Three Times A Charm

One might think that following the same loop through the woods in slow motion three times in one day would be boring. One would be wrong. My friend Joan and I can certainly attest this fact.

Round One: 9 am, Wildflower and Bird Walk with Lakes Environmental Association co-led by birder/naturalist Mary Jewett of LEA and the ever delightful botanist Ursula Duve.


In abundance here, the hobblebush bouquet–a snowy-white flower that is actually an inflorescence, or lacy cluster of tiny fertile flowers surrounded by a halo of showy, yet sterile bracts. Yeah, so I’ve showed you this before. And I’ll probably show it again. Each presentation is a wee bit different.

h-beech cotyledon1ph

And then we spied something that I’ve suddenly seen almost every day this week.

h-beech coty 4ph

The cotyledon or seed leaf of an American beech. Prior to Monday, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this and yet, since then I’ve continued to discover them almost every day. Worth a wonder.

h-beech coty 3ph

Think about it. The journey from seed to tree can be a dangerous one as the root is sent down through the leaf litter in search of moisture. Since the root system is shallow, lack of moisture can mean its demise. When conditions are right, a new seedling with a rather strange, yet beautiful appearance surfaces. The seed leaves of the beech, aka cotyledons, are leathery and wavy-margined. They contain stored food and will photosynthesize until the true leaves develop, providing a head start for the tree. I realize now that I’ve seen them all my life in other forms, including maple trees, oak trees and vegetables. But . . . the beech cotyledon captures my sense of wonder right now, especially as it reminds me of a luna moth, which I have yet to see this year.

h-green frog 2

Crossing the first boardwalk through the red maple swamp, a large male green frog tried to hide below us. Notice the large circular formation behind his eye. That’s the tympanum, his visible external ear. A male’s tympanum is much larger than his eye.

h-rhodora ph1

Other red maple swamp displays included the showy flowers of rhodora and their woody capsules.


Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the charm of this spring splendor:

The Rhodora

On being asked, whence is the flower.
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

h-LEA group

To avoid getting our feet too wet, we spread out as we walked on the boardwalk through the quaking bog.

h-five morning

Morning light highlighted the layers from the pond and sphagnum pond up to Five Fields Farm and Bear Trap above.

h-trill 1

And because it was ever present, I couldn’t resist pausing to admire the painted trillium once again (don’t tell my guy).

h-dwarf ginseng1ph

One plant that I will always associate with this place and Ursula, who first introduced me to it years ago, is the dwarf ginseng. I love its global spray of flowers and compound leaves. But maybe what I love most is its beauty in diminutive form–just like Ursula.

Round Two: Noon, Lunch and a walk with my dear friend Joan.

h-bigtooth aspen

After returning to our vehicles following the morning walk, Joan and I grabbed our lunches. And I paused in the parking lot to enjoy the silvery fuzziness of big tooth aspen leaves. The quaking aspen in our yard leafed out a couple of weeks ago, but big tooth aspen leaves are just emerging. Like others, they begin life with a hairy approach–perhaps as a protective coating while they get a start on life?

h-muddy riverlunch

We ate lunch beside Muddy River where the spring colors were reflected in the water.

h-blueberries 1ph

And then we heard something jump in the water, so we moved silently like foxes as we tried to position ourselves and gain a better view. In the back of our minds, or perhaps the front, we wanted to see a turtle, beaver or especially an otter. Not to be. But we did see highbush blueberries in flower.

h-bee 1

And the bees that pollinate them.

h-pitcher 5ph

In their out-of-this universe form, we knelt down to honor the pitcher plant blossoms that grow along a couple of boardwalks.

h-red maple samaras

We were wowed by the color of the red maple samaras,

h-red winged

prominent shoulder patch of the red-winged blackbird,


and cranberries floating on the quaking bog.

h-lone larch

And then our eyes were drawn to the green–of the lone larch or tamarack tree

h-green 9ph

and the green frogs.

h-green 8ph

I spent some time getting to know one better.

h-green 3

She even climbed out to accommodate me–I’m sure that’s why she climbed up onto the boardwalk.

h-green 6

Or maybe she knew he was nearby. What a handsome prince.

Round Three: 2:30pm, Joan and I (co-coordinators of the Maine Master Naturalist Bridgton 2016 class) were joined by another MMNP grad, Pam Davis Green, who will lead our June field trip to explore natural communities at Holt Pond.

h-striped maple flower

h-spriped flowers 2

Cascading down from the striped maple leaves, we saw their flowers, which had alluded us on our first two passages.

h-speckled 2

The cottony white masses of wooly alder aphids decorated many of the speckled alders in the preserve. In a symbiotic relationship, ants stroke the aphid with their antennae, while  the aphid releases a drop of honeydew, much like a cow being milked. It’s actually rather creepy.


Two Canada Geese squawked from another part of the pond, but Mrs. Mallard stood silently by.

h-tree pants

Our final sight brought a smile to our faces–someone put his or her pants on upside down!

We hope that charms your fancy. Joan and I were certainly charmed by our three loops around and those we got to share the trail with today.

We also want to thank Ursula, Mary and Pam for their sharings. And we send good vibes and lots of prayers to my neighbor, Ky, and Pam’s brother-in-law.       

 

 

On Another Day

Today was a perfect day for a hike–cool temps and a breeze kept the bugs at bay. And so my guy and I headed off after lunch with a destination in mind. Backpack–check. Camera–check. Map–check.

And with the latter, it all ended.

a-squiggly sign

We’d hiked our intended trail once before within the last ten years, but remembered that back then we had a difficult time following it. We were sure, however, that we could find our way today and we did. Until, that is, we reached a junction and read the snowmobile trail signs. Our gut told us to go straight but because we were on a snowmobile trail, the signs listed destinations. We looked at the map, looked at the signs, and convinced ourselves to turn right.

a-hobble 3

And so we journeyed on, enjoying the beauty of hobblebush even as it forced us to do what it was named for–hobble through the undergrowth.

a-hobble 2

But how could we resist such beauty. Or should I say, how could I resist such beauty–my guy trudged on. I think it’s the complexity of the blossom that intrigued me most–large, five-petaled, sterile flowers encircled petite and fertile, waxy-white flowers. Why big showy flowers surrounding such tiny ones complete with stamens and pistils? Perhaps the outer sentry attract insects for the sake of pollination.

a-round-leaved violet 2

Also thinking about pollination–those purple runway lines of the round-leaved violets.  I’m not a fashion girl, but it’s flowers like this that make me realize you can combine a variety of colors to make a statement.

a-rose twisted stalk

A much more subtle display of color–rose twisted-stalk. Not a great photo, but the  flowers dangled below the twisted stalk. Why rose?  The bell-shaped flowers that occur singly at the leaf axils are pale rose in hue. Why twisted? Because at each leaf junction the stem takes a distinct twist.


Adding to the subtle color of the season–sarsaparilla. I love the fact that this particular example shows the variety in the finely toothed compound leaves–in this case, two leaves sporting five leaflets, while another consists of three. It’s the three that sometimes gives this plant an undeserved bad rap–leaves of three, leave them be, refers to poison ivy. But this is not P.I. as we used to call it when I was a kid.


Another sorta look-alike, coltsfoot that resembles a dandelion. The difference–a coltsfoot seed ball retains its flower parts.

a-spring color

As the tender new leaves emerge, the landscape softens.

a-oak 1

From subtle colors

a-beech 3

to hairy fringes

a-sumac 1

and fuzzy coatings, the world embraces a softer point of view.

a-wet trail

Though we continued to make delightful discoveries, it was evident that we were on the wrong trail.

a-brook crossing.jpg

After a couple of hours, we turned back.

a-trail blaze.jpg

And at the point where we ignored our gut feelings and decided to turn right, we checked on the other trail–and found that it was blazed. Oh well.

We’ll save it for another day.



Silence IS Golden

Some days are golden–in light and experience. Such was today.

A friend and I intended to walk one local trail but changed our minds and headed to Holt Pond Preserve. A wise decision. A fabulous afternoon.

I wish I could recreate the sounds and smells, but am limited to sights. And so, I invite you to scroll below and take it all in for yourself. Slowly.

For once, I’ll be quiet. Enjoy. And please take time to wonder.

h1-emerald field

h2-pussy willow

h3-willow gall



h6-rhodora 2

h7-Muddy River 1

h8-muddy river to pond

h10-fresh beaver cuts

h9-beaver treat

h11-pitcher plant2

h12-pitcher 1

h13-quaking bog1


h15-sawyer brook

h15a-water strider

h16-violet polypore1

h17-turkey tail1

h18-hemlock root

Silence truly IS golden. Thanks for stopping by for this wonder-filled wander.


Embracing Splashes of Color

Walk in the woods any day of the year and you’ll find color, but nothing beats a day like today.

morning light red maple swamp

Early this morning, I waited at the Holt Pond Preserve parking lot for Jon Evans of Loon Echo Land Trust. Well, I didn’t actually wait. I walked off the trail, taking in the morning sunlight on the red maple swamp–knowing we’d return to it later. By the time I arrived back at the parking lot, Jon was waiting for me–we hitched a ride to Bald Pate, where today’s adventure began.


Together, we lead eighteen people, including six Boy Scouts from Troop 149, to the summit of Bald Pate and back down, where we connected with the Town Farm Trail and continued on to Holt Pond.

view from Bald Pate

As we climbed up Bald Pate, we paused to take in the western view. This week, the colors have popped.

Peabody Pond & Sebago Lake

The fall foliage was delayed because of September’s warm temperatures. Not only does less daylight trigger the chemical change in tree leaves, but a drop in temperature is also important. That being said, it doesn’t have to be cold enough to create a frosty coating.

splash of color

 The decreasing daylight hours and temps below 45˚ at night are signals to the leaf that it is time to shut down its food-making factory. The cooler night temps trap sugars made during the day, preventing them from moving to the tree. Once trapped, the sugars form the red pigment called anthocyanin.

Muddy River

As we witnessed along the Muddy River at Holt Pond, when the chlorophyll begins to break down, the green color disappears. This allows the yellows to show through. At the same time, other chemical changes may cause the formation of more pigments varying from yellow to red to maroon. While some trees, like quaking aspens, birch and hickory only show the yellow color, sugar maple leaves turn a brilliant orange or fiery red combined with yellow.

witch hazel flowers, Holt Pond

pitcher plants

button bush, Holt Pond

Not to be left out, the flowering witch hazel, pitcher plants and buttonbush display their own variation of colors.

Holt Pond Red Maple Swamp

Five hours and almost five miles later, we were back at the Red Maple Swamp I’d photographed at 7:30am.

The day was too beautiful to head indoors, so after a quick stop at home, I endured the Fryeburg Fair traffic and drove to the Gallie Trail at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve in Lovell. My intention was a reconnaissance mission for next weekend’s Greater Lovell Land Trust hike to the summit of Whiting Hill.

 bear claw 2 bear claw and nectria

On the way up, I scanned the beech trees, searching for bear claw marks and wasn’t disappointed.

 Mama Beech Whiting Hill

The beech leaves have yet to take on their golden-bronze hue that lasts throughout the winter and appears like dabs of sunlight in the white landscape.

color contrast

The maples, however, provide a brilliant contrast in the canopy.

whiting view 2

It’s beginning to look a bit like . . . autumn from the summit.

red maple splendor

One red maple was particularly dazzling.

red oak, subtle color

This northern red oak provides a much more subtle hue,

ash leaf

while a white ash shows off its magenta-colored leaves.

bees on goldenrod, Whiting Hill

A goldenrod continues to bloom and the bees know it. This one is doing a happy dance.

yellow-greens of striped maple

As I hiked down a different trail, the community changed and the striped maples dominated the understory

striped maple leaves

with their yellow-green leaves.

Indian cucumber root fading

Similarly, the Indian-Cucumber root’s leaves have taken on its lime-green color of fall.

splash of yellow greensplash of color2

Splashes of color. Nature on display. How fortunate I am to be able to embrace these moments.

A Little of This and a Little of That

As I sit here listening to the undelightful sound of an artesian well being drilled on a neighboring property, I have to wonder how deep they must go. After all, we’re beside a lake.

To distract myself, I wandered about our lot, wondering what I might see. I’d also wandered at Holt Pond early this morning, sharing the pitcher plants and some other great finds with K. So . . . here’s a little of this and a little of that.

Muddy River

Morning has broken . . . on the Muddy River.

HP boardwalk

And the quaking bog at Holt Pond.


Home of the pitcher plants and the reason for our visit.

Horned Bladderwort

A new find for me: Horned bladderwort. It’s growing at the edge of the pond. The stalk is erect and there are no apparent leaves–because . . .  “tiny leaves grow beneath the soil” according to Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.

Indian pipe

Check out this Indian Pipe. Usually we see the ghostly white version, but Newcomb states that occasionally the plants are pink. This is one of those occasions. And these flowers have been fertilized–therefore, they are standing upright, rather than nodding.

Staghorn sumac

On my way home, I stopped by the side of the road to admire the staghorn sumac. The cluster of upright flowers reminded me a wee bit of the sundews we’d been admiring at Holt Pond. Color and hairiness–similar but entirely different.


Back at camp and by the water’s edge, a single swamp rose bush.


The berries of a shadbush dangle like ornaments.


Under a porch floorboard, the exoskeleton of a dragonfly.

blue dasher dragonfly

Perhaps it previously protected this one–a blue dasher.


And finally, a field thistle on our neighbor’s side of the driveway. Such a suit of armor.

There’s more, but that was enough this and that for the day. And besides, the well folks are finally departing. Let there be silence.

The Most Gifted of All

When I posted yesterday’s Book of July about Holt Pond, I didn’t give a thought to the fact that I’d be venturing there this morning. My friend, Ursula, had asked me to join her for a pre-hike to check on the orchids in bloom. Happy for an excuse to spend time with her, I accepted. And my oldest son’s girlfriend happens to be visiting, so I invited her along. Today is her birthday, so it was a pleasure to share in her celebration of life. Happy B’day, HH.

muddy river 1

Our first stop was the short trip out to the Muddy River. We actually saw one orchid in bloom at the end of the board walk, but I’m going to save it for a minute or two.

pitcher plant 1

No trip to the pond is complete without taking time to pause and wonder by the pitcher plants.

pp flower

The nodding flowers have gone by and the fruit is forming. The leathery sepals remain–turning red now. While the water-filled leaves trap flies and ants, I’m also lured in by the unusualness of this plant.

sundew aliens

My other favorite–the alien-looking sundews, all under water right now. Their feet are always damp in the spaghnum moss, but the water is quite high at the moment.

pond 2

The reflection of blue sky and clouds on the pond made me mindful of another dear friend in Connecticut who celebrates her birthday today–Happy Birthday to you, CMN!  We jumped on the boardwalk to make the bog quake, but mostly made the boardwalk sink. Had she been here, we probably would have fallen in laughing.


The four-petaled, downward-pointing flowers of the bog cranberries remind some of the silhouette of a sand crane’s neck and head. I’m forever in awe of the uniqueness of each species.

rose 3

And finally, what we’d come to see. Wild orchids. In my former life, I always thought an orchid was a flower that you purchased from a florist and wore on your wrist or as a corsage.

rose 2

Lady’s slippers are members of the orchid family, which is defined by its three sepals and three petals. And so is this rose pogonia–with its fringed lower lip and bearded yellow bristles. Pogonia means beard.

rose 1

Though the flower isn’t on an endangered list, I still consider it a rare treat to see one–and today so many in bloom.

grass pink

Also blooming–the magenta flowers known as grass pink, another orchid. Grass pinks feature the lip on the top of the flower, opposite of the rose pogonia.

gp 2

Their delicate beauty reminds me of butterflies or perhaps birds of paradise.

gp white 2

On the opposite side of the board walk, we found an anomaly–grass pink white!

grass white

Maybe they are considered a light, light shade of pink. What caused this? Is the acidity level different on this side of the boardwalk?

pink and white

Pink on the left, white on the right. And the path home in the middle.

Three generations of wanderers on a beautiful summer morning blessed by time spent together. We all received gifts from this experience.

Book of July: A Snowshoeing Winter Walk–Where Am I?


Book of July

Summer may be in full swing, but I just received a copy of a special book created by a young friend and I wanted to feature it this month. The photos will cool you down on a steamy day.

This past February, Abby Littlefield, her younger brother and their mom, invited me to snowshoe with them at Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton. Abby was in fourth grade and needed to complete a project based on an ecosystem. She chose wetlands and wanted to learn more about the flora and fauna of the preserve.

I was thrilled to receive a copy of the book Abby made about our journey and delighted to discover how much she remembered from our trek. She and her family were real troopers that day–the temp was quite low, snowshoeing was a new experience for them and we spent about three hours on the trails. She reminded me of myself as she jotted down notes and we examined everything closely.

I did notice that her story doesn’t include the pileated woodpecker scat–not her favorite find. (Her brother thought it was rather special. :-))

Here are some pages from Abby’s book:

red oak


paper birch

deer tracks

where are you?

fun facts


Mighty impressive for a fourth grader. Congratulations, Abby, on a job well done. And thank you for letting me wander along with you and your family. It was a pleasure and I look forward to future expeditions.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost :-)

path 2

Today, I wandered along the boardwalks at  Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton with Adam Perron, education director of Lakes Environmental Association, and Amy Kireta, a PhD student from UMaine. Amy plans to help Adam develop climate change curriculum for LEA. Exciting stuff.

We chatted as we walked, but frequently stopped to look and listen. Check out our finds.

blue flag iris

Blue Flag Iris is beardless (no hairs on its petals), unlike the irises that grow in my garden.

sheep laurel

The Sheep Laurel beginning to bloom. This is an interesting and beautiful plant, with its flowers blooming below the new leaves. I love how the leaves droop.

water lily

Another new bloom–the ball-shaped flower of Spatterdock.


Though our eyes were immediately drawn to the leaves of Fragrant Water Lilies with their pie-shaped notch, we could see a submerged blatterwort–one of the carnivorous plants of the preserve. They feature small blatters that act as vacuums and suck up tiny aquatic animals in order to take advantage of their nutrients.

pitcher plant

Speaking of carnivorous plants . . . the Pitcher Plants are flowering.

pitcher plant flowering

The colors are enough to suck me in.



While the Pitcher Plants make themselves known in any season, another carnivorous plant barely announces its presence on the quaking bog.


The Round-leaf Sundew. Preferring the acidity of the spaghnum moss, the hairlike tentacles  on each leaf are tipped with glistening droplets that shout a welcome message to passing insects. Those droplets are actually quite sticky and when the tendrils of hair detect that a prey has stopped by, they curl inward and wrap around the insect–then digest its nutrients.

There aren’t many nutrients in a spaghnum bog, so these plants have figured out how to meet their own needs–another reason to be in awe.

It’s stuff like this that makes me think J.R.R. Tolkien could have found inspiration right here.

Though we didn’t stray off the beaten path today, that is one of my favorite things to do. But I’m glad we backtracked rather than taking Amy back to the parking area via a different route because . . . we encountered another hiker who stopped to ask us some questions. As she talked, some things she said made me wonder if she was someone who recently commented on one of my blog posts. A friend in Connecticut has said since high school that I can be blunt (that’s you, C.W.N.) and I probably was today when I blurted out this woman’s name. I’m so glad I did. I was right–it was her. And I hope we can make a connection to wander together some time because it sounds like we have walked in each other’s tracks more than once.

Not all who wander are lost

I knew your car when I saw this, E.


Years ago, I paraphrased it. Wander and wonder. You never know what or who you might stumble upon.

Our Three Hour Tour

HP sign

One of our favorite places in town is a hidden gem–Holt Pond Preserve. We parked at the corner of Chaplin’s Mill and Grist Mill Roads, grabbed our snowshoes and backpack from the truck and walked on snowmobile tracks across the field to begin today’s Mondate.

Tingley Brook

Tingley Brook

At the field’s edge, we passed under the hemlocks, beeches and oaks and into the wild and delicate beauty that the preserve offers.

Tingley Brook ice 1

The midmorning light added subtle hints of aqua and pink as the water danced around an ice-capped rock in the brook.

mushrooms and hole

We saw lots of tracks from the mustelid family, as well as snowshoe hare, fox, squirrels, mice and voles. Also, turkeys and grouse. I’m not sure what made the hole and dirt trail beneath the mossy maple mushrooms near the base of this Red Maple. I would not have seen it if I hadn’t leaned in closer to take a photo. I do happen to know that gnomes frequent the area, so just maybe . . .


We continued on, crossing Tingley Brook and then making our way beside Muddy River, where the Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) leaves these canoes for anyone to use. Bring your own personal floatation device, paddles, and duct tape. I know where you can purchase duct tape, should you need more. 🙂

beaked hazelnut

Near the canoes–a lone beaked hazelnut. Inside this bristly tan husk is an edible nut. Doesn’t it look like a gourd? The name derives from that tube-like protruding beak. I couldn’t believe it was still there as the protein-rich nuts are favorites for red squirrels and chipmunks, as well as ruffed grouse, woodpeckers and blue jays. Humans too.

to Muddy River

We never actually wore our snowshoes today. I hauled mine around on my pole, while my guy stuck his between his jacket and sweatshirt. He said he didn’t need his back scratched for the entire trip.

River to pond

Looking toward Holt Pond from the boardwalk by the Muddy River.

There was only a slight breeze, so the low temp was modified by the brilliant sunshine. Another beautiful day in Maine.

Red Maple Swamp

I think one of my favorite features about the preserve is that the habitat keeps changing–from hemlock groves to red maple swamps to alder thickets to a quaking bog.

Quaking Bog

Though you can’t tell in the winter, the quaking bog is a thick mat of vegetation that formed over the surface near the edge of the pond. A board walk passes across it and one of the fun things to do with a group of people is to have everyone jump at the same time and watch the bog quake. This is also a great spot to visit alone–for quiet reflection.

Holt Pond 1HP South

Views at the pond’s edge–north and south

HP from southwest

We stopped at a rock in a sunny spot along the South Shore Trail to enjoy lunch al fresco. PB&J never tasted so good. Topped off with ice cold water and some Ghirardelli chocolates. 🙂 As we continued along, we paused to look back across the pond toward the Quaking Bog.

Sometimes we chatted and other times we were each lost in our own thoughts and moving at our individual paces. Similar to my NDD (Nature Distraction Disorder), my guy has his own syndrome–Destinationitis. But, he’s learned to compensate by pausing until I catch up . . . and then he’s off again. That’s OK–it gives me time to spend in my own world.

feathers one

At the edge of a field (we know it as “The Field” because it’s the end of a section of trail that we keep maintained for LEA), we both stopped to look and wonder. Under a hemlock tree and in the middle of the trail, we found these white feathers. Don’t you just love a mystery?

feathers 2

Here’s another look. Some had sheer cuts; others looked plucked. No great place to hang out above. If you know what bird this was or what happened here, please enlighten me.


At least five miles later, we were back on Chaplin’s Mill Road headed toward the truck.

Thanks for stopping by again to wonder my way. I hope you enjoyed the three hour tour.