Misty Mountain Sundate

It was a dark and dreary day. The end. Or so it could have been. But we decided to hike anyway, our destination once again Jackson, New Hampshire.

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We thought we’d explore Boggy Brook Trail, but after a half mile reconnaissance mission, we changed our minds and headed over to the Black Mountain hike/backcountry ski trailhead.

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As we passed by the cabins at the base of the trail, our mountain view was obscured.  Despite the grayness of the day, the reds of tree buds and catkins brightened the view. And since the trail was well packed, I opted for spikes, while my guy wore only his hiking boots. That limited us, of course, since we’d have to stay on the trail, but it also brought our vision into focus.

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Hikers/skiers must cross about a half dozen streams, where cascading water splashed over rocks and presented the formation of frozen drips.

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We weren’t far along and near one of those stream crossings when an anomoly stood out on the trail. Because this trail leads to a rustic cabin built by the CCC in 1932, we surmised that the most recent renters found the bundle of wood too heavy to lug on sleds and so they left it behind.

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Further along, we realized it wasn’t just the tree buds that stood out on this colorless day. The pink and orange hues of paper birch were enhanced by the lack of sunshine.

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And where the birches stood tall, long, black mustaches draped over fallen branches.

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We think of paper birch as white birch, but really, its colors are many. Wounded bark formed an intended heart, highlighted by pinkish reds. (I did wonder if this was a display of love for the National Hockey League.)

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We found another curious sight on a tree as we climbed higher. It was the change in color and direction of the slash marks that caught our attention. We couldn’t say for sure and without snowshoes couldn’t check further (unless we wanted wet feet), but suspected a bear had stopped by and left its signature.

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Old yellow birches were also abundantly present, their bark turned silvery gray with age–rather like us.

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My favorite yellow birch had many stories written on its bark and within its limbs. I thought that it would take at least three of us to wrap our arms around its trunk. We were only two and I had a hunch that if I suggested we hug this one I’d get a funny look.

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The higher we hiked, the more lungwort, mosses and lichens we saw decorating the tree trunks.

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The forty shades of green that Ireland is known for seemed well represented–thanks to the mist.

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And if you know me like my friend Jinny Mae does, you know I can’t resist admiring the tan hobblebush leaf and flower buds. This one was for you, Jinny Mae.

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At long last, we spied the cabin up ahead and visions of lunch filled our minds.

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We couldn’t find a rock, but we did note that the wood shed was nearly empty and wondered if the renters had regretted their choice to leave the bundle of wood behind. Within the shed, we found a plank and borrowed it–lunch plank it would be. As we settled down, spitting rain coated us.

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With the view of Wildcat Ridge and Mount Washington enveloped in fog, we enjoyed our lunch spot just the same.

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The PB&J sandwiches were quickly consumed. And then . . . one of our favorite colors, dark chocolate, served as dessert. I first discovered McVitie’s Digestives in 1979, when I studied in York, England, and my guy knows the way to my heart so this package appeared in my Christmas stocking.

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After lunch, he put the plank back in the wood shed and I checked out the tracks left behind by the local residents–snowshoe hare and weasels, based on the patterns of their trails.

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We weren’t going to climb the final .4 to the summit because we knew the views would be obscured, but at the last minute we decided it was a short stretch and so we did. The snowshoe hare activity increased significantly and snow conditions demonstrated splayed toes.

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The higher we climbed, the eerier the woods seemed, with shades of gray being the most predominant. And the temperature dropped.

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From lichens to  . . .

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firs, everything was frosted.

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And that summit view, which should have been of Carter Dome and Carter Notch, was equally glazed.

We followed the same trail down. It was still a dark and dreary day–despite that, we enjoyed our opportunity on this Sunday to fully embrace the misty mountain together.

 

To Old City and Back

Leaving camp

From camp. To Old City. Bridgton to Sweden. Via Moose Pond.

Toward Black Mtn

The temp was about 40 degrees, but with the brilliant sunshine, it felt even warmer. We reminisced about kayaking and rowing as we headed north on the pond.

Mink 1

Beside one of the islands, a mink had made numerous trails and holes.

Mink 2

I love it when a critter behaves like it’s supposed to. In this case, the prints are on the slant that the weasel family is known for. A mink is a small mammal with a long body and short legs. It has partially-webbed feet, an adaptation to a near-aquatic habitat. A few years ago, an acquaintance and I were helping with the Moose Pond watershed survey. We were sitting on some rocks by the shore, with a dock in front of us, as we jotted down notes. Much to our surprise, a mink came up from under the rocks by the dock. We starred at it, it starred at us. We had cameras. Did we take a photo? Nope. Another one for the mind’s eye.

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Bound and slide. Like otters. I still want to be an otter in my next life, but minks do have fun too.

following tracks

Tracks tell the story about behavior, but it’s often a guessing game. I think I got this one right. Homo sapiens. Male. About 6 feet tall. Handsome. Puts up with a lot.

finding a seat

He borrowed a resting spot while I examined those mink tracks and holes. There were tons of holes.

on the trail

At the northernmost end of the pond, we followed the snowmobile trail toward Old City. Today it’s a wooded snowmobile trail around the base of Black Mountain in Sweden, Maine, but during the 19th century a road passed by at least six homesteads. All were reportedly occupied by young men who chose not to live at home–perhaps increasing their status as eligible bachelors. Their names included Cushman, Farrington and Eastman, among others–names long associated with Sweden and Lovell. (Sweden was originally part of Lovell)

foundation

The area was abandoned at some point after the Civil War, but foundations like this one remain. This may have belonged to P. Farrington or J. Edgecomb, but I’m thrown off because it occurs on the wrong side of the current “road.” That doesn’t mean the road was originally in the same spot.

stone walls

Stone walls, like this one near the I. Eastman property, formed boundaries to keep animals in or out. I suspect this guy was a major landowner.

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I’m fascinated by stone walls. Not only are they beautiful and functional, but they also represent a tremendous amount of labor. And the stones have their own story to tell about the lay of our land in New England.

color in the woods

I’d been looking at tracks, trees (always looking for bear claw marks on beech trees and quizzing myself on bark) and stones. On the way back, this touch of color caught my eye. Red Pine bark is among my favorites. Then again, I haven’t meet a tree I didn’t like. And the contrast with the hemlock needles, beech leaves and touch of blue sky gave me pause.

vine?

This also caught my eye. Last fall, a friend had sent me a photo of a beech tree with a similar case of strange scars. I didn’t know what it was, so I sent it on to a forester I know. He sent it on to someone in the invasive insect department at the state level. It all boiled down to what they thought was wounds from bittersweet vine being wrapped around the tree at one time.

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That made sense then. Today, I dunno. As I looked around, I noticed the same phenomenon on other beech trees. But I didn’t see any evidence of vines nearby. Of course, there’s still a lot of snow on the ground, as my guy can tell you since he chose not to wear snowshoes. The area had been logged at some point. But, I’m just not sure.

heading back to camp

Back on the pond and heading toward Bridgton and camp. Shawnee Peak and Pleasant Mountain provide the perfect backdrop. Yesterday, my guy took one of our grand-nephews for another ski lesson. The young’un skied straight over moguls on the Pine, slipped off the trail into the woods several times and fell a kazillion times. On the ride home this tired seven-year-old said that his younger brother probably spent the day playing Xbox. When asked if he wished he’d done the same, he remarked, “No, this was the most fun day I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE life.” I can hear my mother-in-law guffawing in heaven. 🙂

islands and mountain

Only another mile to go before we rest. Thanks for wondering along with us on today’s wander.