One of my favorite winter hikes upon property owned by the Greater Lovell Land Trust is at Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham. And so this morning I convinced my guy that it was the perfect trail for us to explore.
We parked on the Five Kezar Ponds Road near the trailhead for Ron’s Loop and then walked back to The Mountain Trail to begin our ascent. The reserve is a 259-acre property, with all but ten acres located on the north side of the road. The other ten south of the road will remain forever wild. Those latter ten acres were purchased in 1980 by twelve families who owned properties on Back Pond. Eighteen years later, they deeded the land to the GLLT. And then the Five Kezar Ponds Watershed Association generously helped the GLLT acquire the 249-acre piece through two purchases made in 2006 and 2010.
At The Mountain Trail kiosk, plenty of information is available, including trail maps and walking sticks. The latter brought a smile to my face for it spoke to the continued generosity of those who know and love this land best.
Given the recent rain that drained our snow pack significantly and was then followed by another blast of arctic air, the trail was well packed. We could tell that a few others had traveled this way either with snowshoes or without–such were the impressions left behind. And within some of those impressions, beech and oak leaves gathered–speaking to the forest we were passing through.
Not to be left out was the occasional big-toothed aspen leaf.
But really, it was the beech that we saw most often.
And scattered everywhere–beech husks empty of seeds indicating it had been a mast crop year for this species. How viable the seeds were will remain to be seen.
In old wounds on several of the beech trees, amber sap had flowed and reminded me that not all sap comes from maples.
Where the sun had reached the trail, conditions varied.
As the lay of the land began to get steeper, my guy decided to don his micro-spikes. One of the thoughtful efforts found periodically along the way–benches provided in the name of Ron Gestwicki who had longed served as president of the Five Kezars Watershed Association. A perfect place to rest, take in the surrounding beauty, or slip on micro-spikes.
I wore mine from the get-go and have found them the easier way to travel the past two days. It’s kind of like adding chains to the tires of a plow truck. With the spikes digging in, though I had a pole attached to our backpack I didn’t need to use it.
The Mountain Trail is blazed with blue dots and someone used ingenuity to attach a fallen sign to a twig.
It didn’t take long to reach the old jeep road that led to the summit. We made the left hand turn, but had a mind to go off trail for a bit.
Our first turn was to the left for we knew that bear trees stood tall there–at least for now because some looked like they were in rough shape given the beech scale disease that affected them.
And then we headed off to the right, bushwhacking our way to a bit of a ledge where we hoped to find signs of a bobcat. I’m forever hopeful, but once again we came up empty handed. Previously, we had seen tracks and scat crossing the trail in numerous places, so we probably weren’t too far off with our speculation.
What we did find, a first view of the ponds below . . .
and a certain sign of spring recently exposed in the form of trailing arbutus.
Finally, we headed back to the main trail and continued to climb toward the summit.
Though in general, tracking conditions weren’t great, we did find one expected customer–porcupine. It seems any time we travel this trail we find porcupine evidence.
At last, we reached lunch rock, where the view stretched from a few of the ponds across to Shawnee Peak Ski Area at Pleasant Mountain.
The Presidentials came into sight.
And, of course, Mount Washington, which also displayed less of a snowpack.
From the summit, rather than hike back down the same trail, we turned to the backside and followed the orange connecting trail.
It’s fun for the community switches from hemlocks, pines and spruces to a small boggy area that offered a challenging crossing and finally back to beech and oak.
And among those beech trees, another that had fallen and leaked sap from its butt end, plus . . .
more bear trees.
On the downslope, we heard water running and wondered what our first brook crossing would be like. In the past, we either used a rickety old bridge, or tried not to use it.
Today, my guy went across first, and found pieces of the old bridge buried in snow. We knew we were better off without it.
I, of course, needed to stop and admire the flowing water and ice.
Again and again.
Much to our surprise, we found one more cool feature of this trail–the rare orange paintitous (is that a word?) crustose lichen. 🙂
Not far from the rare find, we turned left and then right as we crossed the bridge and found ourselves on Ron’s Loop.
Below the bridge, the wetland bespoke more of the melt down efforts. In the past, we’ve found plenty of otter prints and slides in this area. But today, it was difficult to distinguish anything.
We did, however, find a pile of ruffed grouse scat!
And proof that H is for Hemlock. (And Hayes)
Finally, we reached the second bridge that took us back across the brook. The bridge was built this past summer by the GLLT interns and Back Pond Reserve stewards. We truly appreciated it for many a times during the winter, the crossing had been to wide and we’d gotten wet.
After completing the loop, we once again gave thanks for all those who had preserved the land and created the trails so that the mammals that call this place home and folks like us could journey there.
With ease we thoroughly enjoyed this Mondate as we found our way at Back Pond Reserve.
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