March Madness

I awoke early, filled with concern for Greater Lovell Land Trust’s March Madness hike planned for today. The wind was blowing and the temperature had dropped significantly after several days of “Fake Spring.” Would volunteer docents and staff be ok in parking lots and summits at GLLT’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve where we were encouraging people to climb one, two, or all three “peaks”?

We had it all planned–“snowman” passports available in the parking lots, along with trail maps, healthy snacks, magazines, and advice. Oh, and a donation jar 😉

At each summit, participants would have their passports stamped and choose one GLLT/nature-related swag item.

But that wind. A check of the weather report, thankfully, promised that the wind advisory suggesting gusts up to 45 mph, would end by 10am. Our event was planned to begin at 9:30. As I wrote in an email to volunteers and staff, “Let’s go for it.” No one balked. One replied, “We’ll be there.” And another wrote, “They don’t call in March Madness for nuthin’.”

After making sure everyone was set, at parking lot #4 on Route 5 in Lovell I opened the back of my truck to display the offerings. Our talented executive director had created a snowman out of the three summits, one of them actually being the snowball, and the buttoned breast serving as connector trails.

For the first two hours or so, my only companions were chipmunks, which despite, or maybe because of the cold, ran frantically from one side of the trail to the other, in and out of holes, and disappearing at one section of stone wall, while a short time later reappearing at another. Or was that a different chipmunk?

I counted four, but really, there could have been more for they entered and exited so frequently. Meanwhile, I was also on the move in an attempt to stay warm. The wind may not have been gusting per se, but it was rather breezy and certainly quite chilly.

And so I walked (and sometimes ran) around the parking lot and about a tenth of a mile up the trail, over and over again. In a way I wish I’d tracked my trail, because it would have looked as if I was indeed mad.

But . . . I made discoveries, including raccoon prints in the mud,

Yellow birch catkins flying like flags upon their twigs over my head,

and their associated trunk showing off its curly bark.

A Red Maple sported the perfect target fungus that I often mention to others, who can’t always see the bulls-eye pattern.

And somehow, though I’ve walked this trail many times over many years, I’ve never spotted the burnt potato-chip bark of a Black Cherry right beside the path before.

I also learned something about chipmunks. They scampered for several hours, but early afternoon must be siesta time and I never did see any of them again, though I checked frequently.

By 11:30, participants began to pull into the lot and I felt a certain sense of relief. Being without cell phone reception, I had no idea how things were going with anyone else, but gave thanks that people wanted to participate in the hike and had learned about it from several forms of media.

As they hiked, my parking lot meandering continued, though the space to move shrunk due to their parked vehicles.

With the chipmunks no longer offering entertainment, I decided to add an examination of the kiosk to my point of view.

Upon it I found a bunch of larval bagworm moths, their structure such that they remind me of the caddisflies I’ll soon be looking for as waterways open.

Another frequent observation at any kiosk is the cocoon structure of tussock moths. This one didn’t let me down.

Speaking of down, it was down that my eyes were next drawn and I spotted an old apple oak gall that curiously sported two exit holes–or had someone dined upon the goods once forming inside. How it survived two feet of snow and retained its global shape stymied me. Another thought though is that it may have remained attached the tree for a long time and only recently blew to the ground.

While I considered that, something hopped. Seriously.

The hopper turned out to be a . . . grasshopper instar. A what? An instar is a phase between two periods of molting in the development of an insect larva or other invertebrate animal. Think of it as a nymph, if you will.

Spying one seemed an anomaly, but . . . I spied three more upon the snow.

They couldn’t yet fly, but they certainly could hop up to three feet despite their diminutive size of about 2 centimeters. Their direction wasn’t always forward, but sometimes more sideways.

In the end, thirteen folks hiked from my lot and the others had 12 and 9, so I’d call the first annual March Madness a success. All volunteers and staff stayed sorta warm–each finding their own way to do so.

As for me, I somehow managed to cover 7.8 miles in a small space and found myself smiling frequently as March Madness was really March Gladness.

Grasshoppers?!!!

A Day of Contrasts

Each time we climb Pleasant Mountain, the view differs–and so it was this morning. Haze sugar coated the summits beyond.

hazy 2

Green, blue, white, purple and gray melted into each other.

haze 3

That’s what made a bright orange wood lily beside the trail stand out.

wood lily

Certainly a shock of color.

wood lily 2

Step in with me for a closer look. Three sepals and three petals, but their design is similar. Each is jazzed with dark purple to black spots–the better to draw in those butterflies and skippers. And white-tailed deer.

wood lily, whiting

The other thing to notice is how the sepals and petals taper at the base. I actually took this photo on Whiting Hill in Lovell about two weeks ago. But, I’m curious about its reproduction–one on Whiting, one on Pleasant. Am I missing something? Have the deer consumed others? I frequent both of these locations and have only seen the solo plants.

porcy 1

I  can’t sit still when I get home. Especially when I know I have work to do. So, I wandered around the backyard. Right off the deck, a quaking aspen grows on the edge of a flower garden. Daylilies surround a wooden barrel we turned into a water feature. Alas. They’ve been knocked down.

porky claws

The resident porcupine has been visiting on a regular basis. Quaking aspen bark features horizontal and vertical lines, but the porcupine left its own mark–look for the fainter diagonal lines created by its toe nails.

porky leaves

The leaves must be delish.

blueberries

I wandered some more. Certainly delish–blueberries. They need a wee bit more time.

Bittersweet Nightshade

Not delish, but dramatic in shape and color is the bittersweet nightshade. I remember my mother calling it deadly nightshade. Its berries are poisonous, but unless eaten in large quantities, it isn’t fatal. OK, the point is–admire the flower; don’t eat the berries.

grasshopper

Not as dramatic because it wants to blend in is a grasshopper. Do you see it?

grasshopper 2

A sibling was hardly invisible on the cellar door.

yellow lily 2

Before heading inside, I stepped into our neighbor’s yard because her yellow lilies are blooming. Ours will probably show forth their sunshiny faces tomorrow. I’ve a feeling that these are cultivated, but don’t know for sure. I’m hoping Bev Hendricks of DeerWood Farm and Gardens will  enlighten me on this species.

From a hazy summit view to brilliant natural hues, today was a day of contrasts.