Sunday’s Point of View

After church we had exactly five hours to pack our lunches, drive to the trailhead and complete our trek. After all, the New England Patriot’s were scheduled to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game at 3pm and we intended to be in the audience–from the comfort of our couch, of course.

p1-pleasant mountain sign

By 10:30, we’d pulled into the Ledges Trail parking lot on Mountain Road in Denmark (Denmark, Maine, that is) and began the one and a half mile walk back down the road. Our intended route along the trails of Pleasant Mountain in Loon Echo’s preserve was to climb up the Bald Peak Trail to the fire tower at the summit and then follow the Ledges Trail down. We love hiking a circular route, and like to get the road walk out of the way first.

p2-mountain stream

We had no idea what trail conditions would be like, but decided on micro-spikes, which proved to be the best choice. Beside the trail, the mountain stream was layered thick with icy sculptures.

p3-brook ice

Everywhere we looked, the water had frozen into a variety of formations.

p4-Needle's Eye

Less than a half mile up, we came to the sign for Needle’s Eye.

“Do you want to go in?” I asked my guy.

“It’s up to you,” he replied for he knows my love/hate relationship with the spur path to the geological feature.

“Let’s try,” I said.

p5-Needle's Eye

Somehow, we made it to the chasm in only a few minutes. And then we stood in awe, rejoicing that we’d made the effort for we were well rewarded.

p6-ice of the needle

At the back of the eye, the waterfall stood still for a moment. Eventually, we made our way back to the main trail, and I’m proud to say I only exclaimed once when a tree that I grabbed wiggled. I thought of my friend, Marita, and her patience with me last spring when my brain didn’t want me to venture forth along the spur.

p8-ice layers

Upward we continued, chuckling as we always do at the sign for Sue’s Way that also indicated we would reach the intersection of the North Ridge Trail in three tenths of a mile. Somehow, that three tenths always feels like three miles. Is it really only three tenths of a mile, we wondered.

p7-Sabattus Island on Moose Pond

We were rewarded again, however, when we did pass by the intersection and continued on to the summit of Big Bald Peak. It’s always a spot to stop and look back at Moose Pond below where we could see our camp and Sabatis Island.

p8a-lunch rock looking north

It was just beyond that stop that we found lunch rock. Our view to the northwest was a bit obscured by the pines, but they helped block the breeze, so we didn’t mind.

p8-fire tower in distance

And to the southwest, the ridgeline we intended to walk. We could even see the fire warden’s tower at the main summit.

p9-crossing the ridge

After lunch, across the ridge we trekked, enjoying the sights along the way.

p10-Sebago Lake's open water

In the distance, we could see Sebago Lake and noted its open water which evoked a conversation about global warming. Many thought this would be the year it finally froze over again, but . . . not to be.

p11-racing through blueberry patch

Because trail conditions on the ridge were favorable, we moved quickly–practically running through the blueberry fields that will call my guy’s name come July.

p12-the tower

In what seemed like no time, we turned left onto the Fire Warden’s Trail and then made our way up to the iconic tower that was built in 1920. My hope is that it will still stand stalwart in 2020 and celebrate its one hundredth birthday.

p13-summit view toward Washington

Sometimes the summit view includes Mount Washington, but today the summits of the Presidentials were hidden in clouds.

p14-red pine scale

One scene that didn’t make us happy was that of the red pines. About five years ago I noted their decline and communicated with a forester who was studying red pine scale. Since then, most of the trees have been infested by the tiny insect and died.

p14-Southwest Ridge and sky

A much prettier picture we saw as we began our descent down the Ledges Trail, where the sky displayed a rainbow of colors above the Southwest summit of the mountain.

p15-Moose Pond from the ledges

As we made our way down, we paused as we always do along the ledges for which the trail was named. The south basin of Moose Pond dominated the vantage point.

p16-smiley face and heart

Along the entire route, we only met a few other hiking parties, but one apparently enjoyed the journey as much as we did and left smiles for our hearts.

p17-Needle's Eye

We arrived home with ten minutes to spare until kickoff.

Before the game began, we both agreed that our favorite point of view for this Sunday  was Needle’s Eye.

And now, the Patriot’s just defeated Jacksonville. That may mean two other scenes compete for today’s fav–when #24 Gilmore blocked Jacksonville’s final pass or Bill Belichick showed emotion before the game officially ended.

 

 

 

 

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.

A Wiser Soul

It all began when I stepped out the back door just before six o’clock this morning. From the treeline I heard a barred owl call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” I could have returned to bed then, happy for the opportunity to hear such a wise one.

n-Northern Flicker

Not long after that, as I passed by a window in the butler’s pantry (no, we don’t have a butler, just an old farmhouse), a splash of red on the ground drew my focus–a Northern flicker had stopped by to feed. Notice the subtle curve of its bill? The better to dig up ants and beetles, as is the custom of this ground-feeding woodpecker.

n-water coursing 2

An hour or so later, I met my friend, Marita, for a hike up the Bald Peak trail at Pleasant Mountain. Our destination–not the summit as we had a time constraint–but rather, Needles Eye.

n-beside the brook

Our climb included frequent stops at vantage points to take in the sound and beauty of the place.

n-water art 2

The flow of the living water and its ever changing presentation mesmerized us much as leaping flames do.

n-water art

It spiraled over the rocks like a sculpture in fluid motion.

n-ice hiding

And while so much poured forth and wound its way down the mountain stream,

n-ice at Needles Eye

some remained frozen in time.

n-crossing toward Needles Eye

At the sign pointing toward Needles Eye, we crossed a stream and then worked our way across the short spur to the narrow formation of rocks that water threads through.

I should qualify that. Marita sauntered across the ice and snow, seeking the wee bit of dirt and leaves at the edge of the trail. It’s a steep edge and even on a summer day, I pick my way carefully over rocks and tree roots. Today, my brain suggested I call it good and sit still. But, she’s a good friend, and realizing my trepidation (I’d forewarned her), she spoke to me calmly about each foot placement, and even turned back to demonstrate exactly what I should do, waited patiently as my brain shouted, “Don’t do it!” and my heart said, “I think you can, I think you can,” and offered a hand when necessary.

n-marita 3 (1)

Together, we did it. This photo is Marita’s as I didn’t want to change my camera lens once we stood in the chasm and watched the water fall.

n-inside the needle

On a summer day, it’s a delightfully damp place to rest before continuing up the mountain. Sometimes, there’s only a hint of a stream. Today, it was equally enchanting–perhaps we should have bowed in respect of the beauty and power before us. And just maybe we did.

n-climbing down 2

Returning on the spur, Marita again came to my aid. And then we hiked a bit further up until time forced us to head down again.

n-morning light

The descent seemed easier as the snow had softened a bit in the two hours we’d spent enjoying each other’s company and filling our senses with the sights and sounds surrounding us.

n-vp visit

Back at home, I was pulled out the door again and made my way to the vernal pool. Ever so gradually, the ice is melting.

n-crack across vp

And across the center, a crack divided it in two from east to west, while a line between the sunshine and shade completed the quadrants from north to south.

n-snowfleas 2

Piles of pepper, aka springtails, floated on melted water atop the ice.

n-snowfleas

Others clustered on the open water at the pool’s edge. Other than that, I could see no action. Every day, however, will bring something new so I know I’ll check back frequently.

n-our house:field

Leaving the pool behind, I headed toward the area where I’d heard the barred owl several hours earlier–and I called. It didn’t respond. But, I reminded myself that this morning’s greeting was enough.

n-crocuses1

Returning home again, I couldn’t resist the crocuses that I first noticed yesterday. In the past few days, the snow has receded quickly and with today’s light, these spring beauties finally opened.

n-first daffy--a double

And then, in the garden beside the house, I found one more surprise–a double daffodil blossoming under some leaves. In this season of watching with wonder, my heart was full.

n-Marita

This day will stick with me for its offerings and I’ll be forever grateful to Marita . . .

n-marita 4 (1)

for without her help, I wouldn’t have had the gumption to stand in the Needles Eye. She is a kind and funny and wise(r) soul. And I am blessed by our friendship.

P.S. Two minutes after posting this blog, a woodchuck ran across the deck–headed toward the barn, of course.

 

Filled to the Brim Mondate

It’s been a few weeks since my guy and I shared a Mondate. And so, this morning after joining our youngest for breakfast, we mosied on over to Pleasant Mountain in West Bridgton. Leaving the truck at the base of the Ledges Trail, we walked 1.5 miles down the road to the Bald Peak Trailhead. Since we didn’t have two vehicles, it was much easier to get the road piece done first, rather than at the end when we would be hot and tired. The climb up was a wee bit slippery since it had rained most of the weekend and was still raining at 5am. But the rain had stopped, the sun shone brilliantly and the breeze made for a pleasant adventure up our favorite mountain.

p-Indian cucumber root

My guy encouraged me to go first and I surprised him with a steady pace. I did pause, however, when I spotted fruit beginning to form on Indian cucumber root.

p-berries wet

By the time we reached the intersection with the North Ridge Trail, we realized we were in for more fruit–a sweet treat. Since the high bush blueberries at home aren’t ripe yet, we didn’t even think to bring containers for the low bush berries that carpet the mountain’s ridgeline.

p-rain on berry leaves

Bejeweled berries and leaves sparkled in the morning sun.

p-ridge view 2 (1)

We continued across the ridge, but in the slowest of motions for us. My guy lagged behind, which isn’t usually the case.

p-picking berries 1

Unless, that is, he spies blue. Everywhere.

p-picking4

At first, we ate them on the spot.

p-picking2 (1)

But then he decided that his hat would serve as the perfect container.

p-picking berries 1 (1)

And that’s when greed set in.

p-picking 6

Blueberry greed.

p-picking 5

He couldn’t pick them fast enough.

p-filled to the brim

Even as we sat to eat our sandwiches in an area where the only view was blueberry bushes, a few oaks and pines, he continued to pick until his hat was filled to the brim.

p-summit 1

Somehow, he finally pulled himself away and we continued on to the summit.

p-wood lily 2

I was eager to get to the summit and then move on because I hoped to find the wood lily in bloom.

p-wood lily 2 (1)

And I wasn’t disappointed.

p-ledges 2 (1)

Our descent was much quicker as the berries aren’t quite so abundant along the Ledges Trail. Speaking of that, those who fear that I’ve given away a prime location, fear not. My readership is low and the berries plentiful.

p-camp kayak

Back at camp, we checked on some high bush berries, but they’re still green. The greed will have to hold off for a few more days. Thank goodness we could find our way home with the help of a cairn–in the water?

p-cake 2

And then it was time to prepare dinner and help our youngest celebrate his birthday. He’d spent the day playing in Boston, much more fun that hanging out with the ‘rents.

A pleasant Mondate indeed. Filled to the brim were we–with each other, blueberries, cake and family time.

Down Low, Up High

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

Sunday morning

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

orange peel on logging road

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

oak leaf iced in

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

flowering witch hazel

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

moose track 1

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

home sweet home

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

Prehike view

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

new BP trailhead

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

new trailhead

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

Bald Peak trail stream

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

follow the yellow leaved bedrock

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

thrift shop

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

causeway 2

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

North Ridge summit view

At the North Ridge intersection, mountain views opened.

ridge 2

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

Moose Pond from ridge

One moment Moose Pond was clearly visible

waves of flurries

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

The People's Marathon

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

fire tower 2

At last we reached the fire tower at the summit.

windy summit 1

It was a wee bit windy as the flag indicates.

summit, us

That didn’t stop us from pausing

summit view 4

summit view 2

summit view, Kezar Pond:snow

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

ledges view 3

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

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

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

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

Out of the fog

morning fog

Morning fog embraced Pleasant Mountain, making it only a memory.

new parking lot

In my need to know that it was still there, I drove down Mountain Road to the brand-spanking new Bald Peak parking lot. I guess I was early since my truck was the lone vehicle.

Bald Peak Trail Sign

Thanks to Loon Echo Land Trust and the AMC, the Bald Peak trail has undergone a transformation this year.

Stairway to heaven

new trail

trailwork 4trailwork2trailwork 3

More stairways, a new path and switchbacks make for an easier climb. Um, that’s all relative. It’s still moderately challenging compared to the other trails on the mountain.

trail signs

Trail signs mark the way, giving a sense of direction and distance.

debarked

I’m a bit out of order with this photo, but that’s my nature. Near the start is this debarked birch. People have carved their initials to note their presence. I know I occasionally post photos of beech trees with carvings, but the fact that someone took the time to peel the bark off this tree bothers me. Please leave bark on trees. I know it peels easily on birches, but the tree will shed its bark when it is ready. For us to peel it is like someone peeling off a layer of skin. Shivers run up and down my spine as I think of that. Bark is the tree’s form of protection from the elements. ‘Nuf said . . . I hope.

mossy rocks

For much of the way, the trail follows a stream featuring moss covered boulders

lush mtn garden

and terraced rock gardens.

rock garden

I pause beside one boulder where lichen, mosses, wildflowers, ferns and even a striped maple tree have made a home.

Christmas fern

Christmas fern–do you see the shape of the leaflets or pinnae? Little Christmas stockings or boots? Some say Santa sits in his sleigh with the reindeer before him. Each leaflet is attached to the main stem via a short petiole.

polypody1

Polypody fern loves to give rocks a crazy-hair-day look. While its leaflets look similar to that of Christmas fern, they attach directly to the main stem and give the  entire blade a rather ladder-like appearance.

betsy's lookout

I’m not sure who Betsy is, but along the path, there is a new cutout providing a bit of a view of Moose Pond below.

American Toad

Before I hiked onto the ridge, an American toad paused for a photo op.

looking at camp

Out of the fog. Camp is about smack-dab in the middle of this photo on the north basin of Moose Pond.

trail along the ridge

I met no one as I hiked up and only encountered two people and their dogs along the ridge trail heading toward the summit.

blueberries and huckleberries

There aren’t too many blueberries left, but the huckleberries are abundant–and seedier.

gall of the earth 2

Also plentiful–Gall-of-the-Earth or Rattlesnake Root (Prenanthes trifoliata). Such a curious name for this plant. Hilary Hopkins writes in Never Say It’s Just a Dandelion, “Gall-of-the-Earth: a mysterious name dating from at least 1567, referring to a plant’s bitterness, though not this plant, but rather one said to have been discovered by Chiron the centaur, a physician of Greek mythology.” OK–so if not this plant, then why the name?

Hopkins continues, “Rattlesnake Root refers to the plant’s supposed efficacy against rattlers.” Always good to know I have a tool handily available when hiking alone.

And finally, she writes, “Prenanthes means ‘drooping flower,’ a perfect description; trifoliata describes the three-parted leaves.” That is definitely accurate.

gall aphids

Though I saw numerous Prenanthes trifoliata along the trail, only this one was covered with aphids.

gall ant

And one ant. It is said that ants herd the aphids, protecting them from predators and parasites, so that the ants can enjoy the honeydew left behind by the tiny insects. This ant must have had sentry duty–he roamed all over this leaf and then down to the next one. Perhaps he thought I was the predator and he had to keep an eye on me.

whorled asters

Whorled Asters graced the trail periodically and the base of a Northern Red Oak.

Firewarden's Trail

Moments before I reached the Firewarden’s Trail, I startled a red fox that ran into a rock den.

fire tower 2

Standing forever stalwart is the fire tower. I hope it will continue to stand tall forever, as it marks a piece of the mountain’s history.

summit view1

Out of the fog. Looking west from the summit.

trail signs heading down

There was a time when one could easily get lost on this mountain, but thanks to the LELT, those days are no more. Good thing. There were six people at the summit and I passed quite a few more as I descended via the Ledges Trail.

 white goldenrod

Silverod is our only white goldenrod and it prefers the drier soil of this path.

Ledges 1

The ledges offer a peek at the south basin of Moose Pond.

Mountain Road

Finally, I was back on Mountain Road for the 1.5 mile walk back to my truck.

red eft

Interestingly, along the way I found thirteen smooshed red efts. These are the terrestrial teenagers of the newts. My first thought–snacks galore. Then I remembered–their color is a warning sign of their toxicity. No one wants such a snack. (Reportedly, they aren’t harmful to humans, but I wasn’t about to find out.)

And so it was today that I’m glad I climbed out of the fog. Thanks for joining me on this long wander.