Shell Pond Speed Date

While our thoughts were (and are) with our family and friends south of us along the Eastern Seaboard as you deal with a major winter storm, my guy and I drove over to Evans Notch for a hike around Shell Pond.

SP-September

Whether you’ve traveled this way before or not–a summer photo might be just the dose you need today.

road 1

We parked near the trailhead for the Leach Link Trail because Stone House Road is never plowed beyond that point. Others had skied, walked and snowmobiled before us, but no one seemed to be snowshoeing so we left ours behind. As it turns out, that decision was fine. We dug some post holes in a few drifts, but other than that, we really didn’t need them. I did, however, use micro-spikes–and am glad because it’s a rather wet trail and we encountered lots of ice, much of it just a few inches below the snow.

Stone House gate

Thanks to the owners of the Stone House for putting much of the land under conservation easement with the Greater Lovell Land Trust and for allowing all of us to travel the trails–whether around the pond or up Blueberry Mountain and beyond.

Shell pond loop sign

Before the airfield, we turned onto the Shell Pond Loop trail. It’s blazed in yellow and easy to follow. Some trees have come down, but we got over or around them. We took care of a few today and the rest will be cleared by summer.

beaver works

Of course, some trees were intentionally harvested. We found these beaver works near the beginning of the trail where the brook opens into a small wetland.

beaver lodge 2

beaver lodge 1

On top of the lodge, you might be able to see the lighter color of fresh additions to the structure. This was the first of three.

beaver lodge 3

Lodge number 2 is toward the far side of the pond.

beaver view

But it’s lodge number 3 that I’d stay at. It’s worth a payment of a few extra saplings to get a room with that view.

pileated work

The beavers aren’t the only one making changes in the landscape. Pileated woodpeckers in search of food do some amazingly shaggy work on old snags.

trail debris

Winter debris covers much of the trail. Strong winds have brought much of this down.

yellow and hem yellow birch & hemlock

And two of the most prominent trees make themselves known among the debris. A hemlock samara beside a yellow birch fleur de lis and a hemlock needle atop a more complete fleur de lis flower of the birch.

Shell Pond 1

Shell Pond takes on an entirely different look in the winter. We could hear the ice whales singing as we ate our PB&J sandwiches and sipped hot cocoa.

mink

mink tracks 1

While we ate, we noticed a mink had bounded through previously. I’m always thankful to have David Brown’s Trackards in my pack.

cliffs 2

cliff flow

Continuing on the trail found us taking in views of the cliffs, which we don’t normally see so well once the trees leaf out.

ostrich 3 ostrich 4 ostrich fern 1

Before continuing through the orchard, I wandered closer to the brook in search of this–the fertile fronds of the ostrich fern that give it its common name because they resemble plume-like ostrich feathers. Come spring they’ll release their spores.

 airfield 2

The sun tried to poke out as we crossed the wind-blown airfield.

stone house 2

From the field, we always admire the Stone House and its setting below Blueberry Mountain.

 snowshoe 2

Walking back on the road, we spotted a classic snowshoe hare print. Most of the tracks we saw were filled in by blowing snow, but these were textbook perfect.

pole 4

And then . . .

pole attack

And then . . .

pole numbers

And then . . .

bear hair 1

And then . . .
bear hair

And then . . . on our way back down the road, I introduced my guy to the wonders of telephone poles. We found several sporting chew marks, scratches and hair. Yup . . . bear hair. Black bear. Even the shiny numbers were destroyed on one of the poles. Of course, my guy was sure someone would come along and ask what we were doing as we inspected one pole after another. I was hoping someone would come along and ask what we were doing. Bear poles. Another thing to look for as you drive down the road–think tree bark eyes, winter weed eyes and now, bear pole eyes.

bear paw

I took this photo on the Shell Pond Loop trail a year and a half ago. Oh my.

Those of you who have traveled this way with me before will be amazed to know that we finished today’s trek in just over three hours, even with the added walk down Stone House Road. Yup, not an advertised three hour tour that turns into six. Hmmm . . . Apparently it can be done–I just need to get Mr. Destinationitis to join our treks for a Shell Pond Speed Date.

Rejoicing for Jinny Mae

When my friend Jinny Mae received an ominous diagnosis in June, she faced it with admirable spirit and courage. All who know her watched in awe as she  underwent treatment and slowly made her way back into our midst. Despite everything, she continued to spend as much time in nature as possible, whether observing from her chair by the window, walking her dogs or eventually joining friends for tramps. And today–she received fabulous news that I learned about as I was about to hike up Bald Pate Mountain in South Bridgton. She is in remission. INDEED!

So as I did when I first learned of her diagnosis, I took her along with me in spirit on today’s hike. I would have asked her to join me for a celebratory tramp, but it was late in the day. We’ll have plenty of opportunities.

I was on a reconnaissance expedition because I’m leading a hike for Loon Echo Land Trust next weekend. Having Jinny Mae along meant I noticed some things I may have walked by previously. In the end, I discovered a mixture of my favorites and hers.

beech slash

Because there is a beech forest at the base of the mountain, and it’s located adjacent to an orchard, I’m determined to find bear activity. Is this the work of a bear that gave the tree a side-ways slap?

beech slash 2

I don’t think so. More likely, the younger trees beside it waved in the breeze enough to create slight scars that have grown with the bark.

porcupine scat

I poked around under a large hemlock, and noticed what I thought was old deer scat. But then I realized that some of it was a wee bit longer and had the curved shape characteristic of porcupines. As I continued to look, I saw that many small twigs had nipped off ends cut at an angle–porcupine it was.

funnel weaver web

For a while, hemlocks became my focus as I checked under each for signs of activity. On the backside of one, I found this funnel weaver web–standing strong against the elements. It reminded me of someone else.

hemlock varnish shelf

That someone would certainly have stopped by this old hemlock stump to admire these varnish shelf fungi–it wouldn’t matter to her that they are withered and old. There’s beauty in age.

pileated log

Every once in a while I felt the nudge to go off the trail and explore–when J.M. keeps track of our tramps on her GPS, the line always zigzags. This rotting log caught my attention. Bear or fisher activity?

pileated scat

No hair or obvious scratch marks from claws, but some scat–pileated woodpecker scat. I left it there in hopes I can show it to people on the hike and let them see that it’s filled with carpenter ant bodies.

ledge

Behind the log was this ledge. A quick look at it and I knew that a certain someone would want to inspect it.

ledge 2

It’s almost completely covered in smooth rock tripe. Sorta looks delicious enough to eat–if you boil it for days on end maybe. Apparently it can be used to thicken stew. Too bad I made stew the other day.

polypody & tripe

And growing among the tripe–a few polypody ferns, who also appreciate a moist, rock surface. Thanks J.M. for encouraging me to take a closer look.

Many-fruited pelt

While I’m on the topic of lichens, here’s one that was new to me. The rust-colored projections among the shiny brown lobes made me squat for a photo call. At home, I thumbed through my go-to lichen book, Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski, and discovered that this foliose lichen is Many-fruited Pelt. Those reddish-brown projections are the fruiting bodies on the leafy margins–thus the name. One for us to learn, J.M. We’ll probably see it everywhere now as it grows on soil, moss or rocks.

common toadskin lichen

And because we like to learn, here’s another–Common Toadstool Lichen. That should be easy enough to remember, given its warty appearance.

Peabody Pond

At the summit, I paused briefly to take in the views of Peabody Pond and

Pleasant Mtn

Pleasant Mountain. It was getting late and I still wanted to hike to the Foster Pond Outlook via the Bob Chase Scenic Loop.

bob1

And then, just as I stepped back onto the trail, I saw this print in the mud and a couple in front of it. My heart sang.

bobcat 2

I was in bobcat territory. My favorite place to be. I only hope I have such luck next weekend and that I can pull out my David Brown Trackards to show the difference between bobcat and coyote prints.

bobcat in sandbob 4

The substrate changed a few times, but we traveled the same route.

coyote print

I also found coyote prints. My hope was that since I was hiking so late in the afternoon, I might actually see one or both of these mammals, but that was asking too much. Finding evidence that they’re here is enough.

Foster Pond

One last view–the Foster Pond Overlook. And then I followed the trail back to the parking lot, thankful to have Jinny Mae along with me in spirit as I rejoiced in her glad news. I’m looking forward to many more opportunities to wander and wonder with her.