Back Soon Mondate

We headed south today in search of spring. LOL! Indeed, we found as much snow on Sawyer Mountain in Limington as we have in western Maine.


The mountain was a new one for us. It featured two trailheads and we chose the one on Route 117 where only one map was available. We borrowed it and later returned it for others.

Much of the mountain, as in 1,472 acres, was purchased over the course of eleven years by the Francis Small Heritage Trust. According to an article in the Portland Press Herald written by hiking enthusiast Carey Kish in May 2016, “Francis Small, the namesake of the trust, was a fur trader and landowner who lived from 1625 to 1714. Small is said to have owned the largest amount of land of any person who has ever lived in Maine.

In 1668, Small operated a trading post a few miles northwest of Sawyer Mountain, at the confluence of the Ossipee and Saco rivers and the crossroads of three major Native American travel routes, the Sokokis Trail (now Route 5), the Ossipee Trail (now Route 25) and the Pequawket Trail (now Route 113).

Newichewannock Abenaki tribesmen who owed debts to Small plotted to kill him to avoid payment. Their chief, Wesumbe, warned Small in time to foil the plan, but not before Small’s home was burned to the ground.

To compensate for the loss, Chief Wesumbe sold Small 20 square miles of land for two large Indian blankets, two gallons of rum, two pounds of powder, four pounds of musket balls and 20 strings of beads.

Small’s Ossipee Tract was bounded by the Saco, Great and Little Ossipee, and Newichewannock (later Salmon Falls) rivers, and included today’s towns of Limerick, Limington, Cornish, Newfield and Parsonsfield, the area where Francis Small Heritage Trust works to conserve land.”

s1a-trail sign

Wooden blocks with yellow turtles carved into them blazed the trail. According to Kish, “This is the mark of Captain Sandy, also known as Chief Wesumbe, of the Newichewannock Abenaki tribe.” Having been a turtle enthusiast for most of my life, I smiled each time I saw one.

s3-Camp Ticumoff

Not everyone felt the same way. Less than a half mile up, we came upon a cabin beside the trail. It had been named Camp Ticumoff. Say it slowly.

s4a--guided turtle hunts

Zooming in on the side of the cabin, we noted a sign–“Guided Turtle Hunts.” And there was another sign as well about the Francis Small Heritage Trust being an ethically challenged organization. We weren’t sure what it was all about, but obviously not all were thrilled with the trail that we immensely enjoyed.

s5-Estes cemetery

Continuing on, we came across the first of several cemeteries. With the snow so deep, we didn’t climb up to inspect the gravestones more carefully.

s6-Estes grave

But in the center stood a marker recognizing various members of the Estes family. Salome died March 30, 1874, aged 66 years, 11 months and 6 days. We often see that in old cemeteries–the number of days into the person’s final month indicated.

s7-caution sign

As we crossed over a brook, a caution sign gave an indication of its own–did I mention how deep the snow was?

s8-Turtle cemetery

And then we found another turtle reference–on the negative side. Definitely some unhappy neighbors in the old ‘hood.

s8a--large foundation

We were in an old ‘hood, after all, for most of our journey was along Sawyer Mountain Road, which was discontinued over one hundred years ago. Left behind were not only cemeteries, but also foundations, this one quite large and I wasn’t sure if it was a home or a barn.

s9-trail map

Right by the foundation, we stood for a few minutes and examined a trail map.

s10-phoebe nest

Apparently others have examined it as well, and decided it suited them. I wasn’t surprised. Kiosks often serve as nest sites for Eastern Phoebes, which I trust will return soon.

s11-deer feeding site

It was about a mile and a half to the spur trail that led to the summit. All along, we noted the lack of mammal activity. Not total lack, for occasionally we did see squirrel tracks, but that was all. And then on the spur we found lots of deer activity–where they’d pawed through the snow in search of last year’s acorns.


Apparently they don’t have a feeding station like the deer in our neighborhood.


At last, we reached the summit, the site of a whale oil lighthouse used for navigation within Portland Harbor during the eighteenth century. It’s our understanding that the mountain is visible from the ocean so sailors would line up the light with other points to guide their ships into the harbor. We had hoped for a view of the ocean, but as it turned out, the summit was rather anticlimactic. To the northwest, we did catch a glimpse of Sebago Lake, but that was about it as too many trees had taken over the space. It didn’t matter too much as we’d enjoyed the climb and the history, both old and new, encountered along the way.

s13-hiking down in deep snow

After sharing lunch on two tree stumps at the summit, we began our journey down, again traveling through deep snow.

s14-Old David Walker Burying Ground

Because we were on our way down and no one had previously carved a trail to another cemetery, we decided to go for it. We’re not sure what the sign meant–was David Walker old? Or had his burying ground been moved to another site?

s15--John Walker gravestone

Up a hill, we located a small plot with a couple of stones. The first was for John Walker, who died in 1863.

s16-cleaning off a stone

And then another leaning against a granite pillar–so my guy wiped the snow away.

s17--Ebenezer Walker

That one was for Ebenezer Walker. So where was Old David Walker buried?

s19-nature trail sign

Back at the trailhead, I decided to loop around the nature trail while my guy headed to the truck. A sign said a nature trail map would be available at the trailhead, but I found none.

s20-blue turtle

And so I followed the blue turtles and decided to interpret the trail my way.

s21-young pines?

1. White pines: the Maine state tree, took advantage of the clearing and started to fill in the space.

s22-stone wall

2. Stories in granite: A stone wall at least four feet high; a lacy wall perhaps built to keep sheep in or out.

s23-hemlock stand

3. Hemlock grove: The perfect habitat for mammals, including deer. Because of their evergreen leaves (needles) that hold snow, its easier for critters to move below them.

s24-beech trees

4. A Mixed Forest: Beech, maples, oaks, hemlocks, pines–all living together in harmony of sorts.

s25-glacial eratics

5. Glacial erratics: Large boulders dropped by the last glaciers about 12,000 years ago.

s26-ledge and life on a rock

6. Life on a ledge: From lichens and mosses to  hemlock trees, the ledge was a prime example of the abiotic and biotic interactions that create an ecosystem.

s27-downed trees? summer storm?

7. I dunno: A piece of blue flagging and another of orange. Perhaps it was the downed trees to the left–several hemlocks had fallen during a storm with winds out of the southeast–indicating a summer storm probably.

s28-not sure

8. I Dunno Ditto: Perhaps the stream that flowed just below.

s29-pine tree?

9. Big White Pine: But really, was it the tree?

s30-giant boulders

Or the giant boulders beside it?

Perhaps one day, I’ll learn how I did on the quiz–though I do think I got at least two wrong.

s4-no one home

I rejoined my guy and together we reflected upon our journey. One of the things we most enjoyed was the historical features along the way, including the 1940s hunting camp built by the father of Sherwood Libby, one of the Trust’s founders.

s34-Be back soon

And our absolute favorite–a sign on the hunting camp door–“Went out for supplies. Be back soon.”

We will also return–once the snow melts– for there’s so much more to see, as well as other trails to explore. What a fine place for a Mondate on this last day of winter. Be Back Soon. Indeed.

Hunkered Down

Three nor’easters in two weeks. Such is March in New England. The latest delivered over twenty inches of snow beginning yesterday morning. And still the flakes fall.


But staying inside all day would be much too confining and so I stretched my legs for a few hours before giving my arms another workout with driveway cleanup duty. It was much more fun to explore and listen to the chickadees sing.

p-snow on trees

There are a few places in our woods that I find myself stopping to snap a photo each time a snowstorm graces our area. The stand of pines with their trunks snow coated was one such spot yet again. And tomorrow the scene will transform back to bare trunks and so it was one I was happy to behold in the moment.

p-snow on limbs

As was the older pine that grows beside a stonewall along the cowpath and perhaps served as the mother and grandmother of all the pines in my forest–bedecked in piles of flakes, her arms reached out as if to embrace all of her offspring.

p-snow on insulators

With the snow so deep, I felt like a plow as I powered through under the insulated insulators.

p-snow on park sign

Finally, I reached one of the entryways to Pondicherry Park and while I love being the first of the day to leave my mark, I’d secretly hoped someone had trudged before me. But . . . a few steps at a time meant taking frequent breaks to rest and look around.

p-snow on tree trunk

Again, it was the snow’s manner of hugging tree trunks that drew my awe.

p-snow on tree trunk 2

Sometimes it reminded me of giant caterpillars climbing into the canopy.

p-snow on roots

Even the roots of a downed tree took on an artistic rendition.

p1-snow on bittersweet

And that most invasive of species in these woods, bittersweet, offered curves worth appreciating–ever so briefly, of course.

p-snow on fences

Snow blanketed fences of stone and wood.

p-snow on bridge

Enhanced the bridge.

p-snow on bench

And buried a bench.

p-Stevens Brook

Beside Stevens Brook, it looked as if winter still had a grasp though we’re about to somersault into spring.

p-snow on trees reflected

And the reflection in Willet Brook turned maples into birches.

p-kneeland spring

At Kneeland Spring, water rushed forth in life-giving form and the sound was one we’ll soon hear everywhere as streams and brooks overflow.

p-mallards 1

I went not to see just the snow in its many variations, but also the wildlife. I found that like me, the squirrels and deer had tunneled through leaving behind troughs. And the ducks–they didn’t seem at all daunted by the mounds of white stuff surrounding them.

p-mallards 2

In fact, one female took time to preen.

p-mourning dove

I found mourning doves standing watch.


And heard robins singing.

p-snow spider

And because I spent a fair amount of time looking down, I began to notice life by my feet, such as the snow spider–an indicator that the thermometer was on the rise. It lives in the leaf litter, but when the temp is about 30˚ or so, it’s not unusual to see one or more. Today, I saw several. And wished I had my macro lens in my pocket, but had decided to travel light.

p-winter stonefly

Winter stoneflies were also on the move. They have an amazing ability to avoid freezing due to the anti-freeze in their systems.

p-winter dark firefly 2

I also found a winter dark firefly. While the species is bioluminescent, I’m not sure if this one was too old or not to still produce light.

p1-snow on me

At last the time had come for me to head home for not only was the snow still falling, but so was the sky–or so it felt each time a clump hit my head as it fell from the trees.

p-final photo

We’ve got snow! In fact, we’ve got snows! And in reference to a question an acquaintance from Colorado had asked yesterday–“Are you hunkered down?” My answer was, “No, Jan, I’m not. Nor is the world around me. In fact, except for the shoveling, I relish these storms as winter holds on for just a wee bit longer.”



What the Bobcat Knows

As I drove down Heald Pond Road in Lovell today I wasn’t sure what awaited me. But isn’t that the point? Every venture into the great outdoors should begin as a clean slate and it’s best not to arrive at the trailhead with expectations.

f1-Heald Pond Road barn

And so I didn’t. Well, sorta. I really wanted to see a porcupine. And maybe an otter. And definitely an owl. But I knew better and so I passed the last barn on the road and then backed up and stepped out, captivated by the colors in the scene before me.

f2-trail signs

A few minutes later, I strapped on my snowshoes and headed up the trail. My plan–to climb to the summit of Flat Hill at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve and then circle around Perky’s Path upon my return.

f3-trail up flat hill

Breaking trail was my job in the rather deep snow given recent storms, but easy to move upon and so I sashayed up. What surprised me, however, was the lack of tracks left behind by the mammals that I know live in these woods.

f4-pine cone bird feeders

I did stop at the balsam firs decorated by a local 4-H club in December as part of the Maine Christmas Tree Hunt. The dangling pinecones once sported peanut butter and birdseed, but today that was all a memory so I knew birds and deer had stopped by in the last few months.

f5-bobcat 1

And then, as I neared the flat summit, I found tracks of a mammal that had checked out the base of every tree and under every downed limb. In fact, as I soon realized, it was more than one mammal that I followed as I went off trail. Bobcats. Indeed. Though typically solitary, these two traveled together. It is mating season and males and females will travel together during courtship.

f11-bobcat print

Though the prints were difficult to photograph given the glare, by the toes, ridge and overall shape, I knew them.

f12-bobcat scat and print

And scat! Filled with white hair. I have close-up views should you choose a closer look, but chose to give those who find scat to be rather disgusting a break. 😉

f6-porcupine and bobcat

And then I found another set of tracks and knew that besides squirrels and little brown things, the bobcats were also searching for a bigger dinner. On the left–a porcupine trough, and on the right, the bobcat trail.

f8-porky work

Ever since I’ve traveled this trail, I’ve seen the work of the porcupines at the summit. And sometimes I even get to see the creator. In winter, porcupines eat needles and the bark of trees, including hemlocks, birch, beech, aspen, oak, willow, spruce, fir and pine. And they leave behind a variety of patterns.

f7-porky work

If I didn’t know better, I could have been convinced that this ragged work was left behind by a chiseling woodpecker, but it, too, was porcupine work.

f9-porky work

All about the summit, recent chews were easily identified for the inner bark was brighter than the rest of the landscape. And below these trees–no bark chips such as a beaver would leave, for the porcupine consumed all the wood.

f10-flat hill view

While snow flurries fluttered around me, the summit view was limited and it looked like the mountains were receiving more of the white stuff. (Never fear–we’ll get more as our third Nor’easter in two weeks or so is expected in two more days. Such is March in Maine.)

f13-script lichen between pine lines

From the summit, rather than follow the trail down, I tracked the bobcats for a while, first to the north and then to the south. I had hoped to find a kill site, but no such luck. Instead, the writing on the page was found upon the pines where script lichen, a crustose, was located between the lines of bark scales.

f14-ulota moss and frullania

I also found plenty of Frullania, that reddish brown liverwort that graced so many trees. And among it, a moss I’ll simply call an Ulota. As I looked in Ralph Pope’s book, Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts , upon arriving home, I realized I should have paid attention to capsules for that would have helped me determine whether what I saw was Ulota crispa or Ulota coarctata. Another lesson for another day.

f15-beaver pond on Perky's Path

At last I reached Perky’s Path, which may not seem like a major feat if you’ve been there, but actually I’d explored off trail for quite a ways and it took me a while to get down to the wetland.


And because I was in the wetland, maleberry shrubs bordered the edge and showed off their bright red buds and woody, star-shaped seedpods.

f16a-bobcat across wetland

After focusing on them for a while, I looked down at the snow’s surface and the most subtle of prints appeared before my eyes. My two bobcats. The curious thing–at the summit the mammals had sunk into the snow and the prints were a bit difficult to decipher. I assumed those summit impressions had been made about two days ago. But on the wetland, the bobcats walked atop the snow–when conditions were firmer and I suspected they’d been created last night.

f17-brook toward Bradley Pond 1

I followed the edge of the wetland to the bridges that cross a brook that forms at the outlet of Bradley Pond, constantly on the lookout for the bobcat tracks again.

f18-more bobcat

And I found them! Beside the brook.

f19-beaver pond from bridge

What had they found on the wetland, I wondered?

f21a-beaver trail

Continuing on, I found that they’d checked on the woodwork left behind by another critter of these woods who had also moved about last night.

f20-beaver works

Beaver works. And their piles of woodchips. Unlike a porcupine, a beaver doesn’t eat the chips. Rather, it cuts down a tree for food or a building material. The chips are like a squirrel’s midden of cone scales–the garbage pile of sorts.

f22-beaver trail to water

I noted where the beaver had moved into the brook . . .

f23-beaver treats

And left some sticks behind. For future food? Future building? Stay tuned.

f27-brook to Bradley pond

Typically in other seasons I can’t move beside the edge of the brook, but today I could. The lighting kept changing and water reflected the sky’s mood.

f24-Diamesa sp. and snow flea

And because I was by the water, I kept noting small insects flying about–almost in a sideways manner. Then I found some on the snow–a member of the Diamesa species, a midge I believe. And do you see the small black speck below it–a snowflea, aka spring tail.

f25-Diamesa sp.:haltere

And do you see the two little nobs on the fly’s back, the red arrow pointing to one? Those are the haltere: the balancing organ of a two-winged fly; a pair of knobbed filaments that take the place of the hind wings.

f29-beaver pond wetland low

Eventually, I followed the eastern edge of the wetland back to my truck, wondering if there was any more action but found none. In fact, the water was low so I knew the beaver works weren’t to rebuild the dam. Yet. Nor did I find any more bobcat tracks. But I’d found enough. And I think I know some of what the bobcat knows.



The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode 2

Even though we’d won the first leg of our Amazing Race adventure, we were disappointed with the start time we received for today’s journey. We couldn’t leave home until 10:24 a.m. But, despite that, we’d read the clue carefully, checked the maps and navigated to the starting point:

a1-cribwork bridge

The world-famous cribstone bridge that connects Bailey Island and Orr’s Island in Harpswell, Maine. Though it may look rickety, it’s stood since 1927 and as far as we knew had only been repaired once–in 2010. The stacked granite blocks are held together only by gravity and allow the tide to flow freely. The bridge was placed on the the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Would we make it across?

a2-Maine Fishermen monument

We did. And continued on to Land’s End, where our next clue awaited by the Maine Fishermen’s memorial. It was also a memorial to my mother, for the only other time we’d been to this place was either before we were married or shortly after and Mom was with us–enjoying most the Land’s End Gift Shop. Today–it was closed for the season. It was also a memorial to Dad for he would have told us to fill the innermost recesses of our lungs with salt air. And so we did.

a3a-following the path

Out to the rugged coast of Maine we headed. Just a few days ago, a Nor’easter had made its presence known in these parts and still today the surf spoke to its force.

a3-surfs up 1

Our task–to be mesmerized.

a4-surf's up 2

And to record it in a variety of renditions.

a6-surf's up

And so we did both.

a7-surf's up

Numerous ohs and ahs escaped our lips.

a9-surf's up

And we hadn’t even ventured far.

a9-thunder hole

Finally, we arrived at Thunder Hole and though the wave action wasn’t all that spectacular, we did hear the thunder. Our job–to note which side sounded louder. We chose the left and received our next clue.

a13-on the edge

One of us had to get as close to the surf as possible. And so he did.

a14-surf's up

Together, we needed to appreciate the power.

a15-surf's up

And so we stood.

a16-surf's up

And watched.

a17-surf's up

As water exploded.

a18-continuing on

And then we received our next clue–to move on to the next spot.

a20-Giant's Stairs 1

The Giant’s Stairs.

a21-giant's stairs

The blocky formation earned it the whimsical name of the Giant’s Staircase many years ago. We were reminded of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and prior to arriving wondered if it might look the same. It didn’t, but every giant leaves his own mark on the world. Fortunately, we didn’t need to climb down for today’s challenge–just to acknowledge it. Which we did with pleasure. It seemed only the waves were allowed to ascend and immediately descend–so quick was their exit.

a22-rainbow 1

Having accomplished that leg of the race, we next needed to spy five rainbows. One.

a22-rainbow 2


a22-rainbow 3


a22-rainbow 4


a22-rainbow 5


a25-ocean spray

Task done. And then my guy had to tell me when to take a shot for dramatic effect.

a26-wave explosion

He nailed it.

a28-devil's back

We were feeling good about our position when our next clue told us to eat locally so we grabbed sandwiches at “BIGS,” aka Bailey Island General Store and Eatery. And then we headed to our next destination located on Orr’s Island–Devil’s Back. The name was curious to us, but the trail system is located on either side of Route 24, which apparently is known locally as Devil’s Back. It does form an obvious spine between the two sides of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust property.


Winds had wreaked havoc mainly on the Gun Point Cove side where we walked all of the trails first.


And then we slipped across the spine or Devil’s Back to the Long Cove side. Curiously, the land trust describes the forest here as being mixed, but mostly I noted evergreens including cedars like these, spruce, fir, and pine, with a few maples and paper birch in the mix. I suppose it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

a33-U turn

As we were cruising along, we did get U-turned. It happens on the Amazing Race and was to be expected because we had been in the lead for so long.


And so we had to recall the folds of the rock along Casco Bay. By looking at the angle, our eyes began to see the metamorphic rock turned on its side due to intense pressure in its long-term history and understood that over time various pressures and results of heating and cooling events caused the variation in color and mineral size of the bands. We could also see the arc the folds created that had since eroded.

a34-polypody fern

An easy one for us (well, me anyway) was to identify the fern that grew on the rocks along the Long Cove side of Devil’s Back–Common Polypody it was.

a34-sausage-shaped boudins

And then there was the geologic formation–an igneous dike (lighter color) that cut across the metamorphic rock created we believed by the pinching and swelling from compression and shearing to the Northeast that formed sausage-shaped boudins.

a34-starburst lichen

And we had to name that lichen–sunburst with deep orange disks of its fruiting body or apothecia. Again, we were feeling kinda confident, but one never knows in a race such as this.

a34-stone wall

Our final U-turn challenge was to locate a stone wall–and we did. Island style is so much different from inland style.

a35-fairy home

We thought we were done, but discovered we still had a couple of more challenges to complete. The first was to locate two whimsical sites–in keeping with the Giant’s Stairs. And so we found a fairy house.


And an octopus.

a38-Cundy's Harbor

Our last challenge before we headed to the mat–to locate two American flags blowing in the breeze at Cundy’s Harbor. Bingo. One.

a40-American Flag

And two.

a5-getting wet

At last we arrived at the mat and much to our surprise–got a wee bit sprayed! But that didn’t matter for we’d beat our imaginary contestants and once again finished first. Our prize from the Gnome and Travelocity–a leftover homemade pizza dinner. That meant we didn’t have to prepare a meal when we arrived home on this Mondate. Yippee.

The Amazing Race–Our Style: episode 2. Check back in with us in April to see what challenges we’ll face next.





Connecting the Dots

We thought we were so smart. A friend had drawn a map in the snow last week to show me the location of an alternate trailhead for Peary Mountain in Brownfield, Maine, and spoke of a round-trip hike that would include Frost Mountain. A quick look at a map in our worn and torn Delorme Gazeteer and we knew exactly where we were going–until we didn’t. We soon discovered that the gate and sign I’d been told about didn’t exist and the road turned 90˚ to the left and eventually became impassable and so we turned around and paused again at the sharp turn and wondered some more and drove back out to the main road and continued on to another road and looked for other possible trailheads that appeared on the road map and turned around again and returned to that sharp turn and parked the truck and slipped on our micro-spikes.

p1-Peary Mtn Road sign

It was worth a try we decided. The name was right though it looked less like a road and more like a snowmobile trail. No matter, we figured we’d give it a whirl and if nothing else, at least we’d enjoy exploring.

p2-wetland below mountains

Almost immediately, we spied two mountains above a wetland and wondered if those were the two summits we sought. We’d never looked at Peary from what we considered the back side before, since all of our previous experiences had been from Farnsworth Road off of Routes 5/113.


The road was quite icy and it had been more than a few days since any snowmobiles had passed by.

p5-trail sign

Eventually we came to a snowmobile sign, looked around for a map that I thought my friend had mentioned, and decided to begin with a journey up the Peary Mountain Trail.

p7-trailing arbutus and wintergreen

Conditions were such where previous logging had left the southwestern side open to the sun’s powerful rays and so in places the snow had melted and wildflowers such as trailing arbutus and winterberry basked in the warmth.

p8-Peary Mtn basement

We continued on up, hopeful that we were on the right path, when a familiar foundation confirmed our location. It’s directly across from this foundation that the Peary Mountain trail makes a 90˚ turn–in the past the turn had always been to the left, but yesterday’s turn was to the right. That is, after we noted that my guy should probably encourage the homeowners to purchase a sump pump, so full was their cellar.

p9-trail sign

If you do approach from Peary Mountain Road, you’ll only see a tad of the back of this sign. And if you come from Farnsworth Road, again, it’s not very obvious. But, for both, the turn is located at the height of land . . . and directly across from the foundation.

p10-Peary view 1

The hike to the bald summit isn’t difficult and offers the best of views on any day, but especially in the fall when the tapestry of color stretches forever–or at least to the White Mountains in the distance.

p11-Mount Washington

Yesterday, the view of Mount Washington was obscured by clouds, but we could see that even there the snow was receding.

p13-Mountain view

We stood for a bit, taking in the scene to the west.

p14-Mountain views

And to the north.

p15-across the ridge

And then we followed the ridge, certain that at the end we’d slip onto another trail we’ve never traveled before and begin to make the loop to Frost Mountain.

p16-Pleasant Mtn, Brownfield Bog

Just before slipping onto that other trail, we had one more view to partake–Brownfield Bog and the Saco River were backdropped by Pleasant Mountain.

Well, we followed that other trail for a while, but realized that rather than going toward Frost Mountain, we were moving further and further away from it. And so . . . we backtracked and rose once again to the summit of Peary and retraced our steps down.

p17-another foundation

We were disappointed, except that we knew we would return. And as often happens when following the same trail, we made new discoveries, including an L-shaped foundation.


And then I spied a circular sunken formation subtly outlined with rocks and trusted it was a well.

p19-third foundation

Bingo. For behind it was another foundation, the largest we saw.

p20-day 2-red pines

And so late this morning we returned. But first, we looked for maps in our hiking books and online and found only those created by the local snowmobile club. We had a copy that dated to 2011 and decide to bring it along. We also copied a portion of the map from the Delorme Gazeteer–just in case.

Upon our return, we remembered to pause at the beginning of the trail and take note of the red pine cathedral. Brownfield is a town that knew the fury of the wildfires of October 1947. Most homes and public buildings were mere piles of ash the day after the fire. Many stately places including the summer home and laboratory of Dr. Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed.

Red pines were planted in reaction and today they stand tall in honor of that event of just over seventy years ago.

p21-water flowed

Our plan today was to follow the same route to the turn off for Frost Mountain. And so we did. This time the snow and ice were softer and mud a constant as snow melted and streams formed.

p21-ruffed grouse scat

One of the things we noted yesterday was a lack of mammal prints. But today made up for that and we found plenty of deer tracks in mud and snow. And then, a pile of bird scat–left behind by a ruffed grouse who had probably plowed into the snow when it was a couple of feet thick and spent the night, leaving behind its signature.

p22-kill site

We also found a kill site with no tracks leading to or fro and so we thought a bird had eaten another bird. The circle of life continued in the Maine woods.

p23-fisher prints

A bit further up the trail we spied weasel prints–left behind by a fisher, the meanest of mean. Notice the teardrop shaped toes and diagonal positioning.

p22-sweet fern

We were distracted (or at least I was) by sculptures a many, including those created by sweet-fern.

p24-another foundation

My guy was also distracted and spied an opening in the woods.

p25-fourth foundation

It was another L-shaped cellar. And nearby were what would have been some outbuildings and possibly even a mill. Along most of today’s trail we encountered one stone wall after another, some single and others double.

I don’t know how to decipher stone that’s known fire, but hope one of these days to be able to make that interpretation. In the meantime we wondered–why had these homes been abandoned. Did they burn? I did later note that homesteads in the area belonged to the Johnsons, Grays and other families in the 1880s.

p28-confusing signs

Though we continued on, we really had no idea where we were going and hoped that we had made the right decision with the intention of reaching the summit of Frost Mountain. But, even if we didn’t, we were delighted with our finds. And confused by the signs.

p29-Pleasant Mtn behind us

And then, we started to climb. I turned around as we moved upward and noted our beloved Pleasant Mountain behind us.

p29-summit at lasst

And finally–success. We’d reached the summit of Frost Mountain.

p30-looking toward Peary

About 300 feet below, we had a view from the ledge, but it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as that on Peary Mountain, which my guy looked toward. It was hardly visible from where we stood.

p32-Burnt Meadow Mountain

From the summit, we followed a loop around, pausing to take in the view of Burnt Meadow Mountain.

p33-Brownfield below

And the town of Brownfield below. As the historical society likes to proclaim, “Brownfield’s still here.” Indeed.

p34--my heart bleeds blue pine sap for you

We’d planned to climb Frost and then make our way to Peary, but changed our minds. We’d already climbed Peary yesterday and after finding our way today had a better understanding of the trail system. We also knew that had we made the loop, we’d have walked on Farnsworth Road for over a half mile and then climbed up and down Peary on trails we already knew. Instead, we let our hearts bleed pine blue sap with happiness.

p27-bear prints

Our happiness overflowed when we spied the final set of prints.

p26-bear prints

A black bear. How cool is that? Our second sighting of black bear prints this winter.

We’d connected the dots–even if not literally–and gained a better understanding of the neighborhood and all who live(d) there.

Books of the Month: Stone Walls–Stories Set in Stone

It’s March, that most indecisive of months. And so, I decided to follow in the same pattern by choosing not one,


or two,


or even three,


but four–


all books about stone walls which are once again revealing their idiosyncrasies. These are the Books of March.


Walk along our woodland trail with me and you’ll know that something different happened there ages and ages ago. To reach the trail, we’ll need to pass through two stone walls. Continuing on, we’ll come to a cow path where several pasture pines, massive trees that once stood alone in the sun and spread out rather than growing straight up, must have provided shade for the animals.

e-pine whorls

They are the grandparents of all the pines that now fill this part of the forest.

Further out, one single wall widens into a double wall, indicating a different use of the land.


The walls stand stalwart, though some sections are more ragged than others. Fallen trees, roots, frost, weather, critters and probably humans have added to their demise, yet they are still beautiful, with mosses and lichens offering striking contrasts to the granite. Specks of shiny mica, feldspar and quartz add to the display. And in winter, snowy outlines soften their appearance.

The fact that they are still here is a sign of their endurance . . . and their perseverance. And the perseverance of those who built them. and yet . . . . the stone walls aren’t what they once were, but that doesn’t matter to those of us who admire them.


For me, these icons of the past conjure up images of colonial settlers trying to carve out a slice of land, build a house and maybe a barn, clean an acre or two for the garden and livestock and build walls. The reality is that in the early 1700s, when western Maine was being settled, stones were not a major issue. The land was forested and they used the plentiful timber to build. It wasn’t until a generation or two later, when so much timber had been harvested to create fields for tillage and pasture, that the landscape changed drastically, exposing the ground to the freezing forces of nature. Plowing also helped bring stones to the surface. The later generation of farmers soon had their number one crop to deal with–stone potatoes as they called them. These needed to be removed or they’d bend and break the blade of the oxen-drawn plowing rake.


Stone removal became a family affair for many. Like a spelling or quilting bee, sometimes stone bees were held to remove the stones from the ground. Working radially, piles were made as an area was cleared. Stone boats pulled by oxen transported the  piles of stones to their final resting place where they were woven into a wall.

Eventually single walls, also called farmer or pasture walls, were built as boundaries, but mainly to keep animals from destroying crops. The advent of stone walls and fences occurred within a few years of homesteads being settled, but during the sheep frenzy of the early 1800s many more were built. Those walls were supposed to be 4.5 feet high and fence viewers were appointed by each town to make sure that farmers tended their walls.


Double walls were lower and usually indicated an area that was to be tilled. A typical double wall was about 4-10 feet wide and consisted of at least two single walls with smaller rubble thrown between.

Drive our back roads and you’ll see many primitive walls created when stone was moved from the roadway and tossed into a pile, or wander through the woods and discover stone walls and fountains in unexpected places. The sheep craze ended about 1840 after the sheep had depleted the pastures and younger farmers heeded the call to “Go west young man, go west.” The Erie Canal, mill jobs, and better farming beyond New England all added to the abandonment of local farms.


Today we’re left with these monuments of the past that represent years of hard labor. Building a wall was a chore. Those who rebuild walls now find it to be a craft.

Sam Black, who lives in Bridgton, Maine and spent twelve years rebuilding the walls on his property, once told me, “It was meditation time, like working in the garden. It’s one of those things you do philosophically and it lets you operate at a deeper level. You have time to think and contemplate as you work on the jigsaw puzzle.”

Frank Eastman of Chatham, New Hampshire, is the caretaker for the Stone House property in Evans Notch, and said when I asked if he’d ever worked on single walls, “No, I ain’t that good at balancing things. You got to have a pretty good ability to make things balance and a lot of the times your rock will titter until you put a small rock in just to hold it. No, I don’t want to monkey around with a single wall.”

Karl Gifford of Baldwin, Maine, told me, “I’m either looking for the perfect stone or trying to create the perfect space for the stone I’m working with. It takes a lot of practice, seeing what I need and being able to pick it out of the pile.” The entire time we chatted, his hands moved imaginary stones.

The more walls I encounter in the woods, the more respect I have for those who moved the stones and those who built the fences that became the foundation of life. Walk in the woods and you’ll inevitably find evidence that someone has been there before you–maybe not in a great many years, but certainly they’ve been there. Their story is set in stone.

If you care to learn more about stone walls, I highly encourage you to locate these books. I found all of them at my local independent book store: Bridgton Books.

Books of March:

Sermons in Stone by Susan Alport, published 1990, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
A history of stone walls in New England.

Stone by Stone by Robert M. Thorson, 2002, Walker & Company.
A geological look at stone walls

Exploring Stone Walls by Robert M. Thorson, 2005, Walker & Company.
A field guide to determining a walls history, age, and purpose.

The Granite Kiss by Kevin Gardner, 2001, The Countryman Press.
A look at repairing walls of stone.

And now I leave you with this poem:

The Old Stone Fence of Maine

Shall I pay a tribute here at home,
To the Old Stone Fence of Maine?
It was here when you were born,
And here it will remain.
Stone monuments, to grand old sires,
Who, with a good right arm,
Solved problems little known to you,
E’re their “clearing,” was your farm.

When you see an Old Stone Fence,
Weed grown and black with age,
Let your mind’s eye travel backward
And read its written page.
And, as Moses left us words in stone,
That live with us today,
Almost, with reverence, let us read
What these Stone Fences say.

They tell of those who “blazed the trail,”
We are walking in today;
Those who truly “bore the burdens
In the heat of the day.”
For every stone was laid by hand,
First taken from the soil
Where giant trees were cut and felled,
Bare handed–honest toil.

The Stone Fence marked the boundary line
Whereby a home was known;
Gave them dignity, as masters
Of that spot they called their own.
The Stone Fence, guarded church and school
And the spots more sacred far,
The silent spots, in memory kept
For those who’ve “crossed the bar.”

Then, treasure this inheritance,
Handed down from sire to son,
Not for its worth, to you, today,
But for when, and why, begun.
For with it comes a heritage
Of manly brawn and brain,
That is yours today, from the builders
Of the Old Stone Fence of Maine.

~Isabel McArthur, 1920

Bogging with Barb

Passing off a copy of the book, From Grassroots to Groundwater, about how two small Maine towns fought Nestlé and won, was the perfect excuse to head to Brownfield Bog. I told Barb I didn’t mind driving to her home or somewhere nearby to give her the book because I’d then go exploring and she welcomed the opportunity to do the same.

b2-Kathy's sign

As we began our journey, I asked if she knew Kathy McGreavy. Of course she did. I mentioned that Kathy walks in the bog daily and we might encounter her. Of course we did. Kathy and “her friend” were just coming out after walking their dogs and so we chatted for  bit. Our discussion included mention of the sign Kathy made last year as her capstone project for the Maine Master Naturalist Program. It’s an incredible piece of artwork and as she’s learned, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Recently, she discovered that a woodpecker had taken to pecking it and so the bottom is now protected with a piece of plexiglass. Crazy birds.

b1-Bog view from the road

Eventually, Barb and I said our goodbyes to the McGreavys and walked down the unplowed road where I did warn her about my obsession for stopping frequently to take photos. It began from the start–when we spied the bog through the trees and noticed the contrast of colors and layers.

b3a-pussy willows

And then–specks of white were ours to behold.

b3-pussy willows

Pussy willows. Was it too early she wondered. No–in fact, I spotted some a year ago on February 23 at Lakes Environmental Association’s Holt Pond Preserve.

b4-red-winged blackbirds

Our next reason to stop–the red and yellow shoulder patch or epaulet providing their name: Red-Winged Blackbirds. Again, Barb asked if it was too early. This time, I referenced Mary Holland for the February 27th entry in her book Naturally Curious Day by Day has this headline: Returning Red-Winged Blackbirds Survive Cold Temperatures and Few Insects. Bingo.

b5-water obstacles

Sometimes our stops were to contemplate our next steps–especially when it came to the water that covered the cobble stones on the road.

b6-Barb charges through the water

But sometimes you just have to go for it. And we did. As the morning continued, we ventured through deeper water and plowed ahead knowing that we would need to dry our hiking boots out when we arrived home.

b7-bird's nest

We found a bird nest and wondered about its creator. We did note some acorn pieces inside, so we think it had more than an avian inhabitant.

b8-beaver lodge

And we paused to look at an old beaver lodge. The mud looked recent but none of the sticks were this year’s additions so we didn’t know if anyone was home.

b9-map in the snow

All along, we’d been talking about places we’ve hiked and other topics of interest to both of us. We even learned that we’d both worked in Franklin, New Hampshire, just not at the same time. But speaking of hikes, with her finger, Barb drew a map in the snow and now I have another trail to check out soon with my guy. Should I forget the way, I’ll just reference this map. 😉

b10-raccoon prints

Because we were near water, though most of it still frozen, and the temp was high (actually, too high–in fact, it felt HOT as it soared into the upper 60˚s today), we weren’t surprised to find this set of prints created recently by a raccoon. I love the hand-like appearance and opposite diagonal of each two feet. Can’t you just see him waddling through–in your mind’s eye, that is?

b11-the bog

Our turn-around point offered an expansive view of the bog. As much as we may have wanted to head out onto it, we sided with caution and kept to the edge of the shore.


On the way back, there were other things to admire as there always is even when you follow the same route: winterberries drying up;


rhodora’s woody seed pods and flower buds swelling;

b14-willow gall

and the pinecone-like structure created with leaves by a reaction to a chemical released by the larva that allows a gall gnat midge to overwinter on the willows.

b16-carrion-flower tendrils

And then we stumbled upon a plant neither of us knew. With it’s long stem and curly tendrils, we were sure it was a vine.


Upon arriving home, however, I wondered about the umbel structure that had been its flower and now still held some fruits. A little bit of research and I found it: Carrion Flower (Smilax herbacea), which apparently smells rather foul when it’s in bloom and thus attracts carrion flies as its pollinator. Now I can’t wait to return and check it out in the next two seasons. Any excuse to get back there.

b17-bog to Pleasant Mountain

At last the time had come to say goodbye to the bog and then goodbye to each other. Thanks Barb, for giving me an excuse to go bogging with you. It was indeed a treat.