A Beautiful Gray Day

Today dawned sunny with a bright blue sky. A perfect day to travel the trail with Marita.

g1-burl

We wondered what we’d see and didn’t go far before spying a bear hiding behind a tree. Marita was happy to pose beside it in hopes of coaxing the critter to join her in smiling for the camera. Actually, it was the largest burl either of us could remember encountering.

g2-rock castle

After the bear burl, we discovered a rock castle that made us think of kids for we knew that when ours were youngsters they would have loved climbing the towers and hiding in secret cubbies.

g3-morgan meadow 1

But one of our favorite finds on this particular trail was the wetland.

g4-MM 2

A thin layer of ice reflected the changing sky above . . .

g5-MM3

until both were completely gray–but still rich in offerings from color to texture, and we imagined, wildlife.

g6-red maple roots

Beside the water, a red maple offered its own point of interest–and truly, I suspected the fairies lived within.

g7-water feather 1

And then, in another place we found another work of art. While Marita saw a fish, I saw a feather.

g8-water feather 2

From any point of view, we stood in awe.

g9-water feather 3

Such a design of bubbles all because a rock interrupted the flow.

g10-squirrel cache

Red squirrel caches and . . .

g11-squirrel table

dining tables also caught our attention. We heard a few chit and chat at us, but never saw them. Our only wildlife sightings were about a dozen turkeys and a hawk that surprised us.

g11-winterberry

We tramped miles and miles, but only found one spot of truly bright colors as we admired red winterberries juxtaposed behind bent over cattails.

g13-Libby Foundation

And in all our travels, we only found one foundation, where we admired the paper birch that represented the family tree.

g14-mm fav

At the end of the day, we’d walked miles along a variety of trails on a day that began with  blue skies, but ended with gray. Our favorite sight of all remained the first wetland.

In the end, it was a beautiful day in Gray, Maine.

 

 

 

 

 

Poking Along Beside Stevens Brook

Raincoat? √

Notecards? √

Camera? √

Alanna Doughty? √

This morning I donned my raincoat, slipped my camera strap over my head, and met up with LEA’s Education Director Alanna Doughty for our reconnaissance mission along Stevens Brook in downtown Bridgton. Our plan was to refresh our memories about the mill sites long ago identified and used beside the brook.

Lakes Environmental Association maintains a trail from Highland Lake to Long Lake, which follows Stevens Brook’s twists and turns and passes by twelve power sites originally surveyed by Jacob Stevens in 1766.

s1-5th power site 1

We skipped the first mile of the trail and slipped onto it from the Route 302 entrance by the Black Horse Tavern, knowing that that will be our entry point for a walk we’ll lead with Bridgton Historical Society‘s Executive Director Ned Allen later this month. Alanna suggested I not pull out my notecards, and rather rely on my memory. Oh my.

As we made our way past the old trestle that once carried coal from the Narrow Gauge railroad to the Pondicherry Woolen Mill at the fourth power site (the other three are located between Highland Lake and the 302/117 intersection), we recalled that the now deceased Reg Fadden used to claim he knew the color of dye because as he walked to school each day he noted the color of the water. Scary thought.

At the fifth power site, we went off trail to look around a bit. The water flowed over the rocks with such force that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other.

s2-5th site-Narrow Gauge trestle bridge

Before us was another former trestle spot–this one being part of the track that carried the train across the brook and on toward Harrison as part of a spur from the main line.

s3-5th site, nurse log

In front of it, large trees placed years ago to prevent anyone from crossing the now gone trestle, served as a nursery to many species. But it wasn’t just what grew there that gave us pause–it was also the textures and lines that seemed to reflect the water below.

s-poison ivy 1

As we walked, we looked at the lay of the land and wondered about mill ponds and berms. We also noted the one plant we wanted to avoid–poison ivy.

s-poison ivy 2

It grows in various forms, but the safe thing to know is that the two opposite leaves have short petioles that attach to the main stem, while the third and leading leaf has a longer petiole. As the saying goes, “Leaves of three, leave them be.”

s7-6th site water power

Site number six is one that we’re not sure we’ll share on our public walk. It’s a wee bit of a challenge to get to and was apparently never developed–though we did note the drop and some stonework on the far bank.

s8-blue-stemmed goldenrod 1

Before we stepped onto Smith Avenue for the next site, a goldenrod shouted for attention. We tried to figure out how many rays it had, but as it turns out, that number can vary from three to five. The flowerhead formed a ladder that climbed up the stem and this is one that we should recognize going forth for its display struck us as being different than other goldenrods. We’ll see if we actually do remember it the next time we meet.

s9-7th site, Lower Johnson Falls 1

As is often the case, it took us about an hour to walk a half mile. At last we emerged onto Smith Ave, by Lower Johnson Falls. The curious thing would be to note which was faster–the water or us. I have a feeling the water might win, but perhaps another time we should test that theory.

s11-coffin shop

For a few minutes we watched and listened and took in the view of the only mill still standing. I suspect this building was constructed in the 1860s as a sash and blind factory. Eventually it became the coffin shop, where Lewis Smith, the town’s first undertaker, built furniture and coffins.

s13-8th site, sluiceway different view

For about a tenth of a mile we walked down Kansas Road and then slipped into the woods again. I think this site is my favorite–site 8 and former home of the Forest Woolen Mill. There were actually two Forest Mills, one on either side of the road and connected by an overhead walkway.

s15-8th site, sluice way from above 2

Today it was the sluiceway that drew most of our attention. First we looked down.

s12-8th site, sluiceway1

And then we climbed down–paying attention to stones, bricks, cement and rebar, all necessary to build a foundation that still stands today.

s17-piece dangling

Well, most of it still stands. We were awed by a piece that appeared to dangle at the edge of the sluiceway.

s16-tree root in sluiceway

And a root that wound its way around the same cement stanchion . . .

s14-hemlock atop cement

which happened to provide the perfect growing conditions for a hemlock.

s18-false Solomon's-seal berries

Crossing Kansas Road again, we ventured on. In a section under the current power lines we found flowers a many. The fruits of the false Solomon’s-seal looked like miniature strawberry and cherry-vanilla candies.

s19-winterberries

As we stepped onto a boardwalk across a wet area, winterberries glowed red and reminded us that the cold season isn’t all that far off.

s20-virgin's bower fruit, feathery plumes

It was there that we spied the feathery-fruited plumes of virgin’s bower,

s21-red-stemmed dogwood

red-osier dogwood berries,

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and cat-in-nine-tails.

s22-cardinal flower

But our favorites: a cardinal flower still in bloom and . . .

s23-Northern beggar-ticks

northern beggars-tick.

s28-10th site, CMP above

We passed by the tenth power site, knowing we’d return to it on our way back. Instead, we stood below and looked up at the water flowing over the improved dam.

s27-water below 10th site

It was in this section that the brook dropped 25-30 feet and created the greatest power at one time. It was also here that the eleventh site was located and where a penstock once provided a way to get water to a powerhouse in order to furnish local homes with electricity.

s31-Alanna laughing by skunk cabbage

For us, it was a place to make more discoveries and share a laugh as we looked at the huge leaves of skunk cabbage.

s32-first witch hazel bloom

We also spied the first witch hazel flower of the season . . .

s33-maple-leaf viburnum

and a maple-leaved viburnum showing off its subtle fall colors.

s34-milkweed pods

In a spot just above the Central Maine Power substation, we found a garden of wildflowers including milkweed seed pods and . . .

s37-New England aster 2

New England asters offering a deep shade of purple.

s27-chicken of the woods

We also found some chicken of the woods.

s38-honey mushrooms?

And fruiting on the same stump, what I think was honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea). I know a few fungi experts who occasionally read this, so I know they’ll correct me if I’m wrong with my ID.

s39-Stevens Brook outlet into Long Lake

The second half mile took us just as long as the first, and at last we reached the outlet into Long Lake.

s40-10th site, CMP dam

And then we made our way back, crossing over the bridge at power site 10, which was possibly the spot where Jacob Stevens, for whom the brook was named, built the first sawmill in 1768. We do know that in 1896, the Bridgton Water and Electric Company acquired the site and improved the dam. Eventually it passed on to the Western Maine Power Company and then Central Maine Power. In 1955, it was transferred to the Bridgton Water District. Through all the time, we could only imagine how the reflections changed.

s42-milkweed tussock moth caterpillar

To save time, we decided to walk along Lower Main Street as we made our way back. And to that end, our discoveries continued, for on a milkweed, Alanna first saw the chewed leaf and knew to look for the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar that was filling its belly.

s43-common snowberry

We also saw what I’ve always referred to as popcorn shrub because it reminds me of such, especially when I’m hungry for lunch. But really, it’s common snowberry. And not edible.

s46-northern white cedar bark

And then we found a tree that I didn’t know grew there–and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run or walked by it: a northern white cedar with its scraggly striped bark.

s44-Northern white cedar 1

As much as the bark, I like the overlapping scale-like blue-green leaves.

All in all, our one mile journey took us just over two hours and we did recall some of the info about the mills without referring to my notecards. But what was even more fun was our wonder and awe as we made new discoveries while poking along beside Stevens Brook.

If you care to join us, the talk by historian Sue Black will be on Wed, September 27 from 5-7pm at LEA’s Maine Lake Science Center and the walk will be the next morning from 9-11. We’ll meet at Bridgton Historical Society on Gibbs Avenue for that. Be sure to register for either or both by contacting Alanna at the following address: alanna@leamaine.org.

 

Sprinting up Mount Tom

With the Four on the Fourth Road Race only five days away, my friend Marita Wiser and I are in training. Perhaps a more apt description would be cross-training, for our actual time spent running has been sporadic, but we’ve both been on hikes that we’re sure will give us an upper edge. Look for us to cross the finish line in record time on Tuesday–or not.

To that end, this morning we climbed Mount Tom–with a desire to see what the new West Ridge Trail had to offer in a different season. In the past year, she and I hiked it in October, while my guy and I snowshoed up the trail in February. And so, Marita did what I like best because we wanted to make a loop–she parked at the base of the original trail about 2.3 miles in on Menotomy Road and we walked 1.4 miles down the road to the new trailhead.

t-Mount Tom Preserve sign

The last time I visited, the snow was deep and up to the base of the preserve sign. Today, a red maple sapling claimed that spot.

t-bristly sasparilla 2

Next to it grew a bristly sarsaparilla, its rounded umbels standing tall above the leaves.

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As we stood there and applied some bug dope, a hoverfly, an important pollinator, worked its magic on the flowers.

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And then we stepped onto the trail and were immediately reminded of the past by a relic someone left on a rock.

t-homestead foundation

The homestead, possibly that of A.H. Evans, is located within feet of the trail’s head. And it appears that if this did belong to A.H., he was the head of a large family for it’s a huge foundation.

t-center chimney

Equally large was the center chimney.

t-outbuildings and barn

And based on the configuration of rocks and boulders we stepped over as we turned left between the house, outbuildings and barn, all were once attached.

t-barn

The barn foundation was also impressive and we could sense the work that went into such a creation. Among all the buildings were some recovered artifacts and I’ve a feeling I know who unearthed them. I love to see these relics, but hope that others won’t continue to follow suit and look for them. Or take them. Okay–that’s my salt box speech for today.

Again, assuming all of this belonged to A.H., I did discover a 1916 document that suggested he grew rutabagas: “A. H. Evans, Fryeburg, raised 90 bushels rutabagas in 1-8 of an acre.”

t-old pine 2

We followed the white-blaze trail, which was fairly well defined, and passed through a mixed forest, where at least one old white pine spoke to the history of this land, for it obviously once stood in an opening allowing it to stretch its arms and perhaps provide shade for farm animals.

t-ledges 1

One of my other favorite features of the West Ridge Trail, besides the foundations, are the ledges that stand as tall rock gardens.

t-ledges 2

Some were even terraced and though we didn’t pause to look for evidence today, we got the sense of where the house and barn foundation stones were found.

t-wild sarsapirilla plant

As we continued to climb (and sweat for it was a bit of a cardio workout–and humid), a couple of woodland plants stood out, including the wild sarsaparilla, which had flowered  in the spring. It was fun to note the difference between the bristly and wild–for the former flowers now with those umbels above the leaves, while the flowers of the latter developed below its leaves.

t-wild sarsa fruits 2

The wild sarsaparilla flowers have since turned to green fruits, which in time will ripen to a reddish-purple display. They were rather like mini green pumpkins in fireworks formation, a description conceived due to the pending holiday.

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Another offering was the bluish-green fronds of a marginal wood fern.

t-marginal wood fern 1

A bent frond on one showed off the round sori located near the margins.

t-summit 1

After about an hour and a half, which included our walk down the road to the trailhead and then up the trail, we reached the summit. In the fall and winter, Pleasant Mountain had been plainly visible in the background, but today we had to peek through leaves to see it.

t-new oak leaves

As we peeked, Marita asked about the red leaves on an oak–fall couldn’t be on the horizon already, could it? I shared one theory with her, but after a wee bit of research discovered there may be a second–and possibly more.

The leaves were young and the red may act as a sunscreen, protecting them until photosynthesis takes place when they are fully developed.

The other thought is that the red may serve as a warning sign to mammals that the leaves contain chemicals that will taste bad, thus preventing them from being eaten.

Other theories?

t-spotted st johnswort 2

Our summit stay wasn’t long, but long enough to enjoy the bushy stamen of spotted St. Johnswort.

t-pink corydalis 1

And the daintiness of pink corydalis.

t-hiking down the old trail

And then we followed the old trail down, through the hemlock grove and onto the logging road, which had grown in so much that it made us wonder if The Nature Conservancy wants to discourage its use. The thought of ticks crossed our minds, but she sported her treated tick gators and I used Repel®. Both worked for us, though I do want to get a pair of gators. I’m taking recommendations for brand.

t-Mt Tom cabin sign 2

Just before the end of the trail, we once again paused by the Mt. Tom Cabin, the real deal for a 19th century “camp” experience, but with a few added amenities including electricity. I like it for its structure, views and Northern white cedar.

t-Mt Tom cabin pond

Across the field, Old Glory blew in the breeze and reminded us of our need to “train.”

Our hike to the summit–it was as quick as we could make it, even with me taking a few pics, for the mosquitoes were thick. But–thanks to those very mosquitoes, we sprinted up Mount Tom in honor of our training regime.

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Tom Revisited

As we tried to figure out where we’d hike today, we decided a familiar route would suit us and I was pleased when my guy suggested Mount Tom in Fryeburg. It’s an old favorite that has improved with age since The Nature Conservancy added a new trail recently. This property was important to them because the Saco River flows below.

I’d first explored the new trail with Marita Wiser, author of HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, in October and then with my guy a short time later.

m1-cemetery-buried

Today, we decided to park our truck across from the old trailhead and walk down Menotomy Road so we wouldn’t have that trudge after our hike. I wish the trail was a loop, but it can’t be and so we made our own. The snowstorms of the last two weeks had buried the cemetery entrance and only a couple of headstones poked out.

m2-preserve-sign

One and a half miles later, we climbed over the snowbank at the trailhead and strapped on our snowshoes.

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We were thankful that someone or two or three had packed the trail before us.

m4-center-chimney

Just after stepping onto the West Ridge Trail, we passed between a house and barn foundation. All that was visible–the center chimney’s supporting structure, which probably dates back to the 1800s. Perhaps the original homesteaders were buried in the cemetery.

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At first the tromp was easy because it passes gently across the terrain and so I had time to look around. Fresh tinder conks growing on paper birch trees pleased my eye.

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I love their colors, which reminded me of oyster shells I’d spent a childhood collecting.

m8-erratics

A few minutes later I spied a house I hadn’t noticed in the fall. My guy looked over and told me it wasn’t a house at all.

m9-erratics-2

He was right, of course. Two large boulders, erratics dropped by the glaciers that formed Mount Tom, a Roche Moutonnée, stood out because of their snow covered tops. We didn’t move closer, but I’ve a feeling they provided homes for mosses and ferns and other assorted flora and perhaps even wildlife. So maybe I was also correct.

m10-summit-in-distance

After crossing the snowmobile trail that passes through the preserve, we continued on through the hardwood forest and started climbing up and sometimes down. Through the trees we spied the summit, but still had a ways to go.

m11-white-oak-bark

One of my favorite trees grows in this forest–white oak. And though it’s not common in the woods I normally traverse, I’m learning to identify it by the plated blocks of its bark.

m12-white-oak-leaf

It helps, of course, when the round-lobed leaves are found nearby.

m13-ledges

At last we reached the ledges, where I’d hoped to see bobcat sign. We did see porcupine evidence, but the snow was soft and tracks almost indecipherable.

m14-pileated-pile

We also found plenty of signs of another frequent visitor. But with that–a major disappointment. I’m sorry to report that I didn’t find any pileated woodpecker scat today.

m16-squirell-works

Across the trail from the pileated debris, the work of a gray squirrel. Dinner required toil–it had dug a hole that looked to be about three feet deep. How do they know where to find those acorns they cached last fall? I’m always in wonder of such digs. And those that they don’t find become trees. It’s all good.

m17-tree-welcome

I probably wouldn’t have missed this tree, but my guy wanted to make sure I saw it. He spread his arms in the same manner and felt it was welcoming us to the ridge. Indeed.

m18-downy-feather

Nearby, someone else was welcomed–and I’m not referring to the acorn. Yes, that provided a squirrel meal, but scattered feathers indicated a downy woodpecker met its demise. And a predator dined.

m19-burl-revealed

We were almost to the summit when a burl revealed some of its inner beauty–the bark having fallen off. Grains once straight twisted and contorted thanks to a virus or fungus or some other means. I loved the swirl of lines, some thin and squiggly.

m20-summit-view

And then the beauty of the view greeted us–Pleasant Mountain in the distance and the Saco River valley below. We met a young family at the summit and thanked them for paving the way. They’d never climbed here before and asked about the old trail down.

m21-trail-signs-at-intersection

We explained that that was our choice and though it’s a bit steeper, it’s a quicker way back to the road.

m22-blazing-trail

We also told them we’d do the honor of paving the way because it had been a storm or more since anyone had trudged that way.

m23-mount-kearsarge-in-view

Because it’s a rather straight downhill, we felt like we were floating for most of the trail and welcomed the sight of Mount Kearsarge among the beauty of the young birches. Once the trail widened, the snow was deeper and it became a trudge again, but the end was nearing.

m24-flag

Right before reaching the road, Old Glory flew as she faithfully does in the field.

m25-barn-and-kearsarge

And always a favorite–the barn beside the trailhead highlighted by the mountains and sky.

We’d come to the end and were thankful for the opportunity to climb Mount Tom again. We were especially thankful for the family who’d gone before on the West Ridge Trail–it was a bit of a slug for us, but even more so for them and we wondered if we’d have completed the loop had it not been for their hard work. We don’t know their names, though we do know their dog’s–Roscoe. May Roscoe’s owners sleep well tonight.

 

 

 

 

Meditation in the City

Though I grew up outside New Haven, Connecticut, and spent a great deal of time there as a child/tween/teen, I am not a city girl. In fact, stepping onto a sidewalk in even the smallest of cities yanks me from my comfort zone.

And so it was with great surprise that I met a city I rather liked. Over the last thirty years, I’ve passed through it numerous times, but twice this past week, I followed my tour guide from one monument to the next–my eyes wide and mouth gaping open with each new view, the obvious sign of a tourist.

w-bobsign

Meet my tour guide, Bob Spencer, who proudly displayed a future landmark sign.

w-indoor-view

Bob’s world view begins at City Center, aka Watson’s Falls.

w-watsons-falls-1

From the home he and his wife, Gere, have made in a former mill, the view encompasses one of nine water privileges or mill sites. Theirs is the fifth privilege along the stream, which was originally granted to Isaac Smith in 1795 for a saw mill. Over the course of its lifetime, the building served as a cloth and linseed oil mill, saw mill, salt box factory and cider mill. I love that apples still dangle above the water, a reminder of that last rendition.

w-library

On Saturday, we stepped north for a few minutes, and chatted about the mill pond and its function while Bob pointed out foundations and retaining walls and told stories of the standing buildings.

w-watson-falls-2

Then we turned south along the brook, where remnants of dams and the stonework foundations of other water-powered mills flourished from the days of the town’s settlement until the mid 1900s.

Bob is a fellow writer and naturalist with a keen interest in history. I’m flattered that he shared this place with me as well as his own written musings:

For most travelers on busy state Route 35/37, our brook is of little interest or importance. To the village of South Waterford, however, a cluster of thirty buildings which lie on either bank of this stony rill, it has served as a source of life and vitality throughout much of history. Landforms here were carved into the granite bedrock as a much larger ice-age water course scoured out a valley between Bear and Hawk Mountains to the east and Mount Tir’em and Stanwood Mountain to the west. Native Americans gathered along its banks to fish and camp. Eighteenth century settlers were drawn to the environs for a source of their fresh water and of power to produce lumber and flour, which were essential to survival. Nineteenth century industrialists, before and after the Civil War, earned their livelihoods by producing both commercial and consumer goods traded locally and in cities such as Portland and Boston.

w-flood-plainmill-pond

As we walk along he pointed out buildings still standing, those in stages of disrepair, and others that were merely memories. We paused by a meadow where he described the spring flooding events and I examined the evergreen wood ferns.

w-city-brook-meanders

And then we noted the gouge that deepened as we climbed, where “a glacial moraine as melt water engorged the brook into a raging river 15,000 years ago. The brook serves as the marshy wetland home of fish, birds and mammals. Such a short stream can teach everyone who allows the time many lessons about our ecology systems: how they work and how they were born.”

w-outlet-1

At the emergence of the brook we’d followed with two smaller brooks (Mutiny and Scoggins), we paused as Bob described their origins and journeys.

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And then we turned to Bear Pond–the outlet. The temperature was relatively warm and pond almost inviting.

w-bear-mtn

With Bear Mountain overlooking, we’d reached the southern most point of the city.

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On our return trip, we found numerous signs that local residents were still industrious. Sometimes they were successful and the trees fell to the ground.

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As with all industrious efforts, there were times when hang ups prevented success.

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Sunshine and late afternoon reflections gave me a taste of why Bob referred frequently to the meditative nature of this place.

w-the-city

As we climbed a small hill and crossed a field, we again approached City Center.

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And then we doubled back, walking to the intersection of Sweden Road with Routes 35/37. Plaster mills, bucket mills, a carding mill, saw mill and grist mill–waterpower was a necessity to any enterprise–beginning with lumber sawed for dwellings, grain ground for life-sustaining bread, shingles for siding and roofing, carded wool for the seamstress.

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With the sun’s rays dipping lower in the sky, we stood in awe of the sluice and thought about the men and oxen and all the work that went into creating the mill–before the real work actually began.

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How many times have I traveled past this site and never spied it? Too many.

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After our first tour ended, I paused at the southernmost end of Bear Pond for further reflection.

w-brook-wall-2-1

But . . . there was still more to see of the city and so a few days later I eagerly joined my tour guide again. This time we walked north, and wondered about the rock placements and considered their role as runways that once helped direct the water flow.

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All along, we saw evidence of human intervention.

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We noted the feather and wedge marks on split stones.

w-barbed-wire

Barbed wire made us think about the land being used for agriculture. Though it didn’t seem that the land had been plowed, we wondered if farm animals had roamed. Bob reminded me that a carding mill once stood nearby and so we envisioned sheep.

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w-artifact

Barrel wire and staves made sense to us, but we didn’t always recognize the artifacts for their use.

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We even found a cellar hole, or perhaps a cellar hole, that Bob hadn’t seen before. Of course, we speculated. It certainly had structure. But why was it cut out around large boulders, we wondered.

w-tree-foundations

And we noted the industrial work of trees that forged their own way beside the brook.

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For every sight that we seemed to understand, there were more that we didn’t. With his vast knowledge of local history and the land formations along the brook, Bob pointed out natural and man-made features, but even he admitted he didn’t always get it. The pile of obviously quarried granite was one such.

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Suddenly, we reached what might be considered the crossroads of long ago and more recent past.

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To the west, an obvious rock sluiceway.

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To the right, stanchions from a former, yet more recent power site.

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This was all located at the original spot of the first dam along the brook.

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Curiously, Bob explained as we walked along,  a more modern dam was built about a quarter mile north.

w-keoka-3-1

We’d reached Keoka Lake, formerly known as Thomas Pond. Supposedly, in the early 1900s, Thomas Chamberlain ran away from Native Americans and survived by hiding in a crack in a rock. Though the lake is no longer named for him, Tom Rock Beach holds his legacy. Today, the clouds told the story of the much cooler temperature. 

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Bob directed my attention to our left, where Waterford Flats was visible.

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And then we looked south, to the outlet of Keoka and the beginning of City Brook–the place where it all began. Though no longer held by dams and funneled through the rock sluiceways, it was the water that passed this very way that once provided the energy converted by water wheels and turbines to power the life of the city.

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“Waterford City” as it was known, has changed, though some standing monuments still speak to its former life. Until Saturday, I had no idea the brook was named City Brook or that South Waterford was known as a city, so named for the industry that once existed here.

As Bob wrote, “The age of industrial prosperity is now long gone, victim to growth of large manufacturing plants which required more powerful rivers and many other economic changes since the 1870s. At that time, South Waterford was dubbed “Waterford City” for the noise and bustle brought to the town by nine mills and many supporting outbuildings lining the brook. Invisible to today’s busy passerby are many remnants of a past industrial heyday: a large concrete and split stone ruin on the access road to Keoka’s modern dam, two-story stone work that served as the foundation for a 19th century bucket mill, a simple shingled mill building atop a 1797 stone dam beside the town’s last rustic stone bridge. Further exploration may reveal lost foundations beneath the water surface, a 36-inch rusty circular saw blade, burnt remains of Waterford Creamery or an earthen dam long overgrown by bushes and brambles. These vestigial remains of human endeavor are of historical interest to many.”

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After our tour came to an end,  I paused below the cider mill one more time–a fitting spot to share another of Bob’s ponderings on this place:

“The whirling bubble on the surface of a brook
admits us to the secret of the mechanics of the sky.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is appropriate to begin this study with a quote from American philosopher, existentialist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1802-1882), whose life spanned from early days of village settlement through the denouement of its industrial zenith. Emerson spent much of his boyhood visiting three aunts who lived in Waterford. He likely honed his naturalistic views while exploring City Brook or Mutiny Brook near Aunt Mary Moody Emerson’s home, Elm Vale, which was located across from the cemetery of the same name on Sweden Road.

This is one city I’m thankful to have visited. And I look forward to further explorations.

I’m grateful to Bob for sharing this place with me and especially for pointing out all of his favorite meditative places. Meditation in the city–Waterford City style.

 

Our Place

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Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Seriously . . . is all that noise necessary? Apparently it is. Mr. Tom felt the need to awaken us at this morning’s first light with his non-stop gobbling–his way of calling the hens to join him. Disclaimer: I didn’t take this photo until later in the day. In all his ugliness, I have to say that he really is a handsome fellow.

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The hens who hang out with him don’t appear to care, but maybe they’re just playing coy.

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We left them to the bird seed scattered on the ground and drove to Farnsworth Road in Brownfield for a hike up Peary Mountain. The trail is located on private property and we’re thankful that it’s open to hikers. Much of it is a snowmobile trail as well.

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The Little Saco flows over moss-covered rocks beside the lower part of the trail.

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As we followed it, bright green growth in the damp soil warranted a closer look.

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A true sign of spring–false hellebore with its corrugated leaves.

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There are plenty of other signs, including the pink and green striped maple buds. I’m missing my macro for these moments of early glory, but so it is.

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While some beech trees still have a few marcescent leaves clinging until they can no more, I noticed a few buds beginning to burst.

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At a stone wall, the trail suddenly turns 90˚ to the left.

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But in the opposite direction–the remains of an old foundation.

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And above, a ledge from whence the stones presumably came.

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The ledge continues to provide a dwelling–for critters like the porcupines who keep the hemlocks well trimmed.

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As we climbed to the top, delicate bluets showed their smiling faces.

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And then we emerged on the 958-foot summit, where the bench view is glorious. The small mountain was named for Admiral Peary. Apparently, his mother’s family, the Wileys, lived in neighboring Fryeburg. Upon graduating from Bowdoin College in 1877, Peary lived in Fryeburg and conducted survey studies of the area for a couple of years, before moving to DC and later leading an expedition to the North Pole.

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If you’ve seen similar views of the big mountain, its because it’s part of our place.

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I followed my guy along the ridge line to the end–where the view turned homeward.

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My guy made a point of recognizing landmarks from Mount Tom and Lovewell Pond along the Saco River to Pleasant Mountain and Brownfield Bog.

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If you look closely, you’ll notice a horizontal line just below the bog–that’s the Saco River. And the little mountain to the left of Pleasant Mountain–Little Mountain in West Bridgton.

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The only part of the view that we don’t get–the new road that was constructed up the backside of the mountain within the past year. It worries us. And that is why we appreciate the efforts of Loon Echo Land Trust for protecting most of the rest of the mountain.

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We headed home for lunch and to pull out the lawn furniture.* And then we parted ways, my guy to attend a celebration of life for an old friend, and me to climb Bald Pate. My purpose–to look at the pitch pines and jack pines.

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In bundles of three, the stiff needles surround the male pollen bearing cones on the pitch pine.

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Jack pine features two needles per bundle–think Jack and Jill.

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From the summit, I paused to take in the view of Peabody Pond and Sebago Lake beyond. It doesn’t matter how often I climb to the top of this 1,100-foot mountain, the view is ever changing.

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And again, I could see Pleasant with Mount Washington in its saddle. This time, however, I was on the opposite side looking at the front of Pleasant Mountain. You may wonder about the road–it leads to two cell towers near the Southwest Ridge summit.

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As I made my way to the Foster Pond Lookout, I stopped frequently to enjoy the ever-artful presentation of sweet fern.

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And I noticed another sweet offering that many of us will enjoy this summer–blueberry plants in bloom.  A year ago next week, I saw the same on this very mountain. Seems early, but I think they’re well protected in a sunny spot.

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I’m sure had my guy been with me, he would have named a color chip that matched Foster Pond–perhaps turquoise blue best described it in that moment.

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Heading back to my truck, I noticed some bird treats dangling from the trees. Perhaps our turkeys will fly to South Bridgton.

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Apparently not. Back at home, Tom had returned. He’s a frequent visitor to our place. And we’re frequent visitors to the area beyond our backyard. It’s all really his place and our place.

* If you live in our area, expect at least one more snowstorm. It always snows once we pull out the lawn furniture.

 

 

Following In The Footpath Of Others

Rain marked this morning’s dawn, but that didn’t daunt our group of six. We donned overcoats, gloves, hats and waterproof boots knowing that we’d encounter mud along our intended route.

And so we met near the former site of the Methodist church in the northeast corner of Sweden–Sweden, Maine, that is. Our intention was to follow the snowmobile trail for a couple of miles and visit foundations and a few other historic sites along the way.

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Maps dated 1858 and 1880 show a network of roads that served the scattered neighborhoods of this town. The trails we were about to walk on follow the footpaths and wagon tracks of earlier people. These were once town roads. We happened to be in the presence of the president of the Sweden Historical Society and she gave us copies of the maps to help us gain a better understanding of our destination. She also printed out a topographical map so we’d have no excuse for getting lost.

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With the sun suddenly shining upon us, we laughed at ourselves as we moved along because we traveled at breakneck speed. Well, for us anyway–1.8 mph when we were moving. Note the phrase: “when we were moving.”

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Along the way, we paused to admire the streams that flow toward Patterson Brook and

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checked on life in a potential vernal pool.

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While we find water so mesmerizing, I couldn’t help but wonder about its potential here for the early settlers.

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Several times we found stone walls on either side of the streams and didn’t know how to interpret their meaning. That was OK–we appreciated not having all of the answers.

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The opportunity to partake of the beauty among friends old and new was enough.

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Even four-footed friends.

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The stonewalls, both double and single in structure, indicated that the land had been cultivated. We tried to make sense out of the sudden switch from single to double and back to single in a short distance, but really, they didn’t necessarily build walls according to our expectations of what life must have been like–a single wall meaning keep the farm animals in or out and the double being a garden wall–lots of times it was probably just plain common sense and a need to get rid of the stones that rose with the frost.

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Eventually, we climbed over the wall and headed up toward this monument. Dave, who lives in this neighborhood and knows these woods well, encouraged us to ponder.

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Why was the top of the rock split off intentionally and then left there?  Was it intended for a foundation stone? Was the neighborhood abandoned before this piece was used?

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We wandered further through the woods and came to the Sweden/Waterford town line. Two stone walls less than ten feet apart mark the boundary. Waterford to the left and Sweden to the right. (Did I get that right, Linda?–my left and right?)

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Orange paint also marked the boundary line.

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We’d crossed into Waterford and stopped for a break at the Kneeland (1858)/Kimball (1880) residence, a rather large foundation with a center chimney.

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Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who paused here for a snack.

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And then we crossed the snowmobile trail once more and began bushwhacking again. Though you see only tree shadows, leaves and moss here, it wasn’t what we saw, but what we had the honor to hear that made us stop–an underground brook. It felt like we’d stumbled upon a secret spot.

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Dave led us uphill to another special spot a friend of his discovered years ago–the stone chair. You have to wonder about this. We’re in the middle of nowhere that was once somewhere. Below this is a large hole in the earth, possibly a foundation of sorts. And beside, a skidder trail. So, who built the chair?

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Atop the foundation of sorts was this cut stump–we surmised it was cut about fifty years ago and that it was about 100 years old at that time.

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It really doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing the discovery.

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Another four-footed friend also thought it was rather special.

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Not too far from here we found something else that spoke of logging.

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We continued our bushwhack to another site of importance–and came upon it from the backside.

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The Goshen Cemetery, circa 1815. Notice the raindrops and blue sky. A few drops fell in the middle of our walk and then it cleared again.

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The cemetery contains stones that had been buried under the duff, but when discovered, were uprighted in spot.

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The tombstones are unmarked and as far as I know, two theories exist–an epidemic struck the neighborhood and those who died needed to be buried as fast as possible, or these were the tombs of the residents from the town’s poorhouse.

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One thing we do know for certain. The bears like the sign and it has been remade several times and posted higher and higher in hopes that they’ll leave it alone.

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Those were our historical finds, but we also made time to enjoy our surroundings, beginning with artwork created naturally.

s-beech elephant

I always say that beech bark doesn’t remind me of elephant skin, but today–elephant legs and feet, for sure.

s-downy rattlesnake plantain

Peaking out from the leaf litter, downy rattlesnake plantain showed off its white-veined leaves. Stained glass windows come to mind whenever I spy this. And though its the commonest of the rattlesnake plantains, I’m always in awe.

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We also nearly stepped on its cousin, checkered rattlesnake plantain. I do have to say that if I were in charge of the world, I’d switch their names.

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We found artists conks and

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old hemlock varnish shelves.

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We know where the porcupines denned,

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moose browsed,

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woodpeckers dined,

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deer rubbed their antlers,

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and pawed the ground. Do you see it at the bottom of this photo? It’s a scrape meant to communicate information to other deer.

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But one of my favorite sights of the day–the flying squirrels that scampered up an old snag. Notice the flat tail–a rudder.

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And the flap on its side, that furry membrane that stretches from the wrist to ankle–a parachute of sorts for gliding from tree to tree.

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And those bulging eyes–the better to see in the dark.

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Four hours and almost six miles later, we followed the trail out, thankful for the opportunity to spend time wondering together and follow in the footpath of others.