Wondering Beside Willard Brook

I dragged my guy along for a wander in the Hut Road neighborhood today and we made Willard Brook the center of our attention.

That being said, our journey began at Great Brook. I parked by the gate that isn’t open yet due to  road conditions–not realizing that the only other vehicle belonged to a friend, who kindly left us a note we found under the windshield wiper as we drove away hours later.

The wind was wild and we felt it rattle our bones while we walked along Forest Service Road #4. That just meant a fast walk to the start of our adventure.

h-Great falls

The beauty of this spot never ceases to take my breath away.

h-ice

But we didn’t pause long because that wind was cold and icicles helped tell the story.

h-map

Lately, when I’ve tramped about in this area, I’ve been on the Great Brook Trail to start, but I contacted a few folks in the past two days because they’ve made comments on previous posts that indicated they have some understanding of the Native American presence that once existed here. And perhaps still does.

Stoneham_Hut_Road_1858_12-06-2015

My friend, Jinny Mae, had intended to join us today, but that didn’t work as planned. She and I have explored this area a couple of times in the past few months and she’s my GPS techie, as well as a talented historian and naturalist. The above map is from a section of the 1858 map of Stoneham she posted. (Thanks JM for letting me borrow this without asking.)

Stoneham_Hut_Road_1880_12-06-2015

As Jinny Mae indicates on her blog, this is from the 1880 map and there’s been a change in ownership of the neighborhood homes.

h-stone pile beside willard

We chose a different route than the one she has outlined in red. Ours led to Willard Brook. Just before the snowmobile bridge, we turned right and began to follow the brook. I realized immediately that I’d been here before. Part of my quest was to take a look at stone placement and think about it not as Colonial only, but also as Pre-colonial or Native American. And so, I paused at every rock formation I found, including this circular configuration beside the brook. Current day fire pit? My guy didn’t think so. I don’t know.

h-stove 2

As happens in our woods, we suddenly found ourselves visiting an old camp. Debris is scattered about. This particular piece from a stove front caught my guy’s attention. He was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, and immediately recognized this as coming from The Weir, an industrial section of town. If memory serves him right, there were at least three stove companies in that area.

h-mailbox

My favorite will always be the mailbox, truly a tribute to snail mail.

h-yellow birch

Our intention had been to follow the brook north, but we let an already traveled trail lead us instead. Soon we came to another landmark I remembered, the great yellow birch. An old yellow birch. Very old. I led a bark workshop yesterday and this is one of the trees we talked about. Yellow birch can live to be 200 years old, much longer than any of their relatives. I don’t know the age of this monument, but I do wish I could hear the stories it has to tell of this land.

h-colonial road

We turned left and followed the former road to Willard Brook. Colonial road or older?

h-stone wall turtle

I’ve learned from others to look at the shapes incorporated into stone walls and fences. I may be making this up because I’ve had an affinity with turtles since I was a young child and own quite a collection even to this day, but I see a turtle configured in this wall. Planned or coincidence? Worth a wonder.

h-stone wall 2, turtle

Potentially another in this section of the same wall, but at the same time, this part seems more consistent in structure.

h-Willard 1

We ate the quickest lunch in our hiking history because our fingers were so cold. Even winter temps didn’t seem to bother us as much as today’s temp and wind chill. Lunch rock  sat beside Willard Brook with Speckled Mountain above.

h-entering neighborhood

And then we backtracked up the road and I took my guy up to the Hut Road neighborhood. He’d not visited this particular community before, so was happy to make its acquaintance.

h-1st fdn

Our first encounter was with the Willard homestead of 1858; later known as the McKeen homestead of 1880.

h-wall on hill, balancing

As we moved up the hill to another foundation, we passed by this stonewall, where I wondered about the difference in stone size. A balancing act perhaps?

h-fdn 2 and chamber

Homestead #2 belonged to the Durgins in 1858 and Rowlands in 1880. It’s one of my favorites because of the stone chamber within. Which came first–the stone chamber or the rest of the cellar? Was the entire cellar considered a root cellar?

h-chamber interior

Hence, a closer look. Oh yes, and the porcupine scat pile is still there in the back right-hand corner, but none of it is fresh. Darn.

h-chamber stones 1

On the outside of the chamber’s edge that connects with the cellar–again my imagination took over. Perhaps my turtle’s head is the large blocky rock bottom center. Or is it a smaller version in the rocks above. Am I seeing things that are not there? Overthinking as my guy would suggest?

h-chamber back

Perhaps in the back wall?

h-chamber int 2

And in the side? Again, I see a face peering out at me just up from the bottom center/left. Do you see it?

h-rock pile 2

h-stone 5

h-stone pile 4

h-stone pile 3

While I was busy photographing stone piles in the woods and wondering about their significance, my guy followed his nose and made a discovery that has eluded Jinny Mae and me for months.

h-tombstones 1

Just like that he found the cemetery.

h-Sarah Dergin

Sarah, daughter of Anna and Ephraim, is the first tombstone. She died in 1858 at age 22.

h-Mary Dergin

Beside her, Mary, wife of Sumner Dergin, who died before Sarah–in 1856. She, too, was 22 years old. As best I can tell, Sarah and Sumner were siblings.

h-Ephraim Durgin

And Ephraim, Sarah’s father, who died in 1873 at age 81. Notice the difference in stone from the two girls to Ephraim? Slate to cement. And the name spelling–Dergin and Durgin. As genealogy hobbiests, we’ve become accustomed to variations in spelling.

I found the following on RootsWeb:

8. ANNA3 FURLONG (PATRICK2, JOHN1) was born 1791 in Limerick, Maine, and died 1873 in Stoneham, Maine. She married EPHRAIM DURGIN June 18, 1817 in Limerick, Maine14. He was born April 13, 1790 in Limerick, Maine, and died in Stoneham.

Children of ANNA FURLONG and EPHRAIM DURGIN are:
i.OLIVE4 DURGIN, b. 1811, Stoneham, Maine; m. DUNCAN M. ROSS, April 11, 1860, Portland, Maine.
ii.SALOMA DURGIN, b. 1813.
iii.ELIZABETH DURGIN, b. 1815.
iv.SALLY DURGIN, b. 1817.
v.SUMNER F. DURGIN, b. 1819, Of Stoneham, Massachusettes; m. MARY ANN DURGAN, July 11, 1853, York County, Maine; b. Of Parsonsfield, Maine.
vi.CASANDIA DURGIN, b. 1821.
vii.EPHRAIM DURGIN, b. 1823.
viii.FANNY DURGIN, b. 1825.

Sarah isn’t listed above. But . . . Sally and Sarah were often interchangeable.

h-cemetery view-Durgin

Though only these three stones stand upright, leaning against a wall, this potentially was a large cemetery. And the view–Durgin Mountain.

h-down from cem

Rather than backtrack again, we decided to travel cross-country back toward Willard Brook.

h-bog

At the bottom of the hill, the area was filled with sphagnum moss and cinnamon and interrupted fern.

h-bear scat

Though I didn’t find any bear trees today, I did find bear scat 😉

h-moose scat

And plenty of moose sign.

h-red maple

The red maples offered numerous examples of the bull’s-eye fungi that I told yesterday’s workshop participants to notice. I encouraged them to develop bark eyes. Meanwhile, I’m working on my stone eyes. (not stoned!)

h-willard dry bed

As we traipsed across the landscape, my guy recognized the large yellow birch we’d come upon earlier. And then we followed the walls down to Willard Brook where bushwhacking became the name of the game. Sometimes we found ourselves moving cautiously along the rocks in a dry section of riverbed–the overflow.

h-rock slide by Willard

I kept my eyes open for stone treatments and found this twenty-foot rock slide that didn’t look natural. I have no idea what it represents.

h-wheels

One of the things I continue to notice and love about the woods around us–no matter how far from civilization you think you are, you never are. Notice the wooden wheel spokes.

h-trees and rocks beside willard

I also noticed the trees and rocks across Willard, where the water’s rise and fall over the years has carved out a unique landscape and each entity is intertwined with the other.

h-2nd bridge

Eventually we came out at the spot where we’d headed off the snowmobile trail and decided to turn right and follow it toward Evergreen Valley.

h-cairn

Though the walk was nice and the wind not so strong, we got to this modern-day cairn and felt we’d gone far enough. We turned back and bushwhacked down to Willard Brook.

h-scouting willard

Like Lewis, my guy scouted for a crossing. Like Clark, I followed.

h-brook crossing

Our spot to ford the brook looked easier than it was. He crossed first and landed without issue. Me too–um, almost. Only one foot slipped. His comment, “Good thing your hiking boots are waterproof.” My response, “Yeah, but my socks aren’t.” Oh well. I’ve had wet feet before and will again. When I finally took my boot off at home, I was surprised at how drenched the sock was.

h-great brook on way back

We made our way through balsam fir saplings and hobblebush and a variety of other species and turned away from Willard assuming we’d eventually encounter Great Brook again. Success.

h-great structure 2

I’d been told to pay attention to Willard for Native American sites, and found this beside Great Brook. I have no idea what it represents.

h-3rd fdn central chimney

And lo and behold as we headed back to our starting point, we found ourselves at a third foundation–a rather large one with a center chimney between two cellar holes and an addition behind it. It’s where the school probably stood in 1858 and A. Gray’s home in 1880.

h-fnd 3 chimney

Bricks still top the central chimney.

h-final

Just like that, we were back at our starting point–looking at it from the opposite side of the brook.

Thanks to all those I bugged about what to look for as we tramped about today. And thanks again to Jinny Mae for her talent. I can’t wait to share this trail with you again.

We’d wandered for hours and found plenty to wonder about–especially along Willard Brook.

 

 

 

Gallivanting Around Great Brook

It’s been a couple of months since Jinny Mae and I last checked in on the doings in the Great Brook neighborhood off Hut Road in Stoneham, Maine.

H-Forest Road 4

Forest Road 4 isn’t plowed in the winter. That’s OK. We welcomed the opportunity to admire our surroundings as we hiked above the brook. So much to see that is so often missed as one drives.

h-paper birch blue

Though the temperature was on the rise, the blueness of a few paper birch trees reminded us that it’s still winter.

h-sphagnum

We found sphagnum moss looking a bit frosty but cheering us on with its pompoms.

h-chaga

On more than one yellow birch, chaga offered its medicinal qualities in quantity.

h-yellow and white partners

We came upon a special relationship–a yellow birch and a white pine. Rooted in this place, they embrace and share nutrients.

h-yellow birch:white pine

Forever conjoined, they dance through life together.

h-GB1

Finally beside the brook,  we couldn’t see the rocks below very well, but watching the water race over them gave us a better understanding of the forces that have smoothed their surfaces.

h-GB south

In a few more months, we’ll stand here and wonder where all the water went.

h-ice drips& bubbles

But today, it was the ice formations that we couldn’t stop admiring. Bubbling water below and dripping ice above, each adding to the other and both constantly changing.

h-ice 2

So much variation on the same theme as coursing water freezes into ice while at the same time carving into the rocks below.

h-ice pedastle support

Looking beneath, we noticed pedestals shaped like elephant legs providing support to shelves above.

h-gb ice castle

Occasionally, we saw crystalline turrets, translucent arches and frozen chandeliers of castles captured in ice.

h-sets of ice feet

Sometimes, it seemed like ballerinas danced on their tippy toes. That’s what water really is, isn’t it–a dance through time with changing tempos along the way?

H-GB

We crossed Great Brook and then paused for a moment as we decided which trail to follow.  We took the road less traveled by. I laughed when Jinny Mae referenced Robert Frost’s poem. My former students don’t read this, but that was one of the poems they had to learn and recite. And my guy–poor soul–knows it through association. Actually, he’s a better soul for that reason.

h-tree owl 2

So you may not see it, but Jinny Mae and I did–an owl hidden in the ash bark. Not a live owl, mind you. Well, that depends on your perspective, I suppose.

h-heal all

Within minutes, we knelt to admire Selfheal or Heal All (Prunella vulgarism) and its hairy calyces.

h-survey sign

We stood by the survey marker sign and realized it had been attached for many years.

h-survey marker

Perhaps 51 years!

h-frullania 1 on red oak

h-frullania 2

On a red oak, we pause to look at the reddish-brown liverwort–Frullania. There’s history in this species–dating to the earliest land plants. No matter how often we see it, and we see it often, we feel privileged.

h-leaves and ice

The trail switches from snow to ice to water and back again. Ice covered leaves draw our appreciation.

h-fnd 1a

In the neighborhood, we pause to check on the local families.

h-fdn 1 chamber

I climb down to the root cellar and discover that the porcupines haven’t visited all winter. Old scat still present in there, but nothing new.

H-Fdn 2

Moving up the colonial road, we come to the second residence.

h-fdn 2 yellow birch on mantel

Atop the mantel grows an old yellow birch. Like any TV screen above the fireplace, it offers an ever-changing display.

h-brook upland

We moved toward Shirley Brook, where we were once again in awe of ice.

h-water and ice1

Water and ice: a relationship in constant flux–at the moment.

h-brook structure

Beside the brook is a stream that’s currently dry. We look edat the snow-covered stonework that crosses over it and realized we need to return and try to figure out what the structure might have been and why it was built here. Stuff like this adds to the intrigue. Man-made. When? Why?

h-spider 3

Poor Jinny Mae. She had to wait for me constantly as I shifted from one lens to the next. But check out this spider.

h-stone piles 1

We are the queens of bushwhacking and love discovering the stories hidden in the woods. In this neighborhood, lots of stone walls tell part of the story. Rock piles enhance the chapters.

h-moose scat 1

And then we found more. Fairly fresh moose scat insisted upon our attention. We’d noted that there were some old snowshoe hare runs and we found some moose browse on a nearby striped maple, but we were surprised that there weren’t many fresh tracks. Where have all the mammals gone?

h-moose scat 2

This scat is some of the biggest moose scat we can recall seeing. A few gems followed me home.

h-lady's slipper

And then we happened upon something neither of us have seen before–at least that we are aware of. We had our ideas about what winter weed this is, but since we haven’t encountered it before our sense of wonder kicked in.

h-lady's slip pod 2

Back home, I looked it up in Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter by Lauren Brown. The capsule is woody and about two inches long. As you can see, it’s closed at both ends, but opens along slit lines–six in all, actually.

h-lady's bract at base of pod

At the back end, a long, curved bract.

 

And at the front, the slipper gone by. Yup–Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule). And the reason we didn’t recognize it–because it’s a rare find in the winter woods. Wow.

h-bear 1

We’re on our way out when we spotted these marks on beech bark. We’d looked and looked because we know this is bear territory.

h-bear NW

Compared to other bear trees, these claw marks are newer than most I’ve seen. Jinny Mae was as excited about the find as I was. I’d told her earlier as we scanned the trees that my guy has come to an unconfirmed scientific conclusion that bear claw marks appear on the northern side of trees. This one didn’t let us down. Based on the location of the sun that’s grew lower in the sky, these are on the northwestern side of the tree.

At last it was time to drive home.

Gallivant: go from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment. Over five miles and almost five hours later, we were thankful for the opportunity we shared today to gallivant around Great Brook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Big

A return trek to the old neighborhood off Hut Road in Stoneham left me thinking big.

J.M joined me for this exploration and it’s a wonder we got any further than our parking place beside Great Brook.

Great Brook

It was a sensational, albeit too warm for this time of year, December day. We could have spent all our time taking in the sounds and smells and sights as the water coursed over the rocks.

road

But we pulled ourselves away and went in search of a time gone by. Single and double-wide stone walls line the old road and mark pastures and gardens. Miles of walls.

rock pile

And dotting the landscape–piles of rocks picked from the ground. This was farm country before the forest took over.

fdn 1root cellar

We called on the neighbors and were glad they didn’t mind us examining their root cellar. The only contents–old porcupine scat in the back corner.

tree

The foundation is big and must have supported a large family. Today, it’s home to a large family tree.

well

It always excites us to find other signs of life–including a stone-lined well; it’s a deep subject.

fdn 2

The neighbors lived up the street in an equally large home. Were they related? We’re still trying to figure that out.

Red Rock Brook

We paused beside Willard Brook before turning back.

polypores chaga

Passing through rich woods, we found ourselves in the land where giant polypores and chaga thrive.

moose scat

That’s not all that thrives here. Moose browse on striped maple and piles of scat were abundant.

bearblack bear scat

We practically tripped over the biggest scat of all. Well, J.M. tripped. And that’s how it caught our attention. Classic. Love it.

sugar maple

Equally impressive in size and perseverance. And age. The sugar maples.

leaves

And because J.M. was with me, we saw things I may have passed by like the ice patterns on leaves. We celebrated hiking together knowing that the small things in life are the biggest.