Bear to Beer: Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge

Our intention had been to explore the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson, New Hampshire, during the summer months, but intentions are just that. An aim or a plan. In our case it was an aim that was a bit off plan.

Today, however, dawned, as each day does, and we honored the plan we’d made last night by packing a lunch and getting out the door by 9:30.

An hour and a half later, we’d driven across Route 302 through Crawford Notch, recalling sites we’d enjoyed from the Conway Scenic Train less than a week ago, and on to Jefferson where we found Airport Road, aka Hazen. At the kiosk, we developed a bit of a trail plan and then ventured forth.

The area is supported by several organizations as noted on a website: “Pondicherry is a Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and it is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with New Hampshire Audubon and the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game. A local Friends group also plays a role in the management of the refuge, and the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails has specific jurisdiction for the rail-trails.”

For a mile and a half, we followed the rail trail to its vantage point. Well, not quite all the way, but to the Waumbek Station, where three rail lines once converged.

We thought we’d step out onto the Tudor Richards Viewing Platform, then continue on the rail trail. But, a woman ahead of us had stepped onto the platform to practice Tai Chi and so we let her be and walked for a bit on the Presidential Recreation Trail, a 20-mile link to Gorham, New Hampshire.

Along the way, much of the scenery looked more like November than October, given the fact that we were further north than our hometown. But, a few goldenrods still bloomed. And upon some of their stems, the Goldenrod Ball Gallmaker had made itself a home.

Though we’d planned to eat lunch upon the observation deck, we were delightfully surprised to locate a small bench overlooking Cherry Mountain and so down we sat. PB& Strawberry and Peach, we each enjoyed a half of the others intended sandwich.

Eventually, we returned to the observation deck and enjoyed the fruits of Witherod and High Bush Cranberry that outlined the boardwalk leading to Cherry Pond.

The Pliny Range offered a backdrop on this day filled with sun and clouds.

In the distance, Bufflehead Ducks swam.

Returning to the junction, we continued northeast where rail trail joined rail and one could imagine the clackety clack of trains passing by.

A bit further on, we turned left toward Little Cherry Pond, where the natural community began to seriously embrace all sorts of coniferous trees.

At our feet, the trail cover was a bit more golden and much shorter than our native White Pines.

Looking toward the sky, Tamaracks sang their cheery autumn song as their needles turned golden before dropping. I’m forever intrigued by this deciduous conifer. And thrown into the mix of the cathedral ceiling: spruces of colors I need to spend more time with for throughout the refuge grew white, red, and black spruce. My task down the road: get to know each one individually so that I recognize them in new settings.

While I can tell you that there are five needles in a White Pine bundle, three in a Pitch Pine, two longer ones in a Red Pine, and two shorter needles in a Jack Pine, the needles of the Tamarack are produced in clusters of ten to twenty.

They are attached to the twigs in tight spirals around short spur branches. giving the tree a feathery look.

Upon a downed conifer, a jelly fungus offered its own version of a flower.

At last we reached Little Cherry Pond, where more Buffleheads swam.

And then we noticed another swimmer who made us smile. Yes, that’s a beaver. We couldn’t see his destination for it was around a corner and signs warned us not to venture further in order to protect the area.

Backtracking a bit, all the while admiring the plants including Rhodora, Creeping Snowberry, Trailing Arbutus, Pitcher Plants, and so many more (I need to return in the spring), we found our way back to the Mooseway Trail. (Note: “You Are Here” was taken on the way in, but I wanted to give perspective. Look for the Mooseway Trail toward Mud Pond.)

Not long onto the Mooseway Trail, I was thrilled to discover Lungwort growing up a tree trunk. Its ridges and lobes create a leafy lettuce or lung tissue appearance (thus its common name).

Because lungwort’s main photobiont is a green alga, it is also a type of cyanolichen, thus meaning it contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria. When lungworts fall following a storm, they decompose into the forest floor, contributing their nitrogen reserve to the soil.

The Mooseway Trail seemed easy to follow at first, but soon it became more of a bushwhack and we wondered when the last human had ventured forth. We found all of three blue blazes indicating the way.

But after the third, we had a choice to make. Head north or south. We chose south. And within a short distance the trail completely disappeared. Thanks to GPS and occasional glimpses of Cherry Mountain, we persevered. And startled a snowshoe hare that startled us. I couldn’t capture it in a photo for so quick was its hop, but suffice it to say that the hare’s coloration was gray/white, given the next season that had already visited some of the surrounding mountains.

Maybe it only took a half hour, but it sure felt like hours before we finally found the rail again. I actually considered kissing it, but my guy convinced me otherwise.

There was so much more of the refuge to explore, but we followed the trail back, giving thanks to the shape of the mountain that helped give us perspective on our location as we’d bushwhacked.

And a backward look upon the pond brought to light the snow that had fallen upon the Presidentials, previously hidden in the clouds.

As for that darn Mooseway Trail that led us astray . . . it did have much to offer including this Bobcat scat. We also found a specimen of coyote.

And not only Moose scat, but also some prints. We were rather excited by that.

And then the crème de la crème: bear scat filled with berries. Yes, we’d scanned the trees for claw marks, but if they were there, they were difficult to distinguish (cuze, um, we were moving at my guy’s speed). Despite that, this display made us both happier than happy.

I had no idea when I chose most of the places for our Bear to Beer Possibilities, what the trail’s tales might be, but really, our success rate was quite high.

And we topped off our success by sipping some suds at an old fav in Glen, New Hampshire. For him: Moat Mountain’s Matilda’s Red Rage. For me: Tuckerman’s Pale Ale.

For both of us: Bear to Beer–we got this one. Seven miles later, bear scat to beer at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge and Red Parka Pub.

Wondering Beside Willard Brook

I dragged my guy along for a wander in the Hut Road neighborhood today and we made Willard Brook the center of our attention.

That being said, our journey began at Great Brook. I parked by the gate that isn’t open yet due to  road conditions–not realizing that the only other vehicle belonged to a friend, who kindly left us a note we found under the windshield wiper as we drove away hours later.

The wind was wild and we felt it rattle our bones while we walked along Forest Service Road #4. That just meant a fast walk to the start of our adventure.

h-Great falls

The beauty of this spot never ceases to take my breath away.

h-ice

But we didn’t pause long because that wind was cold and icicles helped tell the story.

h-map

Lately, when I’ve tramped about in this area, I’ve been on the Great Brook Trail to start, but I contacted a few folks in the past two days because they’ve made comments on previous posts that indicated they have some understanding of the Native American presence that once existed here. And perhaps still does.

Stoneham_Hut_Road_1858_12-06-2015

My friend, Jinny Mae, had intended to join us today, but that didn’t work as planned. She and I have explored this area a couple of times in the past few months and she’s my GPS techie, as well as a talented historian and naturalist. The above map is from a section of the 1858 map of Stoneham she posted. (Thanks JM for letting me borrow this without asking.)

Stoneham_Hut_Road_1880_12-06-2015

As Jinny Mae indicates on her blog, this is from the 1880 map and there’s been a change in ownership of the neighborhood homes.

h-stone pile beside willard

We chose a different route than the one she has outlined in red. Ours led to Willard Brook. Just before the snowmobile bridge, we turned right and began to follow the brook. I realized immediately that I’d been here before. Part of my quest was to take a look at stone placement and think about it not as Colonial only, but also as Pre-colonial or Native American. And so, I paused at every rock formation I found, including this circular configuration beside the brook. Current day fire pit? My guy didn’t think so. I don’t know.

h-stove 2

As happens in our woods, we suddenly found ourselves visiting an old camp. Debris is scattered about. This particular piece from a stove front caught my guy’s attention. He was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, and immediately recognized this as coming from The Weir, an industrial section of town. If memory serves him right, there were at least three stove companies in that area.

h-mailbox

My favorite will always be the mailbox, truly a tribute to snail mail.

h-yellow birch

Our intention had been to follow the brook north, but we let an already traveled trail lead us instead. Soon we came to another landmark I remembered, the great yellow birch. An old yellow birch. Very old. I led a bark workshop yesterday and this is one of the trees we talked about. Yellow birch can live to be 200 years old, much longer than any of their relatives. I don’t know the age of this monument, but I do wish I could hear the stories it has to tell of this land.

h-colonial road

We turned left and followed the former road to Willard Brook. Colonial road or older?

h-stone wall turtle

I’ve learned from others to look at the shapes incorporated into stone walls and fences. I may be making this up because I’ve had an affinity with turtles since I was a young child and own quite a collection even to this day, but I see a turtle configured in this wall. Planned or coincidence? Worth a wonder.

h-stone wall 2, turtle

Potentially another in this section of the same wall, but at the same time, this part seems more consistent in structure.

h-Willard 1

We ate the quickest lunch in our hiking history because our fingers were so cold. Even winter temps didn’t seem to bother us as much as today’s temp and wind chill. Lunch rock  sat beside Willard Brook with Speckled Mountain above.

h-entering neighborhood

And then we backtracked up the road and I took my guy up to the Hut Road neighborhood. He’d not visited this particular community before, so was happy to make its acquaintance.

h-1st fdn

Our first encounter was with the Willard homestead of 1858; later known as the McKeen homestead of 1880.

h-wall on hill, balancing

As we moved up the hill to another foundation, we passed by this stonewall, where I wondered about the difference in stone size. A balancing act perhaps?

h-fdn 2 and chamber

Homestead #2 belonged to the Durgins in 1858 and Rowlands in 1880. It’s one of my favorites because of the stone chamber within. Which came first–the stone chamber or the rest of the cellar? Was the entire cellar considered a root cellar?

h-chamber interior

Hence, a closer look. Oh yes, and the porcupine scat pile is still there in the back right-hand corner, but none of it is fresh. Darn.

h-chamber stones 1

On the outside of the chamber’s edge that connects with the cellar–again my imagination took over. Perhaps my turtle’s head is the large blocky rock bottom center. Or is it a smaller version in the rocks above. Am I seeing things that are not there? Overthinking as my guy would suggest?

h-chamber back

Perhaps in the back wall?

h-chamber int 2

And in the side? Again, I see a face peering out at me just up from the bottom center/left. Do you see it?

h-rock pile 2

h-stone 5

h-stone pile 4

h-stone pile 3

While I was busy photographing stone piles in the woods and wondering about their significance, my guy followed his nose and made a discovery that has eluded Jinny Mae and me for months.

h-tombstones 1

Just like that he found the cemetery.

h-Sarah Dergin

Sarah, daughter of Anna and Ephraim, is the first tombstone. She died in 1858 at age 22.

h-Mary Dergin

Beside her, Mary, wife of Sumner Dergin, who died before Sarah–in 1856. She, too, was 22 years old. As best I can tell, Sarah and Sumner were siblings.

h-Ephraim Durgin

And Ephraim, Sarah’s father, who died in 1873 at age 81. Notice the difference in stone from the two girls to Ephraim? Slate to cement. And the name spelling–Dergin and Durgin. As genealogy hobbiests, we’ve become accustomed to variations in spelling.

I found the following on RootsWeb:

8. ANNA3 FURLONG (PATRICK2, JOHN1) was born 1791 in Limerick, Maine, and died 1873 in Stoneham, Maine. She married EPHRAIM DURGIN June 18, 1817 in Limerick, Maine14. He was born April 13, 1790 in Limerick, Maine, and died in Stoneham.

Children of ANNA FURLONG and EPHRAIM DURGIN are:
i.OLIVE4 DURGIN, b. 1811, Stoneham, Maine; m. DUNCAN M. ROSS, April 11, 1860, Portland, Maine.
ii.SALOMA DURGIN, b. 1813.
iii.ELIZABETH DURGIN, b. 1815.
iv.SALLY DURGIN, b. 1817.
v.SUMNER F. DURGIN, b. 1819, Of Stoneham, Massachusettes; m. MARY ANN DURGAN, July 11, 1853, York County, Maine; b. Of Parsonsfield, Maine.
vi.CASANDIA DURGIN, b. 1821.
vii.EPHRAIM DURGIN, b. 1823.
viii.FANNY DURGIN, b. 1825.

Sarah isn’t listed above. But . . . Sally and Sarah were often interchangeable.

h-cemetery view-Durgin

Though only these three stones stand upright, leaning against a wall, this potentially was a large cemetery. And the view–Durgin Mountain.

h-down from cem

Rather than backtrack again, we decided to travel cross-country back toward Willard Brook.

h-bog

At the bottom of the hill, the area was filled with sphagnum moss and cinnamon and interrupted fern.

h-bear scat

Though I didn’t find any bear trees today, I did find bear scat 😉

h-moose scat

And plenty of moose sign.

h-red maple

The red maples offered numerous examples of the bull’s-eye fungi that I told yesterday’s workshop participants to notice. I encouraged them to develop bark eyes. Meanwhile, I’m working on my stone eyes. (not stoned!)

h-willard dry bed

As we traipsed across the landscape, my guy recognized the large yellow birch we’d come upon earlier. And then we followed the walls down to Willard Brook where bushwhacking became the name of the game. Sometimes we found ourselves moving cautiously along the rocks in a dry section of riverbed–the overflow.

h-rock slide by Willard

I kept my eyes open for stone treatments and found this twenty-foot rock slide that didn’t look natural. I have no idea what it represents.

h-wheels

One of the things I continue to notice and love about the woods around us–no matter how far from civilization you think you are, you never are. Notice the wooden wheel spokes.

h-trees and rocks beside willard

I also noticed the trees and rocks across Willard, where the water’s rise and fall over the years has carved out a unique landscape and each entity is intertwined with the other.

h-2nd bridge

Eventually we came out at the spot where we’d headed off the snowmobile trail and decided to turn right and follow it toward Evergreen Valley.

h-cairn

Though the walk was nice and the wind not so strong, we got to this modern-day cairn and felt we’d gone far enough. We turned back and bushwhacked down to Willard Brook.

h-scouting willard

Like Lewis, my guy scouted for a crossing. Like Clark, I followed.

h-brook crossing

Our spot to ford the brook looked easier than it was. He crossed first and landed without issue. Me too–um, almost. Only one foot slipped. His comment, “Good thing your hiking boots are waterproof.” My response, “Yeah, but my socks aren’t.” Oh well. I’ve had wet feet before and will again. When I finally took my boot off at home, I was surprised at how drenched the sock was.

h-great brook on way back

We made our way through balsam fir saplings and hobblebush and a variety of other species and turned away from Willard assuming we’d eventually encounter Great Brook again. Success.

h-great structure 2

I’d been told to pay attention to Willard for Native American sites, and found this beside Great Brook. I have no idea what it represents.

h-3rd fdn central chimney

And lo and behold as we headed back to our starting point, we found ourselves at a third foundation–a rather large one with a center chimney between two cellar holes and an addition behind it. It’s where the school probably stood in 1858 and A. Gray’s home in 1880.

h-fnd 3 chimney

Bricks still top the central chimney.

h-final

Just like that, we were back at our starting point–looking at it from the opposite side of the brook.

Thanks to all those I bugged about what to look for as we tramped about today. And thanks again to Jinny Mae for her talent. I can’t wait to share this trail with you again.

We’d wandered for hours and found plenty to wonder about–especially along Willard Brook.

 

 

 

Thinking Big

A return trek to the old neighborhood off Hut Road in Stoneham left me thinking big.

J.M joined me for this exploration and it’s a wonder we got any further than our parking place beside Great Brook.

Great Brook

It was a sensational, albeit too warm for this time of year, December day. We could have spent all our time taking in the sounds and smells and sights as the water coursed over the rocks.

road

But we pulled ourselves away and went in search of a time gone by. Single and double-wide stone walls line the old road and mark pastures and gardens. Miles of walls.

rock pile

And dotting the landscape–piles of rocks picked from the ground. This was farm country before the forest took over.

fdn 1root cellar

We called on the neighbors and were glad they didn’t mind us examining their root cellar. The only contents–old porcupine scat in the back corner.

tree

The foundation is big and must have supported a large family. Today, it’s home to a large family tree.

well

It always excites us to find other signs of life–including a stone-lined well; it’s a deep subject.

fdn 2

The neighbors lived up the street in an equally large home. Were they related? We’re still trying to figure that out.

Red Rock Brook

We paused beside Willard Brook before turning back.

polypores chaga

Passing through rich woods, we found ourselves in the land where giant polypores and chaga thrive.

moose scat

That’s not all that thrives here. Moose browse on striped maple and piles of scat were abundant.

bearblack bear scat

We practically tripped over the biggest scat of all. Well, J.M. tripped. And that’s how it caught our attention. Classic. Love it.

sugar maple

Equally impressive in size and perseverance. And age. The sugar maples.

leaves

And because J.M. was with me, we saw things I may have passed by like the ice patterns on leaves. We celebrated hiking together knowing that the small things in life are the biggest.