Province of Chat-HAM

Our journey began with a couple of detours this morning as a friend and I made our way to a particular trailhead in New Hampshire.

First there were the birds along the old course of the Saco River to listen to and welcome home including Red-winged Blackbirds and Canada Geese.

Then there were some friends in New Hampshire to surprise with a quick visit.

Finally, however, we parked on the side of the road knowing that because we couldn’t drive to the trailhead, we’d have to walk along the snowmobile trail all the way in. That was fine with us for as the sign instructed, we took it slow. (And saw only two snowmobiles during the entire journey even though it was a super highway of sorts–apparently that particular season is also slowing down.)

There were artist’s conk fungi to admire for the white pore surface that invites those who sketch to do so.

After that find, we followed raccoon prints until they literally disappeared into midair. Well, maybe up a tree.

In the brook beyond, we found spring whispering her sweet songs as she enticed us with reflections of a season to come.

And then it was more artist’s conks that garnered our attention for their juxtaposition within a hemlock’s hollow center.

They numbered many on the trunk’s outside as well and presented themselves as stepping stones . . . perhaps for a squirrel.

And at least one small rodent had dined, probably on more than one occasion.

We took advantage of the feast as well as we focused our cameras on every possible angle.

Further along, we spent time following bobcat and moose tracks, but each time eventually finding our way back to the trail, where a fungus of another kind begged our attention.

By its youthful presentation, the common name doesn’t always make sense.

But its mature structure certainly does: Red-Belted for the upper surface.

And Polypore for the lower, so named for the many pores on the underside.

Bobcat and moose tracks soon led us to another site where bark had been scaled off a hemlock by either a woodpecker or nuthatch. Their search was for insect larvae. My search was for scat, but I found none and hoped they were more successful.

The cool thing about this if I’m interpreting it correctly, is that I could see lines where the bird’s beak had worked hard to remove each bark scale.

Behind the tree, those moose tracks I spoke of again captured our focus.

And we noted where it had browsed upon the buds of a maple. It appeared that the large mammal’s spit had frozen after it used its lower incisors to rip the buds off the tip of a twig and even left a “flag,” but really, it was probably a bit of sap. Still, I love the thought of the animal’s spit left behind.

Three hours later, and more than four miles for so wandering was our manner, we reached the trailhead we sought.

Because we’d gone slow as the sign early on had encouraged us, we tried to beeline to reach a certain pond before the sun set. Thankfully, as we approached the pond at last, another sign again encouraged us to go forth slowly. And so we did.

And we were rewarded–with a bluebird sky and view of Mount Shaw and the pond. For a few moments we stood still and took in the scene and wondered. And wanted to cross, but knew conditions might not be as pristine as they looked. It would be a long way out with wet feet.

Beside us was the dam and outlet.

It formed the headwaters for a brook bearing the pond’s name, which flows beside our friends’ home.

As we hiked back down the trail, we again beelined, but occasionally gave ourselves permission to pause. Sometimes it was to enjoy the little things such as Hobblebush flower and leaf buds readying for a future display.

Other times it was to listen: to the birds; but also to the million wild animals we swore we heard, and sometimes even sniffed, but never actually spied. They were there. We were certain of that.

As long shadows cast across our path, we made our way back, and then deviated a bit from our journey in, heading out to the paved road in a more direct line than we’d started. Pam suggested we might see other things.

She was correct. Back on the pavement, we had to walk a wee bit up South Chatham Road to my truck for we’d gone in via Week’s Brook Trail and then crossed over to Peaked Hill Road via the snowmobile trail and totally missed this sign.

Chat-HAM as it’s pronounced for H-A-M spells ham, is the site of Province Brook and Pond, and the Province Brook Trail. It’s also a mighty proud town–with a population of 300.

The sign made us smile and we gave great thanks for taking the time to read it and for the opportunity to travel over nine miles in this wee province of New Hampshire.

Horsepower Mondate

My guy works way too many hours and such is his life. So our attempt to head out early this morning didn’t exactly happen because he needed to sleep in a bit. It was just after ten when we reached our intended trailhead–Davis Path in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

c-bridge

Our hike began as we crossed over the Saco River via a suspension bridge. In 1931, Samuel Bemis built a bridge that spanned 108 feet. The bridge was rebuilt in 1999, when the Town of Hart’s Location received a grant from the National Scenic Byways. The current award-winning bridge is five feet wide, spans 168 feet and was designed as an asymmetrical cable stay bridge–possibly the first such in the USA.

c-Saco River

Below, the Saco River barely trickled.

c-stairway to heaven

The Davis Path begins almost directly across the street from The Notchland Inn on Route 302. At the beginning of the trail, a sign informed us that Abel and Hannah Crawford’s son-in-law, Nathaniel Davis, built the Davis Path in 1845 as a bridle path. As intended, the trail covers 14.4 miles to the top of Mt. Washington. Our destination was the first peak–Mount Crawford at 2.5 miles along the path. Thanks to the AMC, what had been the bridle path is now transformed into a trail that includes a variety of stairways to heaven.

c-climbing higher

Conditions changed constantly as we climbed–in tune with the changing forest. Mixed woods to hemlocks groves to firs to spruces. The higher we hiked, the more I kept thinking about the fact that this was a former horse path. However did they do it? How many in a team? We were each operating at one-horse power as we huffed and puffed along, but I think a team of at least six would be much more appropriate. Six horses pulling me up–I liked that thought.

c-dinner plate

Instead, I spent a lot of time looking down, so I got to see the low sights–like this dinner spot;

c-puffballs

emerging fungi;

c-fern shadows

and fern shadows.

c-trail sign

Eventually we reached the sign pointing the way to the 3,119-foot summit.

c-hitting the balds

The trail changed as we hit the balds.

c-short horned grasshopper

And my view changed. I heard this guy’s crackling sound as he flew from one spot to the next only a foot or so apart. This is a short-horned, band-winged grasshopper.

c-mountain cranberry

Also at our feet–mountain cranberries.

c-mushroom on rock

And then there was this single fruiting structure sticking out of the moss on a rock–a bolete, I believe, but I’m out of my league on this one.

c-summit view 8 (1)

Less than two hours and lots of sweat later, we emerged at the top where many had tracked before us. No horse prints. The wind hit our faces with a cold blast and we were forced to hold onto our hats. Mount Washington and others were obscured by clouds.

c-summit view 7 (1)

c-summit view 5 (1)

c-summit view 4 (1)

The view was 360˚. We took it in, but the clouds truly did tell the story of the wind. And so we paused only briefly, noted the notch for which this area is named and then started our descent.

c-heading down (1)

On the way down, we found a less windy spot and located lunch rock–it’s the rock to the far right.

c- artists conk

My focus was a bit higher as we descended and so I saw artist’s conks,

c-hierogliphics

heiroglyphics left by bark borers,

c-red maple

and signs of the future.

Our descent was quicker than I thought it would be. As we practically rolled down the mountain, I was sure that had I been behind a team of horses, I’d be pulling on the reins and yelling, “Whoa Nellie.” And that brought memories of my mom, who was named Nellie, but went by Nell. She and Dad would have loved the fact that we have made a point to fold as many Mondates as possible into our lives. They loved long walks along beaches and finding picnic places. We love long hikes and finding lunch rocks. Same thing at a higher elevation.

My guy and I enjoyed another wonderful Mondate–at one-horsepower speed.

 

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.