Finding Our Way on Mount Tom in Fryeburg, Maine

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

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

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

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And the large center chimney.

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

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The house extended beyond the basement.

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And was attached to an even bigger barn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kezar Pond to our left,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Following In The Footpath Of Others

Rain marked this morning’s dawn, but that didn’t daunt our group of six. We donned overcoats, gloves, hats and waterproof boots knowing that we’d encounter mud along our intended route.

And so we met near the former site of the Methodist church in the northeast corner of Sweden–Sweden, Maine, that is. Our intention was to follow the snowmobile trail for a couple of miles and visit foundations and a few other historic sites along the way.

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Maps dated 1858 and 1880 show a network of roads that served the scattered neighborhoods of this town. The trails we were about to walk on follow the footpaths and wagon tracks of earlier people. These were once town roads. We happened to be in the presence of the president of the Sweden Historical Society and she gave us copies of the maps to help us gain a better understanding of our destination. She also printed out a topographical map so we’d have no excuse for getting lost.

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With the sun suddenly shining upon us, we laughed at ourselves as we moved along because we traveled at breakneck speed. Well, for us anyway–1.8 mph when we were moving. Note the phrase: “when we were moving.”

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Along the way, we paused to admire the streams that flow toward Patterson Brook and

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checked on life in a potential vernal pool.

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While we find water so mesmerizing, I couldn’t help but wonder about its potential here for the early settlers.

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Several times we found stone walls on either side of the streams and didn’t know how to interpret their meaning. That was OK–we appreciated not having all of the answers.

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The opportunity to partake of the beauty among friends old and new was enough.

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Even four-footed friends.

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The stonewalls, both double and single in structure, indicated that the land had been cultivated. We tried to make sense out of the sudden switch from single to double and back to single in a short distance, but really, they didn’t necessarily build walls according to our expectations of what life must have been like–a single wall meaning keep the farm animals in or out and the double being a garden wall–lots of times it was probably just plain common sense and a need to get rid of the stones that rose with the frost.

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Eventually, we climbed over the wall and headed up toward this monument. Dave, who lives in this neighborhood and knows these woods well, encouraged us to ponder.

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Why was the top of the rock split off intentionally and then left there?  Was it intended for a foundation stone? Was the neighborhood abandoned before this piece was used?

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We wandered further through the woods and came to the Sweden/Waterford town line. Two stone walls less than ten feet apart mark the boundary. Waterford to the left and Sweden to the right. (Did I get that right, Linda?–my left and right?)

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Orange paint also marked the boundary line.

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We’d crossed into Waterford and stopped for a break at the Kneeland (1858)/Kimball (1880) residence, a rather large foundation with a center chimney.

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Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who paused here for a snack.

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And then we crossed the snowmobile trail once more and began bushwhacking again. Though you see only tree shadows, leaves and moss here, it wasn’t what we saw, but what we had the honor to hear that made us stop–an underground brook. It felt like we’d stumbled upon a secret spot.

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Dave led us uphill to another special spot a friend of his discovered years ago–the stone chair. You have to wonder about this. We’re in the middle of nowhere that was once somewhere. Below this is a large hole in the earth, possibly a foundation of sorts. And beside, a skidder trail. So, who built the chair?

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Atop the foundation of sorts was this cut stump–we surmised it was cut about fifty years ago and that it was about 100 years old at that time.

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It really doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing the discovery.

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Another four-footed friend also thought it was rather special.

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Not too far from here we found something else that spoke of logging.

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We continued our bushwhack to another site of importance–and came upon it from the backside.

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The Goshen Cemetery, circa 1815. Notice the raindrops and blue sky. A few drops fell in the middle of our walk and then it cleared again.

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The cemetery contains stones that had been buried under the duff, but when discovered, were uprighted in spot.

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The tombstones are unmarked and as far as I know, two theories exist–an epidemic struck the neighborhood and those who died needed to be buried as fast as possible, or these were the tombs of the residents from the town’s poorhouse.

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One thing we do know for certain. The bears like the sign and it has been remade several times and posted higher and higher in hopes that they’ll leave it alone.

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Those were our historical finds, but we also made time to enjoy our surroundings, beginning with artwork created naturally.

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I always say that beech bark doesn’t remind me of elephant skin, but today–elephant legs and feet, for sure.

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Peaking out from the leaf litter, downy rattlesnake plantain showed off its white-veined leaves. Stained glass windows come to mind whenever I spy this. And though its the commonest of the rattlesnake plantains, I’m always in awe.

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We also nearly stepped on its cousin, checkered rattlesnake plantain. I do have to say that if I were in charge of the world, I’d switch their names.

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We found artists conks and

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old hemlock varnish shelves.

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We know where the porcupines denned,

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moose browsed,

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woodpeckers dined,

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deer rubbed their antlers,

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and pawed the ground. Do you see it at the bottom of this photo? It’s a scrape meant to communicate information to other deer.

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But one of my favorite sights of the day–the flying squirrels that scampered up an old snag. Notice the flat tail–a rudder.

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And the flap on its side, that furry membrane that stretches from the wrist to ankle–a parachute of sorts for gliding from tree to tree.

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And those bulging eyes–the better to see in the dark.

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Four hours and almost six miles later, we followed the trail out, thankful for the opportunity to spend time wondering together and follow in the footpath of others.