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.


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.


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.



Reconnection Reflections

We didn’t mean to lose touch. And yet it happened. We got caught up in our family routine and put “old” (read established cuze none of us are old, certainly) friendships on hold.


But old friends are the best friends. And they are the ones you can suddenly catch up with after several years and talk and giggle and talk some more as if no time had passed. And convince at least one of them that perhaps she should slide into the hollow of a tree for a photo opp just like both of you would have done in high school.


And so the past three days we had the opportunity to play catch up. For me, the journey actually began on Thursday night, when I met my dear old friend Carissa for a girls’ night out. We began by reminiscing about days gone by, from high school antics to family adventures. On Friday morning, we braved the gale force winds and made new memories along the trails at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire, where autumn colors enhanced the experience.


It was at this point where Witch Creek flows into the Atlantic that Pannaway Plantation was established in 1623. The plantation was New Hampshire’s first settlement, colonized by English fishermen. Though I’m thankful they found this place because I love living in New England, I’m at odds with the invasion of white men. Couldn’t they have taken a different approach?


Interestingly, we weren’t the only invasive species. While the color of the Norway maple leaves attracted my eye, I soon realized that they represent one of many intrusive forms of non-natives that flourish here. Attempts are being made to rid the park of such. Hmmm.


We climbed along the rocky coast and embraced the view of the entrance to Little Harbor. Because of the location, the land eventually became a defense fortification.


As we wound our way along the trails, sometimes doubling back, we suddenly came upon Silent Greatness. Indeed. Certainly a bird bath. Certainly a moment of reflection–both in water and mind, an offering.


Then the footpath led us to Campbell Road, a standing tribute to those first “settlers.”


For us, it framed the day as leaves floated to the ground. Though our time together was a similar fleeting moment, we trusted that our friendship will continue to endure, much as this road has.


And then I met up with my guy and we continued on down a different road–making our way to Cape Cod for a family wedding. We spent the afternoon and evening catching up with cousins–reveling in the obvious love of the newlyweds and the renewed connections. The next morning we explored our surroundings, including the Sandwich Plank Walk.


We learned that a hurricane destroyed the boardwalk several times, most recently during the Blizzard of 2013.


The townspeople banned together and purchased new boards, many of which represent family names and messages of good tidings.


The Plank Walk’s 1,350-foot span crosses Mill Creek and marsh, leading to the town beach on Cape Cod Bay.


Beside one end of the boardwalk, a herring gull pondered the message below.


Apparently, the sign’s upside-down meaning:”Pause Here and Stretch a Wing.”


Crossing back over, I followed my guy–a familiar look, I know, but he is my favorite guy to follow.


On the Sandwich Beach, crashing waves and color reflected the day’s wind and sky.


From there, we drove to the Cape Cod Canal, where we stretched our legs for another hour or so.


As we walked along, the boat traffic was non-existent, but we still had plenty of opportunities for reflection–from short . . .


to longer . . .


to longest.


And most humorous. Think cormorant meets narrow balance beam.


This is a place where all of life convened–from rails to power to footpath to canal to bridge.




At last it was time to catch up with my college friend, Dianne, and her husband, Tom. We dined at Fishermen’s View on the canal–and a barge did me the pleasure of passing by. And again, we talked non-stop for a couple of hours as the years between visits melted away.


On the road again, we spent the late afternoon catching up with my childhood neighbor and school friend, Bill and Eileen. More memories were shared. And then we joined my guy’s uncle and family for dinner. Once more, constant story telling. Uncle Chuck gave us the use of a timeshare condo for the night. It was an unexpected opportunity that we were most thankful to be offered. We slept like babies and awoke to a gorgeous sunrise overlooking the Atlantic.


The sky swirled . . .


as the sun rose.


Sanderlings held a convention.


And entertained us as they skittered along beside the waves.


Occasionally, they took a dip, as is their custom.


But always they searched.


And considered.


A herring gull also paused . . .


considered . . .


and posed. Such a handsome specimen.


At last, our mini-vaca had come to an end, but we still had one more visit to make–we surprised my guy’s friend Dave and his family on our way home. It was a quick stop, though stories continued to flow along with promises for the future.

We were thankful for a weekend to reconnect with family and friends. For a chance to once again walk side by side as we reflected on the past and made new memories. Here’s hoping we won’t wait so long to meet again.