwalk, but eventually it dipped under water and so we stood still and gazed toward the lodges. Can you see them? 😉
Like a duplex, they were joined. But what was the best news was the sight of new branches and some insulation that had been added . . . in the form of mud. Though we hadn’t seen any new beaver works, we suspected that somewhere in this waterbody a beaver or two or family had been active.
Returning to the Hemlock Grove behind the boardwalk, I stopped to check out the dragonfly and it moved a foreleg as I watched–a sure sign of life.
And so, I did what I love to do, stuck my finger in front of it, and upon did it crawl. My heart stopped beating.
My guy had gone before, so he missed this opportunity. But chatting to it quietly, my dragonfly and I moved from the boardwalk to the much darker Hemlock Grove. He seemed not to mind, but did move about a bit on my finger and I wondered if the much cooler and darker grove might not be to his liking. Despite my concern, he stayed with me and I introduced him to my guy, who questioned the fact that I was talking to a dragonfly. And then he chuckled, “Of course you are.” I guess he knows me.
We followed him onto the next section of boardwalks that passes through the second section of the Red Maple Swamp. All along the way, I murmured sweet nothings and my little friend took in the scene. But . . . when we reached the next Hemlock Grove, he flew off. I couldn’t say I blamed him for it was much cooler and darker than the first.
By that point, my guy and I were by the Quaking Bog, so out to Holt Pond did we venture. And . . . I spotted more dragonflies to meet.
A few of his relatives were also in their meet and greet tandem form. Had they just canoodled and dropped eggs into the water or was she playing coy?
I don’t know the answer to that, but my new friend liked the view of the pond.
And then he began to do something that it took me a few minutes to understand. Notice how his wings are down.
And then hind up, forewings down.
Fluttering, they moved rather like a windmill, but never did he take off.
The speed increased.
And I finally realized he was just trying to stay warm in the cooler air by the pond. Wing-whirring they call it. Like turtles, dragonflies are cold-blooded or ectothermic. They can’t regulate their body temperature and must depend on sunlight and ambient air temperature for warmth, which is why we encounter them along the sunny spots on the trail. My little friend was trying to warm up by vibrating his wings. Knowing his need for sunlight, just before we returned to the dark grove, I left him upon a shrub leaf.
Oh, and the beavers, we never did see them, but finally, as we approached Holt Pond from Grist Mill Road, we found fresh beaver works. They’re out there somewhere and I can’t wait to see what they do next. I’m excited to know that I’ll have their antics to watch in the upcoming months for I suspect that my dragonfly days are about to draw to a close.
But today was most definitely a Meadowhawk Dragonfly Mondate and I gave thanks for the opportunity to travel with my guy and this guy, and one or two of his relatives.
My friend, Marita, joined me today for a walk along the trails at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge on Farrington Pond Road.
Though we moved rather quickly, frequently picking up sticks and branches that had fallen as a result of last week’s nor’easter (Marita deserves trail crew credit), we did stop occasionally to appreciate the world around us. Our first point of wonder occurred when she noted a burl of sorts on a beech tree. A closer look and we spotted shiny black spots that turned out to be five or six black ladybird beetles, their red spots offering a contrast. I’ve since learned they are Twice-stabbed Ladybeetle bugs, and beneficial as they feed on scale insects, aphids, and mealybugs, including Beech Scale Insects.
Maple-leaf Viburnum, still holding onto its leaves and fruits called our attention next. Only last week, we were finding its magenta fall coloration decorating the woods, but when the calendar turned to November, it seemed the world transformed and took on its late autumn look.
Via a spur not marked, we ventured forth and stood in admiration of the colors before us as we looked out toward the Lower Bay of Kezar Lake.
And then we looked in the opposite direction and embraced the view toward the north where hills formed the backdrop . . .
and found their reflection in beaver lodges. Though we never saw any sign of recent beaver works, it appeared that at least one of the lodges was being mudded for winter, a beaver’s form of insulating the house.
Our route back to the trail was circuitous for I wanted to show her the Pitcher Plants that grow in the edge between the land and water.
No matter how many times I see this plant’s urn-shaped leaf, I am in awe and today was no exception. The hairs on the leaf’s “landing pad” stood out on a younger version as well as its aging elder.
We weren’t the only ones curious about the plant for the snow fleas, aka spring tails, had also discovered it. And it them. How many snow fleas does it take to create a meal? Many I would think given their teeny tiny size, but . . . many found their way down the hairs and into the plant’s digestive fluid.
Back on the green-blazed trail we finally continued, and a display of mushrooms begged for a Kodak moment. As I often do with mushrooms, I’m going out on a limb and calling these Late Fall Oysters (Panellus serotinus), which aren’t oysters at all but the rippled edge did remind me of the shells I used to pick up as a kid. What really sang out about this moment though was the fact that the fungus grew on a beech tree and the husk of a beech nut had stabbed into the fruit, giving the entire display a layered cake look with a candle on top.
We also discovered a Red-belted Polypore, Fomitopsis pinicola if I’m correct, the size of a dinner plate.
Onward, we swished the dried leaves, hit a few mucky spots, and continued to pick up sticks. At last we reached a second scenic view that again provided colors demarking this month.
All along we’d tramped beside Sucker Brook, though we couldn’t always see it. But that’s what made the scenic views even more spectacular.
Our journey was quick and we covered over two miles and followed the blue-blazed trail back, but it was the waypoint that I marked at Marita’s suggestion, which was our final find of the day.
Well, really, it was her final find for I made her hunt for it. I gave her a general area to scan and after a few moments of looking, we turned it into a hot/cold game. At last her eyes cued in on the bear claw marks upon a beech tree.
You, too, may spy some of the same for next Sunday the GLLT will host a walk at John A. Segur East (as we refer to this part of the wildlife refuge). We’re offering something a bit different for this hike.
November 10 12:30 - 3:00 pm Sunday Beside Sucker Brook Let's get a head start on Thanksgiving, and journey the trail at John A. Segur East where we'll take in the afternoon views of Sucker Brook, its plants in their winter forms, beaver lodges, and mountain vistas. In honor of the upcoming holiday, we'll think of our neighbors as we gather. Please bring one or more items to give to the Sweden Food Pantry, which serves the towns of Sweden, Lovell, Fryeburg, Stow, Stoneham, Waterford and Bridgton. Popular Items: Tuna Fish Peanut Butter and Jam Hearty Soups like Progresso Staples other than pasta Gluten Free items Canned Beans (NOT vegetarian) and Canned Beets Personal Hygiene Products Also: Be thinking about something or someone for which you'd like to offer up thanks, either silently or verbally. Location: John A. Segur East, Farrington Pond Road, off Timber Shores Road, Lovell Degree of Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
I hope you’ll join us for something special beside Sucker Brook.