As is the custom right now, today’s journey took us over bumpy roads and found us turning right directly across from Notch View Farm where I ventured with friends a few weeks ago. We couldn’t drive in too far, and so parked, donned our Micro-spikes for the walk in and grabbed snowshoes just in case.
I love the winter trek because it forces us to notice offerings beside the dirt road (hidden as it was beneath the snow) that we overlook when we drive in during other seasons. There’s a certain yellow house that has always intrigued us and today was no different because the snow and ice created an awning for the porch.
As I snapped photos of the overhang, my guy redirected my attention to the eaves where bald-faced hornets had created their own abode.
On more than one occasion.
That was all fine, but the real reason I love the journey is because of the telephone poles along the way. At the tip of each arrow I added is a nail. By the top one you should see a wee bit of metal, which once represented that pole’s number. Not any more.
When the metal numbers are a bit astray or downright missing, it can mean only one thing. Time to check for hair. Black bear hair.
Wads of hair greeted us today. Usually we only find a few strands. Bleached out by the sun, I had to wonder if it still told the message originally intended.
Down the entire length we saw more of it and envisioned the bear rubbing its back against the pole as a means of communication.
Sometimes they scratch and other times they turn their heads as they rub, and then bite the pole with their upper and lower incisors, thus leaving the dash and dot horizontal lines. My question remains: did the one for whom this message was intended receive it? We’ll never know, but we are always thrilled to know that Ursus americanus still roams these woods.
What woods exactly are they? We’d walked in from Route 113 to the Stone House Property, where the gate may be closed, but hikers are welcome.
Our plan was to circle around Shell Pond via the trails maintained by the US Forest Service and Chatham Trail Association.
Six hundred acres of the Stone House property is under conservation easement with the Greater Lovell Land Trust thanks to the foresight of the owners.
A few steps beyond the trailhead, we decided it was packed enough that we could stash our snowshoes and pray we’d made the right decision. While doing so, some artist’s conks showed off their beautiful display.
A few more steps and my guy did some trail work. If we can move downed trees and branches, we do. And we did several times. But all in all, the trail was in great shape.
Occasionally, seasonal streams offered mini-challenges.
We didn’t mind for they mostly required a hop or giant step. And provided us with the most pleasing of sounds–running water being such a life-giving force.
They also offered icy sculptures.
And given the fact that today’s temp eventually climbed into the 60˚s, we knew that we won’t get to enjoy them much longer.
As Shell Pond came into view, so did the cliffs where peregrine falcons will construct eyries and breed. This is perfect habitat for them, given the cliffs for nesting and perching and keeping them safe from predators, and open water below creating habitat for delicious morsels (think small birds) worth foraging.
And then a rare moment arrived, where I agreed to pose beside a bust of T-Rex, for so did my guy think the burl resembled.
And then another rare moment, when we discovered bear scat upon an icy spot in the trail. It was full of apple chunks and we knew eventually we’d reach the orchard where our friend had dined.
At long last, well, after a few miles anyway, we stopped at lunch bench, which was still rather buried. My guy cleared a spot as best he could and then he sat while I stood and we enjoyed our PB&J sandwiches. Oranges and Thin Mints rounded out the meal. (We did stop at the Stow Corner Store later in the day for an ice cream, but Moe told us she was all out for the rest of the season. We should have grabbed some other goodie but left with ice cream on our minds–a desire we never did fulfill.)
Our lunch view–the spectacular Shell Pond with the Bald Faces forming the background and a bluebird sky topped of with an almost lenticular cloud. Or was that a UFO?
Off to the right-hand side, we needed to check on the beaver lodge to see if anyone was in residence.
From our vantage point, it appeared that someone or two had come calling and there was a lot of activity between a hole in the ice and the upper part of the lodge. But, conditions didn’t allow for a closer look and as warm as it was, we didn’t feel like swimming. Well, we did. But . . .
A wee bit further and we reached Rattlesnake Brook, which feeds the pond.
It’s another of my favorite reasons for hiking the trails in the area, for I love pausing beside it to notice the many gifts it provides, which change with the seasons. Today, those gifts included the feathery winter form of an ostrich fern’s fertile fronds.
And squiggly shadows intercepted by linear reflections.
It was near there that we found rotten apples and the muted tracks of many visitors, one of whom we suspected we knew based on the scat we’d seen.
At last we reached the military airstrip built in the 1940s for training exercises during WWII. As always it was a moment when we were thrilled by the views, but also sad that our journey was coming to an end.
After remembering to snag our snowshoes from behind the tree where we’d stashed them (and gave thanks that we’d made the right decision on footwear), we followed the road back out.
Our only other wish would have been the opportunity to purchase some lemonade on this Mondate around Shell Pond that felt like a summer day. We might have even bought cookies and fish flies, given the opportunity.
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