Winter Reflections

My world is always transformed during a snowstorm and even the day after. So it was that yesterday about four inches of the fluffy white stuff drifted down and created a wonderland effect.

a1-snowflackes on Queen Anne's Lace

Even this morning, the individual snowflakes were still visible in their crystalized form (and I kicked myself for not packing my macro lens.)

a2-coyote and red fox tracks

I began the day with a slow journey from home to Pondicherry Park, with the intention of meeting a hiking group. Along the way, I realized that others had trekked before me. Two red foxes and a coyote had crossed paths, forming an X that mimicked the X pattern in their individual footprints. (The bigger prints from upper left to lower right being the coyote; and the smaller prints from lower left to upper right being the two foxes.)

a3-red fox with chevron

In almost direct registration, a hind foot of the fox landed on snow previously packed down by the front foot, so what you see are the two prints. The top print was a bit fuzzy in formation for so much is the hair on the fox’s foot. Despite that, toe nails, toes and the chevron pad at the back, plus the X formation between toes and pad seemed obvious.

a4-Stevens Brook

As I made my way through the park, the morning light on Stevens Brook drew me off trail to the frozen edge. And ice along the bank indicated the change in water levels since the heavy rain of a few days ago.

a5-Bob Dunning Bridge

At last I reached the gateway to town, which is also the gateway to the park–the Bob Dunning Memorial Bridge. I have a great fondness for this bridge on many levels, including memories of Bob who passed away suddenly at least ten years ago, the barn-raising community effort to build it, and the fact that each beam represents a different tree, bark included. You can learn more about it by reading my previous blog post: Barking Up A Bridge.

a6-snow on bridge

And each time I walk across it, it seems to offer up something different. This morning, it was how the snow coated the railing. I think the artistic side of Bob would have approved.

a7-AMC group at bridge

On the other side, I met up with a group of seven women. Led by AMC volunteer JoAnne Diller, our intention was to tramp through the park following all the outer loops, including a link on the Lake Environmental Association‘s Pinehaven Trail at the Maine Lake Science Center. Along the way we visited with each other, enjoyed the beauty that surrounded us, and got some exercise.

a10-Stevens Brook

And then we returned to the bridge and parted ways. I choose to follow the inner trails home, pausing first to enjoy the color of Stevens Brook from the bridge’s center.

a8-mallards

And no winter visit to the park is complete without taking time to watch the ducks–and listen as well.

a8a-mallards

They gather by the dozens, some to rest while others seemed to be in constant motion.

a12-ice skirt

Before following the trails leading west and toward home, I returned to the scenic overlook where ice skirted a tree–again indicating that the water was recently much higher.

a13-eddy

In the same spot I watched water swirl in a small eddy and am amazed that I’m not still standing there–mesmerized as I was by the action.

a14-yellow birch sculpture

But my stomach was growling and so I continued on–stopping to admire another of nature’s wonders–a yellow birch that germinated atop an old pine stump and today stands as a sculpture of one member of the community supporting another despite their differences. Hmmmm.

a15-bench awaiting visitors

The trail I followed home was less traveled than the others and the snow a bit deeper because it hadn’t been packed down. When the park was first created by Lakes Environmental Association and  Loon Echo Land Trust, the AMC did some trail work and part of their offering was this bench. Though it hasn’t recently supported a weary traveler or one who just wants to set for a time, I trusted that day will soon come again.

a16-AMC bridge

I crossed the bridge near the bench, which was also built by the AMC crew. And from there, I headed home to lunch, but not without offering a smile of gratitude to JoAnne for continuing to volunteer to lead walks for the AMC and giving us all an excuse to enjoy the company of each other in this beautiful place.

a17-Saco Old Course

Later in the day I found myself in Lovell for a quick errand and the light was such that I felt the need to spend a little time beside the Old Course of the Saco River just down the road in North Fryeburg.

a18-Saco Old Course

The scene is never the same, nor is the light. What may have seemed monochromatic was hardly that.

a19-church

As the sun began to set, the water still harbored reflective moments.

a20-setting sun

And it transformed some reflections from crisp representations into impressionistic paintings.

a11-ice chimes again

At the end of the day, however, my favorite reflection of all was one spied along Willet Brook in Pondicherry Park by Eleanor, a member of our morning AMC trek.

a9-ice chimes

Winter chimes. Winter reflections.

 

 

 

Barking Up A Bridge

On September 11, 2010, the Bob Dunning Memorial Bridge was constructed in true barn-raising fashion. The bridge is a key feature of Pondicherry Park in downtown Bridgton.

bridge, summer

Bob Dunning, who died suddenly, was a builder, an artist, and among other things, a teacher–sharing his craft with students young and old.

bridge 1bridge 2

bridge 3bridge 4

bridge 7bridge 5

bridge 6

To honor Bob, who treasured traditional building techniques, his friends and fellow craftsmen designed and built a covered bridge leading into the park.

bridge beams

“As the poet said, ‘Only God can make a tree’–probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.” ~Woody Allen

One of the unique things about the bridge is that each tie beam comes from a different tree species, with the bark left on. As I walk across the bridge, my eyes are always drawn to the beams.

Until I took the Maine Master Naturalist class, I recognized only a few species by their bark. But my eyes were opened to the fact that each species has its own presentation, which is true for everything in the natural world. I wanted to know all of them so I set out to teach myself, beginning with the species on the bridge. These became the focus of my capstone project for the class. I spent hours upon hours pouring over reference books such as BARK by Michael Wojtech, The Tree Identification Book by George Symonds, Manual of Trees of North America by Charles Sargent and Forest Trees of Maine by The Maine Forest Service.

I sat in front of trees and sketched them, trying to gain a better grasp of their nuances. I dragged foresters into the field and picked their brains. And I drove hiking companions crazy as I tried to point out clues.

The result was a brochure that you can pick up at the kiosk (let me know if you can’t find a copy) and a powerpoint presentation that breaks down the species by types of bark. Did you know that there are seven types of bark? I learned that from Wojtech’s book and it made it easier to note the differences.

image

Follow me now, as I take you across the bridge and give you a glimpse of each tree. We’ll begin on the east side (closest to Renys) and work our way west.

Beam 1, cherry, smooth bark breaks into scales that are curled outward on the edges. outer scales begin to flake off, revealing smaller, darker, irregularly shaped scales without prominent lenticels

beam 1 e, black cherry

Beam #1: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina): Scales; gray-brown to almost black; small, rough scales randomly placed; curled outward like burnt cornflakes or potato chips.

Beam 2, yellow birch

beam 2 e, yellow birch

Beam #2: Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis): Peeling/Curling; bronze to yellowish-gray; curls away horizontally into thin, papery strips; shaggy appearance.

Beam 3, red maple,smooth, light to dark gray, vertical cracks

red maple

Beam #3: Red Maple (Acer rubrum): Vertical Strips; light to dark gray; almost smooth or cracked vertical, plate-like strips; curls outward on either side; sometimes bull’s eye target caused by fungi.

BEam 4, American BAsswood, GRay to brown, Narrow furrows form long, flattened ridges with parallel edges, ridge surface broken horizontally by hairline cracks, often into squarish segments, ridges loosely intersect

Basswood bark

Beam #4: American Basswood (Tilia americana): Ridges; gray to brown; flattened, square-like ridges with parallel edges; may intersect like a woven basket every 6-12 inches.

Beam 5, red oak, rough, dark brown to blackish furrows, sepaprate smooth, light-colored, often lustrous ridges flush with circumference of trunk or slightly concave, ridges like ski tracks, loosely intersect

beam 5 e, red oak

Beam #5: Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra): Ridges and Furrows; light colored, with rusty red inner bark; wide, flat-topped ridges run vertically parallel like ski tracks; dark, shallow furrows separate ridges.

Beam 6

hemlock

Beam #6: Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis): Scales; cinnamon-red to gray; rounded or irregularly-shaped scales; inner bark has purplish tint.

BEam 7, beech, light gray to bluish gray, smooth and unbroken

beam 7 e, beech

Beam #7: American Beech (Fagus grandifolia): Smooth/Unbroken; silver-gray or grayish-green; sometimes blotched with lichen; carved initials remain visible forever; often pockmarks caused by fungi.

Beam 8, Ash, gray to brownish-gray diamond-shaped furrows, resembles woven basket.

ash

Beam #8: White Ash (Fraximus americana): Ridges and Furrows; ashy-gray to brown; intersecting ridges form obvious diamond-shaped furrows; look for letter “A” or pattern of cantaloupe rind.

BEam 9, white pine, dash-like lenticels, turns gray to reddish-brown, thick, irregular shaped scales, turn out, develops fine, horizontal lines/cracks consistently spaced like writing paper.

eastern white pine

Beam #9: Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobes): Scales; dark gray to reddish-brown; thick, irregularly-shaped scales; fine horizontal lines evenly spaced along scales like lines on a legal pad.

BEam 10, Red Pine (Norway), reddish brown to pinkish, irregular, thin, flaky scales like jigsaw puzzle, surface of blocks roughly aligns with circumference of tree

red pine

Beam #10: Red Pine (Pinus resinosa): Scales; mottled red and grayish-brown; flaky scales; jigsaw puzzle or sandstone appearance.

BEam 11, sugar maple

sugar maple

Beam #11: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum): Vertical Strips; gray to brown; finely cracked; looks like old paint; curls away from trunk on one side; look for horizontal scars indicating work of maple sugar borer.

BEam 12, poplar, Big-toothed aspen, deep furrows, rough and more rounded?

beam 12 e, big tooth aspen

Beam #12: Big-Tooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata): Ridges and Furrows; greenish-brown to dark gray; V-shaped furrows intersect every 6-12 inches; flattened ridges appear sanded down; gnarly look; periodic horizontal lines; on older trees resembles Northern Red Oak at bottom and Birch toward top.

BEam 13, white oak, light gray, can appear whitish with a reddish cast, furrows form flattened ridges, broken into somewhat rectangular-shaped blocks, furrows steep and narrow, with sides of blocks often parallel, old bark+irregular in shape, might look like shingles

beam 13 e, white oak

Beam #13: White Oak (Quercus albra): Ridges; light gray with reddish cast; rectangular-shaped blocks with flaky surfaces; ends of blocks curl outward; feather-like in mature trees.

Beam 14, elm

beam 14 e, American Elm

Beam #14: American Elm (Ulmus americana): Ridges and Furrows; ashy-gray; diamond-shaped furrows; flat-topped ridges; alternating light and dark layers like vanilla and chocolate wafer cookies.

BEam 14, black birch

beam 15 e, black birch

Beam #15: Black Birch (Betula lenta): Lenticels Visible (note: all trees have lenticels, but they are more obvious on some than others. Lenticels are tiny slits in the bark that allow for gas exchange, just like our pores); gray to brown-gray to black; may crack and form scales that curl away from trunk; long, thin horizontal lenticels.

Beam 15, paper birch, white birch

beam 16 e, paper birch

Beam #16: Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera): Peeling/Curling; white to creamy white; peeled bark reveals pink or orange tints; small, horizontal lenticels visible.

That’s it in a nutshell. Ah, but here’s the thing. Except for the American Beech, tree bark changes as a tree ages. And beech trees can be equally confusing because some are severely affected by beech scale disease. So, just when you think you know a species, you may come upon a younger or older version and get totally thrown off. The key is to take your time, walk all the way around the tree, and look at other clues like the twig and bud formation. Touch the bark. Smell it.

And take a walk across the bridge and into the park during any season. Chances are, I’ll be there doing the same.

bridge to park

Thanks for joining me for this lengthy wander. I hope you’ll find time to wonder about bark.