Overset Point of View

Winter hiking is our favorite, but what to wear on our feet is always a question. Today, we chose our hiking boots over winter boots and micro-spikes rather than snowshoes. 

We trusted L.L. Bean would have approved, especially given that we would be hiking in his hometown of Greenwood, Maine. We were, after all, wearing hiking boots purchased in his flagship store and various other products featuring his name. Don’t tell him that while our snowshoes, which remained in the truck came from his place, we’d purchased our micro-spikes at EMS. 

Before turning onto Willis Mills Road and heading toward the trailhead parking area, we first past by a cemetery of sorts, where old trucks and various truck-related equipment have gone to rest. 

And then, in a matter of minutes we were on the trail and our focus changed to all things natural, including weasel tracks. Notice the diagonal orientation in the pattern. 

It made perfect sense to see weasel prints because we were near the Sanborn River and though I didn’t take the time to measure them, but the size of the straddle I assumed mink. 

For over a mile we walked beside the river and loved the sights and sounds it offered, and especially the splash-created icicles. 

When we weren’t focused on the river, we noted its neighbors including snowshoe hare prints that were rather fresh. Some will remember that I refer to them as snow lobsters, for quite often the impression of the four feet (front two being their hind feet which swung around and landed parallel; back two on an angle being the front feet) looks rather like the large marine crustaceans visitors often equate with Maine. 

With David Brown’s Trackards as a reference, it was easy to imagine the hare’s motion. (Note: visit my book review linked to Trackards in the sentence above and you can locate David’s website. His books and ID cards are available for sale and he mentions that you can get a good deal just in time for Christmas.)

It wasn’t only tracks and ice that drew our attention. As we crossed from the river to the pond via a connector trail, we noted a huge burl that looked like two bear cubs holding fast to a paper birch.

Along the way there were also some examples of my favorite shrub, hobblebush. We always refer to their buds as being naked for they aren’t covered in waxy scales like most. And look at those leaf and bundle scars. Following them down the twig, its fun to note the changes in age from the fresh tan scars to the two below getting grayer and more wrinkled in age–much the way we do. 

As we continued on, the snow depth increased, but fortunately a family of four had passed through before us and created a trench. 

We knew we were close to the pond when we began to see canoes tucked among the trees and snowed in for the season. I’d say “for the winter,” but winter is still a month away. 

At last, Overset Pond stretched out before us. 

And Overset Mountain in the background became our next destination. 

But first, we had to walk the length of the pond as it narrowed, and then cross over a series of bog bridges below an old beaver dam. 

As I waited for my guy to get to the other side before I ventured forth, I noticed something on the dam that brought yet another smile to my face. 

But first, I had to get to the other side–which I surprised myself and did without hesitation. Prior to this crossing, we’d walked on at least ten other bog bridges, some easier to conquer than others. This was the longest and featured several different levels, but we were both successful in our attempts. 

And so I rewarded myself with another look at the dam–and the otter slide that crossed up to the pond. Do you see the otter’s prints? 

Feeling great about the crossing (because I’d been dreading it), we began the upward climb. Our spikes were a good choice because they gave us some traction on slippery leaves and rocks, but they did gather occasional clumps of snow. We got into the habit of banging them against any available rock to declump the frozen snow. As we moved upward, the snow depth deepened to about a foot. 

The family we’d passed on their way out had told us the mountain had been challenging, but they had neither snowshoes or micro-spikes and we could see where they’d slid frequently on rocks hiding below the snow. We moved with relative ease even as our heart rates increased and at last my guy looked down over his kingdom. Actually, it’s the kingdom of Mary McFadden and Larry Stifler. Through their generosity, many trails in the area are open to the public. And through the work of their employee, Bruce Barrett, those trails are well maintained.

Below . . . Overset Pond in the shape of a heart. What’s not to love. 

After a brief apple and water break, we began our descent on the loop trail. The trees growing beside and on the boulders reminded me of the truck graveyard . . . naturally. 

Our overall descent passed quickly. In no time at all, we came upon more canoes swamped with snow. 

At last the trail came to an end and we followed a snowmobile trail for at least a mile back to the truck–our six mile journey completed. 

We’d planned to enjoy a brew and burger at Norway Brewing Company after the hike and were thrilled with our choice. He sipped Life’s a Peach on the left–a new brew just released today and made with Maine peaches. My choice on the right–Left Turn. 

We played Rummy while we waited and then ate our burgers with gusto. We knew they’d serve as lunch and supper, a meal we’ve named lupper in the past. 

At the end of the day, we were beat (still are) but happy. Thought I’d hoped to see some wildlife other than the occasional squirrel, that wasn’t to be. But we saw plenty of tracks and I was especially pleased with those of the weasel, hare and otter. 

And, of course, the tree trucks!

The Overset Point of View–worth a wander. 

Long Speck-tacular

I suggested two hikes today to my guy and rather than choose one, he thought both sounded perfect. And so our journey began about noon as we ascended the 2.5 mile trail that twists and turns beside Mill Brook. Our destination: Long Mountain Ledges off Vernon Street in Albany, Maine, a property owned by Mary McFadden and Larry Stifler. Through their generosity, many trails in the area are open to the public. And through the work of their employee, Bruce Barrett, those trails are well maintained.

1-Long Mtn Trail

And well marked.

2-through the bog

At the start, a long series of boardwalks passes through a wettish area where so many ferns, and mosses, and wildflowers grow.

3-blue cohosh

Some, such as the Blue Cohosh, have matured to their fruiting stage–and their leaves hinted that another season is in the near offing.

4-red-belted polypore appearing to sweat

Once we began to climb, the natural community changed and so did the residents. One in particular reminded me that I have yet to understand its behavior. Why does the Red-belted Polypore weep, I wondered. It’s not a case of morning dew for nothing else appeared to have droplets of water. In searching for an answer, I learned a new word: gut·ta·tion–/ɡəˈtāSHən/, noun: the secretion of droplets of water from the pores of plants. On gardeningknowhow.com, I found this explanation: “The plant doesn’t always need the same amount of moisture. At night, when temperatures are cool or when the air is humid, less moisture evaporates from the leaves. However, the same amount of moisture is still drawn up from the roots. The pressure of this new moisture pushes out the moisture that is already in the leaves, resulting in those little beads of water.” If this is correct, I’m assuming the same is true for fungi.

5-pancake fungi

There were plenty of other mushrooms to see, including the pancake fungi my guy pointed out. He’s such a mushroom guru (NOT) that I instantly believed his identification. After all, they were plate-size and did resemble pancakes. All they needed were some blueberries, butter, and maple syrup.

6-Long Mountain Trail Ledges

Because the trail was so well created, it hardly felt like a climb and in just over an hour we had reached the ledges where the view included Round Mountain to the immediate left, also owned by the Stiflers, and the Whites in western Maine and eastern New Hampshire beyond. Suffice it to say, this was lunch rock.

7-crown-tipped coral

We descended via the same trail and I love doing that because there’s always something different to see. Today, it was a purple coral fungi. Did it begin life as a different color and the purple was a sign of maturity, I wondered. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I couldn’t recall ever seeing that color before and it seemed rather royal.

8-hobblebush berries

There were also hobblebushes to admire, they’re green leaves and red berries adding a bit of Christmas joy to the scene. OK, so I’m rushing seasons, but I am a winter gal.

9-heading out

Five miles and 2.5 miles later, we walked back across the board walk, hopped into the truck, and drove south.

10-Speck Ponds Trail

For all of ten minutes, for our next destination was another property owned by the Stiflers. This time, we followed Hunts Corner Road to Hutchinson Pond Road and looked for the trailhead to the Speck Ponds Trail. If you go, know this, drive until you think you are almost there, and then drive some more. It’s located on the right, along the dirt portion of the road, just after the mailbox tucked into a canoe! Huh? You’ll have to take a look for yourself to understand what I mean.

11-the chair

I’d heard that some trail improvements had been made since I’d last ventured there. Indeed, they had, including new red trail blazes and an Adirondack chair by the trail map. The significance of the chair, however, wouldn’t be revealed to us until we finished. Onward we journeyed.

12-Crossing the line

And crossed from Albany to Norway, Maine, via the woodland trail.

13-home of many beaver homes

First, we circled halfway around Upper Speck Pond, noting signs everywhere that beavers had lived there in the past.

14-if this canoe could talk

And an old canoe that had its own stories of yore to tell. Somewhere, a family or group of friends know the history of this sunken artifact.

15-beaver dam on Lower Speck Pond

About halfway around, and really, directly behind the sunken canoe, another trail connects to the Lower Speck Loop. We followed it and eventually came to more beaver sign, including a dam with some new wood atop.

15a-beaverworks

Downed trees with freshly chopped chips also graced the area.

15b-beaver lodge

And another lodge. I lost count of how many we saw today, but suspected the one on Lower Speck was active.

16-Lower Speck Pond

We moved quickly as we circled round both ponds for my guy had visions of tonight’s pizza dinner on his mind. And maybe a Red Sox game that he was missing as well.

17-comorant

Despite our speed, we did pause to admire one of the pond residents–a cormorant.

A total of nine miles later, we’d climbed and circled and oohed and aahed and wondered along the way. Oh, and that chair, we considered sitting in it for we were hot and tired by the time we finished, but had we done so, we’d still be there–snoring away!

A Long Mountain-Speck Ponds Spectacular.