Outing on the Outlet

This morning dawned clear and chilly, with the temperature at 50˚ when I headed toward Lovell at 7:15. After placing some “Land Trust Walk Today” signs in pre-planned positions, I headed to the dam on Harbor Road in Fryeburg to wait for a ride.

u1-outlet dam

Water flowed over the tiered dam, which was built in the early to mid 1900s at the request of the Pepperell Manufacturing Company in Biddeford. The townspeople contested its existence for it would raise the water level on Kezar Lake, but the textile mill located many miles away on the Saco River won the rights to construct such at the site of an 1800s saw & gristmill. Thankfully, though it did raise the level of the lake water, not all of the predicted problems came to pass.

u2-Harbor Road bridge

The dam was our intended take-out for today’s paddle co-sponsored by the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. Though it’s located off Harbor Road in Fryeburg, it’s owned by the Town of Lovell. No longer used, it still serves to provide a historic reference. And a great place to either portage and continue on to the Old Course of the Saco River and then the “new” course, or take out as we intended to do.

u5-silver maple

While I waited, I poked around, and rejoiced in the sight of trees that like wet feet. High above the dam, the leaves of a silver maple shown brilliantly in the morning light.

u3-green ash leaves

Other leaves also caught my attention for their coloration–with veins of red interrupting their olive greenness. Green ash, another tree that likes wet feet but isn’t as abundant as its siblings, white and black ash, also stood tall beside the dam.

u7-preparing to launch

My dam-side exploration ended a few minutes later when Jesse Wright of Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and her friend, Shareen, pulled into the landing. We hoisted my kayak onto her already laden truck and found our way over the bumpy road to our intended put-in at a private residence–thanks to the generosity of its owners. Slowly the number of boats increased by the water’s edge as twenty-plus folks joined us.

u6-map by Will from USVLT

Once all had gathered, Jesse showed off the map of our intended paddle, the red dots indicating our path from beginning to end, and I shared a bit of information about the fen, a GLLT property purchased in 2005. Today, the symbolic boundary between the two land trusts disappeared as we ventured off together.

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It takes good neighbors and lake stewards to pull off such an event, and the Wurms are such. They helped us arrange the put-in, gathered a couple of canoes for several paddlers and took photos at the start.

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Linda’s view included Jesse heading off as our lead,

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and the rainbow of colors once we hit the water.

u8-on the water with Jesse and gang

It took us a wee bit of time to get all the boats onto the lake, but it wasn’t a day made for rushing. And once in the sun, we began to warm up.

u10-send off by Linda

Before we headed off, we gave thanks to Linda (and Remy).

u11-and Heinrich

We also thanked Heinrich, who drew our attention skyward . . .

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as he flew a drone above us.

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Our first destination was to paddle north for the view.

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The drone spied the mountains before we did.

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And spotted our intended course . . .

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into the fen.

u18-veiws from the lake

A quick turn-around from the water gave us bearings as we noted the Baldfaces to the west.

u19-heading toward the fen

We circled an island that serves as an environmental study plot for the US Forest Service and then paddled southward.

u20-Jesse in the lead

Jesse led the way through the pickerelweed.

u21-more mountain views

As we followed, the view got better and better.

u22-slowly we followed

Acting as sweep, I took up the rear while the group snaked along.

u25-early fall color

We followed the twists and turns of the water trail, where red maples showed off their autumn display from the canopy.

u28-red leaf

Occasional leaves fluttered down, begging to be noticed in their singularity.

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Though we didn’t get out of our boats and actually walk into the fen, we did stop to chat about what it had to offer. The GLLT owns 260 acres of the 500-acre fen, an acidic ecosystem with a deep layer of organic material including peat moss atop a sandy substrate. Several bird species of concern breed or hunt in the fen, including American bitterns and Sandhill cranes, the latter of which we had the good fortune to hear but not see. Long’s bullrush, a globally rare sedge, also grows here. But the crème de la crème for many are the cranberries. Folks on today’s paddle weren’t familiar with the plant and I couldn’t show them at the time, but I shared with them the experience of picking in the past with students from Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg.

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On a fall day each year, about thirty students in the school’s MESA program (Maine Environmental Science Academy–an experiential place-based curriculum for 6-8 grades) visit the fen with the GLLT’s Executive Director, Tom Henderson.

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They learn about the hydrology of this place, but one of their highlights is to pick cranberries, and to that end, they become very possessive. As one student approaches another, a common statement is shared: “Don’t come over here. There aren’t any cranberries here.”

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Over the course of several hours, they fill their bags and sometimes even show off their creative talents in other ways–all in celebration of the cranberries.

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Continuing along the river this morning, we noted beaver activity and talked about scent mounds and their usefulness within the beaver community. And then we reached the fish screen.  Jesse had paddled the course last Sunday and made it under the screen without any issues.

u31-clearing a beaver dam

Since then, the beavers had been busy damming it up. One of our members worked to adjust some of the branches so we could all get through.

u34-offering a shove

Of course, sometimes a helping paddle was needed to push a boat forward.

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While we took turns, our efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

u35-other side measurement

On the other side, a ruler indicated depth.

u36-approaching the bridge on Harbor Road

And then, and then, in what seemed like only minutes but was actually a couple of hours filled with camaraderie between familiar friends and new, plus a touch of natural history thrown into the discussion, we found ourselves at the bridge and the end of the journey for some. Others chose to paddle back rather than hitch a ride. We had come full circle.

As we pulled boats out, we were surprised at how warm it was since we were out of the shade, the temp having reached into the 80˚s.

Our outing on the Kezar Lake Outlet would not have been doable without Jesse Wright, who did the yeoman’s work of pulling it together, William Abbott, USVLT’s executive director who created the map, the Wurms and their neighbors who contributed land, boats, photographs and time, and all who ventured with us on this most lovely first full day of autumn.  Thank you all.

 

 

 

Dodging the Drops Mondate

A friend called this afternoon and her first comment was that she didn’t know if she’d reach me given that it was a Monday. She’d thought about the weather, but figured it wouldn’t bother us and we’d probably be in the woods somewhere. How right she was–and her call came just after we’d returned home.

h-trail sign

Our mission was a work date on the Southern Shore Trail at Lake Environmental Association’s Holt Pond Preserve. For a number of years, we’ve maintained this section of trail between the last boardwalk just below Knapp Road in South Bridgton and “the field” near the southern tip of Holt Pond. It’s a section that was an Eagle Scout project years ago and we’d helped in creating it, so it’s been our pleasure to keep it clear of fallen trees and branches. Thankfully, this section isn’t traveled often and we rarely find any manmade debris.

h-wild turkey feathers

Immediately we did find some bird debris and wondered what happened to the turkey. A few other feathers were scattered, but we didn’t look further, so we don’t know if there was more to this story.

h-following the wall

Loppers in hand, we turned at the stonewall, and entered the enchanted forest, for that’s how it feels . . .

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especially given so many shades of green. And a few openings that would make perfect entry points for wee inhabitants.

h-hemlock varnish shelf 1

We moved along at a rather brisk pace (in my opinion, that is, though when I mentioned it to my guy, he brought up other times when we’ve moved much more quickly.) But, I did what I do, and while he picked up sticks and dragged downed trees out of the way, I looked around to see what I might see, like the varnish shelf fungi on a hemlock tree. I questioned myself with this ID because it looked similar to a red-belted polypore, both featuring a glossy lacquer-like sheen and concentric zones of red, yellow and white. But, it grew on a hemlock and I should have snapped an old specimen that was on the ground below. I know if I’m wrong, Parker and Jimmy Veitch of White Mountain Mushrooms and Maine Master Naturalist Alan Seamans will all correct me. If that’s the case, I’ll add a note to this post.

h-Broad gill, more sombero like in nature

I could hear the mushrooms and the mushroom gurus singing praises to the rain gods, given this spring’s rain. And I’m going out on a limb again with broad gill (Tricholomopsis platyphylla) as an ID for this one. (NOTE: from Parker–“The Megacollybia (Tricholomopsis) platyphylla is Entoloma vernum [group])

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There with others, but my favorite of all–swamp beacons lighting the way through puddles.

h-Holt Pond toward Quaking Bog

At last we made our way to an outlook spot with its view of Holt Pond. Across the way, the quaking bog (where the trees are tallest on the left) and Muddy River outlet (just to the right of those tall trees).

h-into the field

And then we continued through the hemlock forest and on to the field, our turn-around point. Again, we shared memories–of our first reconnaissance mission with Bridie McGreavy when she was LEA’s education director and we decided to take on the task of maintaining the trail. The three of us headed out on a winter day when the snow was deep and soft. Bridie and I were smart–we let my guy cut trail. I’m sure we jumped in front once in a while, but he led the way most of the time and was exhausted by the time we finished. So were we 😉

h-field 1

There were a few years when we drove in from Fosterville Road, making it easier to bring in bigger equipment to keep the field trail open. Today, I counted the whorls on the white pines in order to age them–they’re at least fifteen years old.

h-field pines

And loving this rainy season–as evidenced by their recent growth.

h-sweetfern 1

The field is also full of wild strawberries, raspberries, gray birch and sweet-ferns like this–all early succession species.

h-big tooth leaves

On the edge, young big-toothed aspen are slowly getting established. It’s been our great fortune to watch the evolution from field to forest at this almost hidden gem.

h-parasol

As we backtracked and listened not only to the sweet songs of vireos and veerys, but also to  raindrops sprinkling upon the canopy before drifting down to the understory, we were thankful for our raincoats. A parasol might have been handy, but we weren’t soaked by the time we arrived back at the truck. Somehow, we managed to dodge the drops on our Mondate.

 

May(be) a Mondate

We headed out the backdoor, into our woodlot, down the cowpath, along the snowmobile trail, veered left behind the church, walked down a driveway, crossed the road and snuck into Pondicherry Park.

p-NOrway maple and samaras

Or so we thought, but as we stood below this Norway maple with its widely-divergent two-winged samaras, a familiar voice hailed us. Our friend, Dick Bennett, appeared out of nowhere (well, really from somewhere–for like us, he lives nearby and uses these trails frequently to get to town) and so we chatted briefly. He was on a mission and we were headed in a different direction along the multi-layered loop system.

p-crossing the field

Within minutes we followed the path out of the woods and across the field–prepared as we were for rain. Our plan was to retreat when it started to pour.

Once we entered the woods again, we heard a barred owl call from the distance with its infamous “Who cooks for you?” “Our oldest son and his girlfriend,” was our response for they had surprised us this weekend with a visit and prepared last night’s meal.

p-foxhole debris

For the most part we stuck to the trail system, but then we stepped over the wall onto the Lake Environmental Association’s Maine Lake Science Center property because I wanted to show my guy this pile of dirt and stones.

p-fox hole

On a recent bushwhack with a few others, we’d discovered this fox hole and I immediately recalled all the fox tracks and seeing a red fox this past winter not far from this location.

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After poking about for a few minutes, we made our way back to the LEA trail and eventually landed at the boardwalk that weaves through a wetland. From there, it was back through the woods to the park trails. I know my guy wanted to move quickly, such were the bugs, but I wanted to take everything in and so he patiently waited from time to time.

p-Canada mayflower

After all, there were visions in white exploding with glory in the form of Canada mayflowers,

p-foamflowers

foam-flowers,

p-wild sarsapirilla

and wild sarsaparilla.

p-gaywings

We also feasted our eyes on visions offering the purplish hue of gaywings, aka fringed polygala.

p-fern stream

And then there were the ferns.

p-cinnamon fern fertile frond

The fertile stalks of cinnamon ferns shouted their name,

p-royal fern

while the royal ferns were much more subtle–

p-royal fern fertile fronds

their fertile crowns practically blending into the sterile fronds.

p-chipmunk

At the chimney by the amphitheater, a chipmunk paused to ponder our intentions and then quickly disappeared.

p-Stevens Brook

We followed the river trail to the Bob Dunning Bridge and noted all the shades of green beside Stevens Brook.

p-boxelder samaras

And then there were other sights to see, like the boxelder and its samaras. Its common name refers to the resemblance of its leaves to elder trees and the use of the soft wood for box making. Its also our only maple with compound leaves. And the samaras differ greatly from the Norway maple we stood under at the beginning of our walk–for the boxelder’s winged seeds more closely resemble upside down Vs or peace signs.

p-catbird 1

As is often the case when stopping by the bridge, the catbirds who nest in the undergrowth paused beside the brook during their foraging expeditions.

p-caterpillars on maple leaf

Nearby, we saw some food meant for them–a colony of Eastern tent caterpillars consuming maple leaves right down to the veins. It seemed like it was time for some units of energy to be passed along the food web.

Besides the wildlife, our only human encounters included a relative crossing the bridge on his way home from work and our friend Dick, whom we’d seen at the start.

For various reasons, May has been devoid of dates and so today’s adventure, though not long, served as our only Mondate celebration for the month–no maybes about it. And it never did rain.

 

 

 

Sharing My Site

I count myself among the fortunate because pollen doesn’t keep me inside during its high season. Nor do the bugs or rain. Mind you, I do my fair share of complaining–after all I am human. At least I think I am, though I was honored to be called an ent yesterday. (Thanks Cyrene.)

Enough of that. Let’s head outside to see what we might see.

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True confession. I took this photo yesterday, but didn’t have time to write. Finding this jack-in-the-pulpit beside a granite bench by my studio was a complete surprise.

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Today’s journey began in the front yard where sugar maple samaras dangled below full-grown leaves. Their presence will soon offer presents to the world below.

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My next stop was beside another secret giver of gifts–blueberry flowers.

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And then I stepped into the woodlot, where a single striped maple which was the bearer of a deer antler rub last year and scrape (upward motion with lower incisors) this past winter, had something else to offer.

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Below its almost dinner-plate size leaves–flowers. Happy was I to find these little beauties.

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Perhaps . . . just maybe . . . there will be more striped maples offering their bark to those in need.

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Moving along, I stopped at the opening of the cowpath to admire baby hemlock cones when something white and bubbly caught my attention. My first spittle bug sighting of the year. An adult spittlebug whips up some slimy froth to cover its eggs in late summer and the nymphs cover themselves while feeding in the spring–and so I concluded that I was viewing a nymph’s locale.

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Emerging under the power lines, the community changes. It’s here that the land is especially wet and species one might find in a bog grow–such as the black chokeberry shrub. These also like rocky ledges, but such is not the case in this spot.

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I was thankful to find it for those flattened bright pink anthers brightened this damp day.

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Heading north, I sloshed through the deep puddles on a quest to find the sundews I discovered growing in this area for the first time last fall.

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No such luck, but I did welcome the sight of the candy lichen fruits exploding from their crustose base. And then . . . and then . . . what did I see (but only when I looked at the photograph on my computer, and so now I know where they are located)? The round-leaved sundews–do you see them in the bottom right-hand corner? These are carnivorous plants (think Venus Flytrap) and their prey consists of small insects. Already, I can’t wait to make their acquaintance again.

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I turned around and headed south–on my way to the vernal pool. But before passing through a stonewall, I had to look at the bunchberries in bloom.

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Normally, a bunchberry plant has two-sets of leaves. But . . . when one is mature enough to grow a third set, typically larger leaves (perhaps to capture more energy) than the first two sets, it produces four white bracts that we think of as petals but they are actually modified leaves. The flowers are in the center–tiny as they are.

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And because I was in the neighborhood, in the land of mosses, reindeer lichens, Canada Mayflowers and wintergreen, trailing arbutus (aka Mayflower) spoke up. Its flowers were slowly transforming from white to rust and I shouldn’t rush the season, but I can’t wait to see its fruit again.

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At last I reached the vernal pool and realized I wasn’t the only visitor. What perfect hunting ground it proved to be for the . . .

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phoebe. I cheered for its insatiable insect appetite.

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Because the day was dark, it was difficult to see tadpoles, but I did note that many spotted salamanders were still forming. I also noted that the water level has dropped a wee bit–hard to believe–and where yesterday I found a few egg masses a bit high and dry, today they were gone. Something enjoyed eggs for dinner.  Scrambled or otherwise, I’m not sure.

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Back on the trail and at the next stone wall, interrupted fern showed off its fertile pinnae near the middle of the blades. It’s called interrupted because of the interruption in the blade. Again, this is an inhabitant of moist to wet forests and so it was no surprise to find it growing there.

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A fertile blade, such as this, may have two to seven pairs of middle pinnae.

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The globose sporangia is bright green when young, but darkens to tan or black as it matures.

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On the other side of the wall, I spied some more flowers.

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These were the elongated loose clusters of black cherry trees, that open when the leaves are fully developed.

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One that flowers and fruits before its leaves are fully developed is the red maple.

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And fruits and fruits . . . need I say more?

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Though the wind blew, the samaras weren’t yet ready to let go and set down their roots. It won’t be long though, I’m sure.

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Finally returning home, I passed by the granite bench once more and was still stymied by the site I saw about a half hour after discovering the jack-in-the-pulpit yesterday.  It had been consumed. I suspected the woodchucks that live under the studio. Either that or a bear came along and I missed it.

And so ended today’s tramp. Thanks for traipsing along with me to visit these sites out our back door. I especially welcome those who are homebound with allergies, like my friend Jinny Mae. She gave me the inspiration to take a look today–to be her eyes for the moment and share my sight.

“The Actual World”

In this morning’s newspaper I read an article about the loss of natural sound because we have created so much people noise. It took me back to a time about forty years ago when I think I first actually paid attention by sitting alone in the woods and listening–hearing the soft rustle of grass blades, chirp of the crickets, buzz of mosquitoes and vroom of a truck in the distance. I can still envision that spot on a hillside where I closed my eyes to the sun and tried to zone in only on sound–to let go of the rest of the world and focus on that one sense.

And so I took that thought with me this morning when I joined others to bird at the Bob Dunning Bridge, one of the entrances to Bridgton’s Pondicherry Park.

p-yellow-rumped warbler

Truth be known, I also went birding at the bridge early yesterday morning when the sun shone brilliantly and a yellow-rumped warbler posed for an instant.

p-bridge 1

Today dawned raw and overcast. And at first, the birds weren’t all that song-filled or even evident.

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But then we heard one on high and our natural high kicked in. A Baltimore oriole whistled its melodious tune and we swooned.

p-phoebe right

We watched an Eastern phoebe flick its tail as it looked to the right . . .

p-phoebe left

and then to the left. Because of the morning’s chill, the bugs upon which it feeds seemed non-existent to start.

p-phoebee flying

But, perhaps it knew otherwise.

p-song swallow 2

What we knew was that the temp climbed a wee bit and bird song increased, including that of the ever sweet song sparrow. Yes, we could hear the sounds of this sleepy, western Maine town since we were only a block from Main Street, but the songbirds shared their voices and for us–we focused on those delightful tunes as we tried to figure out who we could hear but not see.

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One such resident arrived this past week, like many other snowbirds (people residents who winter south of Maine– or is it south of New England?). We recognized the catbird first by its cat-like mewing and then we spotted two along the stonewall and in the brushy shrubs.

p-catbird flying

Like all birds, however, they didn’t sit still. We did note, though, that they spent most of their time on the other side of the bridge in an area where they frequently nest.

p-song sparrow 1

And speaking of nesting, the song sparrow moved from its perch to the ground where it joined others as they scratched about and filled their beaks with potential materials to add to their new home.

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I love that from above, it blended in with its surroundings. A good thing when you are but a wee bird.

p-feathers

That being said, not all went undiscovered and we noted that some joules were passed from one bird to another–energy flowing through the cycle.

p-baltimore upside down

Eventually, one of our favorites of the day moved closer and we watched it for some time as it worked upside down and then . . .

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right side up. Again, we wondered if the oriole was working at the dried leaves and also seeking nesting material.

p-yellow warbler

And finally, a song a few of us heard when we first arrived showed its face–“Sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet,” evolved into a yellow warbler, or two or three.

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Because we were there and looking, other members of the world showed their faces, such as the flowers of Norway maples and . . .

p-box elder flowers

box elders.

p-elm leaves

We noted the emerging American elm leaves, already highlighting their sandpaper texture and asymmetrical base.

p-butternut

And then we got stumped momentarily by the butternut (aka white walnut ), but it’s the eyebrows above the monkey face leaf scar that spoke to its name. Less than a month ago, Jinny Mae and I discovered its cousin, black walnut at Narramissic. Both are not all that common in the woods, but both grow in places where human impact is more evident. That being said, human impact is evident the world ’round.

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Eventually, all good things must come to an end and it was time for those gathered to move along into our days. But . . . we’d had the joy of spending a couple of early morning hours, whether in the sun or not, coming into contact with sight and sound and texture. We’d met the actual world and we loved making its acquaintance.

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Thanks be to Mary Jewett of Lakes Environmental Association for offering these community birding events. And for her patience with us amateurs as she teaches us the finer points of identification.

 

 

 

Love/Hate Sundate

Some days are made for hikes and today was one of them. The temperature was right–in the upper 40˚s-low 50˚s. No sun. And no bugs.

So, after church, my guy and I drove to the trailhead for Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield, Maine. At the signs indicating the trail splits in two–North Peak to our right, Twin Brook to the left, we knew we planned on covering the loop, but my guy stopped and asked which way I wanted to ascend the mountain.

Nose scrunched, I replied, “North Peak.”

He chuckled for he knows my love/hate relationship with this mountain.

b-red oak leaves

Today my love began with the new leaves, like that of the red oak,

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red maple,

b-striped maple

striped maple,

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and beech. I worshiped them all for their subtle colors and textures. Spring is the time of year that reminds us to live in the moment, for the natural world demonstrates constant change.

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And then there were the flowers, like the trailing arbutus, aka mayflower.

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And another of a similar name, Canada mayflower.

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In the shrub layer, occasionally we came upon the beauty of serviceberry or shadbush flowers flowing in the breeze, exhibiting their own take on these fleeting moments.

b-early saxifrage

And cleaving to the rocks as we climbed, early saxifrage. It’s also known as rockbreaker for this habit, and perhaps suggested the Latin name–Saxifraga virginiensis. Saxum-rock and frangere-to break. A funny name for an uncommon display.

b-summit ahead

I did my best admiring my surroundings for I knew what awaited. My guy paused as the summit came into sight,  expecting me to comment. For once, I kept quiet.

b-summit climb

And then, when the time arrived, we both channeled our inner mountain goat and sought hand holds and foot holds as we scrambled up the nasty dash to the top. Ha ha. It’s difficult to scramble when your heart pounds while your body quivers. This is the section I most hate–and as I always told our sons when they were youngsters, hate is a strong word. I knew I could do this for I’ve done it many times before, so I tried not to take too long as I considered my next move. Plus, rain drops began to fall and I didn’t want to be stuck contemplating on slippery granite. But still.

b-lunch rock

Finally–success. We’d reached the flattened top of the mountain–such a welcome relief after that horrible section. You’d think it was miles long the way I carry on about it. The rain drops ceased and we sat on lunch rock to dine–dirty hands and knees our badges of honor.

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Our view from the rock–looking back toward our point of ascension.

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And forward toward Stone Mountain. After lunch, our plan was to follow the Twin Brooks Trail that passes through the saddle between Burnt Meadow and Stone.

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And to our right–looking toward the White Mountains.

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Though the view is almost 350˚, our immediate view behind lunch rock offered layers of life–blueberries, a young paper birch and a white pine.

b-twin brooks trail down

At last we started down. The Twin Brooks Trail is longer, but less of a struggle. That being said, it’s not a walk in the park as there are constant roots and rocks seeking attention.

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But occasionally there are views. I was afraid we might not see Mount Washington today, but it didn’t disappoint.

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On the way down, we were in the land of the birch, their catkins growing long . . .

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and exploding with life-giving pollen.

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There were violas to admire.

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And more shadbush.

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But one of my other favorite things about this trail is the bear claw trees. No matter how many times I see them, they still bring a smile to my heart–and face. And a memory of seeing a bear on the North Peak trail one summer–it sauntered past us, not seeming to care that we were there. I suspect its belly was stuffed with blueberries.

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As we continued to descend, we soon heard the sound of one of the brooks for which the trail is named. Quite often on this trail, the water barely trickles, but today it rushed over the moss-covered rocks.

b-logging

Continuing on, we remembered that two hikers we meet at the start said there had been some logging and sometimes it was difficult to follow the trail. At last, my guy found the area they’d referenced. The trails are on private land and so while we couldn’t find some familiar landmarks, we nevertheless were thankful that we were still able to hike there. And, we were mindful to look for the yellow blazes as we stepped over some slash. It was quite doable.

b-bear tree 2:eye level

The result–a bear tree we hadn’t seen before was revealed.

b-bear tree 2:looking up

It must have offered plenty to eat in the past for the tree was well climbed all the way to its crown. Maybe we’d once met the very bear.  Maybe not. Who knows. But it’s worth a wonder.

b-bear of a different sort

A bear of another kind also left behind a sign of its presence. We obviously weren’t the only ones who headed to the mountain for a date.

b-bear tree 3

In one last spot a short way from finishing the loop, we found our last bear tree–again seen because of the logging. I suspect there are many more in these woods and hope they don’t all get cut.

Emerging leaves. Spring flowers. Jagged outcropping. Flowing water. Bear trees.

Really, it was a love/hate/love Sundate–joyfully spent with my guy.

 

 

 

May I Have This Dance?

Haha. If you know me well, you know I’d rather be a wall flower than step onto the dance floor. I easily managed to avoid all high school dances, except one prom. And then, barely danced at that, probably much to my date’s dismay. After that, so many moons ago, I don’t think I danced again until my wedding–at which time any dear friends in attendance watched with humor at my awkward movements. But today, I felt the rhythm surging through my body.

v-snow on trail

It all began on my way to the vernal pool. Perhaps it was really just a shiver as the breeze blew across the last of the snow, hard packed still along the snowmobile trail.

v-springtails 1

Or maybe it was the depression that held the snowmelt and was covered with an oil slick of sorts . . .

v-springtails 2

which turned out to be a million springtails bopping to their own tunes.

v-trailing arbutus 1

It could have been the sudden sight of so many trailing arbutus plants that got me going.

v-trailing arbutus 2

Certainly I wasn’t the only one excited by those flowers yet to be. (Do you see the springtail on the tip of the bud?)

v-vernal pool

Or it might have been the ever shrinking ice cover at the pool that made my feet tap.

v-vp edge opening

Perhaps it was the fallen beech leaves atop tree reflections that forced me to sway.

v-leaf offerings

Or the way the hemlock, oak, maple and beech leaves intermingled.

v-spermatophores

What I do know is that there was no stopping me once I spotted spotted salamander spermatophores atop leaves in several open sections–the sperm being located at the top of the cauliflower-shaped platforms.

v-frog 1

And then I saw something swim under some leaves that really got me rocking. Do you see the face of the wood frog, hiding as best it could?

v-fox scat beside vernal pool

As I began to circle around the dance floor, I noticed an offering of scat that made me think a red fox had sashayed beside the pool.

v-sharp-shinned hawk feather?

On my own sashay home, I discovered that there were other dancers in the midst–this one possibly a sharp-shinned hawk.

v-woodpecker feather

And after that a woodpecker.

v-junco feather?

And then a junco.

v-red maple flowers 1

Along the cowpath, the red maple flowers blushed as I might were I to get all gussied up in a flowing dress.

v-red maple flowers 2

Much the way a suitor might wink, so much has happened so quickly. Within the past week the snow melted almost entirely away and winter released its hold on me. Now I’m ready to groove with the choreography of spring’s rhythm. I hope you’ll join me on the dance floor.

May I have this dance?

 

A Blue Bird Kind of Good Friday

When Jinnie Mae picked me up this morning, our destination was the Narrow Gauge Trail. But somewhere between here and there, she pulled a U-turn and drove to Narramissic Farm owned by the Bridgton Historical Society.

It had been just over a year since I last visited and I wanted to show her the shagbark hickory buds. And maybe even the bear trap.

n-Pleasant Mtn to Narramissic1

We crossed the field behind the house and started off on the path to the quarry and bear trap, but snow and water in the woods resulted in another U-turn. We’d been talking so much, we’d hardly noticed our surroundings, but the view stopped us in our tracks.

n-Pleasant Mountain

To the left, the long ridge line of Pleasant Mountain, where the ski trails of Shawnee Peak Ski Area made themselves known.

n-Narramissic

And in front of us, the Temperance Barn and Peabody-Fitch homestead, built in 1797. We had the place to ourselves and reveled in the quiet of the day–when we weren’t talking, that is.

n-shop and flagpole

Heading to the road for our tree bud search, we passed by the blacksmith shop where horseshoes were probably made in the day.

n-temperance barn

And at the Temperance Barn, so named “because it was raised without the traditional barrel of rum,” I can never resist admiring the structure even though it’s in great need of repair.

n-ash tags

And then we were stumped by a flowering tree. It sure looked like an ash as Jinnie Mae suggested, but what were those lacy tips? What came to my mind first were the tags on red oaks that I didn’t understand a few years ago until a friend helped me realize that they were leaf stems left behind when the wind finally claimed the dried leaves. Was this the same?

n-double-wide stonewall

Climbing onto the double-wide wall, I took a closer look.

n-white ash danglers 1

Turns out Jinnie Mae was right. But my question still remains. Were these the stems of the ash samaras or compound leaves?* For some reason I’ve never before seen them left behind. Ah, there are so many things to discover in this world.

n-black walnut 3

We continued down the road, noting budding pussy willows and flowering red maples. And then I spied the bulbous buds I wanted to show her. Only, it turns out that we hadn’t reached the hickory trees yet.

b-black walnut leaf scar 2

The monkey face leaf scar should have been a clue. But my brain was stuck in hickory mode and I completely forgot that black walnut leaves leave such a formation. At home, I pulled out Forest Trees of Maine and then seesawed between black walnut and butternut (aka white walnut). Both feature leaf scars shaped like a monkey’s face. But the top of the leaf scar serves as the give away–this one did not have thick fuzzy eyebrows like a butternut, so I’m going out on a limb and declaring this a black walnut.

n-shagbark bud hairy 1

A bit further down the road we spotted more bulbous buds. These were definitely the ones I was looking for–shagbark hickory. In the moment and because the two trees weren’t close together, we thought they were all one in the same. But hindsight being 20/20 as it is, the photographs tell the story.

n-shagbark bud 6

The subtle colors and fuzziness wowed us and we both took numerous photos.

n-shagbark leaf scar1

Then there were the leaf scars–definitely more heart-shaped than the previous trees.  And lacking that smiling face. We smiled for them.

n-Long Lake below

It wasn’t enough to find the small saplings beside the road and so we crossed another field in search of the mother tree.

n-grasshopper 1

Along the way, Jinnie Mae spotted a wee grasshopper–the first of the season for us.

n-shagbark bark from distance

And then her newly trained shagbark hickory eyes keyed in on the momma.

n-shagbark bark 3

If you go, it’s located behind the barn.

n-shagbark bark 5

And shouts its name in presentation.

n-shagbark bark 4

Looking upward, we could see the bulbous buds on the twig tips contrasted against the bright blue sky.

n-bluebird

Happiness is a blue bird kind of day–sweetened by time spent exploring with Jinnie Mae, making discoveries and watching bluebirds move between the field and the trees. Indeed it was a Good Friday.

Now we need to return and find the mother black walnut.

*Thanks for Maine Master Naturalist Pam Davis for IDing the ash strand as the rachis of the compound leaf. She reminded me that I have seen these on the ground in the fall. But–to be still dangling from the tree was new to my eyes and mind.

 

Because I Wandered

It’s still cold and blustery. Oh, we had warm spells in January and February. But now it’s March. And it’s Maine. So wind chill in negative to single digits shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nor should the impending Nor’easter predicted for this week. Only more than a foot of snow possible.

Today’s cold wasn’t nearly as frigid as yesterday’s and when I stepped out the back door, I could feel the warmth of the sun penetrating my outer being. It worked wonders for my inner being as well.

o-quaking aspen

My first stop was beside the quaking aspen tree. Yesterday, some Maine Master Naturalist students and I examined tree buds and their characteristics. I love looking at these and do so every day since the tree is right off our back deck.

Varnished scales protect the  aspen’s leaf and flower buds as they lay dormant through the winter. Its flower is produced within a catkin and already the cottony part of the seeds is appearing, much like a pussy willow.

o-striped maple

As I moved into the woodlot, I stopped to re-admire the only striped maple that grows here. Last year a deer used the lower portion of the bark as an antler rub. Yesterday, as we stopped to look at the characteristics of its bark, we noticed it’s been used most recently as deer food. This tree is barely larger than the circle formed within my thumb and pointer finger–and I have small hands. How much more deer attention can it take?

o-gray fox tracks

As I looked at the striped maple, my eyes were drawn to the activity of another mammal. Out came my Trackards and I took measurements. I knew by the walking pattern that it was a canine. And I knew by the size that it was a fox. But red or gray was the question. I suspected the latter because I could see details clearly in the soft snow atop the hardened crust.

o-gray fox prints

Measurements and a look at a bunch of prints confirmed my suspicion. Rather than stay on the path, I decided to backtrack the fox’s trail.

o-gray fox and coyote 1

Within minutes, I realized another mammal had traveled in the opposite direction. Also a canine.

o-gray fox and coyote intersect

And atop a double-wide stone wall, I found where the coyote (follow the red pencil) and gray fox (yellow) crossed paths. Not at the same time, I’m sure, but given the track conditions, I don’t think they were too far apart. We saw neither set of tracks as we examined trees and lichens in the same area yesterday.

o-gray fox sat and peed

I also found where the fox sat and then peed. Not much odor–in case you’re wondering.

o-turkey plus

My journey took me across a few more stone walls and through a hemlock grove. I lost the fox, but followed the coyote and then I found others including squirrels, deer and turkeys.

o-turkey wings

It looked like the turkeys had been dancing on an ice-covered puddle. And then perhaps they took off for the wing marks were well defined. Did they fly because the coyote approached? Or was there another reason? Time to head up into the trees for the night, maybe? It’s difficult work for these hefty birds to lift off.

o-many travelers

Everywhere I went, others had been before me. It seemed the prey followed the old logging routes and predators crossed.

o-bs lichen

My own wander became a bushwhack meander. And a few lichens called me in for a closer look. My inclination was to quickly brush off all the gray foliose (leaf like) lichens as weedy hammered shield, but I suspect there was some bottleshield lichen in the mix and realize I need to look again. I’m forever a student–thankfully.

o-crustose mosaic

While there were specks of shield lichens on a young maple tree, the variety of flattened crustose lichens covered so much of the trunk that it was almost difficult to distinguish the bark color.  The mosaic pattern suggested a painting–naturally.

o-beech 1

The buds and leaves of the beech trees also asked to be noticed. It’s been my experience that younger American beech keep their leaves throughout the winter–perhaps because their buds are lower to the ground and therefore easy targets for hungry herbivores. There are other theories as well, but I think it’s key to note that it’s the younger trees who keep their leaves, or in the case of this one, those that remain were on the lower branches.

o-beech leaves

They remain until the tree buds begin to break or leaf out. The word to describe this leaf retention is marcescent (mahr-ses-uh nt), which means withering but not falling off. Their rattling in the slightest breeze may be enough to keep those herbivores at bay.

o-beech 4

In the tree’s silhouette, the pointed buds stood out,

o-beech scales

 

each one a cylinder of overlapping scales in opposite orientation on a hairy stem.

o-witch hazel leaves

That, of course, led me to another marcescent tree that loves this wet woodland, the witch hazel. Its leaves have always intrigued me with their wavy margins and asymmetrical base. But it’s the winter color of the withered leaves that I also find attractive.

o-witch hazel scalpel

And its naked buds, which don’t have waxy scales like the aspen or beech. Somehow the fuzzy hairs must provide enough protection for the winter months.

o-witch hazel bracts

Everything is fuzzy on a witch hazel, including the bracts left from last fall’s ribbony flowers,

o-witch hazel pods

and the woody, two-seeded pods that ripen a year after the flowers have formed. These split open in the fall as the seeds were forcibly ejected.

o-moose scat

I wandered for hours and miles and never saw any prints from the moose that frequented these woods earlier in the season. But, where the snow had melted under a spruce, I found evidence that blended in with the leaf litter.

o-moose browse

And in an area I used to frequent prior to the logging operation of the last few years, I found more sign. The ruler is mine and this side shows centimeters.

o-coyote x2

When I reached the former log landing, my coyote friend made its presence known again. Actually, one became two as they had walked in single file and then split apart several times. They were on the hunt and a snowshoe hare was in the vicinity.

o-cherry

I followed the main logging trail for a while and then turned off to explore unknown territory. But . . . before turning, it was the maroonish color of the cherry bark that warranted attention. And the lenticels–raised, elongated and horizontal imprinted on my brain.

o-deciduous forest

My meanderings continued and again I saw lots of predator and prey activity. Even a porcupine, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Finally, I walked into an area of young red oak, red maple and gray birch and knew I was approaching familiar ground. And so I stepped onto the snowmobile trail.

o-deer 1

All along, I’d thought about the many tracks I’d seen, but no mammals . . . until I approached our cowpath. I wasn’t the only one headed that way.

o-deer browsing first

The deer herd seems to have survived this winter well. I’ve yet to find evidence that suggests otherwise.

o-deer browsing

And I felt blessed that I was able to move as close as possible despite the crunching of the snow beneath my feet. The wind was in my favor. And then, it heard me, flashed its white tail and ran down the cowpath. Perhaps we should rename it the deer path for a cow hasn’t walked on it in decades, but like me, the deer use it almost daily.

My day was made because I wandered.

 

 

 

Falling Stars

The sight of falling snowflakes filled that spot in my soul that is devoted to wonder.

p-queen-annes-lace

Each tiny morsel unique.

p-aster

Many stacked high.

p-red-maple-leaf

Some precariously perched.

p-shelf-fungi

Others well supported.

p-milkweed

Foundations varied.

p-stairway

Stairways formed.

p-lea-mlsc-boardwalk-1

Boardwalks hid.

p-moss-monster

Moss Monsters smiled.

p-moose

Moose chuckled.

p-male-mallard

Mallards speculated.

p-red-fox

And the red fox paused.

Watching snowflakes gather reminded me of the impermanence of it all. They are exquisite and beautiful, yet temporary.  Here one moment, trampled and melted the next. Yet, I am forever awed by each tiny star that falls from the sky.

A Devil of a Mondate

Ever since I first saw a photo of a family donning their Sunday best and standing on rocks that form the “Devil’s Staircase” in Lovell, Maine, I’ve been intrigued.

d-historical-society

The photo and description on Lovell Historical Society’s Web site refers to a “staircase” on Sabattus Mountain. And so for years I imagined the staircase leading to that summit, but never located it. And then I learned that a section of trail at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Pond’s Reserve had earned the same name. Is there a staircase at Sabattus? Or was it accidentally misidentified? Whatever the case, when I suggested to my guy that we attempt the staircase off Route 5, he embraced the opportunity. (I’ve since learned from several friends that indeed, there is a staircase on Sabattus and the photo likely was taken there. The base of the staircase is apparently on private property and no longer a safe climb.)

d-trail-map

And so about noon we ventured forth and figured out a direction that would take us up the steep portions of the trail to the staircase and El Pulpito, and then down the easy trail–with hope that there was such a thing as an easy trail.

d-easy-trail

Actually, at the start it all seemed quite easy as I followed our Monday tradition of racing to keep up.

d-arrow-heavenward

We chuckled when he found an arrow that aimed heavenward–perhaps a sign that all would be well.

d-turning-the-arrow

My guy played spin the arrow to set it toward our destination. (Actually, on the way down, he spun it the other way. Note to GLLT–perhaps this arrow needs two nails.)

d-approaching-ledges

Minutes later, we approached the ledges and visions of bobcats danced through my head.

d-contemplating-the-climb

Acting as our scout, my guy contemplated the upward advance.

d-very-steep

We were forewarned and chose to bypass a bypass.

d-starting-up

He started up what we believed to be the same trail traveled by those Sunday venturers.

d-following-my-guy-up

I followed but not quite as speedily.

d-heading-up

My heart pounded in Edgar Allen Poe manner as I followed him up. I have to admit that there was a point where I wanted to turn around and climb down, but wasn’t certain that would be any easier. And so after pausing for a few moments, I tried to put mind over matter and placed my hands and feet in what seemed to be “safe” spots as I continued to climb.

d-view-from-above-staircase

Above the staircase we were rewarded with a vantage point of Kezar Lake and the White Mountains and a chance to slow down our heartbeats.

d-lunch-view

And later, at El Pulpito, the pulpit, the complete opposite of the Devil’s Staircase–a place to pause, eat PB&J sandwiches, and contemplate life in a relaxed manner.

d-water-at-summit

Within an hour we reached the summit of Amos Mountain and spent some time being.

d-hazy-view-at-summit

Though the sun was in our eyes, the view south was a bit hazier than one would expect on a clear November day. We later learned that a forest fire burned in Albany, New Hampshire.

d-trail-down

For our descent, we followed the blue blazes of the Amos Mountain Trail.

d-tree-across-trail

Though hardly as steep as the climb up, I was thankful for a few downed trees that slowed my guy–momentarily.

d-boot-disappears

The beech and oak leaves were over a foot deep in places and obscured rocks and roots, making for a slippery slide down.

Nevertheless, we did it. Devil’s Staircase up and a devil of a climb down–and yet, two hours later we knew we’d do it again.

 

 

So Many Unknowns

On this historic election day, a few friends and I took to the woods with the intention of absorbing not only the sun’s heat, but the warmth of each others company. Yes, occasionally our conversation turned to politics and wonder about the future, but for the most part, we just wanted to wander together.

h-vp-1

Our first spot for consideration–a vernal pool tucked away in the woods.

h-vp-2

In true v.p. behavior, it dried up during the summer drought, though as we moved about we experienced a sinking feeling–muck obscured by grasses and leaves. This particular pool is home to fairy shrimp and their eggs cases are protected under the leaf litter until water returns. The amazing thing about fairy shrimp–those eggs can survive long periods of drying and freezing. We trust we’ll have the opportunity to meet the next generation.

h-wintergreen-1

Sometimes our eyes were tricked by what we viewed and we questioned how things could be so.

h-wintergreen-with-candelabra

But upon a closer examination of the facts, we realized that a club moss was merely growing near the wintergreen and the wintergreen hadn’t taken on a strange candelabra form.

h-clearing

Our questions continued, however. Why was the ground completely cleared in the middle of the trail? Mammal behavior? We noted boot prints and wondered about human interaction. Finally, we moved on, unable to understand the reasoning, but knew that there are some things we’ll never fully comprehend.

h-green-oak-leaf

In another place, we noticed a green red-oak leaf. A holdout perhaps that preferred the way things had been and didn’t want to follow the rest of the group?

h-hawkweed-1

Occasionally, we calmly debated the structures before us as we considered shape and hairiness and growth pattern and location before we determined species–in this case, hawkweed.

h-wood-art-1

And other times, no need for questions, no need for answers. Pure admiration for the presentation was enough.

h-ladybird-beetle

When we were again drawn in for a closer look, in this case at the white fuzzy beech scale insect, we suddenly realized there was so much more to observe, such as the black ladybird beetle.

h-spiny-leaf-beetleladybird-hatching-from-pupa-stage

And then, something we didn’t understand at all. What was this spiny creature? And what was emerging from it? We left with that question floating among us. It wasn’t until doing some research later that I came to what may be the answer. Was it a ladybird beetle emerging from the pupa stage? How I wish we could go back and find it again and look at it with a different mindset.

h-alt-dog-lichen-1

Drawing close to the finish of our journey together, we spied something we’ve passed many times before, but never noticed.

h-alt-dog-lichen-2

Again, we’ll need to revisit the mossy boulder, but we determined it was a dog lichen. Why dog? Was it so named for the white “fang” like rhizines on its lower surface?  Or did the lobes remind someone of dog ears? Based on the large, fan-like shape, my leaning is toward Peltigera membranacea or Membrane Dog Lichen. But, I could be easily swayed on its ID.

h-milkweed

A short walk and hours later, we finally passed a field of milkweed, their seeds blowing in the slight breeze like flags on a pole.

It was time to say goodbye to friends who will head south this weekend before I headed back to “reality” and colored in those little ovals.

I think we all came away thankful for the questions raised and knowledge shared, but still . . . so many unknowns.

Orange You Glad For Ky Mondate

With a recommendation from Marita, my guy and I hiked a trail new to us today and fell in love with it. But as much as we enjoyed the lay of the land and physical activity of climbing uphill and down, we also enjoyed searching for shades of orange on this last day of October.

o-sanborn-river-1

Beside Sanborn River we traversed at first, frequently pausing to admire the flow of the water over the rock formations and noting hints of orange in the display before us.

o-big-tooth-2

And then we began to see it everywhere, beginning with the big-tooth aspen leaves,

o-sugar-maple-leaf

sugar maples,

o-oak-leaves-1

and northern red oaks–down low . . .

o-oak-above

and up high.

o-red-oak-bark

We found an orangey display in red oak bark and . . .

o-burl

even among an old burl on a birch tree.

o-gas-can

Not all was formed by nature, though then again, nature played a part.

o-orange-ribbon

And sometimes it was easy to spot.

o-my-guy-trending-blaze-orange

As was my guy.

o-oversett-pond-1

Shades of orange accented Oversett Mountain as we paused beside the pond of the same name.

o-huckleberry-leaves

We noted its beauty on the huckleberry leaves beside the pond, and . . .

o-watery-reflection

in reflective patterns on the water.

o-cliffs-1

It wasn’t just the orange that drew my attention as we circled halfway around, however. The cliff was a wee bit intimidating.

o-beaver-works

Despite that, we continued on and crossed an old beaver dam. The dam may be old, but we noted new beaver works gnawed by those famous orange rodent teeth on the man-made bridge beside it.

o-lunch-rock-1-1

And then we began the climb, which wasn’t so bad after all, given a few switchbacks. At lunch rock, our view was dominated by orange as we munched on PB&J sandwiches.

o-view-from-summit

Shortly after that, we reached the summit, aflame with more of that autumn glow that hints at November.

o-heart

And immediately below, another view of part of Oversett Pond. As the universe would have it, the pond appeared heart shaped. Just perfect for a Mondate with my guy and a day of giving thanks for our young next door neighbor, Kyan, who has been dealing with leukemia and is recovering from a blood marrow transplant–talk about intimidating. He’s going trick-or-treating tonight! Orange you glad for Ky? We certainly are.

Happy Halloween!

 

The Way of the Land at Long Meadow Brook Reserve

Last month the Greater Lovell Land Trust purchased a new property along Long Meadow Brook that further develops the wildlife corridor. A couple of weeks ago I first visited it with GLLT’s Executive Director Tom Henderson and a number of the land trust’s volunteer docents. As we left the property, Tom said to me, “I didn’t oversell this, did I, when I said this will become one of the docents’ favorite properties.” Indeed.

And so I couldn’t wait to get back there myself to spend a few hours exploring the almost one-hundred-acre reserve.

l-mullein-flower-2

Because the land was last logged by the previous owner in 2014, it’s in the early succession stage of regrowth.

l-mullein-flower-3

And so, it’s a place where those who like disturbed places tend to grow, such as the common mullein. What surprised me most was that I found a few still offering blooms.

l-mullein-cactus

Of course, it reminded me that I was in the great West–WESTern Maine, that is–with its occasional cacti-like form.

l-seeds-holidng-on

Scattered throughout are also the seedheads of white lettuce, waiting for release in lampshade-like formation.

l-orange-peel-fungi

Orange-peel fungi fruited prolifically in the gravel logging road.

l-future-parking-lot

That was all before I even reached the future parking lot, which had served as the log landing a few years ago. Already, sweet ferns and berry bushes have made themselves known.

l-sweet-fern-colors

The leaves of sweet fern, which is really a shrub rather than a fern, exhibited their version of autumn hues.

l-trail-marker

If you go, I encourage you to look for the blue ribbons that indicate where a future trail will be placed. It’s a loop trail that summer interns Hannah and Aidan laid out and leads to two focal features.

l-stonewall-double-to-single

The trail nears a neighboring property, which just happens to also be under conservation easement thanks to the foresight of its owners. I stepped off the blue flag trail and started to follow the wall for a bit–noticing that soon it changed from a double (garden or plowed land) wall to a single wall. A large pasture pine grew at the change-over point.

l-stonewall-barbed-wire-1

And where the wall switched to single formation, barbed wire indicated its former use a pasture boundary. And white pine scales indicated its current use–as a red squirrel’s dining room table.

l-forest-succession-2

After moving away from the wall, I noticed the mountains in the offing and ferns and young trees already filling in the empty spaces.

l-kearsarge

One of my favorite mountains to climb stood tall in the backdrop–Mount Kearsarge.

l-forest-succession-1

My bearings were off a bit, but I knew where the eastern boundary was as I moved across this opening.

l-pitch-pine-bark-1

Walking along the back edge, my tree passion was ignited yet again.

l-pitch-pine-1

Several pitch pines grow in this space. While the bark is similar to that of red pines, it’s platier (is that a word?). And the tufts of needles that grow along the trunk were a dead give-away.

l-pitch-pine-cone

l-pitchpine-needles

But . . . I always quiz myself and so I looked around. And right below the trees, pitch pine cones and the triple needle bundles common to this species.

l-wintergreen-berries

It was here that I discovered wintergreen growing by the base of a tree stump. What made me wonder was the amount of fruit on each plant. Yes, wintergreen grows prolifically in all of western Maine, but I can’t recall ever seeing so many little red globes dangling below the leaves.

l-marshy-1

From my half-circle around the opening, I wasn’t positive about my whereabouts and so decided to follow the land downhill because it looked like there may be an opening below. A few minutes later, I realized I was in a marshy spot where the cinnamon ferns grew. And the earth beneath my feet was rather spongy and damp.

l-beaver-lodge

I reached what I thought was the meadow I sought–only to realize that I was looking at a beaver lodge. I knew that beaver lodge, but from a different perspective–the neighbors’ property.

l-first-marsh

And then something else caught my attention.

l-marsh-tamaracks

Tamarack (aka larch) trees–our only deciduous conifers, which had turned a golden yellow as is their autumn habit.

l-tamarack-2

The spray of tamarack needles reminded me of witch hazel flowers, which also grow on this property. But soon, the former will drop, leaving only their barrel-like stems as a reminder of their presence.

l-maple-leaf-viburnum

I left that spot, retraced my steps and headed to the north on a cross-country bushwhack, where the mauve colored maple-leaf viburnum grew.

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I saw lots of mammal sign and even a few birds, including turkeys who are loving the fact that this is a mast year for acorns.

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At last I emerged onto the trail I remembered and headed downhill again.

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And then . . . I was rewarded for my efforts. Long Meadow Brook and the mountains beyond provided a WOW moment.

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I looked to the east for a few minutes.

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And then turned west again, where the layers and colors spoke of diversity.

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Even the dead snags added beauty.

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Cat-in-nine tails added to the view and I noted others who like wet feet including steeplebush, meadowsweet and bulrushes growing along the old beaver dam. It’s also a place for a variety of evergreen species–hemlock, white pine, balsam fir, red spruce and tamaracks. Future teaching moments await.

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My intention to stick to the trail was soon thwarted when I spied hobblebush.

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Like all trees and shrubs, the future was already encased in a bud–in this case a bud we refer to as naked because it doesn’t have the waxy coating of most others. Methinks its furry presentation offers the same protection from winter’s cold.

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And as I studied the back side of fallen leaves, I paid attention to the venation–reminiscent of the bud’s pattern.

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In the glow of sunlight, I felt like I’d found the pot of gold.

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A short time later I reached the second opening that Hannah and Aidan’s trail encompasses. And what to my wondering eyes should appear–a meadowhawk dragonfly.

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It provided a sharp contrast to snow on the Baldface Mountains.

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It was at this six-acre opening that I poked around for a while longer. And watched a goshawk fly to a pine tree with something dangling from its talons. Did I take a photo? No, of course not. I was too mesmerized to focus my camera. But sometimes, the photo doesn’t matter. Being there in the moment does.

I’m thankful for such opportunities made possible by organizations such as the Greater Lovell Land Trust. I know that ultimately this property is for the mammals that travel through and I saw plenty of evidence that they use this place. But then again, I’m a mammal who also appreciates the land bridges created and opportunity to observe the connectivity. I spent the day getting to know the way of the land at Long Meadow Brook Reserve–and can’t wait to return.

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Way on Mount Tom in Fryeburg, Maine

I ventured this afternoon with my friend Marita, author of  Hikes and Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, along with her daughter’s beagle, Gracie, on a new trail in Fryeburg.

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Mount Tom, a Roche Moutonnée, is an asymmetrical hill with a gently sloping up-ice side that has been smoothed and polished by a glacier. The other side is abrupt and steep–the down-ice side where the rocks were plucked off, leaving a more cliff-like appearance. As Marita noted, its most impressive view is from a distance, but today we sang its praises from up close. We’ve both hiked a 1.5 mile trail to the summit for years, but recently The Nature Conservancy developed a new trail that we were eager to explore.

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Within seconds I was exclaiming with joy. A huge, and I mean HUGE foundation shared the forest floor. Note the outer staircase to the basement.

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And the large center chimney.

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On an 1858 map, I found that A.H. Evans owned a home in about this vicinity, but I don’t know if this was his. Or any more about him. It will be worth exploring further at the Fryeburg Historical Society.

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The house extended beyond the basement.

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And was attached to an even bigger barn.

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Ash trees grow beside the opening, but I wondered if we were looking at the manure basement.

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Finally, we pulled ourselves away and returned to the trail. Well, actually, we tried to return to the trail but couldn’t find it. So we backtracked, found this initial blaze and again looked for the next one. Nothing. Nada. No go. How could it be?

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That didn’t seem right, so we decided to follow our noses, or rather Gracie’s nose, and sure enough we found the trail. If you go, turn left and cross between the house and barn foundations.

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After that, for the most part, we were able to locate the trail, but it was obscured by the newly fallen leaves and could use a few extra blazes. Gracie, however, did an excellent job following the scent of those who had gone before and leaving her own.

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The path took us over a large mound of sawdust, something I’ve found in several areas of Fryeburg.

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The predominate trees were beech, white and red oaks, thus providing a golden glow to the landscape.

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And then we came to the ledges. Bobcat territory. Note to self: snowshoe this way to examine mammal tracks.

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The trail was situated to provide a close up view of the ledge island, where all manner of life has existed for longer than my brain could comprehend. Life on a rock was certainly epitomized here.

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We continued our upward journey for over 2.3 miles (thanks to Marita’s Fitbit for that info) and eventually came to the intersection with the trail we both knew so well.

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From there, we walked to the summit where the views have become obscured by tree growth.

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But . . . we could see the long ridge of Pleasant Mountain in front of us,

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Kezar Pond to our left,

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and the Richardson Farm on Stanley Hill Road to our right.

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Also along the summit trail, the woody seedpod of a Lady’s Slipper. Ten-to-twenty thousand seeds were packaged within, awaiting wind dispersal.

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We decided to follow the old trail down, which passes through a hemlock grove and then suddenly changes to a hardwood mix. Both of us were surprised at how quickly we descended. And suddenly, we were walking past some private properties including the 1883 Mt. Tom cabin.

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The cabin sign was actually attached to a Northern White Cedar tree. I’m forever wowed by its bark and scaly leaves.

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In the field beyond, Old Glory fluttered in the breeze.

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And just before Menotomy Road, we spied Mount Kearsarge in the distance.

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Since we’d taken the loop trail approach rather than an out and back on the same trail, we had to walk along Menotomy Road, so we paid the cemetery a visit and checked out the names and ages of those who had lived in this neighborhood.

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One of the older stones intrigued me with its illustration. I think I would have enjoyed getting to know these people.

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As we continued on, I was reminded of recent adventures in Ireland  and the realization that we notice more when we walk along the road rather than merely driving by. We both admired this simple yet artful pumpkin display.

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If you go, you might want to drive to the old trailhead, park your vehicle and then walk back to the West Ridge Trail. We parked at the latter and had to walk the 1.5 back at the end, when it seemed even longer. But truly, the road offers its own pretty sights and the temperature was certainly just right, even with a few snow flurries thrown into the mix, so we didn’t mind. We were thankful we’d found our way along the new trail and revisited the old at Mount Tom. And I’m already eager to do it again.

 

 

 

 

Everybody Loves Raymond? Mondate

My guy and I were up for an adventure this morning as we headed off to a property recently acquired by Loon Echo Land Trust. I’d been there once before, but at that time there was no trail system and I certainly hadn’t climbed to the summit.

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We were on a 356-acre property bisected by a paved road. First, we hiked the upper section, passing through a hardwood forest.

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Immediately, I realized we were in the presence of one of my favorites–noted for the mitten-ish presentation of its leaves. One would have to be all thumbs to fit into this mitten, but still, my heart hums whenever I spy a white oak.

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Or in this case, many white oaks, some exhibiting the wine color of their fall foliage.

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And the bark–a blocky look that differs greatly . . .

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from the ski trail ridges of red oak.

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Hop Hornbeam also grows abundantly in this forest.

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As we neared the summit, we noticed that the sky view had a yellowish tone reflected by the ground view. Most trees were of the same age due to past logging efforts, but the predominant species was sugar maple.

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Another favorite tree also grew abundantly here. I think they are also favorites because I don’t see them as often. In this case, the bark, though furrowed and ridged like a northern red oak, featured an almost combed flattened ridge.

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And its leaves–oh my! Notice the asymmetrical base? And the length–my boot is size 8. American basswood–an important timber tree that is known to share the community with sugar maples and hornbeams–all of which provided that yellow glow.

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At last, we reached the vantage point.

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Above us, a mix of colors and species.

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Before us, a mix of white and red oak leaves.

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And beyond us, the view of Crescent Lake

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and Rattlesnake Mountain.

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While we admired the view, ladybird beetles (aka ladybugs) swarmed us. Well, not exactly in swarm formation, but more than is the norm.

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After admiring the view for a while and wondering about the ladybirds, we backtracked a bit and decided to explore the green trail, assuming that it looped about the summit.

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The trail conditions changed constantly, and one thing we realized was that the leaves had dried out and we wished we could have bottled their scent along with our crispy footfall as we trudged through–the smells and sounds associated with autumn.

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Eventually, we entered a beech commune and what to my wondering eyes should appear–bear claw marks? We ventured closer, circled the tree and looked at others in the neighborhood before determining that our eyes had perhaps played a trick on us.

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That was OK because within seconds a twig moved at our feet.

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We watched as its tongue darted in and out, red tipped with a black fork.

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Finally, we moved back to what we’d named Ladybird Lookout and found lunch rock where we topped off sandwiches with Bailey’s Irish Cream fudge a la Megan and Becky Colby. Life is good. Life is very good. (And we know a town in western Maine that would benefit greatly from a bakery–just saying, Megan!)

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After lunch, we climbed back down and crossed Conesca Road to check out trails on the other side. There is no trail map just yet, but we never got lost. And we appreciated the artwork nature created of manmade marks.

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This space offered a different feel where hardwoods combined with softwoods. And more stonewalls crossed the property, speaking to past uses.

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It’s here that we noticed an area demarked by pink flags and stopped to wonder why. Note to self–excavated hole and debris mean beware.

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Upon closer examination, an old hive. So who dug it up? We had our suspicions.

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We also noticed a fungi phenomena.

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Fungi on fungi? Honey mushrooms attacked by something else?

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The displays were large

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and otherworldly. I don’t recall ever seeing this before.

I sent the photos to Parker and Jimmie Veitch, of White Mountain Mushrooms, and Jimmie responded with this explanation:

“That’s what mycologists call “rosecomb” mutation, where a mushroom’s gills start forming on the cap in a really mutated fashion. It’s been reported in many mushroom species but I haven’t seen it in this one (Armillaria AKA honey mushrooms). As far as I know, no secondary fungus is involved.

The suspected cause (not so nice) is ‘hydrocarbons, phenols and other compounds contaminating the casing or contacting the mushroom surface. Diesel oil, exhaust from engines, and petroleum-based pesticides are thought to be the principal source.'”

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As we concluded our visit, we passed over one more stone wall decorated with red maple leaves.

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And then we hopped into the truck and traveled a couple of miles south to conquer another small mountain–one visible to us from Ladybird Lookout. (I really think LELT should name it such.)

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Here the milkweed plants grew abundantly.

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In the field leading to the trail, the property owners planted white oak saplings in hopes of providing food for wildlife. Um, by the same token, they’d enclosed the saplings in plastic sleeves (reminding us of our findings in Ireland) to keep deer at bay.

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The understory differed and ferns offered their own autumn hues.

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In contrast were the many examples of evergreen wood ferns.

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We soon realized that quite literate bears frequented this path and announced their presence.

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At last, the view opened and we looked back at the opposite shore of Crescent Lake, though realizing that our earlier ascent was masked by the trees.

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Turning about, Panther Pond came into view.

We’d spent the day embracing Raymond because everybody loves Raymond.

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Raymond, Maine, that is. Loon Echo Land Trust is gearing up to celebrate the Raymond Community Forest that we explored this morning and the Bri-Mar Trail up Rattlesnake Mountain has long been traveled by many. In fact, when I used to write copy for the local chamber of commerce, I spent some time learning about Edgar Welch, who was the fastest man on foot and ran up Mount Washington at least once a year. He lived in Raymond and worked for David McLellan, who was partially blind from a Civil War injury. Because Mr. McLellan’s farm was at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain, the sun would set one hour earlier than elsewhere in town. According to legend, after work each day Edgar ran up the mountain and moved rocks. Finally, he’d moved enough to let the sun shine on the farm for an hour longer. Another story has it that one day a man bet Edgar that he could beat him in a race to Portland. The man would race with his horse and buggy, while Edgar ran. When the opponent pulled into the city, Edgar was waiting for him. I love local lore.

And everybody loves Raymond. Well, my guy and I certainly gained a better appreciation for this town today.

 

 

 

In Constant Flux

Ever so slowly, the world around us changes.

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Sometimes it’s as obvious as the leaves that fall.

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And other times, it’s a bit more subtle, evidenced by the bees that have slowed their frantic pace as they make final collections.

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Mid morning, I headed down the cow path in search of other signs of change.

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As I walked along, I began to realize the interdependence of all. Under the northern red oaks–many  chopped off twigs.

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The angled cut and empty cap indicated the work of porcupines seeking acorns.

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I found maple leaves pausing on hemlocks,

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pine needles decorating spruce trees,

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and occasional puddles offering a rosy glow. Eventually, all of these leaves and needles will break down and give back.

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I found life on a rock, where lichens began the story that was added to by mosses. The creation of soil was enhanced by a yearly supply of fallen leaves and needles gathered there. And then a seed germinated, possibly the result of an earlier squirrel feast.

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I found orange peel and many other fungi aiding the process of decomposition so that all the fallen wood and leaves will eventually become part of the earthen floor.

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I found a healthy stand of trees and ferns competing for sunlight in an area that had been heavily logged about ten years ago.

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I found evidence of those who spend their lives eating and sleeping in this place.

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I found seeds attached

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and those on the fly–heading off in search of a new home.

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I found the last flowers of fall

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exploding with ribbony blooms.

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After bushwhacking for a few hours, I found the snowmobile trail, where man and nature have long co-existed.

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At last I found my way across the field rather than through our woodlot, thankful for the opportunity to take in the colors of the season one more time.

At the end of the day, I’m once again in awe as I think about how we, and all that we share this Earth with, are dependent upon each other and the abiotic forces that surround us.

And with that comes the realization that the scene is in constant flux and so am I.

 

 

 

A Color-filled Mondate

The fleeting fall foliage offered the backdrop for our afternoon Mondate.

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We started with a stop at Five Fields Farm to purchase a pumpkin and enjoy a chat with owners Tom and June Gyger.

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Their orchard overlooks Holt Pond, that speck of blue among the trees. Because of this year’s drought, the water is lower than ever, but Tom pointed out that during heavy rainstorms they’ve often watched it quickly fill and then lower as the water pours in and then slowly flows down the Muddy River. We need such a storm.

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In fact, once we got onto the trail, my guy tested a bridge he’d built in the spring–noting that currently it’s useless because no water flowed below.

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We continued on, turning our hike into a trail clearing activity because this is a trail we steward for Lakes Environmental Association. A few blow downs were easily cleared–by my guy. I worked as well–documenting his good deeds.

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But really, it was the color that drew our attention.

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At our feet, a rich carpet covered the forest floor.

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It’s vibrant variety was pre-determined by the species. Red maple leaves offer shades of red or scarlet, sugar maple leaves vary from brilliant orange to fiery red to yellow, while striped maple, quaking aspen and birch feature only yellow. Ash leaves range from yellow to magenta and beech offers up a golden bronze.

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So, how does it work? It’s been dry and many thought that would mean a lack of color this fall. Yes, some trees will dry up and their leaves wither and fall. But for most, it’s a different story as old as time.

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During the spring and summer the leaves worked as food-processors for their trees. Their numerous cells contain chlorophyll or the green coloration. The chlorophyll absorbed energy from the sunlight, which it then used to change carbon dioxide and water to  sugars and starch (think carbohydrates).

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But, also at work alongside the green pigment, yellow and orange carotenoids. As you can see with these quaking aspen leaves, the carotenoids are masked by the greater amount of green coloring for most of their season.

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With the change in daylight hours and temperature, the leaves go on strike from processing food. And thus, the chlorophyll breaks down, green color begins to disappear and the yellowish color becomes visible to our delight.

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At the same time, other chemical changes occur that cause the formation of more pigments from red . . .

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to purple. The red pigment called anthocyanin forms.

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It’s like being in nature’s paint store.

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And I have to admit that it occurred to me I should spend some time sorting leaves by color  and trying to match them to paint chips so I could better describe the gems before me.

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OK, so I didn’t dwell on that thought for too long, just long enough to realize that it would need to be a quick assessment before the leaves dry up and all become a shade of brown.

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At last we reached a vantage point from which to view the pond. I often stand across the way on the quaking bog boardwalk, so looking back provided a different perspective.

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And those swamp maples–oh my!

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For this beautiful display to occur, we must have warm sunny days followed by cool nights. The sugar is made in the leaves during the day, but those cool nights trap it there, preventing it from moving into the tree.

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Not only do the colors vary, but the degree of color may also be different from tree to tree or even on one tree. Direct exposure to the sun may turn leaves red on one side of a tree and they may be yellow on the shady side.

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As for clouds and rain, too much in the fall means less red (a bright side of the drought). On those types of days it also tends to be warmer at night, thus changing up the process and providing duller colors. Not so this year, thankfully.

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There was nothing dull about what we saw today, including the presentation of fallen leaves, some captured by their evergreen comrades.

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A few dangled like ornaments hung by spiders.

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Others held on precariously, attached only by a few points.

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And even others portrayed a shadow show.

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At last we reached a small stream, our turn-around point, where all gathered to show off their glory.

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We took one last look at the pond while making our way back. And what to my wondering eyes should appear–Nessie. Or maybe I should name her Holtie, the Holt Pond Monster! Do you see her?

My guy–he chuckled at me. He often does that. It’s OK. I know what I saw.

You might say our Mondates are always colorful, but today’s was especially color-filled as we celebrated the work of the leaves.

To Overlook and Be-yond

This afternoon I pulled into the parking lot at Bald Pate Preserve and heard my phone ring. I’ve never quite mastered the art of the swipe to answer and so as usual missed responding immediately. But . . . I put the car into park, or so I thought, and then tried to return the call to our youngest in Colorado. As I dialed, or rather, pushed the phone icon and listened to it dial and ring, I heard the phone ringing in another part of the truck. What in the world? A ventriloquist phone? And then I opened the cubby between the front seats and discovered my husband’s phone. And saw that our youngest was trying to reach him. Meanwhile, I felt like I was in motion. Because I was. The truck was in neutral rather than park and I was almost to the middle of the parking lot before I applied the brake. Somehow, I managed to make the call. After we chatted for a few minutes, with concern and wisdom, he asked, “Mom, are you hiking alone? Should you be?” “Yes,” I responded. “I’ll be fine. There are other cars here so I’m sure I’ll see people.” To be honest, though, I hoped I wouldn’t. This was one day when I needed to just be.

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I needed to wander among the red maples

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and red oaks that graced the sky.

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I needed to embrace the subtle coloration of sarsaparilla

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and vibrant hues of blueberries.

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I needed to admire the veins that bring nourishment to trees

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and all that live therein.

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I needed to observe life giving forces

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and the differences among kin.

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I needed to pause at each overlook

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where the view offered up life’s changes.

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I needed to say farewell

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as I looked toward the beyond.

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For you, Brother Bill, I needed to walk the trails today and lift up your  life which ended unexpectedly this morning. I trust that you’ll be forever in my heart and going forth will travel with me as I wonder and wander. I trust you’ll watch over me and help me understand the great beyond. May you rest in peace, big brother.

Book of September: Forest Trees of Maine

The other day a friend and I made plans for an upcoming hike. Before saying goodbye, she said, “Don’t forget to bring your tree book.”

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Really? I have at least thirty books dedicated to the topic of trees. But . . . I knew exactly which one she meant: Forest Trees of Maine. I LOVE this book–or rather, booklet. You’ll notice the tattered version on the left and newer on the right. Yup, it gets lots of use and often finds its way into my pack. When I was thinking about which book to feature this month, it jumped to the forefront. I actually had to check to see if I’d used it before and was surprised that I hadn’t.

Produced by the Maine Forest Service, the centennial issue published in 2008 was the 14th edition and it’s been reprinted two times since then.

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In previous years, the book was presented in a different format. Two editions sit on my bookshelf, and I need to share with you two things that didn’t find their way into the most recent copy.

From 1981: Foreword–“It is a pleasure to present the eleventh edition of Forest Trees of Maine. 

Many changes have occurred in Maine’s forest since 1908, the year the booklet first appeared. Nonetheless, the publication continues to be both popular and useful and thousands have been distributed. Many worn and dog-eared copies have been carried for years by woodsmen, naturalists and other students of Maine’s Great Out-Of-Doors.

We wish the booklet could be made available in much greater quantity, however, budgetary considerations prevent us from doing so. I urge you to use your copy of Forest Trees of Maine with care. If you do, it will give years of service in both field and office.”

Kenneth G. Stratton, Director.

From 1995: One of two poems included. I chose this one because it was one my mother often recited.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~Joyce Kilmer

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The most recent edition of Forest Trees of Maine provides a snapshot of the booklets history and information about the changes in the Maine landscape. For instance, in 1908, 75% of the land was forested, whereas in 2008, 89% was such. The state’s population during that one hundred year period had grown by 580,457. With that, the amount of harvested wood had also grown. And here’s an intriguing tidbit–the cost of the Bangor Daily News was $6/year in 1908 and $180/year in 2008.

Two keys are presented, one for summer when leaves are on the trees and the second for winter, when the important features to note are bark and buds.

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Terms for leaf shapes, margins and structure, twig structure, plus needle types and flower types are illustrated and various terms defined.

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There’s even information on how a tree works because they do–for our well-being and for the benefit of wildlife.

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And then the descriptive pages begin. Each layout includes photographs, sketches and lots of information, both historical as in the King’s Arrow Pine, and identifiable as in bark, leaves, cones, wood, etc.

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1981

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1995

Though some of the information is the same, it’s fun to note the differences from the two earlier publications.

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At the beginning of each family, major descriptions are noted in an easy to follow format.

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And like the conifers, the broadleaves are portrayed.

Tomorrow, when my friend and I venture off, I’d better remember to pack this booklet. She’s peeked my curiosity about what she wants to ID because I’ve climbed the mountain before and perhaps I missed something. She already has a good eye for trees so I can’t wait to discover what learning she has in mind for us.

This Book of September is for you, Ann Johnson. And it’s available at Bridgton Books or from the forest service: http://www.maineforestservice.gov or forestinfo@maine.gov.

Forest Trees of Maine, Centennial Edition, 2008, published by The Maine Forest Service