Artful Eclipse Mondate

Because they are so gracious, when I recently begged Faith and Ben Hall for an opportunity to follow them on a trail through the Perley Mills Community Forest, they not only invited us to walk, but planned out an intinerary, pre-hiked the trail, made chicken noodle soup for lunch and took us for a boat ride. All of this before the great solar eclipse of 2017.

h-perley pond beaver dam?

After taking a tour of their neighborhood, Faith dropped Ben, my guy, and me off to begin our first bushwhack beside Perley Pond. In a few minutes, we came upon an earthen structure and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an old beaver dam.

h-perley pond

We were at the base of the pond and perhaps just as those who dammed it up for their mill sites, the beavers had their own intentions. Of course, I could be totally off and it could have been manmade, but such was the formation and growth above, that I’m sticking with my original thought.

h-sawdust pile

Moments later, we emerged into a clearing and grabbed handfuls of fine saw dust, letting it sift through our fingers as it slowly drifted back to the ground. Occasionally, on our tramps through the woods, we’ve encountered such mounds and have been amazed that they still exist with little vegetation.

h-mill site approach

The mound bespoke the reason for the mill up ahead. (Notice the stream beside–we crossed over it, two of us more successfully than the third, but fortunately for him, I didn’t take a photo. He preserved the rest of the hike with soaking wet pants, socks and boots, but never complained, such is my guy. Oops–don’t tell him I told.)

h1-mill site, looking down

Climbing up, we looked down. According to the “History of Perley Mills” by Arthur Rankin on the Denmark Historical Society’s website, the part of town known as Perley Mills was “1st settled by a family named Cliffords in the early 1800s. They built a road by Little Pond to connect with the stage road from Denmark to Ingalls Road and Cole Road in South Bridgton and to Biddeford. The Cole Family had apple trees. Mr. Cole was a fiddler and he used to play for the dances in Denmark and Sebago. Mr. Wallis Berry purchased the Cole farm. About 1807, Mr. Berry and Mr. Perley built a dam at the outlet of Pickerel Pond. They built a saw mill to saw staves and shingles. They made barrels. They employed many men.”

We weren’t sure exactly what we were looking at below, but pieces of the former structure remained intact in what looked like a sluiceway.

h-mill drill holes

The stone had been split using the feather and wedge technique.

h1-mill site looking back

As we looked back, I was once again reminded of the work that went in to creating the foundations of yore.

h-cranberries 2

Our bushwhack included a few other fun finds, such as a small patch growing in an unexpected place.

h-cranberries

The little green balls actually threw me off when we first looked at them.

h-cranberrries 3

But it was my guy and his well-trained naturalist eye that knew they were cranberries.

h-virginia meadow beauty 1

We also spied a clump of Virginia meadow-beauty with its delicate petals and prominent stamen. It’s also known as Handsome Harry, but I think Harriet would be more fitting.

h-survey mark

When we reached the Narrow Gauge Trail, Ben showed us the elevation maker that neither of us recalled seeing previously.

h-pickerel pond

We stood beside the pond for a few minutes, looking for frogs.

h-sharp-shined back

h-sharp-shined front

And realized we weren’t the only ones on the hunt.

h-gall of the earth

As our journey continued down the old rail bed, we all wondered about the work that went into building it. Years ago, we used to find railroad spikes, but the trail has been improved recently and that seems hardly possible any more. Instead, we found gall of the earth in flower,

h-raccoon prints

raccoon prints showing their opposite diagonal manner,

h-Faith's arrow

and either one large turkey print or a message in the sand. We knew it was the latter for Faith had preceded us and as we passed her she mentioned she’d left a note.

h-off the Narrow Gauge

It wasn’t long after Faith’s message, that Ben veered off the rail trail and took us up an old logging road.

h-following Ben

We followed him through thick and thin, the thickest being where the goldenrods bloomed and bees buzzed in former log landings.

h-approaching the stone cemetery

Along the way, he spoke of a stone cemetery. We both conjured up images of an old cemetery reflecting an earlier time. But . . . he meant a large pile of rocks that had been dumped by a previous owner who had logged the area.

h-walking the Narrow Gauge

Eventually, we met up with Faith again, then she drove to our next meeting point, while the three of us walked the Narrow Gauge in a direction my guy and I had never traveled.

h-beaver dam:infinity pool

It was there that we saw beaver works we were certain of, including a dam that created an infinity pool above.

h-swamp beside Narrow Gauge

Beside a swamp, we kept searching for moose, but never spied one.

h-thistles, Faith

At last our journey by foot came to an end . . . almost. Faith had a surprise waiting for us. And so she drove us back up their road and just past their house pulled off to the side on land owned by their oldest son. We’ve explored that property with them previously, but today she wanted to show me one of my favorite plants, which also happens to be hers.

h-thistles in all forms

Thistle . . . in all of its forms, it deserves reverence.

h-thistle 2

And so we revered.

h-Hayes True Value bucket

Back at their camp, our time together wasn’t over for we broke bread. And then they offered a quick boat ride. On the way to the dock, we knew we were in the right place, such did the signage on one bucket indicate.

h-Faith and Ben

Out onto the pond we went, thankful for a few more minutes with Ben and Faith. We cherish any time spent in their company before they head south again. And today, we were also excited to explore our local area and visit places we’ve never been to before. Thank you both for everything, from the hike to thistles to lunch and the boat ride and all the conversation in between.

h-squirrel and eclipse

Before we departed, we had one more stop to make–at Ben’s sand table, where he recreates the natural world with found rocks.

Today’s creation–a red squirrel devouring the seeds of a white pine cone as the moon covered the sun–an artful eclipse on this Mondate.

 

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.