While most people gathered round a table to share a feast yesterday, my guy and I decided to give thanks in a different manner . . .
And pardon the turkeys. Instead, it was chicken and cranberry relish sandwiches that we made in the morning, the ingredients locally sourced.
And then on to The Stone House in Evans Notch did we drive, our hearts grateful that there were only two other vehicles parked by the gate.
Our official journey began on White Cairn trail, where though we don’t always do what we’re told, this time we abided the sign, given that there was maybe a foot of water below. Otherwise, I’m sure we would have jumped in.
It’s a steady climb up Blueberry Mountain. Oak and beech leaves obscured rocks while hearts pumped vigorously. Because of the latter, my guy took a seat while I shed a couple of layers of clothing.
Part way to the summit, a look back revealed Shell Pond glimmering below.
And then in the middle of nowhere, which really is always somewhere, we met the official greeter–a cockeyed face that has weathered many a storm.
Lunch rock turned out to be Blueberry’s summit ledges, where we could again see the conch-like shape of the pond below, Pleasant Mountain’s ridge line in the far beyond, and a front moving our way by the look of the sky.
Though summer had escaped this mountain months ago, the flowers continued to grace the rocky landscape with their unique colors and seedpods, and of course, buds whispered hope for the future, this being Rhodora.
Among the mix was plenty of Sheep Laurel, its seed capsules reminding me of the jingle bells we’ll soon hear pealing Noel tunes.
Leaving Blueberry Mountain behind, we climbed more ledges where three types of reindeer lichen added their own hues and textures to the scene.
It’s a fairly long hike up and back at almost ten miles, which came into perspective when we noted the upper and lower bays of Kezar Lake in Lovell, which is about nine miles long.
Between open ledges, we frequently passed through conifer stands where occasionally we spied red-belted polypores on standing tree snags.
And then it was onward and upward again to the next conifer stand.
My heart sang within that stand when we came upon Hobblebushes, their leaf and flower buds donning hairy winter coats so unlike the waxy, scaled buds of the Rhodora and so many other shrubs and trees.
Sometimes the trail through the conifers had challenges to offer not in the form of slippery leaves, but rather ice. That’s why one packs micro-spikes at this time of year.
Those much more agile than us in this mountain terrain had already feasted and as usual left their garbage pile, aka midden, of spruce cone scales behind. They don’t observe “Leave no trace.” But it is for the Red Squirrels and all other critters and birds that we do.
It was early afternoon when we reached the second summit we sought–Speckled Mountain–where a fire tower once stood. Our pause was quick for we needed to climb down before dark. Though again, headlamps in the pack are another must have and we did.
First though, we enjoyed the view and a slice of chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Mount Washington’s snow-covered peak was part of the backdrop to the west.
It’s almost a 360˚ panorama from the top.
Daylight waned as we descended so we moved as quickly as possible.
But those views. Breathtaking with each step.
Finally back at Blueberry Mountain, we descended via Stone House Trail, which is far less challenging than White Cairn. And has bear claw trees.
Oft visited bear-claw trees.
This one even leaning as if it still recalls the mighty forager of its beech nuts.
My guy reminded me that I needed to stop looking for other such trees because the sun was low in the sky and we still had at least a mile to hike.
At about 4:20pm we reached the old airfield by the Stone House, having saved visits to Rattlesnake Pool and Gorge for another day.
Our reason for choosing to hike on this day–because it was my birthday and so as I’d promised my sister, who knows I did not receive the family’s musical gene, I sang from the mountain top where a breeze muffled my voice as it floated across the ridges and valleys to anyone who was listening below.
Walking arm in arm back to the truck as the sun set behind the Bald Face Mountains, my guy surprised me with a favorite tune that I love to hear him sing.
I have so much to be thankful for including all of you who join me either in person or virtually and help me get lost in wonder along the way.
But I am especially thankful to my family and my guy for letting us break tradition and pardon the turkey.