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.
One plus one equals two on an average day. And so today, Marita and I set out to conquer at least one trail, with a couple of others as additional options. We ended up “bagging” as they say in hiking terms, two–including one that was totally unexpected.
Our morning began with an exploration of the new trail on Long Mountain, a 2.5 mile climb that twists and turns beside Mill Brook on property owned by Mary McFadden and Larry Stifler. Near the start, bog bridges pass through wet areas now dry.
The climb is moderately gradual and the brook ever present, its rocks creating falls that added a pleasing sound and sight to our hike.
Occasionally, we needed to cross and the way was well bridged.
At times, the brook was dry, but those moments made us realize that we must return in the spring when we assumed torrents of water pass over the rocks.
Moss dangling today, however, mimicked the flow that wasn’t there.
As we climbed, we noticed works of art. I’m not always a fan of cairns, but in this case, each had a flair that bespoke someone’s creative mind.
Others were simply simple.
We found water bars that were equally artistic in nature.
Just over a mile and a half into the hike, the trail turned and though it wasn’t as well cleared, it was certainly well flagged and losing our way wasn’t an option. There would be no getting fake lost on this climb.
Eventually we came to a third section where the trail was again cleared and we found signs indicating the crew might be ahead.
Again, we admired their work, from the stone stairs to wooden steps, all created with materials found within feet of the trail. Work gloves left behind made us wonder if perhaps they wanted us to lend a hand. If you find the gloves, then I’ve a feeling you are good at “Where’s Waldo?”
The extra sturdy ladder was created on site from a red oak (and some hefty hardware).
We were chatting companionably when we heard some movement above. And then heard their hellos. We’d found the crew–Bruce, the property manager and Larry, his right-hand man. Bruce and Marita had communicated previously, so he wasn’t surprised to see us and we were full of admiration for the work these two have done–all by hand. In fact, if you ever think you want to do some trail work in your neck of the woods, I highly suggest you locate these two and spend some time working with them for theirs is the best I’ve ever seen. We chatted for a bit, learning about their good works and the good works of the property owners.
And then it was time for us to move up a few more hundred feet and out to the ledges. We didn’t reach the summit of Long Mountain, for that is owned by someone else, but the ledges with a view of Round Mountain (also owned by the Stiflers), Evans Notch and the White Mountains beyond was the perfect setting for lunch rock.
As we ate, we noted that foliage peak had passed in this part of the woods, but still, the tapestry was worth a closer look.
Eventually, we followed the 2.5 mile trail down, repeatedly singing the praises of all who made this hike possible.
And then we traveled down another road we’d never been on before and located a mailbox Bruce had told us about as an indicator to the trailhead also owned by the Stiflers. We didn’t find the trail immediately, but did find this huge wasp nest, now abandoned.
It took us a few minutes because it’s rather hidden, but within a few feet of the trail sign, we recognized Bruce’s artistic mark–sign attached to stump atop rock.
And other trail signs that we admired mostly for their coloration in contrast to the paper birch to which they were attached.
This trail led us from one town to another in a matter of inches.
And out on the power transmission line, we turned toward the mountains. with the Whites again in our view–especially Washington.
At last we reached Upper Speck and turned to the left as we started on our way to hike around it and Lower Speck in what was described to us as a bit of a figure 8. I think really it was more of a calligraphy “g” in design with a bit of a line between the two ponds.
Again, our views were delightful, including leaves of different species offering contrasting colors and shadows.
For a few minutes, we had the pleasure of admiring a painted turtle as it sunned itself before I disturbed it. I just wanted to get closer.
Again, bridges helped us ford the wet spots and we admired the workmanship.
It wasn’t just human workmanship that drew our attention. We saw at least five lodges, some beside the bank . . .
and others in the wetlands adjacent to the ponds.
We found lots of old works . . .
some not entirely successful.
And beside a substantial beaver dam . . .
we spotted a wee bit of new works–but it wasn’t much.
Again, the colors kept us in awe, much as they had done atop the ledges of Long Mountain.
And finally, we completed our “g” loops and made our way out with all of these and so many other photographic memories in our minds.
Today was not an average day for it’s Friday the 13th. And we had the pleasure of learning that one plus one=five–five stars that is, for we gave such a rating to each trail we traveled, and thanks to all who made them possible for us to wander and wonder. Thank you Mary and Larry and Bruce and Gary. And Marita for inviting me to join her.
Our original plan was to hike to the summit of Blueberry Mountain in Evans Notch today, following the White Cairn trail up and Stone House Trail down. But . . . so many were the cars on Stone House Road, that we decided to go with Plan B.
And so up Route 113 I drove, turning left just before crossing from New Hampshire back into Maine.
By the parking lot for The Basin, we pulled out our lunch and set up camp temporarily at a picnic table as we enjoyed the view of the manmade pond and Sugarloaf Mountain before us.
The Basin is a low-elevation glacial cirque carved out of the east side of the Baldface-Royce range. Though we’ve visited the pond on numerous occasions, we’d only hiked the trails circling it once before. And as we recalled while sharing a brain in the memory department, that had been thirteen years ago when our oldest son was in seventh grade. It was a fine September day and we’d headed off to climb the Basin Trail. At first, we couldn’t find the brook crossing, so eventually we made our own. And, what we didn’t realize that day was that at the top of said trail we should have turned around and descended. Instead, in our ignorance, we’d continued on the Basin Rim Trail, assuming they were one in the same. Not so. Hours later, we practically slid down one of the Royce trails, splashed across another brook, bushwhacked to the road and followed it down as quickly as we could to our vehicle. It was late in the afternoon and we knew that our seventh grader was anxiously waiting for us . . . because it was also the very day that he could receive his school-supplied Apple computer if his parents attended an after-school meeting with him. That was pre-cell phone time in our lives and we didn’t have enough change for the one pay phone at the Stow Corner Store, which happened to be closed. We raced home, found he wasn’t there and while my guy went in search of our younger son, I zoomed to the middle school, sweaty, muddy and bloody (from a few encounters with branches and rocks), to find that my sister-in-law who teaches there had stood in as a surrogate until I arrived. Today we carried a map.
And knew what Rim junction meant.
As the north wind blew, it felt rather autumn like and added to our memory bank, while also the perfect day for a hike. And the hobblebush berries and leaves showed off their almost autumn colors.
Berries were abundant–especially upon red trillium,
and white baneberry (doll’s eyes–can you see why?).
The trail was easy at the start, switching from roots to stones to rocks before climbing. Since we’d attended Lake Region Community Theatre‘s fine performance of The Wizard of Oz last night and the trail blazes were yellow, it felt a bit like we were following the yellow brick road.
At about the one-mile mark, we chose the Hermit Falls loop.
Water poured over the lower falls,
and from there we spied the upper.
Though a couple of fallen trees crossed the waterway, the view and sound were pleasing to our senses. It was at this point that our climb became steeper.
We spend a lot of time looking down when climbing up, but because we were in a beech forest I knew I had to look–for bear claw trees. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Even in the upper trunk we could see the marks left behind.
And then my guy pointed out another tree he thought I should note–it looked rather like a burl gone bad. We don’t know what happened, but the final result was rather gnarly, and still the tree continued to grow and produced leaves.
Huge boulders littered the woods as we continued our climb.
Closer to the summit, the trail followed a rather precarious shelf beside the base of a big headwall cliff–I didn’t take time to photograph it for I was focused on each step, but at last we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
Before stepping out to the viewpoint, we walked ahead to the spot where we’d erred thirteen years ago. Today it’s well marked. In fact, this junction includes five options and my guy took the time to point in each direction. Our choice: to return from whence we’d come–behind us.
At last, we turned back to take in the view from the Basin below us to Pleasant Mountain on our far right. We noted a cloud casting its shadow over Blueberry Mountain and trust we would have been blown off had we stuck with Plan A.
Though we’d brought containers to pick blueberries, that wasn’t to be. But at the summit we noted a blue of a different hue, a blue-bead lily garden by our feet,
and mountain ash berries maturing above our heads.
Finally, we started down. After the initial scramble on the rocks and roots just below the summit, I once again turned my attention to the life around me and realized I’d missed this display of fungi on the way up–velvet stalked fairy fan mushrooms (Spathularia velutipes). They actually reminded me of miniature cowboy finger puppets donning oversized hats.
And . . . another bear claw tree–this one highlighted with a trail blaze. How sweet is that?
Follow the yellow brick road.
At last we were back on flattish ground and made our usual mad dash out.
As we drove home, I gave my guy a choice–ice cream at the Stow Corner Store or turn onto Deer Hill Road (actually a road of many names) to the bog and then to Evergreen Valley. He said the choice was all mine and so I chose the latter. And as I knew it would because it always does, it made me want to return when I have time on my hands. I will–that is a promise to myself.
Today’s stop included a chorus of bullfrogs–adding to my list of finds beginning with the letter B.
As it worked out, we were glad we followed Plan B.
B is for . . . The Basin and the bog and all that we saw in between.
It took us a while to get our act together this morning, but by 10:30 we were finally at the trailhead for the Baldface trails off Route 113 in Evans Notch. Okay, so true confession, I did not want to hike these trails. For thirty years I’ve managed to avoid them, but my guy promised me this morning that if I wasn’t comfortable we could turn back at any point.
And so our Mondate began.
The first .7 miles were familiar to us as we’d passed this way many times in the past, often with friends or family in tow. The destination, Emerald Pool. A forever nippy Emerald Pool.
We stood above the pool today and shared memories of past visits. And the people that made those visits memorable.
Even the water above the pool provided hours of entertainment in days gone by.
Today, it was the water’s force and volume, increased since last night’s rain, that gave us pause.
But we couldn’t pause for long. We had a mountain to conquer. And so, we headed back to the main trail and at the junction followed the Baldface Circle Trail . . . until it disappeared before our eyes. We backtracked but couldn’t figure out what we’d done wrong, except that we couldn’t see trail blazes anywhere. And so we retraced our footsteps until the trail petered out again. And then we decided to bushwhack and climb uphill because it only made sense that we’d find our way. At last, success–we found yellow blazes and an obvious trail. But . . . we didn’t know if we were on the Circle Trail or Slippery Brook Trail.
Our plan had been to hike up the first and down the latter. Out came the map and compass and we were fairly sure we were on the latter trail. To be certain, we hiked a wee bit, until we came to the brook. Yup. So, decision time. Turn around and head back to the other trail or continue on because we’d already come so far. We continued on. Plan B when we didn’t even know we had a Plan B.
And Slippery Brook held its own tribulations. The water–oh how it flowed. It didn’t bother my guy and within seconds he stood on the other side grinning back at me. Meanwhile, I hemmed and hawed. And hawed and hemmed. How in the world? I thought perhaps I should return to Emerald Pool and wait for my guy to complete the round trip. He wasn’t buying that. Neither was I, truth be told. But sometimes my head gets the better of me. He knew that. And so he dropped his pack, took off his boots and sloshed through the cold water to grab my pack.
I didn’t have a choice. I had to follow him. And so I did. Of course, this guy knows I’ll follow him anywhere.
We continued on the Slippery Brook Trail and a delightful trail it was. I kept waiting for the bald face to show, but it wasn’t to be. The worst part, if there was one, would be the mosquitoes. It poured last night and the trail was rather wet, but still, it provided a pleasant climb. We paused for lunch beside a stream where the mosquitoes abated.
One of the things I like about stopping for lunch, besides eating because I’m always hungry, is taking time to notice. Mayflies.
The deeply impressed veins of mountain maple leaves.
And u-shaped lobes of sugar maples.
And beech fern.
Following lunch, we continued to climb and noticed things like the great pretender–a bunchberry posing as a hobblebush flower.
And moose works carving the greenery.
At last we reached our halfway point at 3.5 miles. I kept wondering–where is the bald face that I’ve been dreading? The Slippery Brook Trail was a delight, be it long, with no bald rocks in sight.
While we climbed, I’d not only noticed my surroundings but also planned my funeral. I know who I want to conduct the service and he’s out of town this week. I figured that was OK. My guy would just have to delay it for a bit. And I thought about who might come and how the different folks would interact with each other. It’ll be a celebration of life, of course. And people should be encouraged to get outside and notice. Maybe they could go on a group walk.
And then we followed the Baldface Knob Trail where the yellow clintonia grew in such abundance that my guy actually started to ID it. I’ll make him a naturalist yet. 😉
Equally abundant were the lady’s slippers.
And then we met my nemesis. But really, it wasn’t so bad. All that worry for naught. I could do this. If we decided to hike down this way, I would survive.
At last we reached our first vantage point with the world we normally inhabit spread out beyond.
It just kept getting better, and cooler and windier–a relief for our sweaty bodies. But . . . the black flies increased significantly. I swallowed a few. All that swarmed must have been males because they didn’t bite. But they certainly were annoying.
As we approached the top of the Baldface Knob we recognized our neighborhood with Pleasant Mountain in the backdrop.
A 180˚ panoramic provided half of the picture. I thought I caught the other half, but it’s not to be. South Baldface was behind us and completely doable. We decided to save it for another day because it was getting late and we weren’t certain about the trail before us.
Among the selections at our feet, chokeberry
and mountain ash.
At eye level–a hummingbird moth who moved in supersonic speed.
And then we followed the path down.
The world stretched before us
to infinity and beyond. My guy insisted that parachutes were available at this spot, but they must have been previously claimed because I couldn’t find one . . . anywhere. And believe me, I looked.
It all seemed so innocent from the top, but really, it was a scramble. A major scramble that lasted a long time until we got back into the hardwood forest. Our footing–precarious and often wet. We both have a fear of heights in open spaces. My guy has forever had such a fear–my own is newly developed and I know not its source. Oy vey. We were in over our heads, but had no choice. I kept thinking about a rescue mission, but I don’t think they show up for those who whine. We practiced our crab walks, slid and skidded and hugged rocks and trees as we made our way down this precarious trail.
The lichens were beautiful and we got to see them up close and personal. We also practiced our trust jumps. Yup, several times my guy positioned himself to catch me as I jumped. Remember my funeral plans on the way up. I was preparing as we climbed and facing the inevitable as we descended.
Finally, we were rewarded with a more even trail–sort of–and lady’s slippers.
About a mile before the trailhead, we followed a spur to Chandler’s Gorge.
On the way out, I realized I wasn’t the only dirty lady.
Oh, and we found where we zigged rather than zagged at the start of the trail. Honestly though, we both realized that if we’d hiked up the Baldface Circle Trail, we probably would have turned back. So as luck would have it, we went the right way.
Since we were on stable ground, I mentioned my fears to my guy. He admitted he’d had the same. And when I said I was sure we’d both fall when I jumped down and he caught me several times, he said at least we’d be together.
Be together on a Mondate. That’s what it’s all about.
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.
Whether you’ve traveled this way before or not–a summer photo might be just the dose you need today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lodge number 2 is toward the far side of the pond.
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.
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.
Winter debris covers much of the trail. Strong winds have brought much of this down.
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 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.
While we ate, we noticed a mink had bounded through previously. I’m always thankful to have David Brown’s Trackards in my pack.
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.
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.
The sun tried to poke out as we crossed the wind-blown airfield.
From the field, we always admire the Stone House and its setting below Blueberry Mountain.
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.
And then . . .
And then . . .
And then . . .
And then . . .
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.
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.
A friend and I drove to Evans Notch today with the mission of exploring a trail that was new to us. The Leach Link Trail connects Stone House Road to the Deer Hill trail system.
We started at Stone House Road and turned back at the Cold River Dam. Not a long trail, certainly. And rather flat for the most part. Despite that . . . it took us four hours to cover 2.4 miles. You might say we stopped frequently.
There was a lot to see along this enchanted path. And questions to be asked.
We walked beside the Cold River as we passed through hemlock groves and mixed hardwoods covered with a myriad of mosses and liverworts.
Because it had rained last night, Lungwort, an indicator of rich, unpolluted areas, stood out among the tree necklaces. Why does it turn green when wet?
The shadow of the water strider tells its story. To our eyes, it looks like their actual feet are tiny and insignificant. What we can’t see is the fuzzy little hairs that both repel water and trap tiny air bubbles, thus allowing them to float or skate along the water’s surface. But still, why is the foot shadow so big while the body shadow is more relative to the strider’s size? Is it the movement of the foot against the water that creates the shadow?
While the river was to our right on the way to the dam, we noted ledges on the left. Prime habitat for the maker of this print: bobcat. You might be able to see nail marks in front of the toes. We always say that cats retract their nails, but in mud like this, traction helps.
A little further along we discovered the bobcat was still traveling in the same direction and a coyote was headed the opposite way. What were they seeking? What was the difference in time of their passing?
Periodically, we slipped off the trail to explore beside the river.
Ribbony witchhazel blossoms brightened our day–not that it was dark.
We weren’t the only ones taking a closer look at hobblebush.
As its leaves begin to change from green to plum, the berries mature and transform from red to dark blue. Will they get eaten before they all shrivel? We think they’ll be consumed by birds and mammals.
Most of the “doll’s eye” fruit is missing from this white baneberry. The archaic definition of “bane” is something, typically poison, that causes death. I’ve read that ingesting the berries can bring on symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium and circulatory failure. Think: respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. YIKES. So what may have eaten these little white eyeballs? Wildlife may browse it, but it’s said to be quite unpalatable and low in nutrition. Interestingly, birds are unaffected by its toxic qualities.
Berry season is important to migrating birds. The purplish black berries of Indian Cucumber-root are only consumed by birds. Other animals, however, prefer the stem and cucumberish-flavored root of this double decker plant. Why does the center of the upper whorl of leaves turn red? Is this an advertisement for birds?