This two-destination day found a friend and me pausing for birds (frequently) before driving north. I should mention that she was enjoying watching the Sandhill Cranes in a cornfield before I arrived and scared them off. Such is my nature.
But our real plan was to climb to the Millard Chandler Feldspar Mine (aka North Star Mine) in Evans Notch.
Millard Chandler was a descendent of one of the founding families of Chatham, New Hampshire, where the mine is located. Originally, mica was mined from the pegmatites but prior to World War II, Whitehall Company, Inc, focused on feldspar.
Today, its man-carved chambers were enhanced by icy sculptures.
A view toward the top revealed that life on the rock somehow continued despite the cavern below.
And from there, the water flowed and froze and formed . . .
stalactites of sorts. Icicle sorts.
Fluid in nature, it was ever changing and we could hear the action of the water within providing a sustenance to its structure.
As we stood there, we honored how every little seepage created a massive outpouring.
And marveled at the displays that began as simple lines and developed into enormous works of art.
After admiring the possibilities within, we looked outward toward Blueberry and Speckled Mountains before descending.
It was upon the return to Route 113 that we spied examples of Black Knot Fungus that gave rise to a discussion about our last adventure to the area a month ago when we’d discovered an aphid poop-eating fungus. How did they differ? We’d have to return to the original discovery to figure that out and so to Notch View Farm we journeyed next.
After circling the Loop Trail and noting tons of apple-filled coyote scat plus coyote, bobcat, red fox, and turkey tracks, we followed the Moose Loop aptly named for the moose that journeyed that way frequently, but also featured coyote and fox tracks. At Moose Bog, we again met the aphid poop-eating fungus and so the comparison began. Black Knot encircles the twig, while the Poop-eating fungus doesn’t. And Black Knot features a beady construction, while the Poop-Eaters are much lacier in looks, rather like the wooly aphids who offer their poop for consumption. The Black is much firmer, and Poop-Eater much more crumbly when touched. Either is interesting and . . . both offer opportunities to wonder.
Despite all the tracks and scat we found along the trails, I was a bit amazed that we saw few insects. And then, moments later, not an insect, but an orbweaver spider crossed our path–quickly at first . . . until it posed.
After it scurried again, we watched as it tried to hide in the snow–and played peek-a-boo with us.
At last we approached the sugarbush, where Sugar Maples were tapped and sap flowed . . .
Droplets formed . . .
And perched . . .
then fell. Mind you, a close-up it may seem, but we kept our social distance as is the new norm.
And spent time watching Norwegian Fjord Kristoff blankety, blank, blank paw for food under the snow.
At last we headed south, but had each barely driven down the road a few hundred yards when a couple of birds called our attention. Turns out they were White-winged Crossbills and thanks to local birder Joe Scott’s response when I asked if they are uncommon in our area, “Some years we get them, some we don’t, depending on food sources up north in the boreal forest and food sources down here. This is about as far south as they come.” Joe added that while other birds are arriving, our sighting was a good one because these crossbills are leaving.
Many thanks to friend Pam Marshall for joining me today for a journey to the mine and farm where one drip at a time bookmarked our day. And for providing perspective.
The message arrived in the form of a text: “Meet me at North Fryeburg Fire Station at 10:30. I’ll drive.”
And so we did. Upon our meeting we realized we’d each left some gear home, but between us, much like we share a brain, we shared resources that would benefit us along the trail. The back of the Subaru packed with snowshoes and hiking packs, up the road we rode, one of us driving while the other two anticipated the near future.
Beside two Norwegian Fjord horses named Marta and Kristoff blankety, blank, blank, (cuze one of their owners couldn’t remember his full name), our driver did park.
Before us, a groomed trail presented itself–leading to infinity and beyond or so it seemed.
And within a mailbox, tucked into plastic sleeves, maps and track charts were available.
Rather than take either, we took photos of the map; and knew that we had a set of David Brown’s Trackards for our trail finds.
We were still by the road and farmhouse, when we noticed sap buckets tied to Sugar Maples and realized that the season had begun.
One of our good fortunes, and we had many as the day progressed, was to stumble upon Jim, the owner of the property who explained to us that the sap had only just started to flow and he had 200 trees tapped. Sap season can be fickle, but we hope the good fortune his land shared with us could be returned many times over in the form of gallons of syrupy sweetness.
Up the trail we finally tramped, stopping frequently to take in as many treasures as possible as we tried to gain a better understanding of the world that surrounded us.
One item that drew our attention was the thick twig and dome-shaped bud of an ash. Its corky leaf scar below the buds was filled with a smiley face of dots we knew as bundle scars–where sugar and water had flowed between last year’s leaf and twig/trunk.
By the shape of the leaf scar, its bud dipping into the cup and creating the form of a C, we knew its name: White Ash. Had it been a Green Ash, the bud would have sat directly atop the leaf scar, which would have looked like a D turned on its side.
I keep trying to come up with a mnemonic to remember these two species and may have just discovered such: C = cup = white cup of coffee; D = hmmmm? So much for that thought. Stick with C and if it doesn’t look like that, chances are it’s a D.
We paused beside many buds, examining them all for their idiosyncrasies, but equally prevalent on the trail were the tracks left behind by so many critters. Deer, snowshoe hare, birds of varying sizes, chipmunk, red squirrel, and the list went on. Red fox were part of the forest mix. And coyote as well. We so wanted bobcat and several times tried to convince ourselves that such was the case, but indeed, our further study made us realize it was no more than a wish.
We also wanted porcupine tracks and bear claw trees to make themselves known. We searched and searched for all three: bobcat, porcupine, and bear claw marks, but found none.
What we did discover, however, was the namesake of the trail upon which we tramped. My, what deep impressions it had left.
Perhaps the creator was Sasquatch?
No indeed. Where it had traveled upon the trail we followed before it traversed cross country, it left discernible prints that gave another sense of its size and we talked about the fact that its stomach would have been at our eye level.
By the crescent-shaped halves and dew claw marks, we knew that somewhere in the forest beyond moved a moose. Actually, by the number of tracks we saw on the trail, we thought that at least two had traveled this way.
And directly above we could see that it had dined, for the tags on the Red Maples where buds had once been bespoke its breakfast source.
At last we came to Moose Bog and briefly let our minds slip into seasons to come and offerings yet to be, but quickly pulled ourselves back into the moment and reveled in the fact that beside the sign was a sign left behind by the one for whom the bog was named.
The impressions were so deep that we decided to measure them.
Fifteen inches. We had barely sunk in an inch or two on our snowshoes, so the moose’s prints lead us to realize the immensity of its weight.
While in the same area, an abnormal growth on Speckle Alder gave us pause. At first glance, we recalled the fluffy colonies of Woolly Alder Aphids and wondered if what we saw was somehow related. A bit of white appeared in the structure, but it didn’t quite match anything we’d seen previously or our understanding.
About twenty feet down the trail, we found it again, this time on an American Beech twig. The curious thing, it only grew on one side.
Upon closer examination, we realized it looked a bit like elongated coffee grounds, and within our hands, its brittle structure quickly splintered into tiny specks.
It wasn’t until I contacted Maine Master Naturalist Anthony Underwood several hours later that we realized we were on the right track. Anthony is my go-to entomologist and I bug him (pun intended) frequently for identification or explanation. He never fails to reveal some amazing fact.
Today’s find: The Beech Aphid Poop Eater! What? Yup. A poop-eating fungus. We were thrilled to discover that we were on the right track thinking it was related to aphids, and we knew that ants like to farm them so they’ll secret honeydew, but . . . a poop eater. The natural world just got more otherworldly for us and our wonder will never cease.
Trees continued to attract our attention, but upon the trail were a slew of tracks, the prints of coyote and fox especially decorating the way. And then, and then some coyote scat and pee, the former so full of hair and a selection of the latter at another spot that sent us all staggering from the strong scent.
A bit further on we found an older coyote scat that contained large bone chips. Do you see one in the upper left-hand corner of the specimen?
We also found fox scat filled with hair and seeds, for like coyotes, omnivores are they.
And then, some small, cylindrical shapes within a print.
X marked the spot where the latter scatter crossed its own path.
And then it flew off. Who dat scat? A Ruffed Grouse.
At least five hours after we began our tramp, the farm house finally came into view. And so did Becky, one of the owners. She was actually looking for us for so long had we wandered.
We’d taken a photo of the trail map, as I said earlier, before we set off, but never again did we look at it. No wonder Becky was worried about us. The trail we followed was only eight tenths in length, but because we’d stopped every three steps or so to look at the next best thing, it had taken us five plus hours to complete the loop.
We chuckled again for after meeting up with Becky and reassuring her that we were fine and happy and well (super well and thankful for such was the day and all that her land had offered us), we wondered if she and Jim had made a bet on how long it would take us to travel the last few hundred feet to the road.
There were still things to note, including sap seeping into buckets.
Red maple buds growing more bulbous with age also garnered our focus.
As for our mystery tour: we were treated to the Moose Loop at Notch View Farm on Route 113 in Evans Notch. That would be in North Chatham, New Hampshire.
As we were greeted, our journey ended, with a smile from Kristoff and grins across our faces for the finds we’d discovered, understandings we’d made, and time spent together exploring.
Many, many thanks to Jim and Becky Knowles for sharing their land with all of us, and for Pam K for discovering this treasure and providing the mystery tour. Well done.
PS. Our last few hundred yards took about 25 minutes–who placed the correct bet on our time–Jim or Becky?
My wish was granted. I had hoped to have the bog to myself, and except for three cars that passed by headed east and two headed west, which I could only hear and not see from my stance in front of the “blind,” not a soul disturbed my solitude.
That’s not completely true. Many souls actually disturbed the peace from low-pitched bellows to squeaks and whistles and croaks and splashes. But . . . they were all to be expected in such a place as this.
I new I’d made the right decision to visit when I spied a shed snake skin on the path to the front of the blind. Just maybe I’d get lucky and see one.
At last I found a spot from which to channel my inner bullfrog and watch for the next insect to snatch . . . though in my case it was to snap a photo.
And I didn’t join the chorus of GA-DUNK, GA-DUNK, GA-DUNK, GA-dunk, GA-dunk, ga-dunk, ga-dunk each time it rose and fell, beginning in one corner of the bog and eventually extending all the way around.
My other thought was that perhaps I should be like a sapling and then I might encourage a dragonfly to land upon me.
It was a good thought, but I wasn’t sure it would work. Instead, I began to slowly scan the area to see what I might see–and the painted turtles didn’t let me down. Can’t you just hear the one in the front tell the other to stop following her?
From water to foliage, everywhere every minute there was something new to focus on and I rejoiced with the sighting of my first Slaty Skimmer of the season. He’s an easy one to ID with his body entirely blue, enhanced by those dark brown eyes and black face. And then there’s that long black stigma toward the tip of his wings. A handsome guy indeed.
Another handsome guy was the Common Grackle with his seed-eating bill so big and thick. And that iridescent bluish head accenting the bright yellow eye. The Tree Swallows were too quick for me, but they frequently chased the Grackles and I suspected there was a swallow nest in one of the dead snags in the water.
My pose as a sapling seemed to be working for the Corporal kept landing right at my roots. There were so many and they all zipped about before taking breaks such as this.
Meanwhile, on another log another turtle basked, soaking up the warmth of the sun’s rays on this delightful morning.
Not every log served as a sunbather’s lounge chair, but they all had something of interest upon them, such as the Round-leaved Sundew bouquet, its flowers not yet in bloom, but standing tall and curled like crosiers.
Also scanning the stumps and any small hummock were the Grackles as they sought their next meal. Typically, they are seedeaters, but the insects, spiders, frogs, and salamanders of this place can also provide tasty morsels.
With my legs as the sapling’s trunk, finally the Corporal did land.
And if that wasn’t exciting enough, then I spotted a turtle in a surfing pose ;-).
Actually, according to Mary Holland, author of Naturally Curious, “Being cold-blooded, or ectothermic, they need this external source of heat to warm their body, but the UV light also regulates their metabolism and breeding as well as helps produce Vitamin D3, which is essential for the health of their bones as well as their internal organs.
Basking can also help relieve aquatic turtles of ectoparasites. Leeches are a blood-sucking ectoparasite that can cause anemia in reptiles. Drying out in the sun causes the leeches to shrivel up and die. Algae on basking aquatic turtles can also dry out and fall off, allowing the shells to retain their aerodynamic nature.”
While the turtles took care of themselves, the Grackles had other business at hand. If you look carefully at the right hand side of the snag, on the burl you may see tail feathers sticking out. Each time a Grackle entered, it had food in its mouth. And a few seconds later when it departed, it had fecal matter which it deposited in the water. I couldn’t hear the babes calling for food among the din of all the other sounds in the bog, but it soon became obvious that they lived within.
As for my own tree-like stature, it worked. All morning the dragonflies landed on my pants, shirt or hat and their wingbeats reminded me of Hummingbirds as they flew onto or off quickly, always in competition with others.
And then, one blessed me by landing as soon as I stuck my limb out. He looked at me in as much a curious way as I looked at him.
The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, ” could be aptly applied to the first part of today’s hike for we’d tried to locate the Millard Chandler Feldspar Mine (aka North Star Mine) in Evans Notch two weeks ago but missed a turn along the way. This time, we made sure to pay close attention as friends had given us specific directions.
As they’d told us, we remembered to turn left at the National Forest boundary and followed the line to the base of the mountain, breaking trail all the way.
Eventually, we realized we were on an old cart path and followed as it zigzagged up. And then we reached a boulder covered in ice. Don’t get me wrong–I love the relationship of rock and ice, but . . . was this what we’d climbed up to see?
My guy peeked around the corner and encouraged me to follow.
The first rock with ice was a tease and he could see what he thought was the mine up above. And so we climbed higher.
Voilà. At last we found the actual mine. Can you see my guy? His height provided perspective.
He stood in awe before the fountain of youth frozen in time.
My eyes were drawn skyward to the chandeliers that dangled above. My guy did urge me to move out of the way for he feared one might come crashing down.
But I took one more photo before heeding his words of caution.
We noted that some had fallen previously and sat like broken glassware upon the mine floor.
Even the snowfleas or spring tails wanted to be part of the display. Do you see them? The little specks that look like black pepper?
I was so taken with the ice sculptures that I almost forgot about the mine itself. Millard Chandler was a descendent of one of the founding families of Chatham, New Hampshire, where the mine is located. Originally, it was mined for mica. From a Geological Survey Professional Paper, I learned that prior to World War II it was mined for feldspar by the Whitehall Company, Inc.
Today, the only mining that took place was initiated by the water and we could hear it trickling under the ice.
It seemed, however, that there wasn’t enough water as a Christmas Fern struggled to survive.
Finally, we followed the Junco tracks and made our exit.
It was almost like a different world awaited us outside the mine.
From there we drove back down Route 113 to Stone House Road and ate a quick lunch in my truck before heading to the trailhead for the Leach Link Trail that follows Cold River.
It seems like every time we visit this area we find evidence of the bears who live here. Notice the nail marks on the sign. Typical behavior for a black bear–to attack something in the woods that is different than the norm. Not only do they like telephone poles, but trail signs often take a beating as well.
Again, we had to break trail, which we took turns doing because the snow was deep enough to tire us out. For the most part, we passed through a hemlock and spruce forest. I’m always amazed at how a hemlock tree tries to heal a wound left by a frost crack. Just like my snow pants absorb the sun’s heat, the dark bark of the trees also absorb sunlight, but they don’t have a heated home to return to once night falls and temperatures plunge. I understand how the constant thawing/freezing cycle creates cracks–but I don’t understand why the hemlock portrays the squiggly line, while frost cracks on other trees tend to be much straighter. Then again, all tree species have their own patterns and idiosyncrasies. Maybe I just have to accept that this is the way it is. And move on.
We did. But I stopped our forward movement again. Snow had piled high at the base of the trees following the two snowstorms we received this past week. At first, it appeared that the aprons the trees wore were on the north side. But then, in one grove it seemed obvious that my theory had been proven wrong for some aprons faced west and others east. Oh well.
Just over a mile later we reached the Chester Memorial Bridge by the AMC camp. The bridge was given in memory of Mabel Chester, one of the camp’s founders.
Cold River flowed south below the dam. And we turned east.
We hadn’t intended to, but ended up hiking to the summit of Little Deer Hill. Our visit was short because it was there that the northwest wind slapped our faces and tried to whip off our hats.
A few photos and then we quickly descended back into the forest, where we couldn’t feel the wind’s force to the same degree. We practically ran as we followed the trail we’d previously carved.
It seemed like time passed quickly as we reached the snowmobile trail once again and saw the sign reminding us to stop ahead. The truck was parked near the trail’s stop sign and our trip was done.
We enjoyed the afternoon hike, but as we reflected on our day, it was the mine that will stand out most in our minds. Thanks to Linda, Miriam, and Dave for providing us with the incentive to visit and correcting our directions.
Climbing higher on this Mondate was certainly worth it.
Our plan was to hike up Blueberry Mountain and continue on to the summit of Speckled in Evans Notch today, but as we drove toward the White Mountains I mentioned that a friend had shared a photograph of ice inside a mine near the Basin on Route 113. And so in an instant said plan changed.
We parked near the iconic Welcome to Beautiful Maine sign and ventured off in search of the mine. Of course, I’d forgotten where exactly it was located, so we walked about a mile on a snowmobile trail until we spied private land in front of us. That was our turn around point, but . . . me thinks we should have continued because I later learned that the mine sits between public and private property.
We didn’t mind for we knew we’d return with more accurate directions. It wasn’t the first time we’ve erred. And besides, the gray birches were beautiful.
After we’d covered about three miles, we headed back to the truck and drove to Stone House Road, where we parked near the trailhead for the Leach Link Trail. We could have continued toward the Stone House since for the first time ever, it was plowed, but the lane was narrow and had we met another vehicle, it would have been a challenge to back up. Besides, I love to walk the road for there’s always something to see . . . like the lemonade stand. Who knew?
My other favorite sight along the road–telephone poles. In the past year the poles had received more attention–from black bears. Last year it seemed that any number with a 5 in it drew the most attention. Smart bears around here.
But it appeared that the bear(s) had added a new number to their count–#7, or in this case, #17.
I didn’t have my macro lens with me, but found bear hair attached to some of the scrapes. It was light colored, indicating it had bleached out in the sun.
So why telephone poles? It’s my understanding that males rub their shoulders and neck to leave a scent and may also claw and bite a pole during mating season. Bites leave nearly horizontal dots and dashes–can you see them? Think of the bear’s upper and lower canine teeth meeting. How cool is that?
Eventually, I promised my guy that I’d stop pausing to check on and photograph them, but he noted that I couldn’t resist every time we passed by one. I was just looking.
To my guy’s relief, we soon reached the gate, where the power line went underground.
Near the airfield, we turned and paused to enjoy the view of the Baldfaces, and promised ourselves a return to those trails in the late spring or summer.
Our choice of trails today was the Stone House Trail. And no hike up is complete without a stop at Rattlesnake Gorge. First we looked north.
Ice and water, ice and water–I couldn’t get enough of the freeze and flow.
And then we looked south–with continued awe.
We’d thought about eating lunch at the gorge, but moved on up the trail. From lunch log, where we dined on peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches, we took in the view of Rattlesnake Pool.
Any time of year it’s a magical place, but on a winter day–ah . . .
that emerald color.
The brook above offered its own touch of wonder.
After lunch, we continued our climb on conditions that ranged from ice to snow to bare rocks. But mostly ice and snow. Microspikes served us well.
At last we crossed from the Stone House property into the White Mountain National Forest as denoted by a rustic sign.
All along we searched beech bark for bear sign. And found one–a very smart bear had left a sign indeed–indicating the way of the trail. We kept climbing.
At last we reached the summit. It was later in the afternoon than we’d intended when our morning began because of our mine mission, and so we decided to skip Speckled Mountain, but were happy to check out the views from Blueberry. On the Lookout Loop we did get off trail for a bit as we missed a cairn buried under the snow. At that point we did a lot of post holing, sinking as we did to our knees and above. But finally we found the right trail.
It’s there that the red spruces grew–their yellow green needles pointing toward the tip of the branches and dangling reddish-brown cones seeping sap.
And then we found the view that stretched from Pleasant Mountain (our hometown mountain) on the left to Kearsarge on the right.
Below us, Shell Pond on the Stone House Property, showed off its conch shell shape.
We took one last look at the mountains and valleys under a blanket of clouds before following the loop back to the main trail and retracing our steps down.
It was on the down that I got my guy to stop and examine a mammal track with me. I’d noticed it on the way up and he’d been ahead, but we both remembered that it was located at the point where the community switched from hardwoods to soft. Do you see the large prints? And distance between. It had been warmer yesterday and those prints looked like they’d been created then.
Black bear prints! Oh my!
It was the five large toes that first drew my attention as we climbed up. Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing? The pattern of the overall track was a bit different than what I’ve seen in the past where the rear foot oversteps the front foot because in snow black bears tend to direct register like coyotes, foxes and bobcats–one foot landing on snow pre-packed by another foot.
Bears are not true hibernators and this guy or gal must have been out foraging during yesterday’s thaw.
We didn’t find any bear paw trees or see the actual bear, but we were thrilled with our telephone pole signs and the prints left behind.
Indeed, it was a beary special Mondate on Blueberry Mountain.
I was seranaded three times this morning, first by my guy, then my friend Marita (well, her family cut her short and maybe I helped by quickly thanking her), and finally by Gracie the beagle. The latter was the funniest of all and she managed to get through all the verses. But really, what Gracie wanted was to butter me up in hopes of joining Marita and me for a hike. Sorry Gracie. Maybe next time.
We crossed the state boundary a few times as I drove up into Evans Notch. Our plan was to start the day at The Roost, though we weren’t sure we could get there as we didn’t know if the gate on Route 113 had been closed. As we approached the “Welcome to Beautiful Maine” sign, we saw that the gate was open and so on we continued. Until . . . we hit ice. For those who know the road, and the steep ravines to the left as you travel north, you’ll understand why we decided to back up and turn around.
Back to the sign and gate we went, pulling off for photos because we love the sign and because the field across the way offered an array of colors and more ice.
It was a case of bad ice and good ice, much like the witches in the Wizard of Oz and WICKED.
And the good ice sparkled like winter flowers.
The curious thing was that along Cold Brook, which flowed beside the field, there was barely any ice.
After a few minutes, we headed down the road to the parking lot for the Baldfaces and Deer Hill. The latter was our choice for today. And it turned out to be the perfect choice for early on the trail we found rather fresh bear scat. How sweet is that?
The trail is flat to begin as it follows the course of a dry river beside the Cold. Evidence of high water from fall storms was everywhere and it was obvious that the dry section of the river hadn’t always been so. Left behind were displays floral in nature–this one reminded us of a stacked bouquet.
Again we reached the real deal–Cold Brook.
And stopped to admire the view.
And more good ice.
Then it was time to make the crossing. Marita went first and when she got to the other side of the green planks she looked back and said, “You can do this.” She knows me well and that my brain kicks into “No, I can’t,” gear every once in a while. It seemed so simple and yet, at her encouragement, I kept taking deep breathes and finally after what seemed like hours but was only minutes, I put mind over matter and made my way across. And it wasn’t difficult at all.
The climb up was moderate and we were glad we’d donned our blaze orange on this last day of hunting season. In the parking lot, a hiker had laughed at me and asked if I thought I was going to see a moose. On the trail, we met a hunter who was out with his two sons. And at the summit we heard shots, though coming from a different direction. Yup, we were glad to be wearing blaze orange.
We paused briefly on the climb, and noted that we weren’t alone. At first we both saw a whale, but then I noted a frog–a stone cold frog at that.
We were only following one of the trails on this mountain today, and it wasn’t a long one. Within the hour we reached the summit.
Years ago, the signage was confusing, but it seemed much improved. Then again, we only hiked to Little Deer and don’t know about the others.
From our snack spot, we enjoyed the view of the Baldfaces across the way.
And Mount Meader to the right.
At our feet were biotite (black mica) plates that reminded me of script lichen.
And in the ladies room I always find the coolest sights when I pause and look around. Today it was a downy feather.
In what seemed like no time, we were back at the dam. Again, Marita went first.
She turned back, grinned at me and then watched as I quickly followed. “Yes, I can.”
When I arrived home, I discovered cards from family and friends in the mail, as well as a copy of the Bethel Citizen. Thanks to writer Amy Wight Chapman, Marita and I were both mentioned in an article she wrote about Long Mountain in Greenwood.
A few minutes ago, my sister and brother-in-law also called to serenade me.
It’s my birthday and I’ve enjoyed gifts a many–from ice crystals to bear scat to feathers, mixed in with songs and calls and cards and comments from family and friends near and far. I am blessed. Thank you all.