Meeting Old Friends For The First Time

Who are you? And you? And you? Such were the questions everywhere we turned this morning.

I’d picked up a few Greater Lovell Land Trust docents on the way to our Tuesday Tramp location and met a few others at the gate. After our meet and greet, we walked down the road at breakneck speed, not stopping much because we were more focused on catching up.

s-bear scat

I say not much, but scat did give us pause. And in this place, we can always count on bear scat. Rather fresh bear scat. We never did see the bear, but knowing it was there was enough. Not long after that we listened to a barred owl. And then we flushed a couple of wood ducks that we barely viewed. It was OK with us that we didn’t see these critters–we felt honored to share the place.

s-into the orchard

When the dirt road turned to grass, we continued on, anxious to reach our destination just below the cliffs that provided a backdrop to the spring foliage.

s-Rattlesnake Brook

As the brook came into view, our excitement rose.

s-birch reflections

At last, we’d arrived.

s1-slender toothwort

And that’s when the “Who are you?” questions really began to form. The slender toothwort wasn’t yet in bloom, so we had to key it out in Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide based on the compound leaves that were toothed. The flower buds hinted at pink, thus helping us. But really, we felt as if we’d never met this friend before.

s-sarsapirilla

And then there was the young stalk of a wild sarsaparilla. We shared a brain–looks like poison ivy when the leaves first open, three leaves, globe-shaped flower underneath, there’s another form–bristly . . . bristly sarsaparilla. And we suddenly remembered that we knew this friend, which was probably a wild sarsaparilla, the more common of the two.

s-bellwort

And who next showed its face–drooping in form as its flower did? Again, we had to think it through–finally recognizing it as a sessile-leaved bellwort or wild oat. Of course, once we knew it, we identified it with one amongst our group who first introduced us to it. For the rest of the summer, we’ll know it and will always recognize it as her plant.

s-false hellebore patterns

Then there was the accordion-leaved plant that grew abundantly–its spring green appearance enhanced by rain drops. We knew we knew it. We just had to rack our brains some more, much as one does when encountering any acquaintance not seen in a long time. False hellebore finally came to our tongues.

s1-dandelion

Thankfully there were some that didn’t tax our brains. We’re grateful for dandelions wherever they grow for the bees love them and we love the bees. We need the bees. We NEED the bees.

s-hobblebush 1

Other friends we could name immediately, but still were happy for the moments spent in their presence, like the hobblebush,

s-red trillium 2

red trillium,

s-dutchmen

and Dutchmen’s britches,

s-dutchman's britches leaves

plus their feathery leaves.

s-lady fern crosiers

Among our findings, we also had fern crosiers to greet once again, including lady ferns

s-cinnamon or interrupted

cinnamon,

s-Christmas fern crosier

and Christmas.

s-airstrip 1

After a delightful-despite-occasional-raindrops, three-hour tour, it was time for us to follow the road back.

s-friends 3
Nancy, Dave, Joan, Pam and Bob

We’d spent the morning among old friends, including two we hadn’t seen for months–we were happy to meet Pam and Bob again for the first time this season. Fortunately, we remembered their names 😉 and they ours. Phew!

As spring unfolds into summer, we know we’ll all continue to meet old friends for the first time–and share a brain as we try to remember their names. They say it takes a village. We love ours because we know it’s okay to ask, “Who are you?” Someone will have part of the answer and someone else will add to it and BINGO.

Love/Hate Sundate

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

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

Nose scrunched, I replied, “North Peak.”

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

b-red oak leaves

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

b-red maple1

red maple,

b-striped maple

striped maple,

b-beech leaves 1

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

b-trailing arbutus

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

b-Canada mayflower

And another of a similar name, Canada mayflower.

b-shad 1

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

b-early saxifrage

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

b-summit ahead

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

b-summit climb

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

b-lunch rock

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

b-summit 1

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

b-summit 2

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

b-summit 3

And to our right–looking toward the White Mountains.

b-summit trees:layers

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

b-twin brooks trail down

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

b-mt washington1

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

b-birch catkin1

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

b-birch catkin pollen

and exploding with life-giving pollen.

b-viola

There were violas to admire.

b-shad 2

And more shadbush.

b-bear claws 1

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

b-twin brook 1

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

b-logging

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

b-bear tree 2:eye level

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

b-bear tree 2:looking up

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

b-bear of a different sort

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

b-bear tree 3

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

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

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

 

 

 

Water Works

With rain drops come life and rebirth. And so it seems as our world explodes with the return of birds and vibrant blossoms of daffodils in the garden. The grass is, well, grass green–a brilliant green with hues of gold or purple, depending on the time of day. And ever so slowly, tiny leaves emerge on the maples and aspens.

w-rookery

But it’s life in and around water that captured most of my focus today. Following a prehike for a Greater Lovell Land Trust walk, I had the opportunity to check on a heron rookery. A friend and I stood hidden among the trees.

Rookeries are one of my favorite places to hang out. By the same token, I seldom do because its important not to disturb these giant birds during their nesting season. But–today’s visit, like all of my rookery visits, was for a citizen science project affiliated with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: the Heron Observation Network or HERON, counts on volunteers to count on heron–their nests, number of birds, number perhaps sitting on eggs, number of fledglings, etc.

w-heron incoming

We frequently see Great Blue Herons flying overhead or fishing in ponds and lakes, but it’s watching them come into their nests, in their pterodactyl form, that I find so wild.

w-heron standing

And then they stand. Tall. Silent. We do the same.

w-heron on nest

Watching. Listening. Wondering.

w-reflection

All the while, we have time to reflect and enjoy the reflected.

w-beaver lodge

And notice–cut saplings piled horizontally, an anomaly in this space . . . or is it?  More than herons call this place home.

w-hobblebush

At last we need to bushwhack back, but pause a few times to appreciate other forms of life that spring forth near the water, including this hobblebush.

w-snake 1a

And a garter snake, its movement catching our attention. And then it froze in place, in hopes we wouldn’t notice.

w-vp

Back on the homefront, I moseyed out to the vernal pool. As I approached, I noticed a lack of sound, but did see movement when I was only steps away.

w-wood frog eggs

I was thrilled to note signs of previous action as the number of wood frog egg masses had increased.

w-sallie eggs

The same was true of the spotted salamander eggs, though the number in each clump seemed quite minimal. The opaque outer coating was clearly visible, that gelatin-like mass that surrounds these eggs.

w-frog eggs?

As I admired all the dropped red maple flowers that decorated the water, I spied something else. Or at least I think it’s something else. Perhaps mere bubbles floated atop the dried leaf, but I suspected eggs of another kind. I’ve never before noticed spring peeper eggs and wondered, could these be such? Here’s hoping Loon Echo Land Trust’s biologist, Paul Miller, will chime in.

w-spring peeper eggs in mix?

From what I’ve read in A Field Guide to the animals of Vernal Pools by Leo P. Kenney and Matthew R. Burne, “tiny peeper eggs may be deposited in small clusters or as single eggs attached to aquatic vegetation.” I placed a red arrow on this photo pointing to a couple more. And there are others in the photo, hiding in a “Where’s Waldo” fashion.

w-water strider and mosquito larvae

Circling around the pool, I noted some mosquito larvae and a few water striders.

But I also came upon one disturbing sight. A dead frog. Only a week ago, a friend in Cumberland discovered four dead frogs in a pool. In an e-mail exchange, Dr. Fred Cichocki explained to her, “Chytrid fungus is one potential and troubling cause of amphibian deaths. Another, and one we should all be aware of and be on the lookout for (especially in southern Maine) is ranavirus. It mainly affects woodfrogs (why no one knows) and primarily in the tadpole stage, where there may be 99+% mortality! The obvious symptoms are hemoragic lesions in the abdomen, and a behavior much like whale beaching, where the infected tadpoles swim onto the shore, turn belly up and expire en masse. Definitive identification requires either DNA sequencing or Electron Microscopic examination of tissue to reveal the characteristic virus particles. Once a pond or pool has ranavirus in it, it is probably impossible to erradicate (except maybe through frog attrition.) Ranavirus epidemics occur worldwide and are spreading, especially here in the Northeast.”

My dead frog was an adult. As were my friend’s. At the pool today, I was once again reminded that nature happens. And that it isn’t always pretty. Thankfully, I did spy a couple of live frogs.

w-snake 5

As I walked away from the pond, another garter snake.

w-snake 2

It was on the hunt.

Life and rebirth–the keys to spring. And sometimes, death so others may eat. But other times, death for reasons unknown. These aquatic sites offer an amazing biodiversity–and leave me with questions and understandings. Water works–I’m just not always sure how.

 

Into Focus

Sunshine. Spring sunshine. Need I say more. No, but I will as I bring the focus to two of my favorite watering holes.

h-Mount Wash

Of course, a visit to my first pond isn’t complete without a pause to recognize the power and the powerful.

h-wood frog eggs 1

As I approached the vernal pool, I heard not a sound. But, my heart filled when I spotted a clump of wood frog eggs.

h-wood frog 1

When our sons were youngsters, we always called it the frog pond rather than the vernal pool. And so it is . . . both.

h-willow pollination

After an hour spent in the pond’s midst, I drove to another–Holt Pond–where I decided to park on the corner of Perley and Grist Mill Roads. I wasn’t sure of the conditions on Grist Mill Road and figured that provided the perfect excuse for a walk and an opportunity to take in the sights along the way. Stepping out of the truck, pussy willows called to me . . . and to their pollinators.

h-queen anne's lace

And on the corner, a dried Queen Anne’s lace displayed its fireworks formation.

h-sensitive fern frond

There were sensitive fern fronds, their beads still encapsulating many cases containing dust-like spores.

h-beaked hazelnut

And I even found a few beaked hazelnuts still showing off their minute magenta flowers.

h-Grist Mill Road

I knew by my observations that I’d made the right decision to walk in–both in my findings and in the road conditions.

h-beaver works1

After following the initial trail and climbing over the stonewall, I was about to step onto the first boardwalk when I realized the beavers had been busy.

h-board walk-first section

The water was high as I quietly moved along the board walk, but not too high.

h-pitchers under water1

Although in some cases pitchers were submersed in the wet goodness.

h-speckled alder 1

The speckled alders didn’t mind for they love wet feet.

h-Muddy River

I stepped out to the Muddy River and listened to the chickadees sell cheeseburgers galore.

h-beaver lodge

And then I turned in the opposite direction to admire the beaver lodge and winter feeding pile beside it.

h-Boardwalk through red maple swamp 1

On the next boardwalk, the beauty of the red maple swamp surrounded me again.

h-Red Maple Swamp 1

Layers and colors spoke to the community and season.

h-red maple in swamp

And standing like sentries were the red maples for which it is named.

h-moose scat

It was here that I found evidence of another visitor, albeit this past winter–moose scat.

h-blueberry bud

And noted the swelling buds of highbush blueberries–their season in the offing.

h-Quaking Bog 2

After passing through the woodlands a couple of times in between the swamp journey, I at last reached the quaking bog and Holt Pond.

h-cranberries

Beside the board walk, last autumn’s cranberries floated in the water.

h-pitcher 2

And more pitcher plants showed off their hairy entrance ways.

h-pitcher flower

Withered pitcher plant flowers dangled in their woody fashion–as beautiful in death as in full bloom.

h-Holt Pond south

By the time I reached the T on the boardwalk, I was standing atop it, but in six inches of water–thankful for my rain boots.

h-Holt Pond to Five Fields

And thankful for the opportunity to stand there on a gorgeous spring day as I looked toward Five Fields Farm.

h-Canada Geese

In that very view–two Canada geese. I wondered if they’d found a nest site.

h-dragonfly exoskeleton 2

Also in view, last year’s dragonfly exoskeleton that bobbed in the water flowing over the boardwalk.

h-cinnamon crosier 1

On the way back, I stopped once again. My first photo call was an ostrich fern that I didn’t realize grew there. See why you should walk in rather than drive? That photo didn’t come out so well, but I was standing in an area filled with cinnamon ferns and suddenly realized I was looking at my first crosiers of the season.

I was actually down by a stream beside the road when I found these. A truck came along and the driver paused. He and his friend thought I was fishing and were going to ask what I’d caught. “Only photos,” I said playfully.

h-garter snake 1

Upon returning home I decided to visit the frog pond one more time, thinking the lighting would be different. At the end of the cowpath I found a garter snake enjoying the warmth of the sun . . . and probably a few insects.

h-wood frog eggs 2

When I’d walked to the pond this morning, I was surprised at how quiet it was. That changed this afternoon as a chorus of wrucks added music to my day. And another egg mass had been added to the display.

h-wood frog 2

Of course, all quieted down once I arrived, but I waited . . . and realized the pond really is full of life.

I’d spent the day beside my favorite ponds and was well rewarded. I’d also played with my camera settings, avoiding auto-focus all day. I’ve got a lot to learn, but hey, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Honoring the Earth

It would have been so easy to stay home last night, curled up on the couch beside my guy while watching the Bruins play hockey. After all, it was raining, 38˚, and downright raw. But . . . the email alert went out earlier in the day and the evening block party was scheduled to begin at 7:30. And so, I piled on the layers from a wick-away shirt to Under Armour, a turtleneck, sweater, LL Bean vest and rain jacket. I slipped into my Bogg boots and made sure I had the right gear–smartphone for photos, reflective vest, headlamp and flashlight. With a visored hat on my head to shield my glasses from the rain, I was finally ready. Out the door and down the road I went, headed to the Lakes Environmental Association‘s office for Big Night.

h-Big Night Patrol 3 (1)

I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to attend the party. Our number was about twenty. I think the best part was that we ranged in age from 6 to almost 60, the latter being me–the oldest kid on the block. And in that mix, one teen who was celebrating his 15th birthday (Happy Birthday, Kyle), and several teens who had never attended before but came because one of their crowd was an annual participant. We even had two policemen in the mix–and though their job was to slow traffic and keep us safe, they had as much fun as we did completing our mission.

h-spotted sallie 2 (1)

Said mission–to help spotted salamanders . . .

h-spring peeper 1 (1)

and spring peepers cross the road.

h-redback salamander (1)

We did so for a while and then headed back to our vehicles. Just before reaching the spot where we’d all parked, someone spotted this redback salamander–I smiled because its the symbol of the Maine Master Naturalist Program.

We were wet. We were cold. And we were happy. As nature would have it, Big Night preceded Earth Day–a perfect beginning.

h-candy lichen

Earth Day began appropriately with a board meeting at Lakes Environmental, where among other topics, Dr. Ben Peierls, the new research director of LEA’s Maine Lake Science Center, shared with us his plans for the water quality testing laboratory. Ben addressed us first so that he could drive to Portland and join the March for Science. We continued our meeting, but were thankful for his representation. Meanwhile, directly outside and all around town, another gathering was taking place as many people participated in an Earth Day cleanup.

By the time I left the meeting pleased with all that had been accomplished, I was ready for a solo adventure to find out what the Earth wanted to share with me since most of the snow melted this past week. Despite being another raw day, or maybe because of it, the candy lichen brought a smile to my face. I think one of the cool things about this lichen is that even though its salmon-colored fruits stand atop stalks, this is really a crustose (crust-like) lichen, the bluish-green surface being the actual structure.

h-juniper berries

Near the candy lichen, the bright blue of some berries stood out on the common juniper. They remain on the shrubs all winter and it seemed only a wee bit ago they looked all withered. Today’s offerings were plump and pretty.

h-pine droplets

And then there were the raindrops, each waiting its turn to continue the journey toward the earth. I had to wonder what else it might fall upon before reaching its final destination–each little ball encapsulating nourishment.

h-lambkill

One of the receivers, sheep laurel, which displayed its own new life.

h-trailing arbutus

And at the base, trailing arbutus. One year ago, as I noted in my Earth Day post, it was already in bloom. This seemed a reminder from Mother Earth that we need to practice patience.

h-wild turkey

I continued my mosey, as quiet as could be, and so was startled when one large, exotic bird, and then another, and a third flew off from behind a stone wall. And then I realized they were wild turkeys–who truly are exotic if you take a look at all the colors in their feathers.

h-tinder conks on beech

I’d been on the snowmobile trail, but traveling was difficult given some remaining icy snow and deep ruts filled with water. As if I needed an excuse, I decided to slip into the woods. One of my first delights–tinderconks lining a tree as I looked up.

h-moss covering

But really, it was the thick moss coating at the top of the tree that first drew my attention. Several trees in the neighborhood displayed the same fashion.

h1-woods south (1)

My wander was aimless, taking me through boggy areas . . .

h-snow1

and small sections where snow still blanketed the ground.

h-deer prints in snow

Besides plenty of deer scat, I found prints . . .

h-deer hair

and hair.

h-deer hair bubbles

Raindrops enhanced the hair.

h1-moose scat 1 (1)

And though I suspect they’ve moved toward open water, there was plenty of evidence that the moose had also spent the winter in these woods.

h-moose hair

They, too, have shed hair–preparing for the summer scene.

h-moose maple

A couple of months ago, I’d been concerned that the moose had consumed all the tree buds, but the red maples showed me otherwise.

h1-woods south 2 (1)

At one point, I stood for a while atop a rock and looked to the south.

h1-woods north (1)

And then to the north. It was as I stood there that I heard a repeated sound. It began with a few slow beats, and then a swift series of beats. All seemed muffled. It finally occurred to me that I was listening to a ruffed grouse. Eventually, I followed the drumming and came close to the one beating its wings against a log–the work of a displaying male. I didn’t bother to seek out the actual bird for I knew I’d startle it and it would fly off, so I let it drum in peace, thankful for the opportunity to at least hear it. Really, it was a first for me. Oh, I’ve possibly heard it before, but only today did I recognize it for what it was.

h1-widowmaker (1)

For a while, I was fake lost . . . and then I heard another repeated sound that lead me to a widowmaker and I knew exactly where I was. But where was the maker of the sound?

h-owl 1

In a tree above me.

There were actually two barred owls and I was so thankful for the honor of listening to and watching them on this Earth Day.

I was also thankful for all the privileges bestowed upon me. The privilege of living. The privilege of noticing. The privilege of questioning. The privilege of understanding. The privilege of wandering. And especially, the privilege of wondering. Thank you for your offerings, Mother Earth. I am honored to know you.

 

 

 

 

 

May I Have This Dance?

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

v-snow on trail

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

v-springtails 1

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

v-springtails 2

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

v-trailing arbutus 1

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

v-trailing arbutus 2

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

v-vernal pool

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

v-vp edge opening

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

v-leaf offerings

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

v-spermatophores

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

v-frog 1

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

v-fox scat beside vernal pool

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

v-sharp-shinned hawk feather?

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

v-woodpecker feather

And after that a woodpecker.

v-junco feather?

And then a junco.

v-red maple flowers 1

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

v-red maple flowers 2

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

May I have this dance?

 

A Good Mourning Mondate

A good mourning? Indeed it was. Yesterday we celebrated Easter and the resurrection. Today we celebrated an opportunity to climb our favorite mountain.

p-Mountain stream

And so we parked the truck at Loon Echo Land Trust’s Ledges Trail parking lot on Mountain Road in Denmark and then walked 1.5 miles back to the trailhead we chose to make our ascension up Pleasant Mountain. Along the way, mountain streams quickly moved the meltwater downward toward Moose Pond, where it will mingle with the lake water and eventually find its way to another stream and then the Saco River and finally out to sea. And whether via future raindrops or snowflakes or even fog, traces of the same water molecules may again find their way down these streams.

p-bald peak trail

At last we reached the trail head for the Bald Peak Trail, where less than a week ago Marita and I had to climb over a tall snowbank to reach the path.

p-ice chunk

As we climbed and paused to admire the water flowing beside us, I noted differences between last week and today, including the shrinking of an ice chunk tucked under a rock. Ever so slowly, it joined the forces of downward motion, as if letting go was meant to happen with care.

p-Needles Eye

And then at the spur, my guy and I turned left to Needles Eye. Some ice and snow still covered parts of the path, but it was much easier to negotiate than last week. And he did. I followed him, but didn’t need to step into the chasm since I’d just been there. (wink) Instead, I climbed below to try to capture the world above.

p-returning from Needles Eye

And then I rejoined my guy and wished I’d taken a photo of this section last week for today’s conditions didn’t reflect the same treacherous stretch Marita and I worked our way across.

p-snow on trail

We continued up the trail, where snow and ice were more prevalent. Though we had micro-spikes in our pack, we managed to avoid wearing them. And only once did I completely sink in–just below Big Bald Peak. I actually went up to my thigh, so deep was the snow. And cold. But I was hot, so it felt refreshing.

p-pileated scat

But before we reached the sharp left turn on Big Bald Peak, we noticed tons of chips at the base of a hemlock tree. Such a discovery invited a closer look–and I spied the largest pileated woodpecker scat I’d ever seen. Later on, when we were almost at the Fire Warden’s Trail, we saw two hikers on their way down and I quickly realized one was my dear friend Joan–another lover of scat and all things mammalian. Of course I told her what to look for as she and her hiking friend headed down the Balk Peak Trail. And I just received an e-mail from her: “Deb and I saw it! It was huge! She was so excited to see all the little ant bodies!” Indeed.

p-Mt Wash from top of Bald Peak Trail

The wind blew fiercely when we reached Big Bald, where white and red pines framed a view of another big bald–Mount Washington in the distance.

p-view from lunch rock 2 (1)

Not far along the trail, we found lunch rock in a section that offered some protection from the gusty wind. It was the perfect place to enjoy our PB&Js followed by Cadbury Digestives (thanks sis).

p-view from lunch rock

Through the trees, we could again see the mighty mountain to our west.

p-blueberries 1

And at our feet–blueberry buds galore. My guy began to see blue where no blue yet exists–the promise was enough.

p-along ridge line

Walking along the ridge line was like a walk in the park. At times, where the sun didn’t hit the northwest sides of ravines, we found more snow, but more often than not, the trail was neither icy nor muddy.

p-wood frogs

It was in one of the ravines, however, that we heard a song of spring–the wruck of the wood frogs singing from a vernal pool located below. A first for us this year and we were happy to be in the presence of such a sound.

p-fire tower 1

It seemed like in no time, we approached the main summit where the iconic fire tower still stands tall.

p-summit 6 (1)

We took in the view toward Brownfield and beyond.

p-summit toward Washington

And again looked toward Mount Washington.

p-Mt Wash1

Even upon the mighty one, we could see the snow has melted gradually. But our stay wasn’t any longer than a few minutes for the wind was hat-stealing strong and I had to chase mine.

p-hiking down ledges

And so down Ledges Trail we descended in order to complete our loop. Here we rarely saw signs of snow or ice.

p-ledge view 1

The southern basin of Moose Pond stretched before us, most of its surface still covered with the grainy gray ice of spring. Any day now, ice out will be declared, late as it is.

p-tent caterpillars

It was on the ledges that I noticed tent caterpillars already at work.

p-red maple 1

Thankfully, there were more pleasant sights to note, including the first flowers of red maples.

p-striped maple buds

And along the trail below the ledges, plenty of striped maples showed off their swelling buds.

p-acorn

Last summer, the oaks produced a mast crop and those not consumed by the squirrels and turkeys have reached germination. This one made a good choice about a place to lay down its roots–hope burst forth.

p-beaked hazelnut 2

As we neared the end of the trail, I began to notice the beaked hazelnuts and savored  their tiny blooms of magenta ribbons. And we could hear spring peepers. So many good sights and sounds along our journey.

p-mourning cloak 1

On each trail we hiked today, we were also blessed with butterfly sightings. It’s always a joy to see these beauties, who actually overwinter as adults in tree cavities, behind loose bark, or anywhere they can survive out of the wind and without being consumed by predators. They survive by cryopreservation–the process of freezing biological material at extreme temperatures. In Britain, their common name is Camberwell Beauty. In North America, we know them as Mourning Cloaks–so named for their coloration that resembled the traditional cloak one used to wear when in mourning.

I think I may have to stick with Camberwell Beauty for a name, given those velvety brown wings accented by the line of black with azure dots and accordian yellow edge. What’s to mourn about it?

So we didn’t. Instead, we enjoyed a good morning Mondate–and afternoon.