Beware the Ides of March

As I write, snow flurries float earthward landing atop the almost two feet of snow we received yesterday. Perhaps I should have heeded the soothsayer who warned Julius Caesar to “Beware the ides of March,” in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s play about the Roman politician. 

But I didn’t. I stepped out the door this morning and took my friend, Judy Lynne, with me for today is her birthday, thus making March 15 a day of celebration rather than one to be dreaded.  

As for “ides,” that word refers to the day in the middle of the month. Every month has a day that divides it in half, therefore, every month has an ides. But still, in the play it sounds so ominous–and is eventually.

And as for Judy, she missed the blizzard (and all our winter weather) because she teaches in China. And she is not at all like the Roman soldiers. Rather, Judy embraces every person and critter around the world and sheds love wherever she goes. 

p-porky

Since she can’t be in western Maine to enjoy the results of a late season storm, she’ll have to travel vicariously–beginning with the porcupine who didn’t let a little snow stop him from plowing through. Those of us who know Judy travel in a similar manner as she shows us parts  of the world we may never actually visit. 

p-Mount Wash

The view of Mount Washington will help her get her bearings. It is this and Pleasant Mountain and our orientation to them on the horizon that help us recognize our place in the world.

p-snowshoe hare

I didn’t expect to see many tracks this morning, but was pleasantly surprised. Besides the porcupine, I saw deer, mouse, red and gray squirrel, chipmunk and these. I can’t give you lobsters for your birthday, Judy, but I can give you the lobster-like prints of snowshoe hare. 

p-AMC bridge

I often don’t know where I’m headed when I walk out the door, and today was no different. This journey took me into Pondicherry Park where I stopped by the AMC bridge and thought about Judy’s ability to cross bridges with people of other cultures, no matter how deep the snow may be.

p-AMC bench

Today, however, if she wanted to pause after making such a crossing, she’d need a shovel, such was the depth on the bench by the bridge.

p-willet brook from bench site

Together, we headed down the trail to the viewpoint beside Willet Brook. Judy is an artist and I had visions of her recreating this scene of winter snow and spring ice. This picture of transitions reminded me of the changes in her life as she interviews for jobs in other countries.

p-Willet 2

The change will be difficult as she leaves behind friendships formed in the last five years, but I trust in reflection she’ll know she’s making the right choice.

p-false tinderconk

As I snowshoed, I found a few things I knew, but didn’t necessarily understand. Bumps in the road you might say, Jude, or at least on the spore surface of a false tinderconk.

p-hammered, green shield and cocoon

Because she loves design and has an insatiable curiosity, I knew she’d enjoy taking a look at the shield lichens, both hammered and common green.

p-cocoon 2

And that would have brought her to notice something else on the bark. She’d have laughed as I stuck my chin against the tree to get a closer look at the silky-hair cocoon embedded on the lichen. Perhaps a tussock moth?

p- Hooded Merganzer

As I wound my way back, I checked Willet Brook again–and spied a hooded merganser swimming away, its crest described as a hammerhead. Hammershield, hammerhead. Methinks Judy will nail down a new job soon.

p-beech bud breaking

And then there was the beech bud already breaking–I’ve seen this happen in previous years; a few scales bursting open before their time.  For Judy, it would have turned into a science lesson for her Chinese high school students. And perhaps a drawing lesson for art class.

p-deer, maple leaves on ground

Throughout the park, I didn’t roam alone for deer tracks were obvious everywhere and I saw three of the creators. But it was the leaves atop the snow that made me pause and I’m sure Judy would have done the same.

p-maple leaves

Occasionally I spot a single withered maple leaf on a tree, but this tree was covered and it made no sense. Maples aren’t typically marcescent–they don’t retain their leaves like beech and oak. It wasn’t until I stepped back and looked at the tree that I finally understood; this was a branch that had fallen when the tree was still in leaf and the deer browsed the tips of some branches, though I trust they didn’t find much nutrition for they moved on. I laughed again and heard Judy roar with me.

p-deer crossing stream:watercress

At the stream below the spring, I noticed the deer had walked right through the water to get to the other side.

p-watercress 1

I couldn’t tell for sure, but trust they sampled some wild watercress that grows freely there. And I thought of the foods Judy has sampled during her time in China and other travels.

p-deer crossing bridge

Not all of the deer chose to walk through the water. Some actually crossed the bridge. It struck me that they learned to use it to get to the other side. Judy has learned so much about herself and the world as she’s crossed bridges I’ll never set foot on.

p-dunning bridge 1

The best bridge of all awaited, its roof supporting the weight of the snow. This bridge was built by many to honor a community member, whose wife just happened to be the reason Judy and I met 25 years ago. Wow–it’s been that long since we practiced breathing techniques in Lamaze class .

p-snow on Dunning bridge

One of the cool things this morning because I was the first one there, the peaks and valleys left behind by the storm. If she’d been here, Judy would have taken the very same photo.

p-ducks 1

I went to the bridge to see the other ducks that frequent this location. The sight of the snow-topped rocks and vegetation made me think of frosting and guess who also teaches a cooking class–yup, Judy.

p-ducks 4, black:mallard hybrid?

Within the mix, what I think are two black ducks. I’m still learning my birds, but it did look like one may be a hybrid–a cross between a black duck and a mallard. Of course, I could be wrong on all accounts. No matter–what does matter is that they all get along and that’s what is important to Judy. She’s also a great believer in random acts of kindness and has performed so many good deeds for others.

p-robins 2

I was almost home when I saw some color in the gray birches–more color than the berries being eaten.

p-robin 3

A flock of robins dined on the “junk” food of the bird world–bittersweet berries.

p-robin 1

After one drank some snow, it showed off its rufous-colored breast, reminiscent of Judy’s red hair.

This one posed atop the snow-covered branch seemed a mighty fine representation of our move from one season to the next. (Or might it be one country to the next, Jude?)

In the end, today’s journey reminded me once again to Be Aware–the eyes of March. And be thankful.

I am thankful for my friend, Judy Lynne, born on the Ides of March, but not actually reading this until the day after her birthday. I’ll be forever in awe of her.

Beautiful Maine Mondate

Some Monday’s we look for new places to explore or mountains to climb, but today found us visiting an old favorite that is gorgeous in any season.

s1-Stone House Road 1

Because it’s still winter (and she’s not letting go right away), we knew our hike would be extended by more than a mile on either end. We parked by the Leach Link Trail on Stone House Road and followed the telephone poles in.

s2-bear number

These are my favorite telephone poles in the world–well, for today that is, for they show the works of the clever bears that inhabit this place. The wood has been scratched and bitten, while the shiny pole number was mutilated. This was pole 5. I suppose it still is.

s3-bear hair

Hair sticks out from splinters. Bear hair.

s4-more bear hair

We found lots of it on several poles today. More than we’ve seen in the past.

s6-another pole

I’m thinking that the bears in the area have a fondness for 5. Or a dislike, for pole 15 also received rough treatment. There are more, but it was on 5 and 15 that we noticed the number destruction.

s8-bear dogs

Despite that, the bears in this area are most welcome. Because the signs are new, I asked my guy what he thought the bears will do when they emerge from their dens soon. In my mind, I saw a similar behavior to the other poles and imagined that when we return again we’ll see that the signs have also been destroyed because that’s what bears do. My guy’s response, “Clap.” Indeed, they should.

s9-gate

At last we reached the gate where we usually park to hike the Stone House property and Blueberry Mountain trails. The Stone House property encompasses about 890 acres surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. In 2011, the owners, David Cromwell and Sharon Landry, established a conservation easement held by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. The easement allows for traditional uses including commercial agriculture and forestry, but prohibits development and subdivision in perpetuity. Thus we have both this couple and the GLLT to thank for today’s adventure.

s10-black cherry bark

When we finally reached the Shell Pond trailhead, a black cherry immediately jumped out at me. The property was last logged in 1977 and features a mix of hard and softwoods. My bark eyes love the diversity.

s11a-birch and red maple

And my bark mind appreciates the kindred spirit of the trees that manage to support each other despite their differences–in this case a beech and red maple.

s14-pileated works

I’m not the only one who likes bark–the work of pileated woodpeckers,

s15-porcupine

porcupines,

s16-beaver works

beavers,

s13-yellow birch burl

and even insects was evident throughout our three-hour tour.

s17-Yale blue

As we hiked, my dad was also on my brain. I’d received a message this morning from his former boss at Yale University who fondly recalled Dad and his brother Bob. Though quiet men, he and his brother had a twinkle in their eyes, a love for music, especially opera, and always a good joke or prank up their sleeves.

When I saw this tree in the shape of a Y, I knew it was for Dad. Even the sky spoke of the university–though several shades lighter than Yale blue. And with that came the memory that any paint my father mixed had a touch of Yale blue in it–thus was his way. It was all meant to be for Mr. Cromwell, the property owner, is associated with Yale.

s18-my guy

I couldn’t help but think that Dad would have loved the idea of our Mondates. He also would have loved my guy, but sadly they never met. Dad died of a heart attack only days before he and Mom were to spend a weekend with me in Maine–thirty years ago.  But, my guy continues to wear a Yale sweatshirt when he runs, which he did this morning. In that way, he’s made his own connection. Yeah–that’s my guy!

s19-pond views

Now that I’m writing through tears, I’ll get back to the trail, which is delightful in winter because it offers more views of Shell Pond below.

s20-cliff views

And the icy ledges above. Later in our journey, I noted the trail to the ledges had been well used–probably by rock/ice climbers.

s22-water 1

Trail conditions were such that we walked on top of the hardened snow, though I did wear micro-spikes for the entire tour. Someone waited to put his on and did a little slipping and sliding along the way. Brook crossings required stepping low and high, so deep is the snow still.

s23-ice castle

While I marveled at a castle made of ice,

s24-Christmas tree

my guy spotted a Christmas tree.

s25-polypody

We even found a few hints of green. These polypody ferns were opened, indicating warmer temps and today we certainly noted the difference compared to the brisk weekend.

s26-polypody

Of course, on another rock, some were still curled in their cold formation. They were under a hemlock and more shaded.

s27-partridgeberry

Any bit of green is a welcome sight about now and I was surprised to see partridgeberry poking through the snow.

s28-lunch bench

At last we reached lunch bench, which my guy stood upon. Yup, that’s the granite bench under his feet.

s29-lunch

We sat on it to eat our PB&J (with butter for me, of course) sandwiches. And tried to keep from sliding right down to the pond.

s30-Shell Pond

Lunch view included Shell Pond and the Baldfaces in the background. All along, we’d noted mice, squirrel, mink, fisher, coyote, bobcat, ruffed grouse, turkey and moose tracks. But as we ate we listened to the whales groan–so moaned the ice in the afternoon sun.

s31-brook

A short time later we reached Rattlesnake Brook and the orchard, where the natural community transitioned and appeared almost bucolic.

s32-ostrich fern

One of my favorite finds along this section is the ostrich fern. The structure of its fertile frond makes me smile.

s33-airfield

From the orchard we moved on to the old airfield and wondered if the family ever flies to their summer home. Though I don’t think it’s used these days, the airstrip was apparently built in the 1940s by the military for practice landings and takeoffs during World War II.

Again, the views were breathtaking.

s34-stone house and Blueberry Mtn

As hikers, we’re reminded by signs to stay on the marked trails, thus protecting the land and giving the family some space. I’m in awe of their home. The Stone House was built in the early 1850s by Abel Andrews. He quarried the large, hand-hewn granite slabs from Rattlesnake Mountain and built the 40-foot by 25-foot house for his wife and thirteen children.

s35-another wetland

I did stay on the trail most of the time, but occasionally I heard the landscape calling my name and had to investigate. Fortunately, my guy stayed on the trail all the time and kept us honest.

s36-Beautiful Maine

We walked back out to the truck and then decided to take a quick detour before driving home. Being on Stone House Road, we were only a mile from the winter closure point for Route 113 in the White Mountain National Forest. The road forms the state line between Maine and New Hampshire for several miles. And then it passes into Maine at the gate by the Cold River Campground and The Basin. And it’s there that you’ll find this iconic sign.

Welcome to Beautiful Maine and another scenic Mondate.

 

 

 

 

Because I Wandered

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

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

o-quaking aspen

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

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

o-striped maple

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

o-gray fox tracks

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

o-gray fox prints

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

o-gray fox and coyote 1

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

o-gray fox and coyote intersect

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

o-gray fox sat and peed

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

o-turkey plus

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

o-turkey wings

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

o-many travelers

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

o-bs lichen

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

o-crustose mosaic

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

o-beech 1

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

o-beech leaves

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

o-beech 4

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

o-beech scales

 

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

o-witch hazel leaves

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

o-witch hazel scalpel

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

o-witch hazel bracts

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

o-witch hazel pods

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

o-moose scat

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

o-moose browse

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

o-coyote x2

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

o-cherry

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

o-deciduous forest

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

o-deer 1

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

o-deer browsing first

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

o-deer browsing

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

My day was made because I wandered.

 

 

 

Focusing Our Eyes at Wilson Wing

I almost canceled our Tuesday Tramp this morning. The weather seemed iffy and though that doesn’t often stop us, road conditions do. But Mary and I exchanged a few e-mails and decided that even though we were the only two available, we’d go for it.

w1--deer 1

As we made up our minds, I watched another who also experienced some indecision. Lately, eight deer have spent many moments in the field and our yard, nipping buds along the edge.

w2-deer 2

While the rest of its clan was further out, this one came over the stone wall.

w3a--deer 3a

For me, it was a matter of watching how its legs worked and where it placed its cloven toes.

w4-deer 5

About to visit some trees, it turned suddenly when it realized it was being stalked–not by me but rather a neighbor’s cat. Well, maybe I was as well, but I was indoors.

w6-deer 6

Gingerly, it moved in for a closer look.

w7-deer 7

Tail down, it seemed curious to make a new acquaintance. And the big, tough cat–it ran home.

w8--Sucker Brook 1

And so, I packed up and met Mary for our adventure at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s  Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve on Horseshoe Pond Road in Lovell. We’d had a dusting of snow overnight and weren’t sure what to expect. Always expect the unexpected.

From the start, we found older coyote tracks that we decided to follow. Those led us to mink tracks that began near Sucker Brook. For a while, we followed both as they ran parallel, the mink tracks being much fresher. And then we stood in one spot and realized we were encircled by coyote, mink, red squirrel and short or long-tailed weasel tracks. We could have gone home then, but of course we didn’t.

w9-ice skirt

We decided to follow the brook for a while, hoping to see otter tracks and a slide. Instead, we were treated to aprons of ice surrounding boulders and tree roots.

w10-hoar ice

Some hoar frost at a hole made us wonder who might be within.

w11-mink tracks with tail drag

And our eyes again recognized that we were still on the trail of the coyote and mink. All along, we were curious to see the drag marks left behind by the mink’s tail. Unless it was carrying something–another option.

w12-Sucker Brook 2

As we stood and looked about, movement caught our eyes and we realized we were looking at the mink. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to capture it in a photograph, but it will remain forever in our mind’s eye. While I did exactly what I tell others not to do–tried to follow it for a couple of minutes–Mary stood and listened. A sound above make her crick her neck.

w13-black backed woodpecker

On a dead trunk, a woodpecker foraged among the bark scales. We watched it for a while, trying to note its features from below and we then moved on.

w14--hobblebush

My visits to Wilson Wing are never complete without a stop to worship the hobblebush. For those anticipating spring, it’s only a few weeks away. It won’t be long and these naked leaf and flower buds will unfurl and I’m sure I’ll share their blooming glory with you.

w15-Moose Pond Bog

Another stop that I can’t pass by is a climb up the stairs to the platform–the perfect viewing spot for the bog.

w16-car

Finally, we continued along the trail and I realized my focal points were redundant of all past visits, but it’s fun to view some of these in various seasons. For those who know, this is the old blue vehicle.

w17-lungwort

And right near it, my favorite of all foliose lichens–lungwort, indicative of unpolluted air. At Wilson Wing–indeed.

w18-hemlock catkins ;-)

We crossed the last little stream, found some deer tracks and a beaver chew, and then decided to follow the trail back rather than the road. One of our stops included admiring the hemlock catkins. (Smiley face)

w19-black backed 2

And then we returned to the woodpecker. By now he was our woodpecker, just as the mink that we saw and other critters we didn’t see were also “our mink” and “our coyote,” etc. It’s amazing how even when we don’t see the mammal, recognizing that it has passed through is enough to excite us. But this bird . . . oh my.

w20-black backed 3

We noted the orangey yellow crown as it cocked its head.

w26-black backed 8

Its face was black and white, including a black mustache and white eye line.

w22--black backed 5

We were surprised by its stocky build.

w24-black backed 6

And those black and white barred sides or flanks weren’t like the woodpeckers we normally see.

w25-black backed 7

It worked constantly, flaking the scales off the trunk as it searched for insect larvae.

w27-black backed 9

Cinnamon colored underbark revealed itself where the bird had recently excavated.

w28-black backed 10

As it contemplated its next move, it didn’t seem to mind our admiration.

w30-black backed 11

With its strong beak, it probed and probed.

w31-black backed 12

Then held its head back and . . .

w32-black backed 13

probed some more.

w33-black backed 14

First it cocked its head to the right.

w36-black backed 17

And then back to the left.

w38-blackbacked 18

Frequently, it paused for a brief break. Or perhaps it was dining and we didn’t know it.

w40-black backed 21

We were mesmerized.

w39-black backed 20

And delighted . . .  for we’d had the opportunity to focus our eyes on so many wonders, but especially the mink and this . . . a black-backed woodpecker. This was a rare opportunity for these birds seldom show themselves, especially this far south–all the more reason to be thankful that we decided to go for it and focus our eyes on the nature of Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve.

Tickling the Feet

I don’t often write about indoor events, but while the rest of the world was out playing in the brisk wind of this late winter day, a few of us gathered inside the community center at Two Echo Cohousing to meet some feet.

f-dorcas-and-sally

Meet the feet? Yes, mammal feet. It was an Advanced Seminar prepared for students and graduates of the Maine Master Naturalist Program by one of our founders and past president, Dorcas Miller.

f-gaby

Dorcas has gathered mammal feet from road kill and gifts. And we gathered to take a closer look at them, determine if their stance was plantigrade (walking–entire foot on ground as we do), digitigrade (tip-toeing like a fox or coyote), or unguligrade (en pointe in ballet, like the ungulates–deer, moose, sheep), and sketch what we saw.

f-tina

Sketching is a fabulous way to take a closer look.

f-mary

And so we did,

f-fred

with intensity,

f-beth-b

curiosity,

f-christy

smiles,

f-cheryl

and giggles.

f-gordon

From tiny

f-beth

to big, we had them all to study.

f-sharon

We wondered what we’d find.

f-ruth

And survived some interesting scents (think skunk).

f-susan-penny

Probably the best part was that we renewed friendships formed through a combined interest in learning about the natural world.

f-raccoon-1-1

My own sketches were rather primitive.

f-muskrat-1-1

But it was noticing the details that appealed to me most.

f-opossum-2-1

One of my favorite pairs–the opossum with its opposable thumb, puffy pads and grip bumps.

f-opossum-cast-1

When we finished sketching, we made some casts in clay. These illustrate the opossum better than I ever could.

f-red-fox-cast-1

My final cast was the red fox–I love that the chevron shows in the print on the left and the hairiness of its feet is evident.

f-cover-1-1

At the end of the seminar, we celebrated the release of the second edition of Track Finder, written by Dorcas.

f-dorcas-feet

And coveted her bear claw shawl–a gift from her guy.

f-attribution-1-1

As she gave me my signed book, she told me to take a look at the Acknowledgements. She acknowledged me! I’m not sure why, but I’m certainly humbled and honored.

I also love her note to her guy–about the road kill in the freezer.

Yup, we stayed indoors today and tickled some feet. They tickled us back.

 

 

The Bears of Mount Tire’m

Mary Holland posted in her Naturally Curious blog that black bears are emerging now and it’s time to bring in the bird feeders. Maybe so, but today surely didn’t feel like a good day to give up a cozy spot and head out in search of food that doesn’t exist because the snow is crusted and two feet deep.

Winds were out of the northwest at about 18 miles per hour. The temperature was 8˚ that felt like -10˚ or lower. But sunshine. We had plenty of sunshine. So maybe the bears are waking from their long winter’s nap.

t-porky-works-2

Post lunch, my guy and I decided to don micro-spikes because of the snow conditions and ascend the trail to the summit of Mount Tire’m in Waterford. Only a few seconds after starting up the trail, we spied downed hemlock branches and knew one of the critters that frequents these woods.

t-porky-wall-walk-1

As I looked on the stonewall beside the trail, I could see that the porcupine had left its own trail while it came and went. We wondered where it might be, but when I turned and looked back down to the road, I saw that the trail continued that way and have a feeling that Porky lives under one of the nearby barns, much the same as our local Porky lives under our barn.

t-woodpecker-hole-1

Our hike to the summit was brisk because it was so cold. Every once in a while, my guy paused, including beside this newly excavated pileated woodpecker hole. If I were the local chickadees, I’d choose this one tonight and gather all my friends and relatives within since it was deeper than many.

t-fungi-1

There were the fire tenders nearby–birch bark and false tinder conks–so keeping the home fire lit should help keep them warm.

t-keoka-1-1

Over halfway to the summit, there’s a brief opening to Keoka Lake and Streaked Mountain in the offing. We could see a wee bit of open water below, and know that despite this weekend’s weather, change is in the air.

t-summit-view-2-1

It seemed like we reached the summit in a matter of minutes, so cold was it. But, we were out of the way of the wind and the southerly exposure meant less snow.

t-summit-view-4-1

We looked to the left, with Keoka Lake below. And behind the single pine, Bear and Hawk Mountains.

t-summit-view-3-pleasant-1

To our right and through the pines, we could see the snow covered ski trails at Shawnee Peak Ski Area on Pleasant Mountain.

t-summit-view-2-1

Straight below, Waterford City, Bear Pond and Long Lake beyond.

t-tirem-rocks-2-1

This hike is never complete without a visit to the rock castle hidden in a hemlock stand behind the summit. It was a favorite for our sons when they were youngsters and we still like to pay homage.

t-rock-cracks-1

Life on a rock has long been exemplified here, with crustose lichens topped by mosses that grow among the cracks, where pine needles and seeds gather.

b-tree-on-rock-1

The result– dirt so birch trees may grow out of the side of the boulders.

t-bear-cave-2-1

When one visits the castle, it’s important to check out the caves because you never know . . . t-me-2-1

who might emerge.

t-bear-1-1

We decided to bushwhack on our way down. Turns out, Ms. Holland was right. We met a bear in the woods today.

 

From Lion to Lioness

Given yesterday’s rain and fog, March forgot its lion-like nature and seemed rather tame. Or so we thought.

h-lion

This morning, however, dawn broke with sunshine and clouds, followed by raindrops the size of half dollars, followed by clouds and wind, followed by snow and wind, followed by clouds and sunshine, followed by hail, followed by sunshine and clouds. And all of that before noon.

h-clothes-line

The wind continued to blow, but was down a few knots when two friends and I noticed this bark hanging out to dry much the way laundry does.

h-beaver-bog

Our intention was to explore Lakes Environmental Association‘s newly acquired property in North Bridgton. The 325-acre property was the gift of the David and Carol Hancock Charitable Trust. And based on the wildlife signs we encountered today, it offers a valuable corridor. It’s all of that plus it’s part of the Highland Lake watershed and ultimately the Sebago Lake watershed. And it will provide a place for research, public education and recreation.

h-bog-1

And so today, I followed Marita Wiser, author of HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES Region and JoAnne Diller, who has conquered all 100 4,000-foot peaks. Our intention was to skirt around the outside of the wetland, but curiosity got the better of us.

h-coyote-prints

For a bit, we followed the tracks of several coyotes who had traveled through rather recently given that we could clearly see the toes, nails and X between pads .

h-coyote-trot

And then we found a set of prints, also coyote, that appeared to be even fresher. What made us wonder were the drag marks we saw in various places associated with the tracks, which we don’t often see.  It was obvious that the mammal was trotting give the sets of four prints in a backward C fashion. But was it dragging its tail because it was sinking in a bit, much as we were? Or was it dragging some prey? We never did figure it out, but enjoyed the chance to wonder.

h-heron-nest-2

We do know that it led us to a heron nest high up in a tree. I’d only visited the property twice before, in the early summer and had seen another heron nest, but this one was new to me. Such big birds. Such little nests given that they raise three or four young who grow as big as their parents while waiting to fledge.

h-beaver-brook-meanders

Though we could feel the wind on our faces, we enjoyed the sunshine as we journeyed on through this special place. Soon this world will change and so we were rejoicing in the opportunity to view it from such an upclose perspective.

h-beaver-lodge-1

Our next stop was one of the beaver lodges. It appeared that no one was home, given the fact that there was no meltdown at the top and no mammal tracks leading to or from it.

h-beaver-lodge-2-opening

Instead, we followed faded weasel tracks presumably made by an otter, to another lodge, where the top was exposed.

h-beaver-damotter

As we circled around behind it, we noted that many visits had been made.

h-heron-nest-3

And then we turned again, to another heron nest that I recognized. During my June visit, an adult had flown in, indicating there may have been young in the nest.

h-lungwort-brown-1

From there, we paused briefly to admire some lungwort that was the brownest and driest I’ve ever seen, especially given yesterday’s rain and today’s mixed precipitation.

h-beaver-dam-approach

And then our eyes were suddenly drawn to a line of lumps in the snow and we realized we were standing on the infinity pool created by a beaver dam.

h-beaver-dam-3

Being mighty explorers, Marita led the way and we climbed up and over a hemlock hill to garner a closer look. And then JoAnne led us onto a little island where we stood and took in the views.

h-beaver-brook-below-dam

Tracks leading to the water indicated we weren’t the only ones who had ventured this way. But . . . no sign of beaver activity.

h-beaver-trees

Back up over the hill we tramped and suddenly our eyes began to focus . . .

h-beaver-teeth-marks

on beaver works.

h-beaver-goddess

With our imagination wheels turning, we saw a sculpture of a pregnant woman.

h-beaver-birch

And marveled at the amount of fresh works everywhere.

h-beaver-trail

Their path was well traveled and led us to more.

h-beaver-chew-stick

We even spied beaver chews, the snack of choice.

h-beaver-dam-small

And another smaller dam.

h-marita-and-joanne

Eventually, we left the beavers behind and continued across the hardwood/hemlock/pine forest, crossing a couple of skid roads before finally following one out, sharing stories and future plans as we hiked.

For this day that came in like a lion, we were thankful for the opportunity to enjoy its more lioness form and to roar with our own joy and laughter shared.