Ides Bog'ling: Beware. Be present. Be still.

When the world goes haywire, the perfect antidote is a day spent outside soaking up the sights and sounds and sun and most of all, fresh air.

Today, that spot offered so many sights including Mount Washington’s snowy covering in the great beyond.

And Pleasant Mountain’s ridgeline at a closer range.

But the sights also included selections much smaller such as Buttonbush’s winter structure–offering a half globe rather than the full orb of its summer form.

And Rhodora giving off its own glow as with buds and flower structures waiting in the wings.

What’s not to love about an infusion of color to the late winter/almost spring landscape.

Speckled Alders, their male catkins growing long below the females, also bespoke the season on the horizon.

Having developed last summer, the males are slender spikes of tightly appressed scales. Above, the females are more bud-like in manner. Both persist throughout the winter and soon will bloom before summer leaves appear.

While new buds showed off their reddish faces, last year’s alder “cones” remained woody in form. Not truly cones for those grow only on conifers, there is a strong resemblance. Thankfully, Mary Holland of Naturally Curious explains the difference best: “Angiosperms, or flowering plants such as Speckled Alder, produce seeds that are enclosed within a covering (the ovary), whereas gymnosperms (conifers) have un-enclosed or “naked” seeds. Alder “cones” open to release seeds in a manner similar to many conifer cones and, like most cones, do not disintegrate immediately after maturity. Female flowers/catkins of Speckled Alder, if fertilized, will develop into ‘cones.‘”

That said, there were some of last year’s structures that showed off a much different form. It was almost like they had tried to flower. In reality, they were Alder Tongue Galls–resulting from a fungus rather than an insect infecting the female catkins.

Other sights included Morse Code representations of the dot dot dash work created by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers upon many a birch.

I traveled this day with a friend and in our quest to clean out the innermost recesses of our lungs, we walked across ice, snow, mud and through water. it was totally worth the effort to get to the other side.

For on the other side, we encountered Maleberry shrubs with ornaments of a different kind.

Each had been sculpted in a unique manner, but we suspected all resulted from the same creator.

Our best guess, after opening one or two, was that some insect had created a home in the Maleberry leaves last fall but once again, we were stymied by a new learning and suspect the lesson hasn’t ended yet.

As our journey continued, we suddenly found ourselves in the presence of wind dancers for so did the marsescent White Oak leaves appear.

On the ground we found a comparative study between the White and Red Oak leaves, their lobes and colors bespeaking their individuality.

And upon some of the White’s saplings, another gall of this place–Oak Marble Gall. Growing in clusters on twigs, they turn brown in maturity and their emergence holes show the site of escape for mature adults who flew out in the fall. They are also called oak nuts.

Today’s sights included the landscape and its flora, birds of the trees such as nuthatches and chickadees, plus those of the water including woodducks, and sky birds like two eagles we watched circle higher and higher until they escaped our view. We also found bobcat and coyote scat. And then in some mud, signs left behind by others such as the raccoon’s close-toed prints.

Among the raccoon track, there were also plenty of bird prints that we suspected belonged to crows.

And in the water beyond, a rather active beaver lodge.

On this day, my friend and I slipped away into the land beyond known locally as Brownfield Bog, where we at times were boggled by the offering of this Ides of March. Beware. Be still. Be present. It’s the best way to be. Be.

Walking with Dragons

As I drove down the dirt road into Brownfield Bog today, I began to notice ruts on the side where previous vehicles had gotten stuck in the mud. And then I came to a puddle the looked rather deep and to its right were several rocks that I didn’t feel like scraping the truck against to avoid the water. That’s when I decided I’d be much better off backing up and parking at the beginning of the road. Besides, I knew if I walked I’d have more chance to see what the road and bog had to offer. But . . . back up on that curvy narrow road–for a quarter mile or more? Yup. Thankfully, no one drove in or out and somehow I managed to get myself out of that predicament.

I knew I’d made the right choice when I was greeted by an immature Chalk-fronted Corporal. First it was one, then two, and then so many more. And the mosquitoes and black flies? Oh, they were there, but not in abundance.

Also helping patrol the roadway was a Spring Peeper, the X on its back giving reference to its scientific name: Pseudacris crucifer–the latter meaning cross-bearer. Notice his size–about as big as a maple samara.

A more mature female Chalk-fronted Corporal perched upon an emerging Bracken Fern was my next point of focus. She’s larger and darker than her young counterparts, her corporal stripes on the thorax marked in gray.

And then there was a June Beetle, also maple samara in length with its thorax and abdomen robust.

My own eyes kept getting larger and larger for every step I took I felt like there was someone new to meet. Practicing ID was helped a bit as I’ve begun to recognize certain traits of the different species. Of course, each year I need a refresher course. By the green eyes, I knew this one was in the Emerald family, and with its green and brown thorax, black abdomen with a narrow pale ring between segments 2 and 3, and the fact that the abdomen is narrow to start and finish with a widening in between, I decided it was an American Emerald.

Reaching the bog at last, I was glad I’d worn my Muck boots, for the water flowed across the cobbled road and in several places it was at least five inches deep.

Within one puddle floated a dragonfly exuvia, its structure no longer necessary. I will forever be in awe about how these insects begin life in an aquatic nymph form, climb up vegetation or rocks or trees and emerge as winged insects.

As I continued to admire them, there were others to note as well, like the metallic green Orchid Sweat Bee pollinating the Black Chokeberry flowers.

The next flyer to greet me had a white face that you can’t quite see. By the yellow markings on her abdomen, I think I’ve identified her correctly as a Frosted Whiteface.

Birds were also abundant by their song and calls, though actually seeing them was more difficult since the trees have leafed out. But . . . a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker did pause and pose.

Again, shadows blocked the face of this species, but the wings and abdomen were far more worthy of attention as it clung to a Royal Fern. In fact, with so much gold, I felt like I was greeting a noble one. The Four-spotted Skimmer is actually quite small, yet stocky. The four spots refer to the black nodus and stigma (Huh? nodus: located midway between the leading edge of each wing where there is a shallow notch; stigma: located toward the wingtips). But notice also that the amber bar at the base of its wings and black basal patch on the hind wings–giving it an almost stained glass look.

By now, you must be wondering if I was really at the bog for I’ve hardly shown any pictures of it. Yes, I was. And alone was I. When I first arrived by the water’s edge, I noted two vehicles that had braved the road and as I stood looking out at the old course of the Saco River, I heard a couple of voices which confirmed my suspicion that they’d gone kayaking. But other than that, I had the place to myself. Well, sorta.

Me and all the friends I was getting reacquainted with as I walked along. The name for this one will seem quite obvious: White-faced Meadowhawk, its eyes green and brown.

Nearby a pair of Eastern Kingbirds, perched, then flew, enjoying such a veritable feast of insects spread out before them.

I worried for my other winged friends, including the female Bluet damselfly.

And the Common Baskettail. How long will they survive?

I also wondered about reproduction for I saw so many, many female Chalk-fronted Corporals, but not a male in sight. Until, at last, before I left the bog, I spied one.

And for a long time we studied each other. Have you ever realized how hairy dragonflies are?

The Brownfield Bog (Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area) can put the brain on nature overload as all senses are called into action. But today, because with every step I took at least fifty dragonflies flew, they drew my focus and I gave thanks to them for reteaching me about their idiosyncrasies, as well as eating the smaller insects so I came away with only a few love bites behind my ears.

Walking with dragons. As life should be. In western Maine.

Spring Awakening

The note on the counter listed two destinations as I had no idea where I wanted to wander today and had mulled several places over in my mind. I like to let my guy know where I’m headed, or at least where I might be headed. The final decision, however, was made by my truck for it wasn’t until I was several miles beyond the first possibility when I realized I’d missed the turn. OK, so maybe the truck didn’t decide, but still . . . I surprised myself.

When I arrived, I began to drive in on the muddy part of the road first, but then I saw the icy section, and decided that rather than get stuck, I’d back out and find a different place to park. My next choice was what to wear on my feet. I’d already donned my Muck boots, which almost reach my knees, but decided to not wear snowshoes or Micro-spikes. In hindsight, either would have been helpful at times, but I think I made the right decision and if you read on, I think you’ll agree.

The road way in might seem long to some if you have to walk its length, but it gave me an opportunity to slip into the place and notice . . . things like vireo bird nests below eye-level given the snowpack. It was a rather holey nest, but still its structure was one to behold.

And then there was the ever present big-toothed hemlock to consider 😉 A rare species that grows only in these woods.

At last I reached the bog of my dreams and took in the expansive view from sky to mountains to trees and shrubs and ice and snow.

In the beyond stood Mount Washington.

And closer by was the southwestern side of Pleasant Mountain.

But . . . it was the little things that I’d ventured in to see, occasionally post-holing up to mid-thigh when I paused to focus on something such as a stonefly. It was a stonefly haven, so many did I spy.

Spiders were also out to enjoy this fine day.

And then I saw a piece of dried bark dangling from a stick in the snow. It fooled me momentarily.

But then it began to maneuver along its silky thread and I realized I was in the presence of another spider, an orbweaver.

A little further along, the melt down was officially underway. Not only by the sight of water, but in its still form I recognized the musty, muddy smell. New Haven Harbor at low tide came instantly to mind.

And roaming about in and out of the water was an American Robin. I used to think these birds were harbingers of spring, but all winter I’ve spied them in various places. This one cuck, cucked as it moved, and poked and sipped. Eventually, another responded.

My main route, which I chose to stay upon because of my footwear, began to give way as the bog water flowed over the cobbled stones.

And I gave thanks for my choice of footwear.

For a while I managed to cross the wet spots determined to see what other harbingers of spring might speak to me. While admiring some pussy willows, I heard the whispering sound of Wood Ducks and several times startled them so they took to the air as is their nervous habit.

I continued on, passing through more water until I almost reached what I call beaver bridge for the rodents love to make a dam below it. At that point the water was too high and I decided to apply some common sense and turn around. As I walked back I spied a couple of Black Ducks who were equally quick to take flight. And then I heard one of my favorite spring sounds–the check, check, check call of Red-winged Blackbirds. A few flew past and landed in treetops, all the while communicating with each other.

The final sound was that of a male Hairy Woodpecker. He seemed to drum and then listen, and spent time staying in one area where he visited several dead snags while I looked on, my presence not seeming to matter.

Was he listening for a response, I wondered.

It was on the walk back that I spied another shrub worth worshipping, Wild Raisin or Witherod, as it is known. Its fruits had been consumed but its buds were growing in expectation.

And suddenly I realized . . . so was I. I do LOVE winter, but really, I appreciate all of our seasons and can’t imagine living in a place where I can’t experience each in its own right and the change from one to another. Today, the color of the ice, a pastel blue, gave me pause and as much as I wanted to walk out onto Brownfield Bog, I knew better.

Spring awakens slowly in western Maine where a blanket of snow still covers the earth. That’s okay by me. It’s worth the wait and gives us the opportunity to treasure each revelation.

Making Connections

“The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend is a series of events led by outdoor-oriented organizations and companies to celebrate the how, where, and what of being active outside in Maine. Our goal is to connect our friends and neighbors with the natural world, to promote fun, physical activity, & good health.”  ~greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org

In the spirit of the GMOW, the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Upper Saco Valley Land Trust co-hosted a paddle at the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area, aka Brownfield Bog, in Brownfield today.

1-fine fall morning

Though the temperature was a bit nippy, as in mid-50˚s to start (and colder in the shade), we couldn’t have asked for a better autumn day, especially given that we first began planning this event last winter.

b-Kathy's sign 1

In what seemed like perfect timing for they didn’t all pull in at once, vehicles laden with kayaks and even one canoe, arrived and folks who’d never met before helped each other carry boats, paddles and personal floatation devices down the road. Then we stood in our traditional circle, where Erika of USVLT and I welcomed everyone and introduced our two organizations. By the tile sign created by Maine Master Naturalist Kathy McGreavy, I pointed out our location and destination along the Old Course of the Saco River.

2-walking to the put in

And then we all walked down the road to the put-in site . . .

3-kayaks on parade

where our parade of kayaks awaited the adventure.

4-onto the old course

One at a time the boats were launched. And then the magic began. It was two-fold in that I’d challenged our twenty participants, some of whom had learned of the event via our advertising efforts locally and were already members of our organizations, and others who discovered the event via the GMOW website and wanted to try something new. The challenge was to spend some time chatting with people they’d never met before. And they did. Conversations ranged from living in New York to termite mounds in Africa.

Folks came from Fryeburg, Bridgton, Lovell, Standish, Jackson and North Conway, as well as Westbrook, Portland, and Cape Elizabeth. But that wasn’t all, for one joined us from Philadelphia and two came from Houston. Our furthest traveler hailed from London. Well, truth be told, she’s a long-time GLLT member, docent and board member who spends at least four months in Lovell. 😉 Thanks Moira.

5-tapestry of color

The tapestry of colors was the other magical element. We chatted about the colors and the carotenoids (yellows and orange pigment) showing up as the leaves stop producing sugar and starch for the tree, and the chemical process that produces the anthocyanin or red coloration.

14-lily pad aphids and yellowjackets

We mentioned the lily pad aphids that sought nutritious sap and noted how the yellowjackets took advantage of the honeydew secretions the aphids offered.

12-soaring above--bald eagles

And some of us had the joy of watching two Bald Eagles soar on the thermals above.

16a-beaver works

There were some fresh beaver works to note and we did spy a few lodges, though none looked active.

7-duck hunters

And for most of the trip we heard the duck hunters’ gunshots as they took aim, though I think we scared a few of them off. The hunters that is. Well, we know we scared a few ducks off as well.

6-ahhhhh

But, what the day was really all about was an enjoyment of being outdoors and sharing a place many had never explored before.

8-around every bend

Around every bend, we discovered different threads, our own colors sewn into the tapestry.

9-the tree

One of my favorites is what I’ve come to call “The Tree.” It’s a perfectly shaped Red Maple that protects a beaver lodge–if you peak below the lower branches on the left, you may see the pointed top of the lodge.

10-the tree's reflection

Even The Tree’s reflection was worth several expressed “Ahhs.”

11-color enhanced by clouds

Though the clouds weren’t many, some enhanced the scene.

15-more color

With each stroke of the paddle it seemed we reached new vantage points where the artwork was similar . . .

16- and more reflections

yet different.

How could it get anymore beautiful?

13-lily pads upturned

Even the lily pads stood out as if seeking recognition for their presentation.

17-turn around point

At last we reached the end of the road, or rather Old Course. That was our turn-around point.

18-preparing to head back

And so we did . . . turn around.

20-taking a break

Before heading immediately back, however, we paused for a few moments to sip some water.

21-enjoying lunch

And a few new friends even enjoyed rafting up while they ate their picnic lunches.

26-the tree again

The trip back passed by much more quickly, as it always does. But still, The Tree called for attention.

23-yellow-rumped warbler

And so did the young Yellow-rumped Warblers that flew in and out among the Pickerel Weeds.

25-yellow-rumped warbler

They moved in a flock from weeds to the shrubs and back again and a few of us recalled the thicker than thick mosquito population we’ve encountered at the bog in the past, but exalted the insects because of the birds they feed. Today, we were mosquito free and thankful for that. The birds seemed to find what they needed to sustain them. There are still plenty of insects about, just not bothersome ones.

30-pulling boats out

Three hours later, we found our way back to the launch site and once again helped each other stabilize boats and bodies and then carry the boats and gear back to the vehicles. Our journey together had ended, but . . . we had all chatted with a variety of people and left with smiles on our faces and in our hearts for the morning we’d spent together.

29-layers

We’d connected in the most beautiful setting thanks to everyone’s effort of choosing to celebrate Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.

For help making those connections, thank you Jesse Wright of USVLT for initiating this paddle with me so many moons ago, and to Trisha Beringer of USVLT for the time we shared walking and paddling in preparation, as well as taking the lead on the sign-up process, and to Erika Rowland of USVLT for transporting boats, taking up the lead when Trisha got sick, and being flexible along the way.

What a great day and great way to spend time outdoors in Maine.

 

 

Connecting the Dots

We thought we were so smart. A friend had drawn a map in the snow last week to show me the location of an alternate trailhead for Peary Mountain in Brownfield, Maine, and spoke of a round-trip hike that would include Frost Mountain. A quick look at a map in our worn and torn Delorme Gazeteer and we knew exactly where we were going–until we didn’t. We soon discovered that the gate and sign I’d been told about didn’t exist and the road turned 90˚ to the left and eventually became impassable and so we turned around and paused again at the sharp turn and wondered some more and drove back out to the main road and continued on to another road and looked for other possible trailheads that appeared on the road map and turned around again and returned to that sharp turn and parked the truck and slipped on our micro-spikes.

p1-Peary Mtn Road sign

It was worth a try we decided. The name was right though it looked less like a road and more like a snowmobile trail. No matter, we figured we’d give it a whirl and if nothing else, at least we’d enjoy exploring.

p2-wetland below mountains

Almost immediately, we spied two mountains above a wetland and wondered if those were the two summits we sought. We’d never looked at Peary from what we considered the back side before, since all of our previous experiences had been from Farnsworth Road off of Routes 5/113.

p3-trail

The road was quite icy and it had been more than a few days since any snowmobiles had passed by.

p5-trail sign

Eventually we came to a snowmobile sign, looked around for a map that I thought my friend had mentioned, and decided to begin with a journey up the Peary Mountain Trail.

p7-trailing arbutus and wintergreen

Conditions were such where previous logging had left the southwestern side open to the sun’s powerful rays and so in places the snow had melted and wildflowers such as trailing arbutus and winterberry basked in the warmth.

p8-Peary Mtn basement

We continued on up, hopeful that we were on the right path, when a familiar foundation confirmed our location. It’s directly across from this foundation that the Peary Mountain trail makes a 90˚ turn–in the past the turn had always been to the left, but yesterday’s turn was to the right. That is, after we noted that my guy should probably encourage the homeowners to purchase a sump pump, so full was their cellar.

p9-trail sign

If you do approach from Peary Mountain Road, you’ll only see a tad of the back of this sign. And if you come from Farnsworth Road, again, it’s not very obvious. But, for both, the turn is located at the height of land . . . and directly across from the foundation.

p10-Peary view 1

The hike to the bald summit isn’t difficult and offers the best of views on any day, but especially in the fall when the tapestry of color stretches forever–or at least to the White Mountains in the distance.

p11-Mount Washington

Yesterday, the view of Mount Washington was obscured by clouds, but we could see that even there the snow was receding.

p13-Mountain view

We stood for a bit, taking in the scene to the west.

p14-Mountain views

And to the north.

p15-across the ridge

And then we followed the ridge, certain that at the end we’d slip onto another trail we’ve never traveled before and begin to make the loop to Frost Mountain.

p16-Pleasant Mtn, Brownfield Bog

Just before slipping onto that other trail, we had one more view to partake–Brownfield Bog and the Saco River were backdropped by Pleasant Mountain.

Well, we followed that other trail for a while, but realized that rather than going toward Frost Mountain, we were moving further and further away from it. And so . . . we backtracked and rose once again to the summit of Peary and retraced our steps down.

p17-another foundation

We were disappointed, except that we knew we would return. And as often happens when following the same trail, we made new discoveries, including an L-shaped foundation.

p19-well

And then I spied a circular sunken formation subtly outlined with rocks and trusted it was a well.

p19-third foundation

Bingo. For behind it was another foundation, the largest we saw.

p20-day 2-red pines

And so late this morning we returned. But first, we looked for maps in our hiking books and online and found only those created by the local snowmobile club. We had a copy that dated to 2011 and decide to bring it along. We also copied a portion of the map from the Delorme Gazeteer–just in case.

Upon our return, we remembered to pause at the beginning of the trail and take note of the red pine cathedral. Brownfield is a town that knew the fury of the wildfires of October 1947. Most homes and public buildings were mere piles of ash the day after the fire. Many stately places including the summer home and laboratory of Dr. Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed.

Red pines were planted in reaction and today they stand tall in honor of that event of just over seventy years ago.

p21-water flowed

Our plan today was to follow the same route to the turn off for Frost Mountain. And so we did. This time the snow and ice were softer and mud a constant as snow melted and streams formed.

p21-ruffed grouse scat

One of the things we noted yesterday was a lack of mammal prints. But today made up for that and we found plenty of deer tracks in mud and snow. And then, a pile of bird scat–left behind by a ruffed grouse who had probably plowed into the snow when it was a couple of feet thick and spent the night, leaving behind its signature.

p22-kill site

We also found a kill site with no tracks leading to or fro and so we thought a bird had eaten another bird. The circle of life continued in the Maine woods.

p23-fisher prints

A bit further up the trail we spied weasel prints–left behind by a fisher, the meanest of mean. Notice the teardrop shaped toes and diagonal positioning.

p22-sweet fern

We were distracted (or at least I was) by sculptures a many, including those created by sweet-fern.

p24-another foundation

My guy was also distracted and spied an opening in the woods.

p25-fourth foundation

It was another L-shaped cellar. And nearby were what would have been some outbuildings and possibly even a mill. Along most of today’s trail we encountered one stone wall after another, some single and others double.

I don’t know how to decipher stone that’s known fire, but hope one of these days to be able to make that interpretation. In the meantime we wondered–why had these homes been abandoned. Did they burn? I did later note that homesteads in the area belonged to the Johnsons, Grays and other families in the 1880s.

p28-confusing signs

Though we continued on, we really had no idea where we were going and hoped that we had made the right decision with the intention of reaching the summit of Frost Mountain. But, even if we didn’t, we were delighted with our finds. And confused by the signs.

p29-Pleasant Mtn behind us

And then, we started to climb. I turned around as we moved upward and noted our beloved Pleasant Mountain behind us.

p29-summit at lasst

And finally–success. We’d reached the summit of Frost Mountain.

p30-looking toward Peary

About 300 feet below, we had a view from the ledge, but it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as that on Peary Mountain, which my guy looked toward. It was hardly visible from where we stood.

p32-Burnt Meadow Mountain

From the summit, we followed a loop around, pausing to take in the view of Burnt Meadow Mountain.

p33-Brownfield below

And the town of Brownfield below. As the historical society likes to proclaim, “Brownfield’s still here.” Indeed.

p34--my heart bleeds blue pine sap for you

We’d planned to climb Frost and then make our way to Peary, but changed our minds. We’d already climbed Peary yesterday and after finding our way today had a better understanding of the trail system. We also knew that had we made the loop, we’d have walked on Farnsworth Road for over a half mile and then climbed up and down Peary on trails we already knew. Instead, we let our hearts bleed pine blue sap with happiness.

p27-bear prints

Our happiness overflowed when we spied the final set of prints.

p26-bear prints

A black bear. How cool is that? Our second sighting of black bear prints this winter.

We’d connected the dots–even if not literally–and gained a better understanding of the neighborhood and all who live(d) there.

Bogging with Barb

Passing off a copy of the book, From Grassroots to Groundwater, about how two small Maine towns fought Nestlé and won, was the perfect excuse to head to Brownfield Bog. I told Barb I didn’t mind driving to her home or somewhere nearby to give her the book because I’d then go exploring and she welcomed the opportunity to do the same.

b2-Kathy's sign

As we began our journey, I asked if she knew Kathy McGreavy. Of course she did. I mentioned that Kathy walks in the bog daily and we might encounter her. Of course we did. Kathy and “her friend” were just coming out after walking their dogs and so we chatted for  bit. Our discussion included mention of the sign Kathy made last year as her capstone project for the Maine Master Naturalist Program. It’s an incredible piece of artwork and as she’s learned, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Recently, she discovered that a woodpecker had taken to pecking it and so the bottom is now protected with a piece of plexiglass. Crazy birds.

b1-Bog view from the road

Eventually, Barb and I said our goodbyes to the McGreavys and walked down the unplowed road where I did warn her about my obsession for stopping frequently to take photos. It began from the start–when we spied the bog through the trees and noticed the contrast of colors and layers.

b3a-pussy willows

And then–specks of white were ours to behold.

b3-pussy willows

Pussy willows. Was it too early she wondered. No–in fact, I spotted some a year ago on February 23 at Lakes Environmental Association’s Holt Pond Preserve.

b4-red-winged blackbirds

Our next reason to stop–the red and yellow shoulder patch or epaulet providing their name: Red-Winged Blackbirds. Again, Barb asked if it was too early. This time, I referenced Mary Holland for the February 27th entry in her book Naturally Curious Day by Day has this headline: Returning Red-Winged Blackbirds Survive Cold Temperatures and Few Insects. Bingo.

b5-water obstacles

Sometimes our stops were to contemplate our next steps–especially when it came to the water that covered the cobble stones on the road.

b6-Barb charges through the water

But sometimes you just have to go for it. And we did. As the morning continued, we ventured through deeper water and plowed ahead knowing that we would need to dry our hiking boots out when we arrived home.

b7-bird's nest

We found a bird nest and wondered about its creator. We did note some acorn pieces inside, so we think it had more than an avian inhabitant.

b8-beaver lodge

And we paused to look at an old beaver lodge. The mud looked recent but none of the sticks were this year’s additions so we didn’t know if anyone was home.

b9-map in the snow

All along, we’d been talking about places we’ve hiked and other topics of interest to both of us. We even learned that we’d both worked in Franklin, New Hampshire, just not at the same time. But speaking of hikes, with her finger, Barb drew a map in the snow and now I have another trail to check out soon with my guy. Should I forget the way, I’ll just reference this map. 😉

b10-raccoon prints

Because we were near water, though most of it still frozen, and the temp was high (actually, too high–in fact, it felt HOT as it soared into the upper 60˚s today), we weren’t surprised to find this set of prints created recently by a raccoon. I love the hand-like appearance and opposite diagonal of each two feet. Can’t you just see him waddling through–in your mind’s eye, that is?

b11-the bog

Our turn-around point offered an expansive view of the bog. As much as we may have wanted to head out onto it, we sided with caution and kept to the edge of the shore.

b12-winterberry

On the way back, there were other things to admire as there always is even when you follow the same route: winterberries drying up;

b13-rhodora

rhodora’s woody seed pods and flower buds swelling;

b14-willow gall

and the pinecone-like structure created with leaves by a reaction to a chemical released by the larva that allows a gall gnat midge to overwinter on the willows.

b16-carrion-flower tendrils

And then we stumbled upon a plant neither of us knew. With it’s long stem and curly tendrils, we were sure it was a vine.

b15-carrion-flower

Upon arriving home, however, I wondered about the umbel structure that had been its flower and now still held some fruits. A little bit of research and I found it: Carrion Flower (Smilax herbacea), which apparently smells rather foul when it’s in bloom and thus attracts carrion flies as its pollinator. Now I can’t wait to return and check it out in the next two seasons. Any excuse to get back there.

b17-bog to Pleasant Mountain

At last the time had come to say goodbye to the bog and then goodbye to each other. Thanks Barb, for giving me an excuse to go bogging with you. It was indeed a treat.

A Generous Wander

When I donated a guided walk to a recent Lakes Environmental Association fundraiser, I was a wee bit nervous. Would anyone bid on it during the silent auction? And who might bid?

Thankfully, Carol notified me right away that she’d been the high bidder and my relief was immediate. I knew we’d have fun and the offer brought in a few bucks for an organization that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. She chose the date, time and location. Plus she got to invite some friends along for the journey.

b-Kathy's sign 1

The chosen place–one of my favorites–Brownfield Bog. We started at the shack, where I pointed out Kathy McGreavy’s tiled map. Of course, they were wowed.

b-heron

And then we followed a short spur from the parking lot for the first view of the bog and a great blue heron flew up and then settled again.

b-buttonbush

It was there that they first viewed a buttonbush. Or at least that it first made its presence known, for I think that so many things we see often and they blend into the landscape until that moment when our eyes are opened–and our minds as well.

b-color 1

We followed another spur and noticed a sampling of fall foliage along the bog’s edge. In our minds it was swamp maple, aka red maple–or so we thought for a bit.

b-interrupted fern

At a fork in the road, Carol, Marylou and Sara chose the left-hand turn and so we entered the land of the ferns. It was here that they began to familiarize themselves with royal, cinnamon, interrupted and sensitive–noting features in their forms to tell them apart. While we walked, and at times we walked quickly for the mosquitoes were ferocious, it was fun for me to listen as they quizzed themselves.

b-meadowsweet

In a field at the end of the road, the spireas bloomed and we looked at the branching structure of meadowsweet with blossoms slowly opening in dainty clusters.

b-Saco River 2

When we reached Pirate’s Cove along the Saco River, we paused for a bit.

b-alder-leaf buckthorn 1

It was there that Sara spotted a shrub I couldn’t identify until I arrived home and slowed my brain down.

alder-leaf buckthorn2

The leaves were alternate and simple, with deep veins. But it was the color that stopped us–for it was a deep green, almost bronze on some. And we’d missed the flowers, but the fruits were spherical and when Sara opened one, she found three seeds. Turns out it was an alder-leaf buckthorn. And as far as I remember, it was the only one we spotted. But . . . as I said earlier, our minds were open and let’s hope it made an impact and the memory  lingers.

b-yellow loosestrife

We finally left the river area and as we started back on the road, they asked me to name a flower. I knew when I said its name I was wrong, but I couldn’t pull the real name out of the depths of my brain. So here ’tis–yellow loosestrife.

b-raccoon prints

Making our way back to the main road through the bog, we saw handprints in the mud and knew a raccoon had passed before.

b-Pleasant Mountain 2

Back at the intersection, we turned left and journeyed on, noticing all the pickerelweed and water lilies at the lower layer and changes in vegetation leading all the way to Pleasant Mountain.

b-meadow rue

It was along this route that we stopped most often, sometimes for things we knew like meadow rue

b-steeplebush

and the other spirea, steeplebush–these presenting several renditions of the same theme.

b-elm

We spied an elm tree and reminisced about elms of the past.

b-willow gall

And then a few willow galls shaped like pinecones called to us. This was a new one for them and though I couldn’t remember that the creator was a midge larva, the gall struck them as being a fruit, especially as we broke it open. Had we opened one in the winter, we might have seen the maggot nestled within a chamber at the center of the structure. In the spring a female midge fly lays a single egg in a terminal bud, initiating the gall formation through a chemical reaction causing the leaf tissue to harden into the shape of scales.

b-maleberry 1

I got stumped again when we kept seeing fruits on long stalks, with last year’s growth among the offering.

b-maleberry fruits 2

Once at home, I spent some more time with Michael L. Cline’s Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest, and realized it was a maleberry.

b-witherrod1

Another shrub that was plentiful throughout our journey was the witherod, aka wild raisin, its fruit ovoid in shape, turning blue as they withered.

b-swamp milkweed 1

Adding a splash of fuchsia along the way, swamp milkweed with its upright umbels.

b-silver maples 1

And then the other color that we’d noticed along the perimeter of the bog earlier and thought was red maples. Turns out those trees are silver maples and the ones with the wettest feet seemed to have already shut down their sugar production, thus allowing anthocyanin to form. This happens when sugar gets trapped in a leaf after the chlorophyll is gone and the leaf is exposed to sunlight–the resulting color being reds and purples.

b-silver maple 3

As hot as the day was, these presented a taste of the future. Some years they seem to turn earlier than others and this seems like one of the early years.

b-three amigos 1

At last we reached a turn-around point and these three amigos posed for a photo–Sara, Carol and Marylou.

b-picking blueberries

Of course, we only walked a few feet on our way back when high bush blueberries begged to be noticed. And gathered. And eaten.

b-carrion flower

Our journey back was much quicker, but still we stopped occasionally. Again I was stumped when one in the party spotted this vine. Turns out its the vine and fruit of carrion flower–one that I had never heard of before. (You know what that means.) According to Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, the green flower is ill-smelling, apparently giving rise to its common name.

b-yellow-legged meadowhawk female

Though the mosquitoes were plentiful, more so at the start than the finish, we didn’t see too many dragonflies and I’m not sure why. But this female yellow-legged meadowhawk did pause briefly.

b-checking out the map

Back by my truck, we stopped again. While Sara went in search of the white and red oak trees and their different leaves, Carol and Marylou studied Kathy’s map as they figured where we’d traveled.

It was a glorious adventure–for me anyway. A casual ramble filled with good cheer and conversation. Thank you, Carol Nugent, for your generosity in support of LEA to make this wander possible. I hope the three of you enjoyed our time together as much as I did and took some of Brownfield Bog home in your hearts.

Spotlight on the Brownfield Bog

When I drove to the Brownfield Bog, aka Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area, this afternoon, my intention was to pay attention to the shrubs that grow there.

b-black swallowtail

But, as usual, the distractions were many and a black swallowtail landed as I stepped out of my truck.

b-ant on alder aphid

I did note a tremendous amount of wooly alder aphids coating the alder stems everywhere I walked. In fact, I’ve never seen so much fluff. And I found only one ant eager to milk the sweet honeydew produced by the aphids as they sucked the shrubs sap. Once in a while the white fluff danced in the breeze. Was it an aphid on the fly?

b-willow flowers

Or did it come from the willows that were in the process of sending their seeds forth into the future?

b-Northern Arrowwood

So you see, I was paying attention to the shrubs, especially those in flower like the Northern Arrowwood. There was another with a similar flowerhead, but different leaves and I need to return and spend more time studying it.

b-Pleasant Mountain 2

Because I was in the bog, I did pause occasionally to peer across its advance, usually with a view of my favorite mountain (Pleasant Mountain) providing the background.

b-chalk-fronted corporal 1

But the dragonflies live there. And the chalk-fronted corporals became my BFF, since as many as twenty lifted off with each step I took. They led me all the way down the trail and all the way back, usually a few feet in front.

b-dot-tailed white face 1

The corporals weren’t the only dragons of choice.

b-dot-spotted white face 2

Dot-tailed white face dragonflies were happy to pose.

b-calico pennant 1

And I even found a few calico pennants–happy to make their acquaintance again.

b-white gall on maleberry 2

Between dragon and damselfly opportunities, white globs and . . .

b-maleberry gall?1

green caught my attention. They were the size of apples and totally new to me. My thought right now is that they are galls, similar to the azalea gall, but these were on maleberry shrubs. If you know otherwise, I welcome your information.

b-bog view

The bog was swollen with water only a few weeks ago, but that story line has passed and life sprang from the spring like a fountain of youth.

b-damsel love 1

My noticing continued when I spied a couple of youthful damselflies . . .

b-damsel love 2

he’d attached himself below her . . .

b-damsel love 3

and ever so slowly advanced . . .

b-damsel love 4

until the circle of love was complete.

b-lady beetles canoodling

Canoodling of all kinds occurred.

b-dragonflies canoodling 2

Even the dragonflies tried to get in on the action.

b-dragonflies canoodling

She wasn’t very tolerant, however, and a couple of seconds later detached herself from her forward position and took off.

b-sedge sprite 1

I moved on, looking here and there and thrilling at the sight of the beautiful and iridescent sedge sprite damselfly.

b-river jewelwing

Following the trail to the Saco River, I found tracks galore in the muck below, and a river jewelwing–appropriately named.

b-Canada geese

As I headed out, I startled a Canada goose family that had been feeding along the edge.

b-ring necked and mountain

And then I paused for one last look at the bog and Pleasant Mountain.

b-ring-necked duck

That’s when I realized I was in the presence of a male ring-necked duck. If you like to bird, this is the place. I saw several but heard so many more. And even if I couldn’t apply a name to a song, I did enjoy the symphony that followed me throughout my adventure.

b-Kathy's bog sign

Though I said I went to look at the shrubs because I do want to learn them, my real reason for going was to see this new installment.

b-Kathy's sign up close

Maine Master Naturalist (and potter) Kathy McGreavy created this handmade and painted map of the bog for her capstone project. Her husband recently installed it and it’s a work of art worth looking at not only to appreciate Kathy’s talent, but also to learn more about the bog and those that call it home.

My hope is that the spotlight will continue to shine brightly on Kathy’s creation . . . made with love in honor of her bog.

Slog Through The Bog

She said she’d call a half hour before heading to the bog so I should probably sleep in my hiking clothes and boots. And she was right! I was just about to take a bagel out of the toaster oven when the phone rang. “We’re going to the bog at 9:00. Can you join us?” Thirty-five minutes later I pulled into her driveway, excited because it was a chance to explore Brownfield Bog with about-to-become Maine Master Naturalist Kathy McGreavy and her daughter, Dr. Bridie McGreavy.

b-bog from road

From there we drove to Bog Road and parked at the beginning since conditions were dicey, but also because it gave us a chance to walk and listen–almost immediately we heard a barred owl. And then the warblers greeted us.

b-sky and water

Brownfield Bog, aka Major Gregory Sanborn WMA, encompasses 6,000 acres of wetland. And on any given day, the sky tells its story above and below. Of course, we thought we were going to get poured upon when we first met, but the mist soon evaporated and sun warmed us enough that we shed a few layers.

b-common yellow throat 2

The initial stretch of our journey found us moving at a fast pace, but once we reached the second gate,

b-Bridie McGreavy

our inclination was to slow down.

b-Kathy

To stop, look and listen.

b-common yellow throat 1

The chestnut streaks on the yellow warbler matched the emerging red maple leaves.

b-oriole 2

And I can never spend enough time with a Baltimore oriole, forever wowed by its color.

b-oriole singing

And its voice.

b-catbird

Birds flitted about and flew overhead, but occasionally one, such as this catbird, paused and posed.

b-willows and birches

Most of the songbirds were feeding and perhaps nesting in the land of the willows, birch and maples.

b-willow pine cone gall caused by midge

Others also sought homes here, like the gall gnat midge that overwintered in a pinecone-like structure created with leaves by the reaction to a chemical released by the larva. I’m forever amazed about how nature works.

b-song sparrow

Eventually, we followed the song sparrows as they led us down the cobbled road.

b-road 1

The current was strong in places . . .

b-deep water

and water deep.

b-scenery1

But the views . . .

b-Pleasant Mtn and Bog

worth every step.

b-maple samara

Sometimes, our focus was upon the ground, where we spotted a few small red maple samaras.

b-coyote scat

And scat–including this double offering of coyote deposits.

b-coyote scat toenail

And among it–a toe nail first spied by Bridie. I chuckled to myself when we got down to look at this, for Bridie first introduced me to the finer qualities of scat when she worked at Lakes Environmental Association. She also taught me to track mammals. And . . . the crème de la crème–to sniff fox pee. Ah, the delights we have shared–they are many and having an opportunity to walk with her today brought them all flooding back.

b-ribbon snake

We decided to put our blinders on so we could continue without any pauses, but then Bridie’s eagle eyes zeroed in on movement. Her mom and I saw the movement as well, but we had to really focus in order to find the creator among the dried vegetation.

b-ribbon 2

And we did–a ribbon snake, who happens to be a great reason for preserving this property because its a species of special concern in Maine.

b-Pleasant Mtn

At times, Pleasant Mountain was the featured backdrop.

b-Canada geese

And Canada geese swam in the foreground.

b-beaver mound

Everywhere, beaver works were obvious and scent mounds growing in size.

b-oak 1 (1)

After a couple of hours, we reached our turn-around point at the old oak tree.

b-beaver lodge

As we looked across, one of the beaver lodges stood above the water level.

b-bog 3

But Kathy and Bridie both reminded me that another was still submerged due to this spring’s high water level.

b-cuckoo nest remnants

Finally, we did our best to bee-line back. But Kathy showed me one more great find that had been pointed out to her by Mary Jewett last year–the straggly stick structure of a cuckoo’s nest. Certainly worth a wonder. (The other wonder–when we first arrived at the bog this morning, Mary was just leaving.)

b-spoon jar 2

Our entire morning had been worth a wonder and then another occurred when we returned to Kathy’s house. While I said goodbye to Bridie, who is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Communication in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, her mom slipped into the house. When Kathy returned, she handed me this spoon pot filled with daffodils from her garden. She’s a potter and owner of Saco River Pottery. Though I love to give her fine art as presents, I only own one other piece. This one now stands proudly on our kitchen counter, holding the utensils as it was intended. It will forever remind me of the McGreavys and the day I first saw a dragonfly emerge from its exoskeleton–at the bog with Bridie; and the day I spent with Kathy as I interviewed her for a magazine article about creating pottery–and she let me try my hand at the wheel; and so many other memories of time spent with these ladies, but especially today–for the opportunity to slog through the bog with the two of them.

 

Beulah’s Mystery

One of the fun happenings in my life is that friends send me nature photos and ask me to help them ID a species. Sometimes I know immediately what it is and can ask them questions to help them get to the answer. Other times I’m as stumped as they are. Thus was the case today, when I drove to Brownfield to look at a tree growing in the field beside an old farmhouse.

t-beulahs 2

Beulah’s farmhouse, to be exact. My friend’s brother recently purchased it and the adjacent barn. Though the farmhouse is a fixer-upper, Beulah’s sign looks as if it was created yesterday.

t-tree1

This is the tree. If you know it right off, my hat goes off to you. I was in my Forest Trees of Maine mode and kept looking at it from that perspective. It’s overall appearance didn’t match what I know. We began with the key and slowly (painfully slowly as the black flies swarmed us–mind over matter, mind over matter), worked our way through the choices, two by two.

t-dwarf shoots

Because it’s not in leaf yet, we used the Winter Key. With each question, we paused to examine the tree–looking at the alternate leaf shoots, hairy scaled buds, pith, bark–every detail. We considered its location in the middle of a farm field, where the land sloped slightly and was rather dry. We also looked at the ground and found decaying leaves as well as deer scat. As I suspected, it wasn’t in the key. So I came home and scoured other books. I think I reached the answer and that the deer scat is actually a clue. Do you know? Now you may say so.

t-porky den

On our way to see one more cool thing, we paused to look at a den located beside the old foundation. Though much of the scat has since been removed, plenty of it and numerous quills painted the picture of who’d created this pigpen.

t-critter 2

And then they had one more mystery item to show me. I hope this doesn’t freak you out. It’s part of many renovations in old farmhouses–a dried-up animal carcass. The front of the face was missing, but as we say, eyes in the front, born to hunt.

t-critter 1

A side view of this handsome critter. Can you see the ears?

t-critter 4

Talk about all skin and bones.

t-critter pads

And then the foot pads and nails. Four toes, nails, about the size of a nickel. Do you know?

t-bog sign

Because I was in the neighborhood, I visited Brownfield Bog and continued my afternoon exploration. (Yeah, I had work to do, but playing hooky for a couple of hours is allowed once in a while if I don’t abuse the privilege–ah, the life of a freelancer.)

t-red oak emerging

I remember suddenly becoming aware of spring colors about thirty-five years ago, when I taught  school in New Hampshire by the convergence of the Pemigewasset and Merrimack Rivers. Until then, I’d never realized that tree leaves emerge in a variety of colors–they all weren’t suddenly green. (BTW– do you see the spittlebug? )

t-red oak mini leaves

In a quickness equal to fall foliage, spring colors may not be as flashy, but their subtle beauty deserves notice.

t-gray birch 2

And those leaves that are green offered their own reasons to stop me in my tracks as I took in the details–in this case the double-toothed elephant’s trunk. What? Notice the shape and outer margin of the leaf.

t-gray birch 4

The lovely elongated catkins demanded a glance that lasted more than a second.

t-willows cat1

Adding a festive fuzziness to the celebration of spring was another set of catkins.

t-willow gall

Unwittingly, this shrub also played host to a gall gnat midge that overwintered in a structure created by the reaction to a chemical released by the larva–what would have been leaves were forced to harden into a pine cone look alike.

t-bog colors 2

The subtle colors graced the meadow,

t-pleasant

were reflected in the bog,

t-river

and blessed the Saco River.

t-baltimore 2

There were bits of flashy color–do you see who was feeding on the upper branches?

t-rhodora 1

And this spring beauty exploded with love and life.

At the end of my journey, I was grateful to P&K for an excuse to step away from my desk and check out the mystery standing in Beulah’s field. Especially as it led me further afield.

Our Place

h-tom2

Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Seriously . . . is all that noise necessary? Apparently it is. Mr. Tom felt the need to awaken us at this morning’s first light with his non-stop gobbling–his way of calling the hens to join him. Disclaimer: I didn’t take this photo until later in the day. In all his ugliness, I have to say that he really is a handsome fellow.

h-female turkey

The hens who hang out with him don’t appear to care, but maybe they’re just playing coy.

p-little saco sign

We left them to the bird seed scattered on the ground and drove to Farnsworth Road in Brownfield for a hike up Peary Mountain. The trail is located on private property and we’re thankful that it’s open to hikers. Much of it is a snowmobile trail as well.

p-Little Saco

The Little Saco flows over moss-covered rocks beside the lower part of the trail.

p-false 4

As we followed it, bright green growth in the damp soil warranted a closer look.

p-false hellibore 2

A true sign of spring–false hellebore with its corrugated leaves.

p-striped 2

There are plenty of other signs, including the pink and green striped maple buds. I’m missing my macro for these moments of early glory, but so it is.

p-beech 1

While some beech trees still have a few marcescent leaves clinging until they can no more, I noticed a few buds beginning to burst.

p-summit sign

At a stone wall, the trail suddenly turns 90˚ to the left.

p-fdn 2

But in the opposite direction–the remains of an old foundation.

p-fdn ledge 2

And above, a ledge from whence the stones presumably came.

p-porc scat

The ledge continues to provide a dwelling–for critters like the porcupines who keep the hemlocks well trimmed.

p-bluets

As we climbed to the top, delicate bluets showed their smiling faces.

p-bench view1

And then we emerged on the 958-foot summit, where the bench view is glorious. The small mountain was named for Admiral Peary. Apparently, his mother’s family, the Wileys, lived in neighboring Fryeburg. Upon graduating from Bowdoin College in 1877, Peary lived in Fryeburg and conducted survey studies of the area for a couple of years, before moving to DC and later leading an expedition to the North Pole.

p-mount wash

If you’ve seen similar views of the big mountain, its because it’s part of our place.

p-my guy view

I followed my guy along the ridge line to the end–where the view turned homeward.

p-pointing

My guy made a point of recognizing landmarks from Mount Tom and Lovewell Pond along the Saco River to Pleasant Mountain and Brownfield Bog.

p-Pleasant 2

If you look closely, you’ll notice a horizontal line just below the bog–that’s the Saco River. And the little mountain to the left of Pleasant Mountain–Little Mountain in West Bridgton.

p-Pleasant Road1

The only part of the view that we don’t get–the new road that was constructed up the backside of the mountain within the past year. It worries us. And that is why we appreciate the efforts of Loon Echo Land Trust for protecting most of the rest of the mountain.

b-pitch pine

We headed home for lunch and to pull out the lawn furniture.* And then we parted ways, my guy to attend a celebration of life for an old friend, and me to climb Bald Pate. My purpose–to look at the pitch pines and jack pines.

b-pitch 2

In bundles of three, the stiff needles surround the male pollen bearing cones on the pitch pine.

b-jack pine1

Jack pine features two needles per bundle–think Jack and Jill.

b-peabody & sebago

From the summit, I paused to take in the view of Peabody Pond and Sebago Lake beyond. It doesn’t matter how often I climb to the top of this 1,100-foot mountain, the view is ever changing.

b-mount wash1

And again, I could see Pleasant with Mount Washington in its saddle. This time, however, I was on the opposite side looking at the front of Pleasant Mountain. You may wonder about the road–it leads to two cell towers near the Southwest Ridge summit.

b-sweet fern 1

As I made my way to the Foster Pond Lookout, I stopped frequently to enjoy the ever-artful presentation of sweet fern.

b-blueberries

And I noticed another sweet offering that many of us will enjoy this summer–blueberry plants in bloom.  A year ago next week, I saw the same on this very mountain. Seems early, but I think they’re well protected in a sunny spot.

b-foster pond 2

I’m sure had my guy been with me, he would have named a color chip that matched Foster Pond–perhaps turquoise blue best described it in that moment.

b-bird treat 1

Heading back to my truck, I noticed some bird treats dangling from the trees. Perhaps our turkeys will fly to South Bridgton.

h-tom 3

Apparently not. Back at home, Tom had returned. He’s a frequent visitor to our place. And we’re frequent visitors to the area beyond our backyard. It’s all really his place and our place.

* If you live in our area, expect at least one more snowstorm. It always snows once we pull out the lawn furniture.

 

 

From Sheep to Dinosaurs, Oh My!

After leaving a truck at the base of the Ledges Trail on Pleasant Mountain, my guy and I drove to Denmark Village to attend an annual celebration of fiber: the Denmark Sheepfest.

s-sheep 1

Like us, local sheep were ready to shed their winter coats.

s-sheepish look

Waiting their turn, they offered sheepish looks.

s-sheep shearing

But we heard no complaints as the shearing began.

s-MacKay 1

From there, we continued on to the Southwest Ridge Trail of Pleasant Mountain. As we climbed, we thought about the former name of the trail: MacKay’s Pasture Trail.

s-Mac 2

Between the rock outcrops and slope we decided that in the 1800s sheep probably roamed this side of the mountain. I found an 1858 map on the Denmark Historical Society’s Web site, but it’s too small to check names.

s-Denmark_1858

(Thanks to Jinny Mae for sending me a better copy of the map–the McKay’s property is located near the base of the trail on the Denmark/Fryeburg line–makes perfect sense that the side of the mountain served as pastureland for their farm.) Sheep and shepherds–We feel a certain affinity to shepherds/shephards because it’s a family name and were saddened to learn yesterday of the death of one relative we met this past fall in New Brunswick, Canada. Our acquaintance was short, but relationship long. As the Irish say, “May the light of heaven shine upon your grave.” Rest in peace, Ellis Shephard.

s-hiking

We love climbing up this trail and pausing . . .

s-mac 3

to take in the views behind us–Brownfield Bog, Lovewell Pond, Eastern Slopes Airport in Fryeburg, Maine, and White Mountains of New Hampshire in the distance.

s-lunch

In no time, or so it seemed, we reached lunch rock by the teepee. The teepee was constructed by the late George Sudduth, director/owner of Wyonegonic Camps , the oldest camp for girls in America. His wife, Carol, whom I’ve had the pleasure of hiking with, and family still run the camp, located below on Moose Pond.

s-lunch view

Our view as we appreciated fine dining–ham and swiss instead of PB&J–Moose Pond’s lower basin to the left, Sand (aka Walden) Pond with Hancock Pond behind it, Granger Pond and Beaver Pond directly below us. Actually, if you look closely, you might see Long Lake between Moose and Hancock. This is the Lakes Region of Maine.

s-fire tower 1

We continued along the ridge and the fire tower came into view. Once the leaves pop, this view will disappear until fall.

s-vp

At the vernal pool between knobs, we only saw one large egg mass–I had to wonder if the number is related to the amount of human and dog traffic.

s-ft2

And then . . . we were there. At the summit of Pleasant Mountain. With a kazillion other people and dogs.

s-summit 3

Again, we could see the bog and Lovewell Pond behind it,

s-summit view

plus Kezar Pond in Fryeburg and Mount Washington beyond.

s-summit 2

No matter how often I gaze upon this view, I’m always awestruck.

s-trail sign

We had two options because we’d left two trucks, and decided to follow the Ledges Trail to Mountain Road.

s-toadskin

Though I was with my guy, Mr. Destinationitis, I did stop long enough to admire the common toadskin lichen with its warty pustules.

s-toadskin and tripe

Had this been a teaching moment, the lesson plan was laid out in front of me–toadskin versus common rock tripe. Warty versus smooth. A difference in color. Both umbilicate lichens–attached to the rock substrate at a single point. OK, so maybe it was a teachable moment.

s-rest

But one of us didn’t give two hoots. He tolerated me . . . while he rested. 😉

s-ledges 1

For the most part, we hiked within feet of each other, but I can never resist stopping at this point as we come upon the beginning of the ledges that gave this trail its name.

s-trees

Continuing down, I frequently grasped trees and thought about how many handprints are imbedded in the history of this land–from Native Americans to surveyors to shepherds to trail blazers and hikers. On this made-in-Maine type of day, we encountered many people of all ages and abilities–and were glad to share the trail with them.

s-dino1

It’s not only people and sheep who have moved across Pleasant Mountain. Even today, dinosaurs made their presence known.

 

 

 

 

Wet Feet at Brownfield Bog

When I suggested to Marita that we explore Brownfield Bog this afternoon, she wondered  how much water we might encounter on the road. And so we wore boots. Marita donned her Boggs, while I sported my waterproof hiking boots.

b-johnny jump up

Until we got there, we didn’t realize that the privately-owned road leading into the bog isn’t open yet, but thought we’d park at a driveway near the beginning and leave a note. The owner came along, whom she knew, and graciously invited us to park  near his home and cross through his woods down to the bog road. He and his wife share a piece of heaven and I took only one cheery photo to remind me of their beautiful spot and kind hospitality.

b-river road literally

And then on to the bog it was. Just after the gate, we realized that we couldn’t walk to the Saco River–literally a river road.

b-bog 1

But this is a bog, where all forms of life enjoy wet feet.

b-willow 2

From pussy willows to . . .

b-speckled alder 1

speckled alders,

b-cranberry

cranberries,

b-red maple 2

and flowering red maples–wet feet are happy feet and they all thrive in seasonally flooded places.

b-ducks 1

We kept scaring the ducks off, but know that there were wood ducks among the mix. They, of course, know the importance of wet and webbed feet.

b-lodge 2

b-beaver tree

b-beaver scent mound

And by their lodges, tree works and scent mounds, we knew the beavers had been active–another wet-footed species. We did wonder about the survival rate of those that built beside the road–seems like risky business given the predators that travel this way.

b-pellet

Speaking of predators, check out the orange rodent teeth among all the bones in this owl pellet.

b-bog 2

On this robin’s egg kind of day

b-pleasant mtn

with Pleasant Mountain sandwiched between layers of blue,

b-field 1

the breeze brisk at times and the sun warm always,

b-water over road on way back

the flow of water didn’t stop us.

b-wet feet

Waterproof boots and wool socks–the perfect combination to avoid wet feet. Well, maybe a wee bit damp, but five hours later and I just took my socks off.

 

Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Every weekend in Maine should be named the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. Especially when the weather cooperates.

morning fog 1

This morning’s fog didn’t daunt the crowd of 20+ that gathered for the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust’s paddle to celebrate being outdoors in Maine.

morning fog 2

When we arrived at the boat launch on Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg, we could barely see the trees that line the access route to the Saco River.

fog lifting2

Ever so slowly, the sun burned through.

fog lifting 2

It was a tad bit chilly–think 29˚.

from the beach

But the sun felt heavenly.

baby garter

I think this guy felt the same. We were about to shove off when a member of the group found this baby garter snake in his canoe. I let it go on the shore and it quickly slithered away.

Lovewell Pond

By the time we paddled onto the pond, the mountains were in full view, bookmarked by Kearsarge and Washington on the left and the Baldfaces on the right.

heading to the access channel

The water was shallow on the access route so twice we got out and walked. As you would expect, the water was warmer than the air, though the air temp continued to rise.

immature bald

A few fun finds along the way included four bald eagles. This was one of three immatures that we spotted. Our bird count included a great blue heron, cormorant, ravens, blue jays and cat birds.

network of roots

We were in the silver maple floodplain where these magnificent trees hang low over the river. Their network of roots are equally beautiful.

peeking into brownfield bog

For the better part of our trip, the river bisects Brownfield Bog (Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area), so we decided to jump ship, climb up the muddy bank and take a peek. Even the poison ivy didn’t deter us.

royal fern

A common herbal feature of a silver maple floodplain community is royal fern. At the point where we stood to admire the bog, the fern grew abundantly in front of us. Its spore stalks are now dried up.

royal fern 2royal fern 3

In early June, they would have stood tall, looking like the royal crown for which this fern was named.

touch of color

It is fall. The days are obviously getting shorter and we are just beginning to experience cool nights when the temperature is below 45˚. Any sugar made in the leaves during the day can no longer move to the trees. When the sugar becomes trapped in the leaves, the red pigment called anthocyanin forms and the green pigment (chlorophyll) disappears. The leaves are beginning to turn along the river, but this one was especially colorful.

Fall splendor on the Saco River. Another Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.

Rain Drops and Mondates Always Make Me Glad (and humble)

My guy and I ventured off to the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area in Brownfield today. Cooler temps and plenty of sunshine marked the early morning hours.

BBog sign

Covering almost 6,000 acres, this area was formerly known as the Brownfield Bog, but was renamed to honor Major Sanborn, a beloved Maine Warden, who lost his battle with cancer several years ago.

Bbog1

This is a place we return to often, but I have to admit that my sense of place was thrown off within the past week.

Saco River

We came to explore the Saco River. So this is where our pride takes a ribbing. We’ve walked to the river on most of our visits, but we never realized that this was the actual river. Huh? Yup, it’s true. In our brains, this was either the Shepard River or an old course of the Saco. Maybe it’s because when we’ve stood beside its bank, we’ve never seen anyone paddling along. Maybe it’s because until yesterday we never looked at the map. We never bothered to locate our place–just assumed we knew where we were. Another life lesson. Just a week ago, we were the merry paddlers, cruising along at tandem kayak speed, passing through the bog from Lovewell Pond to maybe a  half mile north of the Brownfield Bridge (maybe less). Maybe it’s because we were such swift paddlers that we were clueless. Anyway, now we know: The Saco River bisects the bog.

SR exploration

Exploring the floodplain became our focus as we followed the river.

river erosion

Each year, the river consumes more land, making me wonder what it was like when Brownfield was founded in 1802.

sensitive fern, chest height

We walked down a mowed path, where the sensitive fern grows chest high on either side.

royal fern

And the royal ferns are equally large and plentiful.

glen

Saco River 3

We explored in a different direction, perhaps trespassing on private land. (Oops, did that chain between the posts really mean “keep out”?)

elm 2

We recognized an elm growing over the river that we’d spotted while kayaking last week and knew that we’d established our sense of place.

SR 2

And then we turned from the river, retraced our steps and continued on to explore more of the bog via foot.

wild raisins 1

Wild raisins are abundant.

wild raisins

Eventually, the fruits will all turn blueish black and if the birds don’t eat them, they’ll shrivel up–like raisins.

common winterberry

The showy red fruits of common winterberry also dot the landscape. The curious thing about this plant–though this is a member of the holly family, the leaves are not sharply toothed like other hollies, nor are they evergreen.

milkweed dispersal

Milkweed is ready to fly away and find a new home.

green darner dragonfly

Speaking of flying, if I hadn’t seen this green darner fly into the foliage, I never would have discovered it.

Meadowhawk dragonfly

Meadowhawk dragonflies were much easier to spot, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.

BBog 5

Openings in the shrubs and trees provide frequent views,

Pleasant Mtn 4

including the backside of Pleasant Mountain.

white oak bark

The community changed a wee bit, and suddenly we were under white oaks with their flaky-surfaced, rectangular, block-like bark.

northern red oak bark

Beside them grow the Northern red oaks, with their flat-topped ridges outlined by the rusty red inner bark.

big tooth aspen bark

The horizontal/vertical line design of big-toothed aspen also made its presence known.

big tooth aspen leaf

And on the ground, a big-toothed leaf provides a hint of what is to come.

red maple leaves changing

A few red maples are beginning to announce the changing season as well.

Bbog 2

When we reached our turn-around point, we were feeling a bit hot and sticky. We’d shed our sweatshirts and were thankful for a slight breeze.

fragrant water lily

I admired a few fragrant water lilies still in flower, while my guy followed the action of a northern harrier through the binoculars.

storm leaves

And then the wind really picked up. I looked at the trees and could see the backs of the leaves–my mother had long ago told me that that was a sure sign of rain to come.

storm cloud

We looked up and had an Eeyore moment.

boots

I was wearing my boots, but no raincoat.

raindrops 1

It rained. It poured. It felt good.

raindrops 2

And then it was only a memory–and a pleasant one at that.

rain: Pleasant Mtn

We watched it move across the southwest end of Pleasant Mountain as we headed back.

lb andbee

When we arrived home, the air was a bit cooler. I stepped outside to check out the insect activity in the yard and through the camera lens I realized something was photobombing the bee.

lb7

Two somethings in fact–a pair of locust borers apparently shared their own Mondate. The only locust tree in the neighborhood is down the street, but I suspect that momma will be laying some eggs in the bark at dusk tonight.

It looks like rain once again, but we’re glad for the opportunity to explore together on another Mondate–and gain a better understanding of our greater neighborhood, our sense of place. So much for pride. Life is a humbling experience.