Bear to Beer Possibilities: Brownfield’s Burnt Meadow Mountain

It’s been a while since my guy and I have ventured on a Bear to Beer Possibility hike, but today dawned bright and even a wee bit chilly. A perfect August day. A perfect hiking day.

As he dipped his hand into the little box filled with potential, Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield surfaced.

And so it was that we decided to hike up and down the Twin Brooks Trail rather than doing the loop to the North Peak. Though a bit longer, it proved to be a good choice as we came upon a couple of bear trees we hadn’t met previously. The first was the best for so many claw marks did it feature.

Even from the back side there was proof that not only was this our favorite bear tree, but it was also some bear’s favorite.

A little further on we found another we hadn’t met before. Or . . . perhaps we were meeting it for the first time all over again. That happens to us sometimes and, after all, we were approaching from a different angle than is our norm.

There were other things to slow us down, like the occasional Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly, especially in an area where the trail had been rerouted a few years ago during a logging operation and most of the growth is early successional.

And a Bald-faced Hornet nest that was quite active. “How does your nest grow?” I asked the lady of the house. “With chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva,” she responded. The result was an impressive condominium a few feet off the trail.

Continuing on, there was a cave that deserved a visit so my guy peeked in. Fortunately, no one peeked out.

And then . . . another bear tree, though not nearly as impressive as those we spotted previously.

Onward and upward we climbed. Thankfully, we didn’t have to partake of the heart-throbbing scramble of the North Peak Trail that sometimes gives me pause, but we still had some scrambling to do on the trail of today’s choice.

It was worth it, for we paused at one point and turned to take in the view of Mount Washington.

At last we reached the flat top of Burnt Meadow Mountain. It always amazes us that with all the boulders and ledges we encounter on the way up, the summit is rather like a mesa.

Lunch rock found us taking in the view to the east. The Atlantic Ocean is somewhere beyond the sea of trees.

And though there were still plenty of berries at the top, we never met an interested bear. (Almost 20 years ago, we did when hiking there with our sons.) Nor was my guy interested in what I typically call his blue gold.

Instead, he chose to nap.

As for me, well, you can guess what I was doing before we descended. This tiny dragonfly is a female Eastern Amberwing and this was our first meeting. I first met her male counterpart last month in NYC’s Central Park.

She wasn’t a bear, but in my book, she was the next best thing.

And the Backburner Restaurant in Brownfield wasn’t open when we passed by on our way home, so . . . our bear to beer possibility this time included bear trees but not beer. Even so, it was a great hike.

Love/Hate Sundate

Some days are made for hikes and today was one of them. The temperature was right–in the upper 40˚s-low 50˚s. No sun. And no bugs.

So, after church, my guy and I drove to the trailhead for Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield, Maine. At the signs indicating the trail splits in two–North Peak to our right, Twin Brook to the left, we knew we planned on covering the loop, but my guy stopped and asked which way I wanted to ascend the mountain.

Nose scrunched, I replied, “North Peak.”

He chuckled for he knows my love/hate relationship with this mountain.

b-red oak leaves

Today my love began with the new leaves, like that of the red oak,

b-red maple1

red maple,

b-striped maple

striped maple,

b-beech leaves 1

and beech. I worshiped them all for their subtle colors and textures. Spring is the time of year that reminds us to live in the moment, for the natural world demonstrates constant change.

b-trailing arbutus

And then there were the flowers, like the trailing arbutus, aka mayflower.

b-Canada mayflower

And another of a similar name, Canada mayflower.

b-shad 1

In the shrub layer, occasionally we came upon the beauty of serviceberry or shadbush flowers flowing in the breeze, exhibiting their own take on these fleeting moments.

b-early saxifrage

And cleaving to the rocks as we climbed, early saxifrage. It’s also known as rockbreaker for this habit, and perhaps suggested the Latin name–Saxifraga virginiensis. Saxum-rock and frangere-to break. A funny name for an uncommon display.

b-summit ahead

I did my best admiring my surroundings for I knew what awaited. My guy paused as the summit came into sight,  expecting me to comment. For once, I kept quiet.

b-summit climb

And then, when the time arrived, we both channeled our inner mountain goat and sought hand holds and foot holds as we scrambled up the nasty dash to the top. Ha ha. It’s difficult to scramble when your heart pounds while your body quivers. This is the section I most hate–and as I always told our sons when they were youngsters, hate is a strong word. I knew I could do this for I’ve done it many times before, so I tried not to take too long as I considered my next move. Plus, rain drops began to fall and I didn’t want to be stuck contemplating on slippery granite. But still.

b-lunch rock

Finally–success. We’d reached the flattened top of the mountain–such a welcome relief after that horrible section. You’d think it was miles long the way I carry on about it. The rain drops ceased and we sat on lunch rock to dine–dirty hands and knees our badges of honor.

b-summit 1

Our view from the rock–looking back toward our point of ascension.

b-summit 2

And forward toward Stone Mountain. After lunch, our plan was to follow the Twin Brooks Trail that passes through the saddle between Burnt Meadow and Stone.

b-summit 3

And to our right–looking toward the White Mountains.

b-summit trees:layers

Though the view is almost 350˚, our immediate view behind lunch rock offered layers of life–blueberries, a young paper birch and a white pine.

b-twin brooks trail down

At last we started down. The Twin Brooks Trail is longer, but less of a struggle. That being said, it’s not a walk in the park as there are constant roots and rocks seeking attention.

b-mt washington1

But occasionally there are views. I was afraid we might not see Mount Washington today, but it didn’t disappoint.

b-birch catkin1

On the way down, we were in the land of the birch, their catkins growing long . . .

b-birch catkin pollen

and exploding with life-giving pollen.

b-viola

There were violas to admire.

b-shad 2

And more shadbush.

b-bear claws 1

But one of my other favorite things about this trail is the bear claw trees. No matter how many times I see them, they still bring a smile to my heart–and face. And a memory of seeing a bear on the North Peak trail one summer–it sauntered past us, not seeming to care that we were there. I suspect its belly was stuffed with blueberries.

b-twin brook 1

As we continued to descend, we soon heard the sound of one of the brooks for which the trail is named. Quite often on this trail, the water barely trickles, but today it rushed over the moss-covered rocks.

b-logging

Continuing on, we remembered that two hikers we meet at the start said there had been some logging and sometimes it was difficult to follow the trail. At last, my guy found the area they’d referenced. The trails are on private land and so while we couldn’t find some familiar landmarks, we nevertheless were thankful that we were still able to hike there. And, we were mindful to look for the yellow blazes as we stepped over some slash. It was quite doable.

b-bear tree 2:eye level

The result–a bear tree we hadn’t seen before was revealed.

b-bear tree 2:looking up

It must have offered plenty to eat in the past for the tree was well climbed all the way to its crown. Maybe we’d once met the very bear.  Maybe not. Who knows. But it’s worth a wonder.

b-bear of a different sort

A bear of another kind also left behind a sign of its presence. We obviously weren’t the only ones who headed to the mountain for a date.

b-bear tree 3

In one last spot a short way from finishing the loop, we found our last bear tree–again seen because of the logging. I suspect there are many more in these woods and hope they don’t all get cut.

Emerging leaves. Spring flowers. Jagged outcropping. Flowing water. Bear trees.

Really, it was a love/hate/love Sundate–joyfully spent with my guy.

 

 

 

From Bare to Bear on Burnt Meadow Mountain

Back in October 1947, catastrophic wildfires erupted throughout Maine during what became known as “The Week Maine Burned.”

It hadn’t rained for 108 days and the dry woods were like tinder. Here in western Maine, Fryeburg, Brownfield and Denmark thought they had a fire under control, but overnight a strong wind blew and gave it new life. About 2,000 acres burned by the next night as the fire spread to the edge of Brownfield.

With the winds continuously shifting, town folks began to panic. Farmers either turned their livestock loose or herded them to neighboring towns. Others packed as many belongings as they could and evacuated.

By morning, most homes and public buildings in Brownfield were mere piles of ash. Stately places including the Farnsworth Place where Dr. Philo Farnsworth, a pioneer in the field of television, spent his summers, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange hall, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed, including a mountain trail.

Today, Marita and I ventured to Burnt Meadow Mountain for a loop hike. It used to be that one had to hike up and back on the same trail, now known as the North Peak. Though that’s the shortest way up and back (about an hour each way), I for one, am thankful to the Friends of Burnt Meadow Mountain, who sought landowner permission to create a loop and spur–Twin Brook Trail and Stone Mountain Trail.

trail sign

From the parking lot and kiosk, it’s a bit of a climb to reach the trail split. We followed the blue blazes of the North Peak trail, which though it is shorter, is also the more difficult of the two.

white pine 1

Immediately we noticed that the white oaks that grow at the bottom of the mountain play host to numerous leaf miners and other insects.

white oak gall

Some are decorated with pronounced galls. I always think about how a bud protects the whisp of a leaf all winter long, and how hairy it is as it slowly unfolds and then–kaboom–the insects have to survive too. And they do. Until something eats them. And their energy passes up through the web, where it’s enhanced at each level by sun and air and rain and . . . even when life doesn’t look so good, it is.

Blueberries

As we climbed, the blueberries became more prolific. And bluer.

spreading dogbane

Spreading dogbane showed forth its tiny pink bells.

ph rocky ascent (1)

And the trail became a scramble. If I said we scampered up the ledge quickly, I’d be telling a fib. (Do people still tell fibs?) Near the summit is a section of hand-over-hand climbing. It doesn’t really last long, but in the moment it seems like forever.

ph view on way 2 (1)

And so it invites a pause to take in the view to the south and east.

ph summit view 5 (1)

The relatively flat summit is rather barren–in memory of those 1947 wildfires.

ph summit view3 (1)

We were glad it was cloudy as there are no shade trees at the top.

ph summit view 2 (1)

Our view included Stone Mountain and the saddle between it and Burnt Meadow Mtn.

ph red pine 3 (1)

Normally in the landscape, red pines stand tall and proud. At the summit, however, their scrubby form presents their features at eye level–bundles of two needles, pollen cones and older seed cones. Young red pines typically germinate and grow only after forest fires or some other event that causes tree loss.

Eastern Towhee 2

Eastern Towhee

While we took a break, an Eastern Towhee sang its metallic yet musical “drink your tea” song.

ph view on way down 4 (1)

Descending via the much longer, but a wee bit easier Twin Brook trail, we were treated to mountain views to the west.

driftwood

And driftwood. Oops. Wrong setting. But still, mountain wood can be as beautiful as ocean wood.

ph bear 5

One of our pleasant surprises was the discovery of bear claw marks on rather small beech trees. Perhaps made by even smaller bear cubs who scampered up and down a year or two ago, leaving their marks much the way we left our own today without knowing it.

ph bear 2

Further along, the hole in this older beech stopped Marita in her tracks. We noticed saw dust on the ground below. And numerous bear claw marks on the bark above.

bear 3

Another oft visited tree.

From bare to bear, Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield is worth the trek. (You probably thought we saw a bear today. No such luck, but my guys and I encountered a bear on the North Peak trail on a summer day years ago. It seemed content to lumber along about fifteen feet from us–probably full of blueberries.)

 

Work We Must Mondate

Today was a day made for some writing/editing work and yard work, but . . . my guy and I managed to squeeze in a hike–yesterday.

Last week, our friend, Dick B., excitedly shared with us a hiking location we’d never explored–Notch Mountain in Porter. He had recently walked the trail with the Denmark Mountain Hikers, a local group that ventures off each Friday.

So it was, we followed Dick’s directions and drove to Porter in search of the trailhead. An easy miss, but we spied the wood kiln he spoke of as we drove past it and turned around at the Hiram town line, knowing we’d gone too far. Backtracking, the trailhead was across from Clemons Point Road and the kiln.

.Notch sign

The sign–about twenty feet in from the road. Unassuming to say the least.

Notch trail wet

As we played dodge the water and looked at the slayed trees, we turned to each other and grimaced. What was Dick thinking?

Notch foundation 1

But we journeyed on and the muckiness abated. Then, this foundation practically jumped out at us.

Notch foundation 2

We weren’t sure exactly what we were looking at, but felt that this was a large house and there was either an attached barn or large shed, or the other structure was located quite close to the house.

Notch fdn bricks

Buried beneath the leaves, bricks indicated a chimney on an outside wall.

Notch tool shed?

We discovered what may have been a tool shed–a separate, three-sided room.

Notch farm remnantNotch plow 2

Indeed, we even found a few tools, including a plow, which became significant as we continued to explore along the trail.

Notch fdn feather:wedge

In the barn foundation, I like how one stone is wedged between the other two. It offers a reflection of how these rocks came to be in this place. The minerals, like quartz and feldspar, that are an essential part of granite’s make-up, interlock like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The end result: granite is one of the strongest and most durable rocks.

Using the plug and feather method practiced in the 19th century, small holes were hand drilled every six or seven inches across the stone. Two shims, called feathers, were placed in the hole and a wedge or plug was hammered between them. The farmer probably built this house in the winter when his farming duties weren’t as plentiful. And by drilling then, ice formed in the holes and helped to complete the work of splitting the granite. He and his family would have used a stone boat or sledge pulled by oxen to move the stones into place.

Notch mound of stones

A little further along, we came upon a massive wall of medium-size stones. This farmer must have cleared many, many acres, thus producing an incredible stone potato crop. And then moved them all so he could plow. My fingers twinge and my back hurts just thinking about all the work involved–makes our yard work look so easy.

Notch trail

On either side of the trail were stone walls, indicating this was more than a logging road at one point in time.

Notch big rocks

Throughout the woods, we found more piles of rocks, some with small stones and others, like this with medium-size stones. Rather than quilting bees, this family must have enjoyed stone bees–an exercise to remove as many stones from the ground as possible.

Notch wall:gnarly old maple

The stone wall frenzy is evidenced all along the trail. Sometimes double-wide garden walls, and other times single walls, also called farmer or pasture walls that were built as boundaries, and to keep animals from destroying crops.

Notch cemetery

Dick had mentioned the Wormwood cemetery, but we were still surprised when we happened upon it.

Notch grave 2

Charles B. Fly

b. Jun. 20, 1828; d. Oct. 27, 1860

Notch grave 1

Mehitable Wormwood

b. Oct. 16, 1825; d. Nov. 27, 1851

Notch, stone 4

Lydia Jane Osgood Wormwood

b. 1826; d. Dec. 27, 1851

Notch, stone 3

Rosanna Warren Wormwood, 2nd wife of Ithamar Wormwood

b. Oct., 1791; d. Feb. 28, 1856

Notch, 2 stones

Hannah and Ithamar Wormwood (b. May 29, 1791; d. Jul. 16, 1865). Two-year-old Jason Fly was also buried here.

Apparently the Flys were related to the Wormwoods, which makes sense. I suspect that there are other foundations to be discovered, but I was with my guy–Mr. Destinationitis, and so we continued toward the summit.

Notch glacier

As we climbed, we noticed glacial striations on rocks (aka snowmobile etchings),

Notch, beech contortionist

beech trees that think they are contortionists,

Notch oaks

and a mix of white and Northern red oak leaves.

Notch summit 1

Then the summit came into view.

Notch stop sign

Thank goodness for the faded stop sign

Notch summit fairy

and the fairy who watches over all who step too close to the edge.

Notch view

As the rain clouds gathered, we ate our PB&J sandwiches, this time topped off with Halloween candy and views of Clemons and Little Clemons ponds.

Notch, burnt meadow and pleasant

Burnt Meadow Mountain and Pleasant Mountain formed the backdrop.

We hiked down among rain drops, but the sun shone once we arrived home.

mansion, hunter and hunted

I was restless and didn’t want to deal with yard work, so I went for a walk and came upon evidence of the hunter and the hunted.

Today, while our work continued, I had the opportunity to escape to Pondicherry Park for a stewardship committee meeting–now that’s my idea of a great meeting place.

snowman

On my way, this guy reminded me that the next season is right around the corner (literally).

Pondicherry Reflection

And in the park–still plenty of color to reflect upon.

We know we have to work, whether to earn a living or maintain a home, but we do love our opportunities to explore new and old places. Thanks for sharing this one with us, Dick. It warrants further exploration to wander and wonder.

Ten Fun Finds in the Last 24 Hours

jw2

  1. Orange jewelweed, aka Spotted Touch-Me-Not. I found these lining the path during a quick walk through Pondicherry Park yesterday afternoon. The flower will form a capsule that bursts open and flings seeds when touched.

jewelweed 1

One of the cool things about jewelweed’s structure is its spurred sac that extends backwards.

jw3 on the wall

Though it likes the moist woodland paths in the park, I also found it in bloom atop a stonewall.

turtlehead

2. I’d never seen turtlehead until I moved to Maine. As a kid, I collected turtles–think stuffed, ceramic, wooden, glass. A neighbor even gave me a shell, which I still have. So, when we moved into our old farmhouse, I was excited to discover pink turtlehead growing in the garden. And on several occasions this past week, including yesterday’s walk in the park, white turtlehead was in bloom. It’s so named for the two-lipped appearance, with the upper lip arching downward and strongly suggesting a turtle’s head.

equisetum

3. Woodland horsetail grows among the white pine saplings. It’s easy to confuse the two since they both have whorled branches, but the horsetail branches have a lacier appearance. Its “leaves” are reduced to a toothed sheath that surrounds the stem.

fogged inmorning dew

4. Morning fog on Moose Pond was almost the pea-soup variety until it began to burn off around 7:30 this morning. I was mesmerized by the patterns created by the moisture on the porch screens.

spider works

spider works 2

5. I was equally mesmerized by the spider works I found both on the porch and outside. Industrious architects are these. Mind you, I’m not a spider fan. I used to make family members destroy them. And I remember some mighty large and hairy ones that shared our flat in England back in ’79. That’s when I learned that the eensy weensy spider really does climb up the water spout. But, these webs are to be admired.

white oak leaves

6. As my guy and I climbed Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield today (after the fog burned off), I realized for the first time that white oaks grow there. It’s the little things that excite me and seeing those rounded leaves made my heart flutter. I’ve now noted that white oak grows beside red oak in Casco, Denmark and Brownfield. I’m connecting the dots that form its northern line.

trailsignalmost to the summitsummit 1mount washington

7. We followed the North Peak trail to the top. It’s always a joy (think: relief) to walk onto the large, flat summit after scrambling over the rocks to get there. Because we like a round trip, we descended via the Twin Brooks Trail, which offers some great mountain views, including Mount Washington.

summit grasshopper

8. Grasshoppers are abundant at the summit. They’re known to feed on blueberries, and the crop is quite abundant, especially just off the summit on the Twin Brook Trail.

oak gall

9. Oak Gall. I think this is an oak apple gall growing on the red oak, but I’ve never actually seen one on the tree before. Usually, I find the dried shell of such a gall on the ground. My other guess would be the acorn plum gall. If you know, please inform me.

bear claws 1bear claws 2bear claw 3

10. I was looking for these and we found them. 🙂 Yes, more bear claw marks. It only made sense. Lots of beech trees. Lots of blueberries. And . . . a few years ago, we encountered a bear on the North Peak trail.

tree roots

11. OK, so here’s my eleventh cool thing. Kinda like getting a baker’s dozen–11 for 10, such a deal. Anyway, I’m always fascinated by the manner of tree roots growing over and around each other and other things. Embracing. Supporting.  Layering. Call it what you want. The thing is, they find a way to grow together. Oh, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes it’s a smothering relationship. I’d like to think that these two trees, an oak and a birch, have intertwined in support of each other.

Thanks for joining me to take a look at the past 24 hours. I hope you had time to wonder as well.