Mondates with My Guy

 

Peeking About Mondate

Our afternoon Mondate found us sneaking to the peak–Peaked Mountain in North Conway, New Hampshire. While it’s not the most challenging hike ’round these parts, it offers great views.

sign

The trail is located in The Nature Conservancy’s Green Hills Preserve. It’s a great place to snowshoe, but today that wasn’t an option.

up the ravine

We chose the counter-clockwise route–hiking up through the ravine between Peaked and Middle Mountains.

mountain stream

Though it was a constant companion, we couldn’t always see the water rushing downhill, but occasionally we were able to take a peek.

peek peaked

And through the trees we had another sneak peek–that of the summit of Peaked Mountain. Not far from here, we left the mountain stream behind and starting climbing the connector trail toward our destination.

roots

Our discussion centered on roots–our family tree roots and how we can continue to fill in the blanks.

white pine needles

As we got closer to the summit, I realized we were among another family–the  Pinaceae or pine family. White pine, with its five flexible needles in each bundle, grows just below the summit.

red needles 2

At the top, the red pine and pitch pine grow side by side. Their bark is similar in appearance, but the needles and cones make their ID easier. Red pine features two long, stiff needles in a bundle.

pitch pine needles

Pitch pine, on the other hand, has three in a bundle and they’re about half the length of red pine needles. As one friend says, “One, two, three strikes you’re out–pitch pine.” I’m a firm believer in mnemonics.

Then there are the cones.

white pine cone

White pine cones are long and narrow. 4-8″

red pine cone

Red pine cones are ball-like in shape and almost stalkless. 1.5-2.5″

pitch pine 2

Pitch pine cones feature a short, stout prickle on each scale. 2-4″

I never thought about this before, but today it struck me that the whites, with their short needles, have the longest cones, while the reds, with their long needles, have short cones. Why?

A few cool things to note about pitch pine–because of its high resin content, Colonists used it for turpentine and tar to grease wheel axles; and pitch pine is fire resistant, meaning following a fire, new needles are produced on new branches from suppressed buds; also, it will stump sprout after a fire.

lunch rock

We found lunch rock and enjoyed our usual PB&J. Today’s jam was prepared by our friend, Pammie. Spiced peach. Delish.

Middle Mountain

Before us stood Middle Mountain. Though we’ve hiked Peaked a few times before, as well at Black Cap behind it, we’ve never actually reached the summit of Middle. One of these Mondates.

Mount Wash valley

The sun reflected off the roofs of the outlets in North Conway. We were much happier looking down on them, than being down there looking up.

Pudding Pond

Pudding Pond and the Moats add to the view.

Kearsarge

And behind us–another favorite peak: Kearsarge North behind Cranmore Mountain Ski Resort.

ice

The route down put us on the shaded side of the mountain, where ice coated the rocks.

cranmore 1

Cranmore featured top to bottom skiing this past weekend, but really, we need snow. And cold temperatures.

Peek a the great peak, Mt Wash

Even Mount Washington looks like it needs a fresh coating of the white stuff.

frost

We did find some leaves decked out with frost.

scruffing along

While my guy followed me up the trail, I followed him down. He scruffed along, not letting the leaves, rocks and roots bother him. I, meanwhile, took my time, overthinking each placement of my feet. After a few falls last month, each step has become a feat.

waiting patiently

He provided guidance over icy sections and occasionally waited patiently for me to catch up, never once commenting on my caution. I appreciate that.

And I appreciate that we shared a variety of peeks as we conquered the peak. Peaked Mountain Mondate.

Mondate By the Bay

November 30, 2015

After lunch at Gritty McDuff’s in Freeport (haddock sandwiches and a brew–no PB & J today), my guy and I found our way to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park on Casco Bay. So, here’s the good, but scary part. We’ve been there before, but not in a long while–and neither of us had any recollection of it. That means today’s visit was like going there for the first time all over again. (Our dementia is setting in.)

map

Trails follow the coast and circle back to the Harraseeket River, passing through a variation of natural communities. We trekked over all but the North Loop before we ran out of time. Actually, we finished up a wee bit after the park was officially closed for the night and were glad to find the gate still open.

red oak

By the forest floor, it was easy to name the predominate hardwood trees in any given area from Northern Red Oak to

beech leaves

American Beech to

big tooth aspen leaves

Big-tooth Aspen. Spruce, hemlock, pine and fir also fill this more than 200-acre forest given to the State in 1969 by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence M.C. Smith.

down the trail

Sometimes the path was packed dirt that made for easy walking.

stone pathway

In other places, a stone pathway had been carefully laid out before us.

roots

And no woodland trail is complete without an array of roots and rocks.

blow downs

One of the noticeable features of this location is the number of uprooted trees.

blow down dominoes

The wind enjoyed a serious game of tic, tac, toe, three in a row or dominoes with this event. Here’s hoping that no one planned a picnic that day.

blow down every which way

And in other spots, it looked like the gale force winds of both summer and winter beat upon the landscape.

curves

Always on the lookout for interesting sites, my eye was drawn to the wavy inner bark of this old birch. It could be locks of Rapunzel’s hair. Of course, I also see a mermaid swimming in the slightly darker wood. Isn’t that what a naturalist is supposed to see?

eye in the tree

And then there was the hemlock-green sideways-turned eye–taking a different view of the world.

pine needles

While I’m sharing some interesting shots, I thought I’d include this one–of pine needles. It was getting dark and I chose the wrong setting, but I like the artsy texture of it–tweed-like in appearance.

seeing red

And the most interesting of all. My guy–he could pass for the invisible man.

Casco Bay Islands

Of course, we were beside Casco Bay, so we spent time exploring the coast line as well.

islands floating in distance

My knowledge of the island names is less than limited, but it did appear that those in the distance were floating on water–a mirage.

Goggins Island

As part of the park, Goggins Island is an Osprey sanctuary. Though I respect that, I do have to wonder about the human impact on the bird’s mating season. We’ve seen Ospreys build nests atop telephone poles over highways and bike paths with successful births despite the continuous noise and disturbance. But . . . a sanctuary certainly provides an extra layer of protection.

osprey platform

We could only spot one cock-eyed nesting platform on the island–with no nest on it.

Osprey nest 1

We did spy a bird-made nest on the mainland, and rather close to the trail. Just saying.

Googins in sunlight

All nests are abandoned now as the birds flew to South America in September–with plans to return next year to this golden paradise where they’ll mate again. Ospreys are monogamous and repeatedly use the same nest site. That’s the amazing piece to me.

rocky coast

The rocky coast of Maine includes the lighter colored granite pegmatites and darker metamorphic rocks with their repetitive flattened layering.

islands--lines in the rock, sea and sky

I found it intriguing how each layer before us mimicked the next–from the rocks to the ocean waves to the islands to the clouds in the sky.

late afternoon light

And then it was time to bid adieu. The setting sun where the forest meets the bay–Casco Bay. On. A. Mondate.

Chore-date Mondate

Some Mondays we’re forced to stay home and complete chores. And so it was today.

But, one item on our list included a mid-afternoon trip to Holt Pond, where we did some trail maintenance on the Southern Shore Trail.

blowdown

saw 1

A couple of blow downs and some stray branches required our attention.

nature art

So did nature’s art work, visible on a nearby boardwalk.

birch polypores

While I did a wee bit of labor, I constantly scanned the landscape for things like this birch polypore garden.

bp pore surface

Viewed from below, it’s easy to see the pore surface.

deflated puffballs

A stump covered with deflated puffballs took me back to my childhood, when we used these as smoke bombs. I’ve lived a life well spent.

stinkhorn?

I’m not sure how I saw this one and I’m not sure my ID is correct, but I think it’s a stinkhorn. We were moving quickly, so I didn’t take time to sniff.

Indian Pipes

I loved this bouquet of Indian Pipes that have transformed from ghostly white pipes to their brown stick stage topped with handsome woody seedpods.

shades of brown

When we weren’t passing quietly under Hemlocks, we scrunched through shades of brown–certainly a feast for the eyes of those who create Crayola crayons and paint chips.

HP 1

We paused briefly to look at the quaking bog across Holt Pond–a different point of view.

field 1

At last we reached our turn-around point in the field, which isn’t much of a field anymore. It’s a classic example of succession–an area where a disturbance (log landing) created an opening, which filled in with wildflowers that some would consider weeds. Shrubs and tree saplings have taken over and will soon create shade so the sun-dependent flowers will die back.

Field 2

Though their stay here is short-lived, the flowers play a major role by decomposing and releasing nutrients that improve the soil for those that follow.

field goldenrod

So sing your praises to the goldenrods

sweet fern

and Sweet-fern for the work they do to enhance the earth . . . and for their free-form structures–more of nature’s art work.

We relished this “chore” in the middle of our working Monday. And now to get that barn cleaned.

Top Notch Mondate

November 9, 2015

Every Monday spent with my guy is top notch, but this one will stand out above others.

Mt Willard

Our destination–Mount Willard in Crawford Notch. Yup, scaling up that sheer rock face was in our future. We were headed to the top of the Notch.

trail sign

We chose this trail because it is rather easy and quick, yet offers a fabulous view.

Pool

Somehow before reaching Centennial Pool, I did a face plant. (Don’t tell my sister). This time it was a rock that dislodged under my foot. Yeegads, it’s been a rough couple of days, but all is well.

pool falls

Watching water fall is like watching flames leap in a campfire–mesmerizing.

pool 2

And refreshing–as in downright chilly.

snow

Here and there, we found patches of snow. While one woman we met on the trail wasn’t thrilled about it, we rejoiced.

well-trodden path

The path up Mount Willard is well trodden. In fact, it’s an old horse-drawn logging road.

rocky path

Though muddy in spots, for the most part, it’s rocky–requiring an attentive perspective.

in the groove

Like the moss growing in this cut log, we’ve developed a groove over the years that allows us to walk and talk or just walk. I love that we allow each other that space and time to think as we take it all in. To be in our own big worlds.

light at the end of the tunnel

At the start, the trail passes through a hardwood forest mix of beech, birch and oak. And then the community switches to the softwood neighborhood–hemlock and spruce–it takes on that Christmas fragrance.

reaching summit 2

The prize awaits at the end of the tunnel,

prayersprayer 2

where prayers reach far and wide as they blow in the wind.

summit 2

A picture perfect view of Crawford Notch–who can ask for anything more? Route 302 directly below (hard to believe that this very road passes by our home) and the railroad tracks carved into the side of Mount Willey on our right.

lunch rock

It was quite warm as we sat on lunch rock and enjoyed the usual–PB&J (with butter for me!)

Mount Webster ridge

Below us stretched the U-shaped glacial valley, formed to the left by Mount Webster. I’m forever in awe of such settings, where one can only imagine the forces that have shaped this landscape.

erosion

falling rock

And continue to shape it, as evidenced by the mountainside erosion and landslides.

spruce on edge

Though the spruce and firs do their best to hold all in check, nature happens.

MW 4

A few steps to our left and a look over our shoulders–Mount Washington.

RR station

Somehow the descent passed quickly and we reached the Crawford Notch Depot in record time. But . . . we missed the train–by a month or so. Good thing our truck was still in the parking lot.

Mt W and R

Since we were so close, we drove up to Bretton Woods for a rear view (as in backside, not rare) of the Great Mountain. Two clear days in a row–a treat.

Tuckerman's Pale Ale

To celebrate, we treated ourselves to a glass of Tuckerman’s Pale Ale.

BE 1BE 2BE 3BE 4BE 5

And in return, we were treated to this view as we drove across the Moose Pond Causeway on Route 302.

Most definitely a Top Notch Mondate.

Work We Must Mondate

Today was a day made for some writing/editing work and yard work, but . . . my guy and I managed to squeeze in a hike–yesterday.

Last week, our friend, Dick B., excitedly shared with us a hiking location we’d never explored–Notch Mountain in Porter. He had recently walked the trail with the Denmark Mountain Hikers, a local group that ventures off each Friday.

So it was, we followed Dick’s directions and drove to Porter in search of the trailhead. An easy miss, but we spied the wood kiln he spoke of as we drove past it and turned around at the Hiram town line, knowing we’d gone too far. Backtracking, the trailhead was across from Clemons Point Road and the kiln.

.Notch sign

The sign–about twenty feet in from the road. Unassuming to say the least.

Notch trail wet

As we played dodge the water and looked at the slayed trees, we turned to each other and grimaced. What was Dick thinking?

Notch foundation 1

But we journeyed on and the muckiness abated. Then, this foundation practically jumped out at us.

Notch foundation 2

We weren’t sure exactly what we were looking at, but felt that this was a large house and there was either an attached barn or large shed, or the other structure was located quite close to the house.

Notch fdn bricks

Buried beneath the leaves, bricks indicated a chimney on an outside wall.

Notch tool shed?

We discovered what may have been a tool shed–a separate, three-sided room.

Notch farm remnantNotch plow 2

Indeed, we even found a few tools, including a plow, which became significant as we continued to explore along the trail.

Notch fdn feather:wedge

In the barn foundation, I like how one stone is wedged between the other two. It offers a reflection of how these rocks came to be in this place. The minerals, like quartz and feldspar, that are an essential part of granite’s make-up, interlock like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The end result: granite is one of the strongest and most durable rocks.

Using the plug and feather method practiced in the 19th century, small holes were hand drilled every six or seven inches across the stone. Two shims, called feathers, were placed in the hole and a wedge or plug was hammered between them. The farmer probably built this house in the winter when his farming duties weren’t as plentiful. And by drilling then, ice formed in the holes and helped to complete the work of splitting the granite. He and his family would have used a stone boat or sledge pulled by oxen to move the stones into place.

Notch mound of stones

A little further along, we came upon a massive wall of medium-size stones. This farmer must have cleared many, many acres, thus producing an incredible stone potato crop. And then moved them all so he could plow. My fingers twinge and my back hurts just thinking about all the work involved–makes our yard work look so easy.

Notch trail

On either side of the trail were stone walls, indicating this was more than a logging road at one point in time.

Notch big rocks

Throughout the woods, we found more piles of rocks, some with small stones and others, like this with medium-size stones. Rather than quilting bees, this family must have enjoyed stone bees–an exercise to remove as many stones from the ground as possible.

Notch wall:gnarly old maple

The stone wall frenzy is evidenced all along the trail. Sometimes double-wide garden walls, and other times single walls, also called farmer or pasture walls that were built as boundaries, and to keep animals from destroying crops.

Notch cemetery

Dick had mentioned the Wormwood cemetery, but we were still surprised when we happened upon it.

Notch grave 2

Charles B. Fly

b. Jun. 20, 1828; d. Oct. 27, 1860

Notch grave 1

Mehitable Wormwood

b. Oct. 16, 1825; d. Nov. 27, 1851

Notch, stone 4

Lydia Jane Osgood Wormwood

b. 1826; d. Dec. 27, 1851

Notch, stone 3

Rosanna Warren Wormwood, 2nd wife of Ithamar Wormwood

b. Oct., 1791; d. Feb. 28, 1856

Notch, 2 stones

Hannah and Ithamar Wormwood (b. May 29, 1791; d. Jul. 16, 1865). Two-year-old Jason Fly was also buried here.

Apparently the Flys were related to the Wormwoods, which makes sense. I suspect that there are other foundations to be discovered, but I was with my guy–Mr. Destinationitis, and so we continued toward the summit.

Notch glacier

As we climbed, we noticed glacial striations on rocks (aka snowmobile etchings),

Notch, beech contortionist

beech trees that think they are contortionists,

Notch oaks

and a mix of white and Northern red oak leaves.

Notch summit 1

Then the summit came into view.

Notch stop sign

Thank goodness for the faded stop sign

Notch summit fairy

and the fairy who watches over all who step too close to the edge.

Notch view

As the rain clouds gathered, we ate our PB&J sandwiches, this time topped off with Halloween candy and views of Clemons and Little Clemons ponds.

Notch, burnt meadow and pleasant

Burnt Meadow Mountain and Pleasant Mountain formed the backdrop.

We hiked down among rain drops, but the sun shone once we arrived home.

mansion, hunter and hunted

I was restless and didn’t want to deal with yard work, so I went for a walk and came upon evidence of the hunter and the hunted.

Today, while our work continued, I had the opportunity to escape to Pondicherry Park for a stewardship committee meeting–now that’s my idea of a great meeting place.

snowman

On my way, this guy reminded me that the next season is right around the corner (literally).

Pondicherry Reflection

And in the park–still plenty of color to reflect upon.

We know we have to work, whether to earn a living or maintain a home, but we do love our opportunities to explore new and old places. Thanks for sharing this one with us, Dick. It warrants further exploration to wander and wonder.

Three-Season Mondate at Back Pond Reserve

OK, so it wasn’t three seasons all packed into one Monday date, but walking up the   Mountain Trail at GLLT’s Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham today brought back memories of previous visits by my guy and me.

yellow

The woods are awash in golden-green yellows right now, especially where the trees include beech, big-tooth aspen and striped maple.

a dose of red

Climbing higher, variations of red join the carpet display.

summit 3 of 5 Kezars

We were surprised by how quickly we reached the summit, which is what got us recalling previous visits.  Today, the water of three of the Five Kezars sparkled while Pleasant Mountain stood watch in the background.

summit, summersummit, winter

As I looked through my photo files, I realized we have never hiked this trail in the spring. In the summer there are wildflowers to make us pause, and winter finds us exploring mammal activity–thus our treks are slower.

summit, Mt Washington

Today’s view included snow on Mount Washington, the grayish-white mountain located between the pines.

Ganong chocolates

As we enjoyed the view, we topped off our PB&J sandwiches with the last couple of truffles we had purchased at Ganong Chocolatier in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, earlier this month.

water bottle 2

And water, of course.

which way do we go?

Instead of letting the arrows confuse us, we turned 180˚ and followed the connector trail between the Mountain and Ron’s Loop. It’s not on the map yet and still needs some work, but it’s full of surprises–only a few of which I’ll share right now.

winter, connecting trail

We’ve always enjoyed this trail and today realized that though it’s much easier to follow than it was a few years ago, many trees have blown down along the way.

numerous trees 2

They’re easy enough to climb over. If you go, do know that there are two or three mucky spots along this trail as well, but again, easy to get around.

lone red pine, connecting trailred pine, winter

This lone red pine always makes us wonder. Perhaps it found its way here via a seed on a skidder?

winter bobcat prints

Today we found moose tracks, plus red fox and coyote scat. If there was bobcat scat, it was obscured by the leaf litter, but we know they frequent this area.

winter, snowshoe hare

We also know the bobcat’s favorite meal lives here–we saw this guy in early March and of course, always see his prints on winter treks.

artist's conkcrowded parchment, connecting trail

Lion's Mane past peak

A couple of fun finds along the way–artist’s conk, crowded parchment and an old lion’s mane.

the bridge on Ron's Loop

winter, the bridge at Ron's Loop

The bridge on Ron’s Loop is all decked out with autumn colors–a contrast to its winter coat.

honoring Ron

We’re forever thankful to Ron for his leadership and foresight,

bench on Ron's Loop

even when we can’t see the plaque that honors him.

Kendra and Jewell

We met no other people on the trail today, but one of my fondest memories dates back two years when one of GLLT’s interns, Kendra, offered her arm to Jewell for a safe journey. Once upon a time, Jewell was Kendra’s Sunday School teacher and on this summer day, Kendra was Jewell’s guide.

water bottle by Ron's Loop

As we walked into the parking area of Ron’s Loop, we noticed that someone had left behind a water bottle. If it’s yours, it’s still there.   wasp nest Ron's Loop

Each time we visit, we take a moment to check out the wasp nest at the kiosk.

Ron's Loop kiosk, Jan 2015

We can’t remember when we first noticed it, but it’s been there for a while.

coffee sign

One last thing to note before we walked back to the Mountain trailhead where our truck was parked–Magnolia coffee. Wish I’d ordered more than one this past year. Dark roast.

One Mondate–three seasons. And now the quest is to turn it into a four-season destination. Stay tuned.

Work-date Mondate

October 19, 2015

Sometimes we just have to settle down and work. Thus was the case today, when my guy and I drove to camp to winterize it and put some boats away.

camp

I helped. Honest, I did. I hauled some of the plexi-glass for the porch up from the basement. And held the plexi-glass in place. And handed him bunches of screws and washers. And lifted the back end of the kayaks. And rolled up the hammock.

PM 2

But mostly, I played with my camera.

fall at camp

Recording the season is also important work.

PM 1

And I figured out how to get my telephoto lens to work again.

no. red oak 2

I was thrilled to focus on the scenes before me, including these Northern red oak leaves

huckleberry leaves

and those of the huckleberries.

island 1

My lens caught the island views,

leaves on water

leaf tapestry,

loon 2

and loons in action.

witch hazel 1witch hazel nuts

And I couldn’t pass up the flowering witch hazel with its fruits forming. This is a shrub that knows all about work–whether as a divining rod to locate underground water or an extract with healing powers.

So you see, my guy and I both worked on this Mondate.

Down Low, Up High

I needed some time for quiet contemplation mid-morning, so I was thankful my guy was working for a few hours.

Sunday morning

I knew exactly where to go to sort out my thoughts.

orange peel on logging road

Along the way, I made discoveries like this–orange peel fungi (Aleuria aurantia), which prefers disturbed areas. Hmmm . . . and disturbed brains?

oak leaf iced in

I found a Northern red oak leaf frozen in ice. But it won’t remain that way forever. Eventually, the ice will melt and the leaf will gradually break down, adding nutrients to the soil. It takes time. I need to remember that.

flowering witch hazel

The witch hazels are in full bloom and they made me smile. Life is good after all.

moose track 1

Another reason to smile–moose tracks. Not the ice cream, but the real thing. Though the ice cream is mighty delicious. Our sons tease me because I mine a gallon for the big chunks of chocolate.

home sweet home

Home sweet home at last. My brain was cleared and I knew the path to take.

Prehike view

After lunch, my guy and I also chose a path. Our destination–the one and only Pleasant Mountain. We planned to leave one truck at the bottom of the Ledges Trail and the other at the Bald Peak trail head. Lots of other people also took advantage of the crisp air–a day meant for hiking.

new BP trailhead

The sign has been moved to the back of the new parking lot

new trailhead

where steps lead the way to the new trailhead. Thanks to Loon Echo Land Trust for all the work they and their volunteers and the AMC did to recreate this trail. My guy hadn’t been on it this year and he joined me in singing its praises.

Bald Peak trail stream

Below Needle’s Eye, water cascades over the rocks.

follow the yellow leaved bedrock

Sometimes we followed the yellow brick road, I mean, yellow leafed bedrock

thrift shop

and found a thrift shop along the way. I only hope the owners of these jackets didn’t regret that they’d left them on the lower portion of the trail. The climb up is sweat inducing, but the wind at the summit–brrr.

causeway 2

I love this peek back at the causeway by Sabattus Island, where I had taken the photo of the mountain about an hour previously.

North Ridge summit view

At the North Ridge intersection, mountain views opened.

ridge 2

The fall foliage is beginning to wan, but ever so slightly and the blueberry plants provide a colorful contrast.

Moose Pond from ridge

One moment Moose Pond was clearly visible

waves of flurries

and the next it was clouded by waves of flurries. Snow flurries 🙂

The People's Marathon

Step for step, I followed my guy who sported his Marine Corps Marathon jacket. It’s been a while since he’s run a marathon, but only a year since he last ran a half marathon. He’s in training again–the Moose Pond Half Marathon is in two weeks. He ran the course yesterday–13.1 miles around the pond. I’m mighty proud of this guy–he’s raising money for the marathon’s cause–the adaptive ski program at Shawnee Peak. If you are so inclined and want to support him, please stop by his store. This is only one of the numerous things he quietly does for others.

fire tower 2

At last we reached the fire tower at the summit.

windy summit 1

It was a wee bit windy as the flag indicates.

summit, us

That didn’t stop us from pausing

summit view 4

summit view 2

summit view, Kezar Pond:snow

to take in the view. Yes, that is snow falling from those clouds. But only flurries.

ledges view 3

On our way down the Ledges Trail, Moose Pond again came into sight.

I was thankful for yet another opportunity to enjoy a mountain high with my guy–and overcome the low points of the day.

This may be a Sunday Mondate. Not sure what tomorrow will bring us. That’s the thing about life and nature–we never completely know everything. I like that. Lows and highs–it keeps us wondering and wandering.

This post is dedicated to my guy who will run in the Moose Pond Half Marathon on November 7 and to Major Kimberly Olmsted Jennings, USAF, who will run in the Marine Corps Marathon, The People’s Marathon, next Sunday. So proud of both of you.

Mondate with a Quest

My guy and I set off on a quest this morning–not a long and arduous search, but a search none-the-less.

trail sign

The setting for our quest–Rumford Whitecap made possible by the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

selfie hiker

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie at the trailhead.

red maples 1

Though this is a popular trail during blueberry season, we never think of it until fall.

red maple on fire

And this fall is particularly spectacular. The red maples are on fire everywhere we turn.

color quest in water

Our initial quest was two-fold: 1. to hike to the summit, and 2. to absorb as much color into our mind’s eye as we could. The palette will change soon ’round these parts and though we love winter, we relish the dance of color that seems to last only for a fleeting moment.

wet trail

Aptly known as the red/orange trail, we ascended the mountain, ever mindful of the water on the rocks. Along the way, we recalled hikes along this same trail much later in the season, when crampons were a necessity.

whitecap:black sign

Though an option presented itself, we stuck to our quest for the summit of Whitecap. We’re saving Black Mountain for another day.

color quest

color quest tapestry

As we moved out of the woods and onto the bald ledges, the tapestry revealed itself.

color quest 2

Splashes of blueberry plants and sheep laurel grace the granite landscape.

color quest 3

No matter where we turned, color begged to be captured.

getting closer to the summit

The whitecap at the top of this photo is not the summit, but our destination was getting closer with each footstep.

caterpillar quest

We weren’t the only ones on a quest. I’m not sure of the species, but this lone caterpillar moved quickly across the bald face.

color quest 4

Finally, we reached the top, where the display was over the top.

geo survey

It’s always fun to find the survey monument–bronze disks used by surveyors since 1879 for mapping purposes.

Andover 2

In the middle of this photo are the larger-than-life satellite dishes located in Andover. When I was a kid and we vacationed in Maine, our parents took us to the Andover Earth Station. It was one of the first satellite stations in the USA, built in 1961 with the Telstar 1 satellite–an experimental link between North America and Europe. The Telstar Bubble, which housed the immense horn antenna, was taken down in the 1990s.

wind turbines

For the past few years, these wind turbines have been visible. Today, we noticed two other ridges decorated with turbines. I’m of two minds on this topic–the old wishy washy self that I am. In Canada,  wind turbines are located across the landscape and even as we hiked the Cape Mabou trails on Cape Breton Island last week, we stood below one and listened to its airplane engine-like sound, but we didn’t hear it until we were quite close. I actually think they are quite beautiful as they turn–ballet of a sort.

view toward Rumford

In the midst of the mountains, a peek at Rumford.

my guy napping

lunch exploration

After our usual PB&J, I explored further along the ridge while my guy napped. You might be able to spot him in the center of the top photo. Of course, he did run this morning before hiking–he’s training for the Moose Pond Half Marathon, a race that raises $$$ for the Maine Adaptive Ski Program at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton.

summit wait

It was a short nap–given that it was on a bed of rock.

color quest descent 2

We hiked down the Starr trail, where our color quest found further fulfillment.

color quest descent 3

color quest descent

Simply stunning.

climbing down 2

As we descended, we switched from one community to another.

changed community

Sometimes, it was the bracken fern that lit the way.

color quest descent golden

Other times, the sugar and striped maples cast a bright light.

prints

We took only photos and memories, and left only footprints–mine on the left, his on the right.

Before our Mondate ended, we decided an ice cream was in order. We hike so we can eat. This turned out to be the more arduous part of our quest–hiking 6 or so miles was a cinch in hindsight. A drive through Bethel revealed no ice cream shops. We continued on Route 2 for a bit and found one hopeful spot, but it had closed an hour earlier. My mouth was watering for a peppermint stick hot fudge sundae–with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Half an hour later, with my tongue hanging out, we stopped at Melby’s in North Waterford. After purchasing a pint of Hagen Daz chocolate (not a sundae, but sometimes you just have to make do), we turned and my dear friend Ursula Duve appeared before our eyes. She was on her own ice cream quest. I had the pleasure of introducing her to my guy and he instantly fell in love. As we chatted about our outdoor adventures, Ursula gave us this advice, “For as long as you can do it, do it.” Well, maybe those weren’t her exact words–after all, I did have ice cream on my brain–but they’re mighty close to  it. She and her husband have hiked many more trails than we’ll ever conquer, but we’re thankful for the opportunity to wander together as often as we can–especially on a Mondate.

ice cream quest

We finished that pint in record time. It was arduous, but someone or two had to do  it.

selfie 1 smiley face

A Mondate with  quest or two or three–always brings a smile to our faces.

Double Mondate–Cape Style

My guy and I took off on an adventure a week ago today.

welcome, red road

We were excited to see that they’d rolled out the red carpet

Welcome sign

and welcome mat.

B&Bexterior

We rested our weary bodies at the Colby House B&B in Sydney each night and gorged on delicious  three-course breakfasts every morning–think pumpkin scones followed by blueberry cobbler topped with two scoops of frozen yogurt, fresh mint and a raspberry, followed by toast topped with guacamole, tomato and an egg, plus crisp bacon and orange slices. Each day, it was something equally decadent. Yeah, we didn’t eat again until about 9pm.

Beach walk, Port Hood

skipping stones

We walked along the beach near Port Hood, where the skipping stones begged to be set free.

mabou d1 cliff view

Our discovery of the Mabou trails was one of our favorite finds.

Mabou d1 b

Around every bend the scene changed.

Mabou hiking, day 1

We hiked here on our first day when the sun was shining.

mabou d2 enchanted forest 2

And returned for a five hour hike on our last full day, when the raindrops glistened.

Mabou d2 more moose bones

We found all kinds of animal sign, including plenty of scat and even a few moose bones.

Mabou 2 enchanted forest

The lady ferns decorated the slopes of the enchanted forest

mabou d2 lungwort

and lungwort on many trees let us know that we were in a rich, healthy ecosystem.

Mabou day 2, land trusts

The Cape Mabou Highlands encompasses about 5,000 acres of coastal wilderness centered around MacKinnon’s Brook on the western coast of the island.

Mabou trail signs

The trails are well signed and maintained.

cabot the road

Of course, no trip to the island is complete without a journey on the Cabot Trail.

cabot moose print

We followed the Skyline Trail and found plenty of moose prints beside the boardwalk.

cabot skyline moose gate

We walked through a gated area along the path intended to let all but moose pass through. The hope is that this area that has been fenced off because the moose had browsed it extensively, will eventually return to a boreal forest. The jury is still out on that one.

cabot descending skyline trail

We followed the boardwalk and descended to the lookout where the wind nearly blew us off the cliffs.

Moose moving off skyline trail

On our way back, we saw a young moose standing beside the trail. By the time I focused the camera, it had turned.

moose on skyline trail

Through the woods, we could see its mother and a sibling.

cabot water fall

On other trails, we hiked to a small waterfall,

big old sugar maple

through an old growth sugar maple forest and

cabot lone sheiling

beside the lone sheiling, a rectangular structure closely modeled after Scottish traditional dwellings for crofters or tenant farmers, with its rubblestone walls, rough-hewn timbers and thatched roof.

cabot jack pine forest colors

One of my favorites was the pitch pine forest, where the contrast of color and growth habit was most evident.

cabot cliff face

We discovered that life on the cliffs is abundant and lush.

fruit, bunchberries

Really lush.

fruit, wild raisins fruit wild raisins drying up fruits, wild r dried up

We saw how wild raisins earned their common name.

fruit, cherries

Everywhere we looked we saw fruit, like these cherries,

fruits mountain ash

mountain ash berries,

fruits rose hips

beach rose hips,

fruits, blue beads

and blue beads (Yellow clintonia).

apples in brook

But the tree that had us wondering the most caught our attention on the first hike. We saw apples in the brook far below.

apple trees

My assumption was that there must be a homestead nearby. Then we began to notice apple trees growing alongside many roads we traveled (and we traveled on many). Apparently, they are descendants of ancient trees planted by early settlers. The climate is obviously agreeable–while the growing season on the highland plateau is shorter and experiences harsher extremes, it appears that in the lowlands, the amount of sun and rain is just right. Life is good and plentiful. Wildlife that is.

mine hat

While we did hike in some rain, we also spent a couple of rainy days learning about local history. Our favorite museum was the Miners Museum in Glace Bay.

miners 2

Our guide and former miner, Wishie Donovan, played a huge role in making this the best of all tours.

mine 5

As he lead us down the tunnels, he shared the story of mining for coal miles beneath the ocean–based on historical facts and his own experiences.

mine 8

We donned capes and hardhats and had to bend low to avoid bumping our heads.

museum mine critters

Horses like Fred, well, not really like Fred because he’s not real, helped haul the mined coal and rats were actually important. We’ve always heard about the canaries in the mine, but rats lived there and if there were no rats running about in the morning, the men took that as a sign not to enter.

museum, mine, bending over

We came away with a greater understanding of this enterprise.

museums, Bell quote

In Baddeck, we stopped at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.

museums, water skater

There were many interesting things on display and we learned about the vast variety of interests and knowledge Bell had, including a look at the common water skater model built by his friend, Hector McNeil. They used this to better understand nature’s own hydrofoil, so they could apply its basic principles to the hydrofoil they were building.

museums, The bells in Baddeck

I do have to wonder, though, if Alec and Mabel Bell sat on the bench looking out over St. Patrick’s Channel and wondered why there weren’t any truly interactive displays at the museum. In a film clip, one of their daughters mentions how he would bring science projects to the dinner table for them to investigate. We spent way too much time reading about him and not enough time actually experiencing the discoveries he made. Or trying to make our own–which is what he apparently encouraged.

musuems, lynx

I did spot a bit of wildlife at the Bell museum–a Canada lynx. We saw plenty of cat scat on our hikes. Apparently, the lynx were the top cats on the island until the Canso Causeway was built and the bobcats found their way across. I’m not sure which cat owned the scat we saw, but the lynx are the main cat predators in the higher elevations, while bobcats inhabit the lower elevations. I’m in awe of either one of these elusive animals.

museum Highland Center

It poured as we raced from one building to another at the Highland Village Museum in Iona.

Musuems Highland Center

I liked this portrayal of life as it was presented in a timeline from building to building. The Scottish Gaelic culture came alive as we traveled from one setting to the next and watched life transform.

Museums, Highland school

We almost got to watch life transform for longer than we’d intended. While in the schoolhouse, we heard the door close and then a latch moved. We were about to be locked in for the night.

Bras D'Or Bras D'or2

On our final day, as we left Cape Breton, the sun shown brightly over Bras d’Or Lake.

thistle 1

The waning thistle signaled the end of our Cape Breton tour.

Shephards 1

But the fun wasn’t over. We stopped in Saint John, New Brunswick, and connected with family. Another leaf on the family tree for my guy.

family church

It also meant a stop at the sight of the former parish his ancestors knew so well.

family grave:Allen

And a photo op beside their grave stone.

family home

No trip to Musquash is complete without a visit to his namesake’s home.

family homestead map

And this time we met the fire chief who knew the family well and pointed out the original homestead site.

family photos

The chief obviously values his local history. He took us upstairs in the firehouse and pointed out other photos he’s collected. We suspect some of my guy’s ancestors are students in the lower righthand photo.

the end border crossing

At last, it was time to cross the border–back to reality. Mondate to Mondate. Cape style.

This post is dedicated to our friend, Dick Olmsted, who passed away this week. Dick knew the value of family and friends. We’ll forever be enriched by our memories of time well spent with him. And the wise guy he could be 🙂

Rain Drops and Mondates Always Make Me Glad (and humble)

My guy and I ventured off to the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area in Brownfield today. Cooler temps and plenty of sunshine marked the early morning hours.

BBog sign

Covering almost 6,000 acres, this area was formerly known as the Brownfield Bog, but was renamed to honor Major Sanborn, a beloved Maine Warden, who lost his battle with cancer several years ago.

Bbog1

This is a place we return to often, but I have to admit that my sense of place was thrown off within the past week.

Saco River

We came to explore the Saco River. So this is where our pride takes a ribbing. We’ve walked to the river on most of our visits, but we never realized that this was the actual river. Huh? Yup, it’s true. In our brains, this was either the Shepard River or an old course of the Saco. Maybe it’s because when we’ve stood beside its bank, we’ve never seen anyone paddling along. Maybe it’s because until yesterday we never looked at the map. We never bothered to locate our place–just assumed we knew where we were. Another life lesson. Just a week ago, we were the merry paddlers, cruising along at tandem kayak speed, passing through the bog from Lovewell Pond to maybe a  half mile north of the Brownfield Bridge (maybe less). Maybe it’s because we were such swift paddlers that we were clueless. Anyway, now we know: The Saco River bisects the bog.

SR exploration

Exploring the floodplain became our focus as we followed the river.

river erosion

Each year, the river consumes more land, making me wonder what it was like when Brownfield was founded in 1802.

sensitive fern, chest height

We walked down a mowed path, where the sensitive fern grows chest high on either side.

royal fern

And the royal ferns are equally large and plentiful.

glen

Saco River 3

We explored in a different direction, perhaps trespassing on private land. (Oops, did that chain between the posts really mean “keep out”?)

elm 2

We recognized an elm growing over the river that we’d spotted while kayaking last week and knew that we’d established our sense of place.

SR 2

And then we turned from the river, retraced our steps and continued on to explore more of the bog via foot.

wild raisins 1

Wild raisins are abundant.

wild raisins

Eventually, the fruits will all turn blueish black and if the birds don’t eat them, they’ll shrivel up–like raisins.

common winterberry

The showy red fruits of common winterberry also dot the landscape. The curious thing about this plant–though this is a member of the holly family, the leaves are not sharply toothed like other hollies, nor are they evergreen.

milkweed dispersal

Milkweed is ready to fly away and find a new home.

green darner dragonfly

Speaking of flying, if I hadn’t seen this green darner fly into the foliage, I never would have discovered it.

Meadowhawk dragonfly

Meadowhawk dragonflies were much easier to spot, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.

BBog 5

Openings in the shrubs and trees provide frequent views,

Pleasant Mtn 4

including the backside of Pleasant Mountain.

white oak bark

The community changed a wee bit, and suddenly we were under white oaks with their flaky-surfaced, rectangular, block-like bark.

northern red oak bark

Beside them grow the Northern red oaks, with their flat-topped ridges outlined by the rusty red inner bark.

big tooth aspen bark

The horizontal/vertical line design of big-toothed aspen also made its presence known.

big tooth aspen leaf

And on the ground, a big-toothed leaf provides a hint of what is to come.

red maple leaves changing

A few red maples are beginning to announce the changing season as well.

Bbog 2

When we reached our turn-around point, we were feeling a bit hot and sticky. We’d shed our sweatshirts and were thankful for a slight breeze.

fragrant water lily

I admired a few fragrant water lilies still in flower, while my guy followed the action of a northern harrier through the binoculars.

storm leaves

And then the wind really picked up. I looked at the trees and could see the backs of the leaves–my mother had long ago told me that that was a sure sign of rain to come.

storm cloud

We looked up and had an Eeyore moment.

boots

I was wearing my boots, but no raincoat.

raindrops 1

It rained. It poured. It felt good.

raindrops 2

And then it was only a memory–and a pleasant one at that.

rain: Pleasant Mtn

We watched it move across the southwest end of Pleasant Mountain as we headed back.

lb andbee

When we arrived home, the air was a bit cooler. I stepped outside to check out the insect activity in the yard and through the camera lens I realized something was photobombing the bee.

lb7

Two somethings in fact–a pair of locust borers apparently shared their own Mondate. The only locust tree in the neighborhood is down the street, but I suspect that momma will be laying some eggs in the bark at dusk tonight.

It looks like rain once again, but we’re glad for the opportunity to explore together on another Mondate–and gain a better understanding of our greater neighborhood, our sense of place. So much for pride. Life is a humbling experience.

Saco River Mondate on a Sunday

My relationship with the Saco River began in 1985 when I was a YMCA camp director in Laconia, New Hampshire. My charges were tweens and teens. Each week they piled into the 15 passenger van and I took them on an adventure–just as much fun for me as for them.

I’d scoped out this particular canoeing/camping trip ahead of time and felt confident that we had a good plan.

We rented canoes from Saco River Canoe and Kayak in Fryeburg, Maine, and the first leg of our journey was a long day spent paddling down the river and then up the old course to the covered Hemlock Bridge. My copilot was a 16-year-old lifeguard named George.

Though we’d practiced canoeing techniques in the Y pool, the real thing was a challenge.  Once on the river, the kids eventually learned to paddle in an almost straight line after many circular attempts.

At last we reached our destination, set up camp, told ghost stories, spooked each other and settled down for the night. Sleep alluded me so I watched the lightning show and listened to serenading bullfrogs.

In the middle of the night, one of the girls yelled out, “Help! Somebody! Help me!” When I arrived at her tent, I asked, “Dawn, did you have a nightmare?”

“It wasn’t Dawn. It was me,” replied Melissa quietly. “The zipper on my sleeping bag just got stuck.”

The next morning we paddled back to the main course of the river and enjoyed a pancake breakfast on a sandbar. As the day went on, we lolled about–splashing each other, getting out to swim, and singing silly camp songs.

Until . . . a few girls forged on and forgot to pull over when they saw Walker’s Rip. Two canoes went over the rip without any problems. The third got caught atop two rocks in the rapids. The girls panicked when water began to flow in one side and out the other as the bow and stern bent toward the river. The current and slippery rocks made the ten feet from the riverbank feel like ten yards. People on either side came to the rescue. In a fast few moments things went from bad to worse and we had several injuries accompanied by lots of high drama, including an ambulance ride to Memorial Hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire.

The diagnosis: everyone was fine with a few minor bruises. The prescription: ice cream and Tylenol.

Though we were supposed to camp out that night, the kids were done, so I drove back to Laconia and the Y director met us there (with a 6 pack to calm my nerves.)

As far as summer jobs go, this ranks number one on my list. I don’t know what has happened to any of the kids, but I hope they still remember the pranks and fun we shared. (Number 2 favorite summer job: painting Yale bowl)

A year later I landed a teaching job in western Maine and the Saco River and Hemlock Bridge became part of my place.

So it was that yesterday, my guy and I left one truck at the Brownfield Bridge and drove to Lovewell Pond to launch our tandem kayak. It was actually a reconnaissance mission for me because the Upper Saco Valley Land Trusthas asked me to lead a paddle on this portion of the river in a few weeks.

Mt Tom

Mount Tom, a Roche Moutonnée, is visible to the left. This asymmetrical hill features 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.

Lovewell Pond

We’d never been on Lovewell Pond before, so were a bit astonished by the white sandy beaches accentuated by the mountain backdrop as we looked toward Fryeburg and North Conway.

Pleasant Mtn

Pleasant Mountain also forms part of the backdrop, giving us a sense of direction. Home is on the other side of the far left peak.

corm 2

Paddling about for a bit, we checked out the local wildlife, including this pair of cormorants and

heron

a wading great blue heron.

SR access

And then we were ready to begin our journey. We thought we might be a wee bit crazy to be on the river this weekend, along with the boys from deliverance, but we only met a few. For the most part, we encountered families and friends enjoying a beautiful day in Maine. And a clean river thanks to the Saco River Recreation Council.

Saco Access

Silver maple trees grace the banks.

shallow water

Being September, the river was quite shallow in some spots. But walking in the water felt good.

round the bend

Around each bend, we reminisced about previous river runs, including the time we did a much longer trip in an inflatable raft–we were young, in love and clueless. And uncomfortable. Now we are old, in love and still clueless. But happy.

silver maples

Though the river is at a low point, you can tell by the bank that water rushes through here. The silver maple, known for the silvery color of its leaf’s underside, is fast growing and a bank stabilizer, but it also succumbs to the river’s force.

Elm leaves

As we floated along, I began to wonder what I should point out in a few weeks.  Yes, there’s the silver maple floodplain forest, which includes red maples. Royal fern, sensitive fern and ostrich fern were visible along the way. And some shrubs and plants. Finally, we came upon this American elm leaning over the river–large and healthy with its asymmetrical leaves.

Burnt Meadow Mtn in background

We were close to our pull-out point when I saw some white and red pines and thought I might talk about the King Pines–those massive pine trees that were marked with the king of England’s arrow, so selected because they grew straight and tall and would be perfect for ships’ masts.

I may also mention the river’s curse, but I might save it until the end when Burnt Meadow Mountain is visible in the background.

According to legend, in 1675 the wife and infant son of Squandro, chief of the Sokokis tribe, were playing on a river sandbar when they encountered three rowdy, drunken English sailors.  The mother and child were laughing and didn’t hear an approaching canoe. One of the three sailors claimed that a papoose could swim like a wild animal (dog paddle) naturally from birth. The others doubted him. To prove it, the man jumped out and grabbed the child. The mother watched in horror while the sailors threw her baby into the water. She grabbed the baby and ran to Squandro. It was too late. Squandro raised the limp body toward the sky and said, “As long as the grass grows and the water runs, it shall be the will of the Great Spirit that every year the waters of this Great River shall take three White Men’s lives.”

There is also a version whereby the mother was pregnant and she, her infant and her unborn child all died.

Some say the curse ended in 1947 when no lives were taken. That was also the year of the Great Fires, including in Brownfield, our take-out point. Related?

It seems to me that respect may be the key. Respect for the land, respect for the river and respect for each other.

Though our trip yesterday was short (about four miles), this wander has been a bit long. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Mondate Filled With Smiling Faces

We had many reasons to smile on yesterday’s Mondate.

It began about 5 a.m. when the Canada geese honked continuously. Their chorus was joined by quaking ducks. And then a loon chimed in.

I stepped onto the dock because I thought I heard the reason for the early morning cacophony.

bird

This big guy.

bird flying

Eventually, he flew off and then I heard the crows across the pond, so I think I know where he stopped next.

mtn morning

Standing on the dock early in the morning provides pleasant views 🙂

Mid-morning, my guy and I drove to Hancock Pond in Denmark, to join F & B H. for a morning jaunt on their son’s forty-acre property. I’m always pleased to learn about people who purchase land to keep it from being developed, but still allow traditional uses. Such is the case here.

But before we hiked to the almost bald summit, we paused on their dock.

bob1As if on cue, their friend Bob stopped by

bob 2 smiling

and greeted us with a smile.

porky 1 jaw

On the trail, B asked me to identify this. He knew. I guessed wrong because I didn’t take the time to examine it closely. When will I ever learn? See the small mandible and the shape of the teeth?

porky 2, quills

And the little quills mixed? Yup, a baby porcupine.

pearly everlasting

The land was last harvested ten years ago, so it’s slowly transforming. Pearly everlasting blooms among the raspberries and blackberries, goldenrod and sweet fern on the trail that once served as a skidder road.

acorns

Acorns are forming on Northern red oaks, which stand beside white oaks. For me, it was curious to see the white oaks here. They’re a rare find in the woods I travel most frequently.

hancock pond

Near the summit, Hancock Pond came into view.

Pleasant Mountain

As did our beloved Pleasant Mountain.

thistle

Of all the flowers we saw, the prickly thistle was my favorite. A touch of Scotland that F and I share. We returned to their camp for a delicious lunch and a look at B’s stone art and books. We were in awe of his talent. And their love for each other–50 years strong. Thank you both for sharing your land, lunch and love with us.

A wee bit of barn painting was accomplished–one of these days it will be all red. We have almost completed scraping and priming three sides. It’s a sporadic job, to say the least.

Our day ended with a trip to Portland with our sons–we all needed a technology update. That gives me pause, of course. I liked life before all of this stuff, but I wouldn’t be writing this post without it.

Dinner out with my three guys–what’s not to smile about.

25 Years of Blessings

At noon twenty-five years ago today, my mother walked me down the aisle to a grinning guy. He’s still grinning–thankfully.

As we kayaked yesterday, I was thinking about the bond we have.

tied together

It’s spider-web strong. Oh, it can be broken, and occasionally we get upset with each other, or more likely–I get upset with him–but then we weave a new strand and all is well again.

fish

Like fish, we swim together, but are also each our own unique selves and we honor those differences.

sundews

Sometimes, we’re competitive, but the glory of the win only lasts for a short time. I guess we like the competition more than the end result.

pretty day

Communication and Mondates have strengthened our relationship, and we value quiet moments spent in each other’s company.

Mountain view

From the beginning, this mountain has formed the backdrop–our relationship began here at a Halloween party in ’86 (I was an olive, he was a duck hunter); we hosted our wedding reception here in ’90; we’ve skied, snowshoed and hiked both on trail and off (including the town boundary, which was rather challenging) and know its ups and downs intimately; it’s part of our daily view from camp; it’s a beacon from other vantage points so we always know where home is when we see it on the horizon.

blessed 2

My guy is full of surprises and he got me again this morning. When we were dating, he would occasionally use duck tape to leave a message in his apartment window so I’d see it on my way to work. This morning, I found this on a piece of plexiglass. The. best. gift. in. the. world. My guy! I am blessed. We both are.

Blue Gold Mondate

Thunder rumbles in the distance, while clouds mask the setting sun, creating a golden blue/pink/purple sky. We need a word for that. Just as I made up Mondate to describe the Monday dates my guy and I share, I feel obligated to describe tonight’s sky as golden blinkle.

After a rainy weekend, we awoke to another gray morning. But . . . there was a bright spot. Our yard was filled with mats of spider webs.

webs 1

OK, so maybe “filled” is an exaggeration, but they weren’t here yesterday.

web 2

My initial intrigue was with the water droplets sitting atop these finely woven blankets.

funnel 2

And then I spotted a hole in the center of one.

funnel 1

A look at the others, and I knew we had a yard filled with funnel weavers.

funnel 3

Imagine the industrious nocturnal work it took to complete this masterpiece.

spider 1

As I stood watching, one of the weavers appeared.

spider 3

I saw something land, I know not what, and he quickly scampered over to snatch it, and then moved into the funnel to dine. That reminded me that it was time for breakfast.

My guy had been out for a morning run and when I pointed out the webs scattered about the yard, he said he’d seen them all along his route. So . . . why today? Why so many? Will they be here tomorrow. As the day wore on, it became more difficult to see the webs.

spider web dock 2

This masterpiece, however,  has been gracing the dock for weeks. I keep waiting for Charlotte to leave a message.

We had some errands to run in North Conway and then decided to head off in the kayak. I wish I could take a selfie of our paddles as we work together in unison. It reminds me of our relationship–we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to think things through and come to an agreement as one. Oh yeah, sometimes we get a bit out of sync and one paddle dips into the water ahead of the other or the water splashes one of us, but all in all, we lower and raise the paddles together–and as Robert Frost would say, “That has made all the difference.”

beaver mound

As we paddled along the edge of the islands, we discovered one large beaver scent mound–it had to be three feet high.

beaver mound disturbance

While this was probably created in the spring to mark a boundary, it appears to have been visited recently.

buttonbush

Numerous buttonbush plants bloom along the water’s edge. In all their manifestations, they are spectacular.

bluegold3

Spadderdock continues to offer a brilliant reflection of gold on blue

water garden

in the water garden.

female red-winged blackbird

But it’s the birds we follow today. Here, a female red-winged blackbird.

out on a limb

Her guy is out on a limb.

kayak

They don’t give us the exact information we want, but the catbirds are nearby. We hear their mews emanating from the shrubs and know that it’s time to abandon ship.

blueberries

This is blue gold. A happy afternoon spent foraging together. We made sure to leave some for the birds in thanks for their guidance.

And now, the thunder continues in the distance and occasionally lightening flashes  across the sky, but nothing can shine brighter than a blue gold Mondate.

A Baggywrinkle of a Mondate

We learned a new word on today’s Mondate–baggywrinkle. I love how saying it makes my mouth work. Say it five times fast and I guarantee it will put a smile on your face. Might cause a few baggy wrinkles to form, but it will be worth the fun.

What does baggywrinkle mean? Read on.

Our Mondate took a different tack today–you might say we were coming about in Portland Harbor.

Picton castle

Tall Ships Portland 2015 is a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of Fort Georges.

aqua bus

The fort is in the background, center right of the Downeast Duck.

OP bow

This year also marks the maiden voyage of the first square-rigged tall ship built in the U.S. in 110 years. Introducing the Oliver Hazard Perry–a self-contained experiential school. Am I too old to go back to school?

Oliver Perry

Another view of the OHP.

shipshape

We boarded some of the boats and were filled with admiration.

sheets

I have to say that I have enough of a problem holding onto one line when I sail, never mind a zillion.

sails

Or hoisting acres of sailcloth.

Galeon

El Galeón Andalucía, a replica galeón class vessel is the only one in the world sailing these days. Her design dates back to the late 16th century when these fabled merchant vessels and war ships made up the early European navies.

galeon 2

A stern view.

galeon 3

Ready. Aim. Please don’t fire.

window view

The one I really wanted to see came into view from below deck on the Oliver Hazard Perry.

working harborfront

So we walked along the working waterfront.

Portland Observatory

And observed the Portland Observatory from a distance.

harbor seal

Standing in line for almost an hour was worth the wait–a harbor seal.

osprey

A young osprey on a nest.

golden eagle

And finally the gold(en) eagle. I’ve always wanted to see one–especially this one.

stars and stripes 2

Her stars and stripes pledged her allegiance in the ocean breeze.

coast guard logo

Till today, I’d only seen her in the distance–sailing up Long Island Sound from New London, Connecticut.

eagle 2

But finally . . . up close and personal in Maine waters.

Eagle 1

Like the winds that propel her, she has her own fluid beauty.

flag messages

Flag messages speak her language.

a million ropes

A million ropes and cables and masts–so much to learn. On the Coast Guard Academy Web site I found this information: Built at the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany in 1936, and commissioned as Horst Wessel, Eagle is one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German navy. At the close of the war, the ship was taken as a war reparation by the U.S., re-commissioned as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and sailed to New London, Connecticut, which has been its homeport ever since. Eagle has offered generations of Coast Guard Academy cadets, and more recently officer candidates, an unparalleled leadership experience at sea.

I didn’t know that. No wonder I feel a connection in so many ways–sailing, Connecticut and now I learn that the boat has a German origin. My maternal grandmother was born in Hamburg.

baggywrinkle 2

The question of the day and apparently the number one question always: What is that seaweedy looking stuff on the cables? How did it get there? Why is it there? Does it keep birds at bay?

baggywrinkle

That, my friends, is baggywrinkle. Think about the winds shifting suddenly during a tack. Sails slap against the rigging. In a big blow, they rip. Not so with baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle is old rope that’s been unraveled, cut to length and then rewoven to cover the cables and protect the sails from chafing. Kind of like how we use vaseline.

Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. 🙂

Moosey Mondate

We finally moved to camp yesterday, and awoke early this morning to that hauntingly delightful sound–the cry of the loon.

loon

While I stood on the dock, wishing the pair would come closer, something else caught my attention.

suspendedsusp2

Suspended animation. I couldn’t see the web, but trusted it was there.

Black Mtn

Our Mondate began after we got some chores out of the way. A perfect day to hop in the tandem kayak and head north to Sweden. Thanks to our friends the Neubigs, who purchased the tandem for us years ago. They need to return and use it–just saying.

island shoreline

We love the upper basin because there are so many islands and stumps and inlets and coves and beaver lodges and you name it to explore.

tall weeds

The only thing that drove us crazy was the deer flies. Yeah. So we know insects are important for pollination and to provide food for fish, birds, dragonflies and others. But truly, what purpose do deer flies serve, other than to suck our blood? Mind over matter. Don’t scratch and the swelling will go down eventually. Note–like black flies, it’s the females that bite. I’d say, “Go Girls,” but hardly in this case.

dragonfly

Among the many dragonflies was this blue dasher, a common variety near quiet water. If only he would feast on those darn deer flies.

button bush

The buttonbush seems otherworldly with its pincushion styles protruding from each tubular flower.

spadderdock

The tight, waxy, petal-like sepals of the spatterdock, aka yellow pond lily or cow lily, stands upright above its leaf–featuring a small v-notch

fragrant water lily

On other ponds and lakes, I’ve seen the fragrant water lily in bloom already, but here it is just beginning to open. Its leaves are larger than those of the spatterdock and notched to the center.

pickerel

Pickerelweed is like no other. Though the upside-down heart-shaped leaves are long-stemmed and look similar to arrowhead, once the flower blossoms, there’s no mistaking it.

pick 2

The flowers are worth a second or third look. They grow in spikes along the pond’s edge. And each is covered in hair. Why?

pick 3

Not only that, but each flower is two-lipped. And each lip is three-lobed. And the upper lip has two yellow spots.

sundews 1

The pond was dammed a long time ago and stumps support a variety of life–including the carnivorous sundews beginning to flower.

sundews 2

At first glance, I thought they were the round-leaved variety, but I now think they are spatulate-leaved sundews. Love that name–for the spoon or spatula-shaped leaves that are longer than they are wide.

love is in the air

Love is in the air.

As it should be on a Mondate with my guy well spent on Moose Pond. I bet you thought I was going to post a photo of a moose.

Red Hot Mondate

It’s Monday. Time for a Mondate. But this morning, we each went our separate ways. He to run and then cut some tree limbs in the yard. Me to meet up with a friend and explore a nearby reserve.

whitney pond

I’ve visited this secluded spot three times, all within the last two weeks. And each time I spy something different.

fragrant water lily

The fragrant water lilies are beginning to bloom. They remind me of dainty china teacups.

galls

Near the water’s edge, a pink candy-crystal gall–I’m not sure of the actual name or creator because I’m still trying to identify the shrub. What causes the color?

beaver works

Bushwacking always means great finds like this beaver works. There are several lodges on the pond.

bracken 1

We were surprised to discover that something had been munching on the bracken fern. As ubiquitous as the plant is, we don’t often see that anything has consumed it.

bracken

White-tailed deer are about the only species that can tolerate bracken fern, which can poison some mammals. It produces a chemical thiaminase that prevents cows and sheep from metabolizing thiamine–they get sick and become disoriented. Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science Web site explains it this way: “When ingested, these enzymes split thiamin (Vitamin B1), an important compound in energy metabolism, and render it inactive.”

Here’s the good news about the fern–turned upside down, it makes a great summer hat and may keep mosquitoes off your head as you walk about the woods.

hemlock cones

Petite green cones dangle from the ever graceful hemlock trees.

birds

One last view before we headed back down the long and narrow dirt road–baby phoebes all in a row.

blueberries

At home, I wandered for a few minutes. It won’t be long before we’ll enjoy these.

foxglove

The trumpet-like flowers of digitalis–aka foxgloves. OK, so these are also poisonous to humans, cats and dogs. Yeegads. So beautiful and yet . . .

lichens

A miniature world on the stone wall deserves a longer visit, with journal and colored pencils involved. I shall return to this spot to sit for a bit.

At last, I joined my guy for our Mondate.

barn 2

We’re painting the barn. Starting on the back side of the attached shed, we’ve primed it and late this afternoon I began using the actual color. You can see how high up I could reach. This isn’t the color the rest of the barn will be–but it’s so close you’ll never know the difference, unless I tell you. Oops, just did.

Yup, this was one red hot Mondate. And it looks like there will be more to come.

Sweet Treat Mondate

June 22, 2015

My guy and I have been overdue for our favorite kind of Mondate, so today we rose to the task. Our intention had been to depart at 7:30, but it was closer to 8am before we were out the door.

notch

Following Route 302 through Crawford Notch, the clouds were rather ominous.

Polly's

But that didn’t matter because our first stop was Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, where we each enjoyed the sampler combo–six three-inch pancakes and we split our servings of sausage and bacon. I tried buckwheat with walnuts, oatmeal buttermilk with chocolate chips and plain with blueberries. The latter were my favorite. Topped with butter and their own maple syrup, of course. By pancake number 4, I had to force myself to continue . . . and I did.

trot trot

When at Polly’s, one must say hello to Trot Trot, or in this case, Trot Trot III.

lupine 1

Because our timing was near perfect, the lupines were in bloom. You may want to skip down a few photos–I got carried away as usual.

lupine 2

lupine field

lupines forever

lupine purplelupine white

lupine looking down

oh  beautiful

emerson quote

Yes, indeed!

church

For me, no visit to Sugar Hill is complete without pausing at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. My guy knows that my dream had been to get married there and have the invitations read “First Sunday in September.” So, that didn’t happen, but we still like to stop by.

iron furnace 2

Another quick stop was at the stone iron furnace built after the Revolutionary War for smelting local iron ore. It’s in Franconia–think Franconia Stoves.

Coppermine Trail

Finally, we reached the trail head.

bridal veil sign

Our destination–Bridal Veil Falls on the back side of Cannon Mountain.

bridle

So, this photo is a bit fuzzy, but do you see what I see? Maybe it’s both. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

water

For much of the trail, we walked beside Coppermine Brook or could hear it coursing over the rocks. At times, we walked on rocks–reminded me of climbing on jettys in Connecticut when I was a kid.

lemonade stand

I’m pretty sure this must have been the former site of a lemonade stand. What?

sign on rock

So, you may be wondering if he was heading into the water–a tad bit chilly. Actually, he found the plaque Bette Davis, yes, THE Bette Davis, had placed on a rock in memory of Arthur Farnsworth, a local man she married. Here’s the story according to White Mountains Map Book:  “The great actress BETTE DAVIS summered in this area. In a famous 1939 episode, she lost her way on what is now Coppermine Trail and was rescued by local worker Arthur Farnsworth. Romance blossomed and the couple married in 1940. Farnsworth died tragically in 1943. Davis had a memorial plaque placed on a rock in the brook near where she was rescued.” As my guy can attest, the plaque has Farnsworth’s name and is dedicated to the “Keeper of Stray Ladies.”

foam flower

Foamflower or Tiarella was beginning to bloom.

wood sorrel

And the wood sorrel. I love its candy-striped petals.

stack of mushrooms

The lush woods are loaded with mushrooms, including these hemlock varnish shelves–stacked up like pancakes.

rock island 2

There are many rock islands like this one beside the path. Yellow Clintonia or Bluebead Lily is one of the inhabitants. I was thinking as I walked about all of the spring ephemerals and how they have to flower before the trees leaf out. They are abundant along the trail. And their fruits will be equally beautiful. But their timing must be amazing. Their challenges include not only the leaves of the canopy closing out the sun, but also the timing of the snow melt and subsequent run-off. No wonder they are so quick.

shelter

Just before reaching the falls, we came upon the shelter filled with the stories of many who have spent a moment or night here.

the falls 2

Bridal Veil Falls. Bridle Veil Falls. Whatever your pleasure. Certainly, beauty in motion.

Before we drove home via the Kanc, we stopped in Lincoln for ice cream. An extra sweet Mondate topped with hot fudge sauce.

Extended Mondate

April 20, 2015

Sometimes Christmas gifts are delayed at our house, though not quite the way they were when I was growing up. Back then, months after the holiday, Mom would discover a forgotten gift she’d tucked away in the hallway closet for one of us. It was a fun surprise–for us and for her.

This weekend, my guy and I shared a present I’d given him last Christmas–a weekend away, with a search for roots tied in.

We began with my roots actually–and spent Friday night and Saturday morning with my sister and brother-in-law. That, in itself, is always a gift. Plus the conversation, laughter, a delicious breakfast and chocolate chip cookies for the road. (Many thanks to the MacBuds! You are the best.)

And then we were on the road again–headed to Onset Beach in Wareham, Mass. Until this weekend, Wareham had always been a place that we passed through on our way to or from the Cape. Oh, maybe we stopped for  saltwater taffy sometimes, but that was about it.

This weekend changed everything. We didn’t stay there, but we spent plenty of time there–including in the Ford dealership because the check battery light came on when we were about an hour away. The nice mechanic replaced the alternator and belt and in less than an hour and a half we were on the road again. And thankful.

Finally, Onset Beach.

onset 1

This is the view we think my guy’s great grandparents enjoyed daily. Back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, they owned the Onset Hotel. We weren’t exactly sure which building it was at first, but my guy isn’t shy (as some may think) and he talked to almost everyone in town. We were looking for one person in particular because we’d been told he might have information that would help us. I’m surprised the police didn’t come looking for us as we walked up and down streets, chatted with anyone we encountered and knocked on a few doors. We even visited the kind dispatcher at the local fire department. As I said, we talked to almost everyone.

onset 4

This person told us about that person, who suggested we visit yet another person. Finally, we had confirmation–the hotel became condominiums in the 1980s/90s. The photo above is of a page from a 1925 booklet that a woman who owns a property management business showed us. She also called several people in town trying to get more information, to no avail. But we were thrilled that we could look  from her business and see the building.  And walk by it and enjoy the view and smell the sea air, just as his great grandparents had done all those years ago. If they had time, that is, because apparently they also owned a bar in Boston.

onset 2

There’s a condo for sale. Maybe we should think about it. I don’t think so. We really aren’t beach people, even though we both grew up along the coast. We enjoy visiting the beach, but . . .

onset 3

We spent Saturday afternoon stalking the area and returned there this morning. Finally, we’d located the man we were looking for. He gave us two more names–of people who may have some information, but they weren’t home today. Never fear, this story isn’t over yet. We have phone numbers.

bike path 1

And so the present continued. We drove over the Bourne Bridge to Falmouth, where my guy had spent many summers before his parents purchased a hardware store in Maine back in 1965.

Our first Sunday morning adventure was along the bike path.

allen, bike path

While he headed down the trail for a run to Woods Hole and back, I moseyed along with camera in hand. You may want to stop reading now.

invasives

I was surprised by the overwhelming amount of invasive species. It makes our neck of the woods look practically invasive-free.

bamboo 2bamboo

I expected panda bears to come out of this swath of bamboo. Fortunately, it’s only in one spot–at the moment.

Invasive species do always give me pause. On this land, I too, am an invasive. Just like the plants and insects that are not native, nor were my ancestors or my guy’s ancestors. They say what makes an invasive such is that there isn’t anything native that will feed on it, thus it will take over and smother the native species. Hmmm . . .

salt pond

On to prettier sites, like this salt pond beside the path.

seagrass

And the ubiquitous common reed, an invasive which I’ve always admired. There’s beauty in commonness.

willow bud

Willow buds.

osprey

And soaring osprey.

osprey nesting

Nests on platforms or cross bars of power lines. So maybe man invaded, but he’s making amends by placing pallets on high.

beach by bike path

This beach was my turn-around point.

critter on bike path

If you do use the bike path, be forewarned. Panda bears may not be munching on bamboo, but you never know what you might see.

We went in search of the childhood cottage my guy’s dad had built. They sold the small house fifty years ago, and even though we’d last driven by about twenty years ago, it took us a bit to relocate it. Again, he approached a woman who was working in a neighboring yard. There were more houses on the road than he remembered, but it seemed to still be there–with a few changes. He didn’t knock on the door.

We did visit the beach where he and his siblings used to swim and cross the narrow channel to explore an island. On Google, I found the following: “A WW II Army amphibious Training base located in East Falmouth MA (Cape Cod). More exactly it was located on a peninsula now called Seacoast Shores in the village of Waquoit. The base was connected to a nearby island called Washburn Island by a bridge. We have circa 1950’s aerial photos showing the road and ramp to a bridge on the Washburn Island side but the bridge is missing. Aerial photos from 1942 to 1945 should show the bridge. Seacoast Shores is now a thriving waterside Community and Washburn has been returned to its natural state as a wilderness preserve in Waquoit Bay. ~Paul R. Flebotte, COL US Army Retired

looking toward island, seacoast shores

On the left hand side of the island is the site of the bridge Col Flebotte mentions.

skipping stones

The afternoon found us skipping stones.

gull

Talking to herring gulls.

jingle shell

Admiring jingle shells (I don’t know their actual name, but as kids, we used to collect several in our hands and then shake them together to make them jingle).

nature art

And other works of art.

lighthouse

We paused at Nobska Lighthouse.

Woodshole

Explored Woods Hole.

woods hole pier

Reminisced about dinghies of our youth.

wooden boat

Which sometimes looked like this.

buoys

And realized that things are still on the quiet side.

silver sands

Then we explored more beaches.

barnacles:seaweed

Discovered life on a rock–the same and yet different from what we find in the woods.

barnacles

And wondered about the crustaceous barnacles that are secured head-first. Talk about living in a small house. (My sister and I had been talking about living in small houses)

mussels:oysters

In the same fashion that lichens and mosses grow on the rocks around our western Maine home, providing a home base for others, so do the barnacles, mussels and oysters adhere in their habitat.

snail trails

Lest you think I wasn’t tracking–snail trails.

gnarly trees

Then there were the trees. I knew I was out of my comfort zone when it came to identifying some of these–especially with the gnarly behavior. Despite that, just as my guy stalked the good people of Onset, I stalked the trees of Falmouth.

am elm sign

Thankfully, someone made it easy for me. Signs.

American elm

The  elm’s light gray bark has furrows with a V  or diamond shape, but they intersect at longer lengths than on an ash tree.

amelm buds

And the branches are wiry with alternate buds/branching.

syc

I loved the camouflage look of this bark and only just realized that it is a sycamore. It wasn’t wearing a sign.

syc 2

But it did have its signature calling cards–dangling brown fruits that some call button balls.

horse chestnut

Thankfully, the horse chestnut identified itself. 🙂

hc buds

It also showed off its opposite bud pattern, making for an easy id.

Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Honeysuckle/Viburnum (aka Caprifoliaceae) and Horse Chestnut–trees with opposite buds. MADCap Horse is one way I was taught to remember that little tidbit.

home sign

And then it was time to head for the hills. We had a delightful stay and will go again, I’m sure–especially since we have more to learn about the family roots, but this sign on a shop near the inn where we stayed says it all.

Our feet may have left our home for a few days on this extended Mondate, but our hearts were always back here, well rooted in the Maine woods.

Thanks for wondering along on this lengthy wander.

A Message in the Sand

We were together all day, but in my mind our Mondate didn’t officially begin until we ate lupper at a small harbor-side restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland. Fish. Fresh fish–always a treat. So lupper it was at about 3:30 pm, such was the day. I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of lupper before. I have–occasionally. It goes well with a Maine IPA. Lupper–lunch and supper. OK, so it’s late and I’m tired. After dining, we drove to Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth–a combo of sandy beach and the rocky coast of Maine.

park sign

So true. And not something I always heed. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve collected over the years.

speckled 1

We had to park by the gate and walk in. Along the way, the Speckled Alders let us know that spring has sprung at the coast. Still a week or two away in western Maine, but here, the catkins are singing with joy. The shift has begun–from burgundy to yellow.

speckled 2

Dancing in the breeze, these distended male catkins send their pollen a-flying.

speckled 3

Meanwhile, just down the stem, the rather petite females, red in color, stand quietly nearby–ready to receive. OK, enough of the birds and the bees.

beach 1

The beach, the Atlantic Ocean, McKenny Point to the left and Richmond Island to the right.

The point

McKenny Point.

late afternoon

The crescentness of the beach. So I made up another word. It’s what I do–the liberty of the word smith.

lobster claw

Take only pictures. mussel shell

I did. And in the process, my childhood along the Connecticut coast kept calling to me. Memories of collecting mussels from among  jetties and using them as crab bait–many a crab we caught.

quahog shell

And quahog shells. These we learned to feel for under our feet. But the empty shells also became the canvas of art projects. Here in Maine, and I haven’t actually seen these,  there are historic middens of quahog and oyster shells. Actually, I remember a pile in Guilford, CT, at Chello’s Oyster House. Or were those oyster shells?

seaweed

Seaweed salad. How many, many hours we used to spend popping seaweed bubbles–the precursor of bubble wrap?

slipper shell

The common slipper shell–formerly the home of a sea snail.

razor clam

Razor clams. This one is empty, but I remember finding them whole when mucking about at low tide was my common habit.

crab meat

Let’s hope someone enjoyed a little crab meat supplied by this arthropod.

oak leaf

A reminder that it isn’t all seashells and seaweed. The  ubiquitous red oak also shares this place.

seaglass

Remember the sign at the beginning of this beach walk? The one stating that trees, shrubs, flowers, wildlife, grasses and rocks are part of the park and need to be left there? It didn’t mention sea glass. Yes, I will happily share this sample with you–all you need to do is ask.

foamy water

Looking around, I was mesmerized by foamy water.

water and sand design

Designs in the sand.

rock layers

Layers of rocks.

wave action

Breaking waves.

fence

A snow fence.

bird tracks

And bird tracks.

island and rocks

We were almost at the end of our visit.

I lOve you

Someone else created this message on the beach, but it was Monday, a Mondate, and we just happened to be there. It didn’t matter that our date was late. What mattered was the message in the sand.

Always something to wonder about–thanks for happening along.

Eagle Eyes

CL market

Today’s Mondate began with the ritual PB&J creation at home. Our destination was a hiking trail in New Hampshire, but on the way, we realized the need for gas. So . . . a jig here and a jag there over the bumpy backroads and we landed at Center Lovell Market. While my guy was inside paying for the gas and chatting with a friend who works there, he was handed a slice of blueberry cake just out of the oven. He brought it out to share with me–and I sent him back in, hoping he’d buy the whole thing. Such self-restraint. He only purchased one piece–a good decision, certainly. But really?

Eagle 1

We made our way back to Harbor Road in North Fryeburg, where something in the landscape caught my eye.

Eagle 1a

Always an impressive sight.

Eagle 2

A mature Bald Eagle checking out the area around Charles River, near the old course of the Saco River.

trail parking sign

Our destination–Province Brook Trail. This hike is for my friend, P.K., who first introduced me to this trail in her summer backyard a few years ago. While she winters in Florida, I hope she’ll enjoy today’s view.

We had to park on South Chatham Road, in South ChatHAM, New Hampshire. I once interviewed Frank Eastman, a South Chatham native, who informed me that it’s pronounced ChatHAM, not Chat’em, because H-A-M spells ham. A lesson I’ll never forget.

trail men

While we walked along the snowmobile trail, aka 2.5-mile Peaked Hill Road or Forest Service Road 450, two members of the White Mountain National Forest trail crew came along to close gates–a sure sign of spring.

pot hole

Seeing a few potholes like this one, we could understand why.

moose printmoose

We opened our eagle eyes and things began to appear.

Moose 3

Criss-crossing the trail, through snow and mud, moose prints.

bearbear 1

Our eyes are forever scanning beech trees–on the lookout for bear claw marks. We weren’t disappointed.

hairy scat

On the trail, we saw several old scat samples. Coyote or bobcat. This one is all hair. I’m leaning toward bobcat–but am open to other conclusions. There were no obvious tracks to make a certain id.

yellow birch

And here–one very large Yellow Birch growing on granite.

yb2

Yellow Birch seeds find optimum growing conditions on moss-covered rocks, stumps and logs. Once the tree establishes itself, it clings to the rock and sends its roots in search of the soil below. Hemlocks do the same.

trail head

Finally, we reached the trail head. Oops, I lopped off the head of the hiker on the sign.

trail closed

Province Brook Trail is currently closed to snowmobiles and ATVs, but we walked around the gate and continued on.

ice

Still plenty of ice in the streams beside the trail.

snow:brook

And lots of snow.

polypody fern

Polypody Fern peeking out from under a snow-covered rock.

hobblebush

And Hobblebush preparing to bloom.

glacial erratics

Lots of glacial erratics along the way. This one supports an entire community.

mushrooms

The tree in the center invited a closer look.

mush 1

Fan-shaped Artist’s Conks.

mush 2

Their white pore surface.

mush 3

Looking skyward.

mush 4

And a sense of perspective.

pond1

At last, we reached Province Pond.

shaw mtn

Shaw Mountain is in the background–we’re saving it for another day.

Allen-snow

On our way to a forest service shelter that was built in the 1930s (I know this because I read it in Hikes & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION written by my friend, Marita Wiser), the deep snow caught us a few times. My guy is knee-deep.

brook crossing

It pays to let him go first. I can then figure out where not to step. Here, he’s contemplating the brook crossing to the shelter. It was actually quite easy.

Shelter

A sheltered lunch locale–just right for those PB&J sandwiches.

lunch viewlunch 2

Best view in the house.

initials

I’ve a feeling these walls could tell many tales.

snowing

It was snowing as we headed back down the trail. Yet another wintery-spring day.

Eight miles later, we were thankful for the opportunity to stretch our legs and use our eagle eyes.

Thanks for wandering by to wonder.

Speed Date

dunning bridge

Some Mondays we only have time for a quick trek. Such was the case today, so we walked down the  street and headed off on the trails in Pondicherry Park. We actually exited a couple of hours later via this bridge, but it’s the entrance most people use and a work of art. The Bob Dunning Memorial Bridge was built by master craftsmen and women, family and friends to honor Bob, himself a master craftsman who was taken from this world much too early. One of my favorite  features is that each of the sixteen crossbeams was created from a different tree species and the bark was left on all. For my Maine Master Naturalist capstone project, I created a brochure and slide show to help others identify the trees. The slide show is available on the LEA Web site and the brochure is available at the kiosk by the bridge (when I remember to fill it. My guy pointed out that it’s empty again–tomorrow, tomorrow.)

bittersweet

I know it’s an invasive species and this photo proves it, but I didn’t realize that for years. I used to cut it in November and use it for decorations. This is a bittersweet vine. It does make for an interesting scene. And provides the birds with lots of berries . . . which, um, provides the park and town with more bittersweet.

bittersweet up close

A closer look.

bittersweet on ash

It’s got a grip hold, that’s for sure.

MLSC1

Because it’s too early for leaves, the new Maine Lake Science Center stands out among the trees. This is a pet project of LEA (Lakes Environmental Association), where yours truly serves on the Board of Directors.

MLSC2

Last year, LEA purchased a sixteen-acre lot with an existing building adjacent to Pondicherry Park. The building is being renovated to serve as researcher housing, a meeting room, lab, education center and a park welcome center.

This is destined to become a hub for world-class lake research by providing support to researchers in Maine and beyond who come to study our lakes. While Executive Director Peter Lowell will continue to head LEA, Dr. Bridie McGreavy will serve as the director of the center. I’m tickled about that because she has always been one of my mentors. In fact, she taught me the joy of sniffing red fox pee. Yup, it doesn’t get any better than that.

MLSC3

We are the Lakes Region of Maine, and the lake science center will serve as the voice of change. We are on the brink of something really big here.

MLSC Bridie's view

Though she won’t officially work here full-time until 2016, this is part of Bridie’s new digs.

MLSC main conf room

And what once was a living room, dining room and kitchen is being transformed into a conference room. When my guy and I stepped over the stonewall and onto the property this morning, Peter happened to be pulling in so we had another tour. The building is on schedule to open this summer.

beaver 1

We looped back into the park because I wanted to check on the beaver works.

beaver 2beaver 3

Yup, they’ve been busy. Some of this work was done in December. But the tree on the left has been worked on since then.

beaver teeth

My, what big teeth you have. Their teeth, which never stop growing, are like chisels.

Beaver tracks Dec 5

I have to be honest. I took this photo of beaver tracks in December.

Willet brook

We paused quickly at Willet Brook.

new uniform

But we had to keep moving. As you can see, my guy’s uniform is changing. It’s a wee bit warmer in these parts.

Stevens Brook

And then we were back on Main Street and heading homeward bound. Our speed date had come to an end. I didn’t even bother to make PB&J.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a quick wander with us today.

Our Three Hour Tour

HP sign

One of our favorite places in town is a hidden gem–Holt Pond Preserve. We parked at the corner of Chaplin’s Mill and Grist Mill Roads, grabbed our snowshoes and backpack from the truck and walked on snowmobile tracks across the field to begin today’s Mondate.

Tingley Brook

Tingley Brook

At the field’s edge, we passed under the hemlocks, beeches and oaks and into the wild and delicate beauty that the preserve offers.

Tingley Brook ice 1

The midmorning light added subtle hints of aqua and pink as the water danced around an ice-capped rock in the brook.

mushrooms and hole

We saw lots of tracks from the mustelid family, as well as snowshoe hare, fox, squirrels, mice and voles. Also, turkeys and grouse. I’m not sure what made the hole and dirt trail beneath the mossy maple mushrooms near the base of this Red Maple. I would not have seen it if I hadn’t leaned in closer to take a photo. I do happen to know that gnomes frequent the area, so just maybe . . .

canoes

We continued on, crossing Tingley Brook and then making our way beside Muddy River, where the Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) leaves these canoes for anyone to use. Bring your own personal floatation device, paddles, and duct tape. I know where you can purchase duct tape, should you need more. 🙂

beaked hazelnut

Near the canoes–a lone beaked hazelnut. Inside this bristly tan husk is an edible nut. Doesn’t it look like a gourd? The name derives from that tube-like protruding beak. I couldn’t believe it was still there as the protein-rich nuts are favorites for red squirrels and chipmunks, as well as ruffed grouse, woodpeckers and blue jays. Humans too.

to Muddy River

We never actually wore our snowshoes today. I hauled mine around on my pole, while my guy stuck his between his jacket and sweatshirt. He said he didn’t need his back scratched for the entire trip.

River to pond

Looking toward Holt Pond from the boardwalk by the Muddy River.

There was only a slight breeze, so the low temp was modified by the brilliant sunshine. Another beautiful day in Maine.

Red Maple Swamp

I think one of my favorite features about the preserve is that the habitat keeps changing–from hemlock groves to red maple swamps to alder thickets to a quaking bog.

Quaking Bog

Though you can’t tell in the winter, the quaking bog is a thick mat of vegetation that formed over the surface near the edge of the pond. A board walk passes across it and one of the fun things to do with a group of people is to have everyone jump at the same time and watch the bog quake. This is also a great spot to visit alone–for quiet reflection.

Holt Pond 1HP South

Views at the pond’s edge–north and south

HP from southwest

We stopped at a rock in a sunny spot along the South Shore Trail to enjoy lunch al fresco. PB&J never tasted so good. Topped off with ice cold water and some Ghirardelli chocolates. 🙂 As we continued along, we paused to look back across the pond toward the Quaking Bog.

Sometimes we chatted and other times we were each lost in our own thoughts and moving at our individual paces. Similar to my NDD (Nature Distraction Disorder), my guy has his own syndrome–Destinationitis. But, he’s learned to compensate by pausing until I catch up . . . and then he’s off again. That’s OK–it gives me time to spend in my own world.

feathers one

At the edge of a field (we know it as “The Field” because it’s the end of a section of trail that we keep maintained for LEA), we both stopped to look and wonder. Under a hemlock tree and in the middle of the trail, we found these white feathers. Don’t you just love a mystery?

feathers 2

Here’s another look. Some had sheer cuts; others looked plucked. No great place to hang out above. If you know what bird this was or what happened here, please enlighten me.

horse

At least five miles later, we were back on Chaplin’s Mill Road headed toward the truck.

Thanks for stopping by again to wonder my way. I hope you enjoyed the three hour tour.

Small Rewards . . .

are huge in my book of life. Today’s Mondate (Monday date) found us climbing The Mountain at GLLT’s Back Pond Reserve in North Waterford.

name signs

As is the tradition around these parts, family names are posted at the beginning of the road. A sure welcome.

5 Kezars Pond Road

Since yesterday’s precipitation, no one had traveled down the Five Kezar Ponds Road–except for the red fox and snowshoe hares that crossed it. We know the red fox marked its territory as it moved along, because even though we didn’t climb over the snowbank to follow its tracks, we could smell the skunky scent. Seems a bit late in the year for that, but this year, everything is a bit late.

Hi Ho

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s off to climb we go. Oh–be thankful you can’t hear me sing. My voice is as flat as the computer screen you are staring at and someone reminded me that enough was enough. 🙂

ponds coming into view

Pausing along the way, the ponds were coming into view. It won’t be long before leaves obscure this. That’s one of the things I’ll miss about winter, which I know must come to an end eventually. But it provides us with sightings we might not see during other seasons.

bear claw marks1

Like this. I was scanning the landscape, with the hope of finding this. And I was rewarded. Yes, this tree has a case of beech bark disease and exhibits the perennial cankers, but look toward the left of the trunk and you’ll see the pattern of bear claw marks.

snowshoe hare tracks

As we continued to climb, we were also rewarded with a variety of animal tracks, from mice and squirrels to snowshoe hare, weasels and porcupines. I really wanted to see bobcat, but it wasn’t to be. I’ve seen their tracks and coyote tracks here in the past. The thing I should remember is that I need to live in the moment and enjoy what I see, rather than have expectations of what I want to see.

view

The view of several of the ponds at Five Kezars. I’m not sure, but I think this view is of Back Pond, Middle Pond and Mud Pond. Pleasant Mountain and Shawnee Peak Ski Area are in the background.

rock tripe

As we started down the connecting trail, marked with orange blazes, the flat and  flappy growths of rock tripe lichen jumped out at me. Though it’s supposed to be edible, I think you have to do some severe boiling and who knows what else to eat this. I’m not about to try, but what I do appreciate, is that like the lungwort that I shared in a previous post, rock tripe changes with the weather–from leathery and brown to pliable and bright green.

split maple

And then there was this maple. What in the world? Talk about resilience. We decided that maybe a weather event caused the split and then the tree reacted. Some reaction. And recovery. This tree has the will to live, despite any obstacles put in its way.

bear claws 3

Yup, another bear claw tree. It never gets old. Sighting one I mean. The claw marks become more apparent with age, so getting old is good in this case–to me.

hare

But I’ve saved today’s best reward until almost the end. Do you see it?

snowshoe 1

How about now?

snowshoe 2

This guy was big. As were its eyes and ears. Eyes on the side–born to hide. A prey animal for a predators like bobcats.

snowshoe 3

My, what big feet you have. And to you we gave thanks today for our snowshoes.

selfie

Selfie.

lunch rock view

We crossed the bridge and then sat on a rock to eat lunch. PB&J as usual. And the final reward–homemade brownies. Life is good.

Thanks for stopping by for another wonder-filled wander. I hope you found today’s tramp as rewarding as I did.

Mountain Mondate

Sabattus Mtn sign

Our Monday date took us to Sabattus Mountain in Lovell this morning. It’s an easy trek offering great views, lots of wildlife activity and a decent workout in a short amount of time.

trail sign

Which way should we go? I ask myself that question over and over again. Habit took us up the right-hand trail, but in hindsight, maybe we should have mixed it up this time. A life lesson?

burl

Check out this burl. Over and under and around, oh my!

transition 1

I stood at this spot on the trail and looked down–Lots of beech, hemlock, birch and maple in the mix.

transition 2

And then I turned to look up the trail. Oak, pine and hemlock dominated the scenery. A transition point.

growing apart

Speaking of transitions, this hemlock grew apart after a couple of years. With two rather than one terminal leaders growing side by side, they eventually found their way back together.

and together again

Here they are woven back together–it’s almost difficult to tell that the two have become one. It made me think of our relationship as we trekked up the mountain. Maybe this tree didn’t really grow apart, the two parts just respected each other as their life together began and they allowed each other to continue growing in their own way, knowing that they needed to stay together ultimately because being united and supportive is what it’s all about. And maybe I’m reading way too much into a natural occurrence.

porcupine 1

A porcupine tree. Lots of porcupine activity in the hemlock grove both on this trail and on the way down.

porc trail

A well-traveled porcupine trail.

fire tower

The concrete stanchions that once supported a fire tower. Apparently, the tower was removed in 1963.

bench 1

Perfect spot for a hot cocoa break.

oake and pine

Eastern White Pine and Northern Red Oak–looks like the oak is ahead in the race to the sun right now. I wonder if that’s how it will play out over the years.

buried bench

And then there’s the other bench at the summit. We couldn’t actually sit on this one.

bobcat 1

Heading along the ridge, we found these prints that always excite me. This critter had traveled to and fro before going off trail. Notice the “C” shape between the toes and the pad. C is for cat. Yup, a bobcat. And it was at some point in the last six hours or so, because we’d had a dusting of snow. These were fresh. Yippee!

bobcat2

A bobcat is a “perfect” walker. Ah, perfection. But really, it places a front foot down, and as that foot moves forward, the hind foot steps into its place. I think you can see that here–it looks like it might be two feet sharing almost the same space.

bobcat dinner?

Breakfast? The bobcat obviously snatched some little brown thing–or tried to. This was just off the man-made snowshoe trail and right by the ledge. I was a bit surprised that the cat had followed the trail for as long as it had. They usually cross our trails and have their own corridor. But, it sure makes for easier traveling to follow where others have gone before.

old oak

This old oak has seen better days. Amazing that it’s still standing.

support of a friend

But then I looked up. We all need the support of a friend. In this case, the friend is a white pine. They may compete for sunlight, but apparently they can count on each other occasionally.

heading down

Heading down. Transitioning again. There were a zillion snowshoe hare trails. And  mice. And squirrel. Good feeding grounds for a bobcat.

lunch 3

We finished up our trek before we were hungry for lunch. But, when hunger struck we ate PB&J sandwiches beside Kezar Lake.

Thanks for wondering along on this wander through the Maine woods.

Eagle Eyes