Water Works

With rain drops come life and rebirth. And so it seems as our world explodes with the return of birds and vibrant blossoms of daffodils in the garden. The grass is, well, grass green–a brilliant green with hues of gold or purple, depending on the time of day. And ever so slowly, tiny leaves emerge on the maples and aspens.

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But it’s life in and around water that captured most of my focus today. Following a prehike for a Greater Lovell Land Trust walk, I had the opportunity to check on a heron rookery. A friend and I stood hidden among the trees.

Rookeries are one of my favorite places to hang out. By the same token, I seldom do because its important not to disturb these giant birds during their nesting season. But–today’s visit, like all of my rookery visits, was for a citizen science project affiliated with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: the Heron Observation Network or HERON, counts on volunteers to count on heron–their nests, number of birds, number perhaps sitting on eggs, number of fledglings, etc.

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We frequently see Great Blue Herons flying overhead or fishing in ponds and lakes, but it’s watching them come into their nests, in their pterodactyl form, that I find so wild.

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And then they stand. Tall. Silent. We do the same.

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Watching. Listening. Wondering.

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All the while, we have time to reflect and enjoy the reflected.

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And notice–cut saplings piled horizontally, an anomaly in this space . . . or is it?  More than herons call this place home.

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At last we need to bushwhack back, but pause a few times to appreciate other forms of life that spring forth near the water, including this hobblebush.

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And a garter snake, its movement catching our attention. And then it froze in place, in hopes we wouldn’t notice.

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Back on the homefront, I moseyed out to the vernal pool. As I approached, I noticed a lack of sound, but did see movement when I was only steps away.

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I was thrilled to note signs of previous action as the number of wood frog egg masses had increased.

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The same was true of the spotted salamander eggs, though the number in each clump seemed quite minimal. The opaque outer coating was clearly visible, that gelatin-like mass that surrounds these eggs.

w-frog eggs?

As I admired all the dropped red maple flowers that decorated the water, I spied something else. Or at least I think it’s something else. Perhaps mere bubbles floated atop the dried leaf, but I suspected eggs of another kind. I’ve never before noticed spring peeper eggs and wondered, could these be such? Here’s hoping Loon Echo Land Trust’s biologist, Paul Miller, will chime in.

w-spring peeper eggs in mix?

From what I’ve read in A Field Guide to the animals of Vernal Pools by Leo P. Kenney and Matthew R. Burne, “tiny peeper eggs may be deposited in small clusters or as single eggs attached to aquatic vegetation.” I placed a red arrow on this photo pointing to a couple more. And there are others in the photo, hiding in a “Where’s Waldo” fashion.

w-water strider and mosquito larvae

Circling around the pool, I noted some mosquito larvae and a few water striders.

But I also came upon one disturbing sight. A dead frog. Only a week ago, a friend in Cumberland discovered four dead frogs in a pool. In an e-mail exchange, Dr. Fred Cichocki explained to her, “Chytrid fungus is one potential and troubling cause of amphibian deaths. Another, and one we should all be aware of and be on the lookout for (especially in southern Maine) is ranavirus. It mainly affects woodfrogs (why no one knows) and primarily in the tadpole stage, where there may be 99+% mortality! The obvious symptoms are hemoragic lesions in the abdomen, and a behavior much like whale beaching, where the infected tadpoles swim onto the shore, turn belly up and expire en masse. Definitive identification requires either DNA sequencing or Electron Microscopic examination of tissue to reveal the characteristic virus particles. Once a pond or pool has ranavirus in it, it is probably impossible to erradicate (except maybe through frog attrition.) Ranavirus epidemics occur worldwide and are spreading, especially here in the Northeast.”

My dead frog was an adult. As were my friend’s. At the pool today, I was once again reminded that nature happens. And that it isn’t always pretty. Thankfully, I did spy a couple of live frogs.

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As I walked away from the pond, another garter snake.

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It was on the hunt.

Life and rebirth–the keys to spring. And sometimes, death so others may eat. But other times, death for reasons unknown. These aquatic sites offer an amazing biodiversity–and leave me with questions and understandings. Water works–I’m just not always sure how.

 

A Good Mourning Mondate

A good mourning? Indeed it was. Yesterday we celebrated Easter and the resurrection. Today we celebrated an opportunity to climb our favorite mountain.

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And so we parked the truck at Loon Echo Land Trust’s Ledges Trail parking lot on Mountain Road in Denmark and then walked 1.5 miles back to the trailhead we chose to make our ascension up Pleasant Mountain. Along the way, mountain streams quickly moved the meltwater downward toward Moose Pond, where it will mingle with the lake water and eventually find its way to another stream and then the Saco River and finally out to sea. And whether via future raindrops or snowflakes or even fog, traces of the same water molecules may again find their way down these streams.

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At last we reached the trail head for the Bald Peak Trail, where less than a week ago Marita and I had to climb over a tall snowbank to reach the path.

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As we climbed and paused to admire the water flowing beside us, I noted differences between last week and today, including the shrinking of an ice chunk tucked under a rock. Ever so slowly, it joined the forces of downward motion, as if letting go was meant to happen with care.

p-Needles Eye

And then at the spur, my guy and I turned left to Needles Eye. Some ice and snow still covered parts of the path, but it was much easier to negotiate than last week. And he did. I followed him, but didn’t need to step into the chasm since I’d just been there. (wink) Instead, I climbed below to try to capture the world above.

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And then I rejoined my guy and wished I’d taken a photo of this section last week for today’s conditions didn’t reflect the same treacherous stretch Marita and I worked our way across.

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We continued up the trail, where snow and ice were more prevalent. Though we had micro-spikes in our pack, we managed to avoid wearing them. And only once did I completely sink in–just below Big Bald Peak. I actually went up to my thigh, so deep was the snow. And cold. But I was hot, so it felt refreshing.

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But before we reached the sharp left turn on Big Bald Peak, we noticed tons of chips at the base of a hemlock tree. Such a discovery invited a closer look–and I spied the largest pileated woodpecker scat I’d ever seen. Later on, when we were almost at the Fire Warden’s Trail, we saw two hikers on their way down and I quickly realized one was my dear friend Joan–another lover of scat and all things mammalian. Of course I told her what to look for as she and her hiking friend headed down the Balk Peak Trail. And I just received an e-mail from her: “Deb and I saw it! It was huge! She was so excited to see all the little ant bodies!” Indeed.

p-Mt Wash from top of Bald Peak Trail

The wind blew fiercely when we reached Big Bald, where white and red pines framed a view of another big bald–Mount Washington in the distance.

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Not far along the trail, we found lunch rock in a section that offered some protection from the gusty wind. It was the perfect place to enjoy our PB&Js followed by Cadbury Digestives (thanks sis).

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Through the trees, we could again see the mighty mountain to our west.

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And at our feet–blueberry buds galore. My guy began to see blue where no blue yet exists–the promise was enough.

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Walking along the ridge line was like a walk in the park. At times, where the sun didn’t hit the northwest sides of ravines, we found more snow, but more often than not, the trail was neither icy nor muddy.

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It was in one of the ravines, however, that we heard a song of spring–the wruck of the wood frogs singing from a vernal pool located below. A first for us this year and we were happy to be in the presence of such a sound.

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It seemed like in no time, we approached the main summit where the iconic fire tower still stands tall.

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We took in the view toward Brownfield and beyond.

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And again looked toward Mount Washington.

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Even upon the mighty one, we could see the snow has melted gradually. But our stay wasn’t any longer than a few minutes for the wind was hat-stealing strong and I had to chase mine.

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And so down Ledges Trail we descended in order to complete our loop. Here we rarely saw signs of snow or ice.

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The southern basin of Moose Pond stretched before us, most of its surface still covered with the grainy gray ice of spring. Any day now, ice out will be declared, late as it is.

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It was on the ledges that I noticed tent caterpillars already at work.

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Thankfully, there were more pleasant sights to note, including the first flowers of red maples.

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And along the trail below the ledges, plenty of striped maples showed off their swelling buds.

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Last summer, the oaks produced a mast crop and those not consumed by the squirrels and turkeys have reached germination. This one made a good choice about a place to lay down its roots–hope burst forth.

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As we neared the end of the trail, I began to notice the beaked hazelnuts and savored  their tiny blooms of magenta ribbons. And we could hear spring peepers. So many good sights and sounds along our journey.

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On each trail we hiked today, we were also blessed with butterfly sightings. It’s always a joy to see these beauties, who actually overwinter as adults in tree cavities, behind loose bark, or anywhere they can survive out of the wind and without being consumed by predators. They survive by cryopreservation–the process of freezing biological material at extreme temperatures. In Britain, their common name is Camberwell Beauty. In North America, we know them as Mourning Cloaks–so named for their coloration that resembled the traditional cloak one used to wear when in mourning.

I think I may have to stick with Camberwell Beauty for a name, given those velvety brown wings accented by the line of black with azure dots and accordian yellow edge. What’s to mourn about it?

So we didn’t. Instead, we enjoyed a good morning Mondate–and afternoon.

Spring In Our Steps Mondate

Our usual celebration of the vernal equinox begins with a hike up Bald Pate Mountain with Loon Echo Land Trust, but either we missed it or we slept through it this morning even though we awoke before sunrise. Given that, we chose a different summit on which to welcome this new season.

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Our great debate, be it all one-sided, centered around which trail to follow in order to reach the top of the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s Amos Mountain. Knowing that the route from the Flat Hill parking lot would be mostly via the snowmobile trail, we (or I) decided on the Gallie Trail located off Route 5.

a-breaking trail

From the start the snow was a bit crusty and hadn’t been traversed since the last storm, though a few critters had crossed it. We plodded along at breakneck speed, my guy trudging first while I followed and packed those spots between his prints.

a-beech scale 1

The hike begins with a gradual rise, but still I welcomed opportunities to take a rest, so quickly were we moving. It was the white target on beech bark that slowed me down. I knew what I was looking at but hadn’t seen it in this formation previously. In several spots on this tree, the beech scale insect presented itself in bull’s eye formation as it filled in small crevices on the bark.

a-beech scale 3

All winter the insects, in their nymph stage, have been blanketed with a wooly wax. Now that it’s spring, I need to keep an eye on this tree for the nymphs will emerge as short-lived second instars that will soon molt to become adult females. Will I see it happen? Will I know what stage I’m looking at? Stay tuned.

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My guy tolerated my curiosity and then we moved on, bypassing the old foundations where I suspect everyone was undercover. Certainly, the picnic table at the base of the Amos Andrews Trail had kept warm all winter.

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A picture of the man for whom the mountain was named hangs from a tree by the table.

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And along the way, terraced stonewalls on the east side speak to his occupation.

a-rock tripe

It was a boulder on the west side of the trail, though, that made me stop again. This time I really needed a break. The temperature had risen and black snow pants were absorbing the heat. Gloves–off. Hat–off. Sweater and turtleneck sleeves–pushed up. What caught my eye was the rock tripe that showed off its dry and wet forms. Lichens come in a variety of colors, but once wet, they turn green as the algal component kicks into action. Snow topped the boulder and its melting pathway was obvious.

a-approaching summit

I wasn’t the only one who was shedding clothing as we neared the summit.

a-sweet fern

Just before we got there, I spied some dried sweet fern leaves poking out of the snow. Sweet fern is a woody plant, rather than a fern, and its developing catkins were a sign of the transition that is slowly occurring. The good news about sweet fern is that not only does it smell wonderful, but it’s also a good insect repellent.

a-tent caterpillar egg mass 1

Speaking of insects, next to the sweet fern I saw this tent caterpillar mass–a matrix of 150-400 eggs. It’s a shiny, varnished structure that encircles the branch and is a bit wider than a pencil.  The sweet fern won’t have any influence on the tent caterpillars or beech scale insects, but will help keep mosquitoes at bay.

a-You Are Here map

An hour after starting, we reached the summit, having followed the Homestead, Gallie and  Amos Andrews Trails.

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Lunch bench offered a great spot to sit and cool down.

a-summit view of two lakes

And take in the view–of Heald Pond on the left and Kezar Lake on the right, plus the mountains beyond.

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Our trek down was like a walk in the park and we practically floated. The snow had softened and our trail was packed making for a quick descent.

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But, we still had one more stop to make and I reminded my guy to turn left at the yellow birch–the most beautiful yellow birch on this route.

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I wanted to locate this very spot that is off the beaten path.

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And I wasn’t disappointed as we watched the water boil up through the sand in mesmerizing  movement. We’d found the spring once again.

Indeed, we found spring in our steps on this Mondate.

 

 

 

 

The Second Anniversary of Wondermyway

Milestones are always important as they mark significant events in our lives. And for me, such an event occurs today as I celebrate the second anniversary of the day wondermyway.com was born.

Since I was in elementary school and made few and far between entries into a chunky journal bound in a green cover (which I still own), to the first empty book journal my sister gave me when I graduated from high school, to a variety of travelogues and other journals I’ve filled from cover to cover,  I’ve recorded my life’s journey from time to time.

The most satisfying for me has been this very blog, to which I’ve added numerous events and discoveries, both natural and historical, over the last two years. As personal as it all is, I’ve taken a leap of faith by sharing it with you. And you have been gracious enough to read it, and comment on it, and “like” it, and sometimes “love” it, and offer me suggestions, corrections and gentle nudges.

Thank  you for following along on the journey. It’s been scary to put myself out there, but I have.

And now, I thought I’d review some favorite finds I noted in posts over the past year. My learnings have been many and it’s been fun to review all that I’ve seen and thought and admired and wondered about. I hope you’ll feel the same and will continue to follow along and comment and share those that you enjoy with your family and friends.

Here’s my countdown , or maybe I should say my count up of favorite moments in time over the past year:

Feb 21, 2016: Celebrating a Year of Wonder-filled Wanders

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b-sketch 1

I made time one year ago to sit and sketch–one of my favorite activities. To be still and embrace life around me. To notice. And commemorate.

February 28 2016: Gallivanting Around Great Brook

h-yellow and white partners

Usually, we drive the forest road in to the gate on Hut Road in Stoneham, but in winter it isn’t passable, and thus one must walk–which means paying attention to things you might not normally notice, such as this: a special relationship between a yellow birch and a white pine. Rooted in place, they embrace and share nutrients. Forever conjoined, they’ll dance through life together.

March 18, 2016: On the Verge of Change

b-panellus stipticus?

While exploring the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s  Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham with my friend, Parker,  who is a master mycologist, he found Panellus stipticus, a bioluminescent species. Check out those gills on the underside. According to Lawrence Millman in his book Fascinating Fungi of New England, ” . . . specimens in the Northeast glow more obviously than specimens in other parts of North America.” So if you are ever in these woods late at night, don’t be freaked out by a light greenish glow. It just might be nature’s night light.

March 22 2016: Wet Feet at Brownfield Bog

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When I first spied this lump of gray I assumed it was a dead mouse. I know, I know–I should never assume because I risk “making an ass out of u and me.” And so I took a closer look. And noticed tons of bones and those orange teeth. An owl pellet filled with the remains of dinner. Owl pellets are extra cool and dissecting one is even cooler. I collected this one but haven’t dissected it because I think it makes for a great teaching tool as is. If you want to see it, just ask.

April 13, 2016: So Many Quacks

v-egg mass 1

At the vernal pool, or frog pond as we’ve always fondly referred to it, just steps from our property, I kept a keen eye on the situation last spring. In general, each mass laid by  female wood frogs was attached to a twig or branch. They tend to take advantage of the same site for attachment and usually in a warm, sunny spot.

A couple of masses were positioned independent of the rest, like this one–embraced in oak and maple leaves. Eventually, they’ll gain a greenish tinge from algae, which actually helps to camouflage them. One of the many wonders is that any given mass may contain up to 1,000 eggs–from a two-to-three-inch frog.

April 28, 2016: The Big, The Little and Everything in Between

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The phone rang as I stepped out of the shower and a male voice yammered away about something in the snow and it had come last night and I had to get there quickly. My friend, Dick,  was standing in a friend’s yard about a half mile from here and looking at bear tracks in the snow.

As he knew he would, he had me on the word “bear.” His voice was urgent as he insisted I stop everything and get to his friend’s house. “I just need to dry my hair and then I’ll be right there,” I said. Deadlines loomed before me but bear tracks won my internal war. Dick suggested I just wrap a towel around my head. Really, that’s what I should have done because my hair has no sense of style whether wet or dry, so after a few minutes I said the heck with it and popped into my truck, camera and trackards in hand.

May 21, 2016: Wallowing in Wonder

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Along Perky’s Path at the GLLT’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Preserve, a bunch of us had the honor to watch a dragonfly split open its exoskeleton and emerge from the nymph stage. Of course, we were standing by a beaver pond, and so it seemed only appropriate that it would use the top of a sapling cut by a beaver. As it inflated the wings with blood pressure, they began to extend.

May 31, 2016: Slippers Fit for a Princess–Including Cinderella

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Members of the Orchid family, lady’s slippers feature the typical three petals in an atypical fashion. The pouch (or slipper or moccasin), called the labellum, is actually one petal–inflated and veined. With a purplish tint, the petals and sepals twist and turn offering their own take on a ballroom dance. From every angle, it’s simply elegant.

June 10, 2016: The Main(e) Exotics

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At Lakes Environmental Association‘s Holt Pond Preserve, a friend and I had moved from the swamp to the first hemlock hummock and chatted about natural communities when suddenly we realize we were being hissed at. Its coloration threw us off and beautiful though it was, the hairs on the back of our necks stood on end. Apparently we made it feel likewise. And so we retreated. It was a common garter, but really, there didn’t seem anything common about it in the moment.

June 18, 2016: Paying Attention

partridge berry

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j-  trailing 7 (1)

In May, trailing arbutus wowed us by its gentle white and pale pink flowers. In June,  they faded to a rusty tone. And some transformed into swollen round seed pods–a first for me to see.

The sepals curled away to reveal the white fleshy fruit speckled with tiny brown seeds. It was well worth getting down on knees to look through a hand lens–especially since ants, chipmunks and mice find these to be a delicacy so they wouldn’t last long.

July 9, 2016: Wondering About Nature’s Complexity

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I posed a question this day: So dear reader, I enjoy teaching you, but now need you to teach me. I found this under another leaf on a shrub. And I often see the same thing stuck to our house. It reminds me of a caddisfly case. What is it?

And fellow Master Naturalist Pam Davis responded: Check out bagworm moths to see if it might be an answer to the stick thing on the leaf and your house. Here’s a discussion: http://nature.gardenweb.com/discussions/2237505/not-a-bug-maybe-a-gall and a Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagworm_moth

Indeed.

July 27, 2016: Searching for the Source of Sweetness

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It was no mistake the this fritillary butterfly chose the beebalm on which to land. Check out its mouth. A butterfly feeds through a coiled mouth part called a proboscis. When not in use, the proboscis recoils and is tucked into position against the butterfly’s head.

August 21, 2016: Sundae School

n-Indian pipe bee 1

My lessons began immediately. What to my wondering eye should appear, but a bee pollinating an Indian Pipe. And in the middle of the afternoon. Huh? I’ve always heard that they are pollinated by moths or flies at night. Of course, upon further research, I learned that bees and skipper butterflies have been known to pay a visit to the translucent flowers. Add that to the memory bank.

August 27, 2016: Halting Beside Holt Pond

h-pitcher  flower up close

Halting–prone to pauses or breaks. I didn’t break, but I certainly was prone to pauses as I moved along the trails and boardwalks at the Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton. One of my first stops–to admire the pitcher plant flowers in their August form. When I took a closer look, I realized that the seeds were developing–certainly a WOW moment in the world of wonder.

September 9, 2016: Golden Rulers

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What first caught my eye was a bee that dangled upside down. And then I spied the green legs of an assassin bug. What? Yup, an assassin bug. I believe this one is a nymph. Regardless of age, here’s the scoop: Assassin bugs are proficient at capturing and feeding on a wide variety of prey. Though they are good for the garden, they also sometimes choose the wrong species like this bee. The unsuspecting prey is captured with a quick stab of the bug’s curved proboscis or straw-like mouthpart. Once I saw this, I continued to return for a couple of hours, so stay tuned.

September 15, 2016: The Wonders of Kezar River Reserve

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My favorite wonder of the day . . . moments spent up close with a meadowhawk.

October 17, 2016: Everybody Loves Raymond? Mondate

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My guy and I discovered several of these examples of fungi on fungi at Loon Echo Land Trust‘s Raymond Community Forest and had no idea what they were–so I sent the photos to Parker and Jimmie Veitch, of White Mountain Mushrooms, and Jimmie responded with this explanation:

“That’s what mycologists call “rosecomb” mutation, where a mushroom’s gills start forming on the cap in a really mutated fashion. It’s been reported in many mushroom species but I haven’t seen it in this one (Armillaria AKA honey mushrooms). As far as I know, no secondary fungus is involved.

The suspected cause (not so nice) is ‘hydrocarbons, phenols and other compounds contaminating the casing or contacting the mushroom surface. Diesel oil, exhaust from engines, and petroleum-based pesticides are thought to be the principal source.'”

October 22, 2016: Cloaked By the Morning Mist

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On a rainy day adventure with the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust in nearby New Hampshire, we paused to admire candy lichen, a crustose (think–flattish or crust-like) lichen with green to bluish-green coloration. Its fruiting bodies, however, are candy-pinkish berets atop stalks, even reflected in the raindrops.

November 6, 2016: Focus on the Forest Foliage

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And then . . . and then . . . and then just as our eyes trained on the red caps before us, something else made itself known. We spied another lichen that I’ve only seen once before: Cladonia cervicornis ssp. verticillate.

Its growth formation is rather unique. In one sense, it reminded me of a sombrero, but in another sense, I saw fountains stacked one atop another, each giving forth life in their own unique fashion. But rather than being called Fountain Lichen, its common name is Ladder Lichen–perhaps referring to the fact that the pixies can easily climb up and up and up again.

November 20, 2016: Forever a Student

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A sight I was hoping for presented itself when I returned to our woodlot–froth at the base of a pine tree. It’s not unusual and occurs following a rain event such as we’d had all night and morning. So what causes the tree to froth? Well, like all lessons, there are several possibilities. Maine Master Naturalist Science Advisor Fred Cichocki recently had this to say about it: “I’ve noticed this phenomenon often, and in every case I’ve seen it’s associated with white pine, and always after a dry spell followed by heavy rain. Now, conifers, especially, produce hydrocarbons called terpenes (it’s what gives them their lovely pine, balsam and fir scent). These hydrocarbons are hydrophobic by nature and form immiscible films on water. During a heavy rain, water running down the trunk of a white pine picks up terpenes on the way. Air (having accumulated in bark spaces, channels, etc. perhaps under slight pressure) then “bubbles” through terpene-water films producing a froth. Recall the cleaning products PineSol, and the like. They are made from terpenes, and produce copious bubbles when shaken. One could get the same result directly by shaking terpentine in water, or by bubbling air through a terpentine-water mixture with a straw . . . Of course, it may be that other substances (salts, etc.) enhance the frothing.”

No matter how much I have learned on this life-long course, there’s always more. I certainly don’t have all the answers and for that I am thankful. I’m forever a student.

December 4, 2016: The Art of Nature

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Some cut stumps reminded me of the circular movement leading toward the center of a labyrinth–appearing quick and easy, and yet providing a time to slow down while following the path.

December 23, 2016: Won’t You Be My Neighbor

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I followed the porcupine trail along his regular route and over the stonewall only to discover prints I’ve never met before. My first impression was raccoon, but the shape of the prints and the trail didn’t match up in my brain. More and more people have mentioned opossum sightings in the past few years, but I’ve only seen one or two–flattened on the road. Today, in our very woods, opossum prints.

January 19, 2017: Keep an Open Mind

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While I always head out with expectations of what my forest wanderings will offer, I’m happily surprised time and time again with the gifts received.

And so it was the other day when a friend and I happened upon this trophy in an area I’ve only visited a few times. We’d been noting the abundant amount of deer tracks and realized we were between their bedding and feeding areas and then voila–this sweet sight sitting atop the snow. It now adorns a bookcase in my office, a wonder-filled addition to my mini natural history museum. (I’m trying to give Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny of the Boxcar Children series a run for their money in creating such a museum.)

January 25, 2017: On the Prowl at Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve

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Notice how these pine needles are clumped together? What I learned from Mary Holland, author of Naturally Curious,  is that these are tubes or tunnels created by the Pine Tube Moth. Last summer, larvae hatched from eggs deposited on the needles. They used silk to bind the needles together, thus forming a hollow tube. Notice the browned tips–that’s due to the larvae feeding on them. Eventually the overwintering larvae will pupate within the tube and in April when I come back to check on the vernal pool, I need to remember to pay attention, for that’s when they’ll emerge. Two generations occur each year and those that overwinter are the second generation. The good news, says Holland, is that “Pine Tube Moths are not considered a significant pest.” I only found the tubes on two young trees, but suspect there are more to be seen.

February 8, 2017: Embracing the Calm

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A bull moose, like a buck deer, thrashes bushes and small saplings when the velvet on its antlers dries. It could be that the velvet itches. But it could also be a response to increasing testosterone and the need to scent mark.

February 16, 2017: When Life Gives You Flakes

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When life gives you flakes . . . make a snow angel in the middle of the trail.

To all who have read this far, thanks again for taking a trip down memory lane today and sticking with me these past two years. I sincerely hope you’ll continue to share the trail as I wander and wonder–my way.

And to wondermyway.com–Happy Second Anniversary!

 

 

 

 

 

Progressive Lunch Mondate

Today’s hike found us climbing one of our favorite mountains in western Maine. We love the fact that we can ascend along various trails and change it up if we want with up and back routes, circular routes and ridge-line routes.

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Since we chose the Southwest Ridge Trail, we drove to the parking area on Denmark Road. Ours was the only vehicle, but trail conditions and a single Stabilicers™ ice cleat indicated many others had traveled this way recently. As for those ice cleats, my guy informed me he’s sold tons this winter and he has STABILicers™ Powder Straps for sale as well, so they don’t end up as trail sign decorations.

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The beginning of the trail was mostly covered in frozen snow. Immediately we wondered who had used the trail more–humans or deer? The imprints of the latter spoke of timing. The smaller skipper on the left, must have moved this way after a recent warm day and the adult, which I suspected was a doe, earlier when temperatures were colder and the snow firmer. With temps a bit lower than yesterday, we found it rather firm for our purposes.

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At least seven different deer runs crossed the trail between the parking area and first ledge.

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Being on the southwestern side of the mountain, the snow level was significantly less than elsewhere and one run was completely open to the leaf litter, making it easier for food foraging.

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Conditions kept changing for us as well. A friend from Florida had been asking about signs of spring, and this trail certainly hinted at a change of seasons.

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In fact, we experienced a bit of every season, from snow and ice to leaves, mud and water.

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About an hour into our climb, we found two rocks meant for a pause. And so we did.

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Lunch Course Number One: Pineland Farms Creamery’s Salsa Jack cheese on crackers.

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Our break gave us time to take in the view toward the White Mountains where we’d hiked yesterday. Though our visibility was rather good for a cloudy day, it was obvious that those mountains were again in the mist.

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A bit further on, the bright orange-red fruit clusters of staghorn sumac brightened our day. As vibrant as they are, most of the pompom fruits remained, waiting for songbirds, turkeys and grouse. Apparently, they are not a preferred food source and will often remain until late winter. Though I’ve never tried it, the crushed fruit can be used to make a lemonade-like tea. And the tannin-rich bark was used to tan hides.

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The “staghorn” part of the common name derived from the fact that the stem is covered in reddish-brown hairs and features a manner of growth that somewhat resembles the velvet-covered horns (antlers) of a stag (male deer).

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We solved the problems of the world as we continued up, all the while looking down to choose the right foot placement so we were both surprised when we realized we’d already reached the teepee at the summit of the trail.

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Lunch Course Number Two: Black Bean Soup.

The recipe was shared with me eons ago by my friend Carissa. When our sons were young, they loved to help me make it. And I was thrilled when our oldest asked for the recipe last week. I thought you might appreciate it.

Black Bean Soup

1 lb plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 large onion, halved and cut into wedges

1 lb carrots, peeled and quartered

3 lg garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

4 C vegetable broth

3 1/4 C cooked black beans or two 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine first six ingredients and roast at 350˚ for one hour, stirring occasionally. Set carrots aside. Purée other roasted veggies. Pour some broth into roasting pan and scrape up bits. Hold aside one cup beans. Purée other beans, using some broth if necessary. Chop carrots. Heat everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.

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We enjoyed the view and talked about the Hike and Bike Trek that Loon Echo Land Trust hosts each year. This is the spot that my friend, Marita, and I spend the day at as we perform our hostess duties for the six-mile hikers.

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Before we began our descent, we took one last look at the teepee, created years ago by the late George Sudduth, director/owner of Wyonegonic Camps, the oldest camp for girls in America.

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Back down we went, carefully picking our way. We were actually surprised at how quickly we finished, the climb down not nearly as treacherous as at least one of us had anticipated.

We’re expecting a Nor’easter overnight into tomorrow and hope it’s an all snow event (despite the prediction for freezing rain and sleet after the snow) because we aren’t ready to give up winter yet.

Lunch Course Number Three: Two Dark Chocolate McVitie’s Digestives when we reached the truck. A perfect ending to a Progressive Lunch Mondate on Pleasant Mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perley Pond Preserve Presents

I love to learn and today’s presence offered such as I explored Loon Echo Land Trust’s Perley Pond/Northwest River Preserve in Sebago. I’ll be leading a hike there this Saturday, so if you are so inclined, I hope you’ll come along. But if you can’t, then please read on. (Note: Jon Evans, Stewardship Manager for LELT will be with me on Saturday, and he’ll have so much more to offer about the lay of the land, which was acquired by the trust in 2014. Today marked my first visit to this property.)

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There are three entry points along Folly Road and I began my reconnaissance mission at the first, where I didn’t get far due to a stream not quite frozen, but still found plenty to examine.

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Evening Primrose stood at alert in the field just off the road. Tall in stature, its distinctive seed pods peeled back in four parts and small seeds looked like fresh ground pepper on the snow.

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Black-eyed Susans also decorated this space, some leaning over to share their offerings. The hairy bracts and gumdrop shape made these easy to spot.

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One of my favorite finds in the first section of the property–the hairy twig, catkin, leaf and bud of a Beaked Hazelnut. Just last week I saw the same, well, minus the catkins, in Lovell. And knowing that certain leaves are marcescent, e.g. remain attached to the stem throughout some or most of the winter like oak, witch hazel and especially beech, I was thrown off by this other type. It had me thinking birch and well it should have because Beaked Hazelnut is a member of the birch family. But #1, though a hairy twig like Yellow and Paper Birch, the leaf base wasn’t right for either, and #2, I didn’t recall ever seeing these leaves still dangling in later fall/early winter. The trees taught me a lesson today–the most perfect of gifts–a few Beaked Hazelnut leaves continued to dangle, though most were turning quite dark in hue and I suspected will fall soon, and, I found Gray Birch leaves also clinging. Just when I thought I knew everything, nature proved there’s more to learn. So the gift was a reminder to pay more attention.

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I left that section and walked down the road to a spot where a chain prevents vehicles from entering the old log landing. It certainly didn’t stop the deer who had danced in the night.

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As I moved through the landing, I paused to admire another dancer as witnessed in the fluid movement of Sweet-fern.

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Like the Beaked Hazelnut, its catkins were wrapped gifts that spoke to the future.

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Also in this space, a few willows with their own little packages.

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The willow pine cone gall was created in the summer by a gall gnat midge. The larva stage secreted a substance on the stem that caused the willow to go into overdrive–resulting in a multi-layered chamber composed of hardened material that would have been leaves, but alas, the stem growth was arrested. Inside that hairy structure resides the wintering larva, nice and snug for the winter. It will metamorphose into a gnat when warm weather arrives.

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As I walked along I noticed Christmas tree patterns among the firs.

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It was a simple case of an upside-down look. Once flipped, in my brain anyway, the seasonal symbol was obvious.

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And the ornaments dangled–in the form of Big-toothed Aspen leaves and White Pine needles,

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Northern Camouflage Lichen,

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and shredded bark created by . . .

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a Pileated Woodpecker in search of food.

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I felt my good fortune to find a spot where a ruffed grouse had tunneled.

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And then I was stopped by a burl. Like a gall, this was created by insects.

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The tree of choice featured lower gnarly bark that resembled a Northern Red Oak.

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But a peek toward its crown revealed a birch–the two-fer one gift: Big-toothed Aspen.

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Its leaves, oh my, another  temporarily “marcescent” variety–showing off the big teeth for which it received its common name.

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Speaking of leaves, there were numerous renditions of White Oak–another dancer that seemed to freeze in motion.

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Here and there among the offerings, Red Pine. This particular one showed my love for it where a branch had broken off. Do you see the wee heart?

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While mature Red Pines feature bark that reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle, I found some younger trees, their structure speaking to geometry.

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Continuing on along the logging road, I wondered if perhaps I’d gone astray. Suddenly, I found myself in Piscataqua County–miles and miles from home. I knew I was in unknown territory, but was I really that far from home? More than my usual fake lost?  Or someone’s sense of humor?

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Maybe so. Certainly I was in the land of owl feet.

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And a tuckered coyote?

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It was at this point that I headed off trail, made easy by underbrush.

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Deer tracks led me to another wonder-filled gift.

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The wetland and Northwest River, one of the namesakes for this place.

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It was here that another lesson presented itself–the layered bark made me realize I was viewing Pitch Pine growing beside the bog. My understanding was that these grew on ledges or rocky outcrops. But here was one with wet feet. And so I later consulted Bogs and Fens by Ronald B. Davis (I highly encourage you to add this title to your Christmas wish list) and discovered that not only does it grow in dry woodlands, but also “in swamps and at the edges of fens and bogs.” (Additional note: Pitch Pine Bogs are listed as S2:  “Imperiled in Maine because of rarity (6-20 occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres) or because of other factors making it vulnerable to further decline”; thus another reason to give thanks to LELT for preserving this place)

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Pitch Pine needles present themselves in bundles of three–perfect for this time of year–ahhhh, the Trinity.

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Rhodora

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and Leatherleaf added to the winter ornamentation.

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In my attempts for “the perfect photo,” I broke through the ice several times. I’d been post-holing through about seven or eight inches of snow all afternoon sans snowshoes because it was quite easy to move about in the fluffy stuff, but when I reached the edge of the water, the snow had insulated the thin ice cover and . . .  crash, crackle, crunch, I sunk in to the top of my Boggs and even a wee bit over.

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On my way back down the logging road, I realized how my own tracks were much more varied than that of the deer who’d passed before me.

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And then I came to a boundary sign. Opps. Guess I went beyond the land trust’s property, though thankfully no signs deterred me from trespassing.

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And a wee bit further down Folly Road, I stopped at Perley Pond, part of the namesake for this property–and part of the reason for my presence for the presents presented.

Book of October: HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION

Better late than never is the name of my game. And so it is that I’m finally posting the Book of October. Since I was away at the beginning of the month, I’ve been playing catch-up, but also, I had three different books I wanted to write about and couldn’t choose one. And then, the other day after hiking with my friend, Marita, and mentioning her book, I realized when I tried to provide a link from my Book of the Month posts that though I’ve mentioned the book several times, I’ve never actually written about it. And so, without further ado . . .

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the Book of October is HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION by Marita Wiser.

Of course, since we’ve been friends for a long time and I’ve served as editor on several editions of the book, I suppose you might deem my review as being biased. It is.

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And if you find the typo that has survived several editions, I might give you an extra candy bar for Halloween. Just remember, only God is perfect.

As you can see from the table of contents, trail descriptions are organized based on location and she ranks the difficulty, making it easy for the user to make a decision about which trail to hike. Do you see the blue box on Mount Cutler in Hiram? I actually had a brain freeze there and couldn’t put mind over matter and get to the summit. I was stuck in one spot for at least a half hour before feeling a slight bit of bravery and making my way down. I laugh at that now because I’ve completed all the black diamonds except for Chocorua–guess that needs to go on my list. Of course, my guy and I did have a heck of a time descending one trail on the Baldfaces, but we survived and have a story to tell.

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The trail descriptions include directions, distances, time allotment, difficulty and often history. I think knowing the history of the place is extremely valuable so you can better understand the features around you.

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For one of the local favorites, Pleasant Mountain, she includes five pages to describe the various trails and even includes an old photograph of the Pleasant Mountain Hotel. Standing at the summit, I often imagine the horses and carriages that carried visitors up the Firewardens trail, that is after they’d arrived by Steamboat, having followed the Cumberland and Oxford Canal from Portland to Harrison. Their journey makes any hike we take seem so easy. Well, maybe not, but still.

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The centerfold provides an overview of all the areas Marita writes about.

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And while she begins the book with a variety of hiking tips about everything from water, food, trash and clothing to ticks, hunting and trail markings, she ends with a scavenger hunt and information on how to reorder the book.

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With time comes change and her covers reflect such. Marita started this project when she wrote a hiking column for The Bridgton News years ago.

The beauty of her book is that she actually goes out and explores all of the trails over and over again, and in each edition she provides updated descriptions. She also adds and deletes trails, so even if you have an older version, you might want to purchase the current copy.

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I’m thankful for the book and my friendship with Marita. And glad that I often get to join her on a reconnaissance mission. (We also co-host the rest stop at the teepee on the Southwest Ridge Trail of Pleasant Mountain each September for Loon Echo Land Trust’s Hike ‘n Bike fundraiser before we traverse the ridgeline to the summit of Shawnee Peak Ski Area–thus our southern-themed headwear.)

This Book of October is a must have if you live in or plan to visit the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region area. And it’s available at many local shops, including Bridgton Books.

HIKES & Woodland Walks in and Around Maine’s LAKES REGION, fifth edition, by Marita Wiser, © 2013.

 

 

Everybody Loves Raymond? Mondate

My guy and I were up for an adventure this morning as we headed off to a property recently acquired by Loon Echo Land Trust. I’d been there once before, but at that time there was no trail system and I certainly hadn’t climbed to the summit.

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We were on a 356-acre property bisected by a paved road. First, we hiked the upper section, passing through a hardwood forest.

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Immediately, I realized we were in the presence of one of my favorites–noted for the mitten-ish presentation of its leaves. One would have to be all thumbs to fit into this mitten, but still, my heart hums whenever I spy a white oak.

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Or in this case, many white oaks, some exhibiting the wine color of their fall foliage.

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And the bark–a blocky look that differs greatly . . .

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from the ski trail ridges of red oak.

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Hop Hornbeam also grows abundantly in this forest.

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As we neared the summit, we noticed that the sky view had a yellowish tone reflected by the ground view. Most trees were of the same age due to past logging efforts, but the predominant species was sugar maple.

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Another favorite tree also grew abundantly here. I think they are also favorites because I don’t see them as often. In this case, the bark, though furrowed and ridged like a northern red oak, featured an almost combed flattened ridge.

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And its leaves–oh my! Notice the asymmetrical base? And the length–my boot is size 8. American basswood–an important timber tree that is known to share the community with sugar maples and hornbeams–all of which provided that yellow glow.

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At last, we reached the vantage point.

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Above us, a mix of colors and species.

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Before us, a mix of white and red oak leaves.

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And beyond us, the view of Crescent Lake

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and Rattlesnake Mountain.

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While we admired the view, ladybird beetles (aka ladybugs) swarmed us. Well, not exactly in swarm formation, but more than is the norm.

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After admiring the view for a while and wondering about the ladybirds, we backtracked a bit and decided to explore the green trail, assuming that it looped about the summit.

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The trail conditions changed constantly, and one thing we realized was that the leaves had dried out and we wished we could have bottled their scent along with our crispy footfall as we trudged through–the smells and sounds associated with autumn.

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Eventually, we entered a beech commune and what to my wondering eyes should appear–bear claw marks? We ventured closer, circled the tree and looked at others in the neighborhood before determining that our eyes had perhaps played a trick on us.

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That was OK because within seconds a twig moved at our feet.

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We watched as its tongue darted in and out, red tipped with a black fork.

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Finally, we moved back to what we’d named Ladybird Lookout and found lunch rock where we topped off sandwiches with Bailey’s Irish Cream fudge a la Megan and Becky Colby. Life is good. Life is very good. (And we know a town in western Maine that would benefit greatly from a bakery–just saying, Megan!)

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After lunch, we climbed back down and crossed Conesca Road to check out trails on the other side. There is no trail map just yet, but we never got lost. And we appreciated the artwork nature created of manmade marks.

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This space offered a different feel where hardwoods combined with softwoods. And more stonewalls crossed the property, speaking to past uses.

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It’s here that we noticed an area demarked by pink flags and stopped to wonder why. Note to self–excavated hole and debris mean beware.

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Upon closer examination, an old hive. So who dug it up? We had our suspicions.

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We also noticed a fungi phenomena.

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Fungi on fungi? Honey mushrooms attacked by something else?

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The displays were large

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and otherworldly. I don’t recall ever seeing this before.

I sent the photos to Parker and Jimmie Veitch, of White Mountain Mushrooms, and Jimmie responded with this explanation:

“That’s what mycologists call “rosecomb” mutation, where a mushroom’s gills start forming on the cap in a really mutated fashion. It’s been reported in many mushroom species but I haven’t seen it in this one (Armillaria AKA honey mushrooms). As far as I know, no secondary fungus is involved.

The suspected cause (not so nice) is ‘hydrocarbons, phenols and other compounds contaminating the casing or contacting the mushroom surface. Diesel oil, exhaust from engines, and petroleum-based pesticides are thought to be the principal source.'”

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As we concluded our visit, we passed over one more stone wall decorated with red maple leaves.

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And then we hopped into the truck and traveled a couple of miles south to conquer another small mountain–one visible to us from Ladybird Lookout. (I really think LELT should name it such.)

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Here the milkweed plants grew abundantly.

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In the field leading to the trail, the property owners planted white oak saplings in hopes of providing food for wildlife. Um, by the same token, they’d enclosed the saplings in plastic sleeves (reminding us of our findings in Ireland) to keep deer at bay.

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The understory differed and ferns offered their own autumn hues.

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In contrast were the many examples of evergreen wood ferns.

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We soon realized that quite literate bears frequented this path and announced their presence.

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At last, the view opened and we looked back at the opposite shore of Crescent Lake, though realizing that our earlier ascent was masked by the trees.

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Turning about, Panther Pond came into view.

We’d spent the day embracing Raymond because everybody loves Raymond.

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Raymond, Maine, that is. Loon Echo Land Trust is gearing up to celebrate the Raymond Community Forest that we explored this morning and the Bri-Mar Trail up Rattlesnake Mountain has long been traveled by many. In fact, when I used to write copy for the local chamber of commerce, I spent some time learning about Edgar Welch, who was the fastest man on foot and ran up Mount Washington at least once a year. He lived in Raymond and worked for David McLellan, who was partially blind from a Civil War injury. Because Mr. McLellan’s farm was at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain, the sun would set one hour earlier than elsewhere in town. According to legend, after work each day Edgar ran up the mountain and moved rocks. Finally, he’d moved enough to let the sun shine on the farm for an hour longer. Another story has it that one day a man bet Edgar that he could beat him in a race to Portland. The man would race with his horse and buggy, while Edgar ran. When the opponent pulled into the city, Edgar was waiting for him. I love local lore.

And everybody loves Raymond. Well, my guy and I certainly gained a better appreciation for this town today.

 

 

 

On Hands and Knees to Wonder

When I invited Jinny Mae to join me at Loon Echo Land Trust’s Bald Pate Preserve this afternoon, she eagerly agreed. And three hours later, I know she had no regrets. Though we never reached the summit, neither of us cared. Our minds were boggled by all that we had noticed.

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Somehow we managed to beeline our way to the Foster Pond Lookout. And then we slowed down. To a stop.

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And so we got rather personal with the rock substrate as we took a closer look. At lichens. For what seemed like ever, it was thought that lichens were symbiotic life forms consisting of Freddy Fungus and Alice Algae, who took a liken to each other and their marriage formed a single organism. Sometimes, cyanobacteria or blue-green algae was tossed into the mix. The fungus provided shelter (algae can only live where they won’t dry out and so being surrounded by fungal cells meant Alice could live outside of water), while either of the photosynthetic partners, algae or cyanobacteria, produced food from the sun.

It’s no longer just a story about Freddy and Alice living together, however. New scientific research deems another partner in the mix–yeast, which also provides protection. I feel like just stating that puts me way out of my league.

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Our goal wasn’t to understand those relationships per say. We just wanted to spend some time looking and developing an eye to recognize these structures while appreciating their life’s work that often goes unseen.

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Some grow at an especially slow rate–think hundreds of years rather than decades. That in itself, should stop us in our tracks. And yet, as we stand 5+ feet above those that grow on rocks, we hardly notice them.

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The  dark brown fruiting bodies, called apothecia, are where spores are produced and life continues. Walk tenderly, my friends.

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Jinny Mae’s excitement over the toad skin lichen was contagious. Notice its warty projections–much like the skin of an American toad, which varies in color.

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I spied this toad a few days ago, but its skin certainly helps qualify the lichen’s common name.

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If you look in the center, you can see the point where the lichen attached to the rock–the belly button of this particular lichen making it known as an umbilicate lichen.

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And among the favorite finds of the day, Jinny Mae was the first to spy this. It had rained this morning and everything was dry by the time we hiked, but some signs of moisture remained. In this case, it’s wet toad skin contrasted by dry toad skin. If you are willing to give up some water from your water bottle, you can create the same contrast. And note the black dots–its fruiting bodies or apothecia where its spores are produced.

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The more we looked, the more we saw.

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British soldiers were topped by their brilliant red caps–forever announcing their presence.

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Pixie-cup lichen stood like goblets, ready with magical potions.

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Some were filled to the brim and almost overflowed with life.

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We marveled at the green,

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gray,

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and foam-like structure of reindeer lichen. These are treats for reindeer and caribou, neither of which frequent our region except for one night a year.

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And then we looked at the next layer in succession on a rock. Once the lichens have established themselves, mosses move in. Did you ever think about the fact that mosses don’t have flowers, stems or roots? Instead, they feature tiny green leaf-like structures and microscopic hair-like structures. They send their “hairs” into the crevices created by the lichens and anchor themselves to the rocks. Today, we found a moss neither of us remember seeing before.

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To us, it offered a square presentation and we debated its identity. While we thought it may be yellow yarn moss, I’m now leaning toward medusa moss–though their leaf edges are smooth and these are obviously toothed.  Do you know? Which ever it is, we were wowed.

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We finally moved on, hiking to a false summit to take in the western view.

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The late afternoon sun and breeze played havoc with our views, but we eventually reached the rock tripe wall, where common polypody took advantage of the living conditions.

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The lichen covered a ledge, some of it green from the morning rain, but surprisingly much of it still brown. Like the toad skin lichen, rock tripe are umbilicate and attached to the rock at a single point. They reminded me of elephant ears flapping in the breeze.

From there, we headed down. Our pace on the slow side all afternoon.

And sometimes we had absolutely no pace at all, unless you consider the motion (and grunts) as we got down on our hands and knees and even our bellies to take a closer look. It was all worth a wonder. And we did.

 

 

Our Place

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Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Seriously . . . is all that noise necessary? Apparently it is. Mr. Tom felt the need to awaken us at this morning’s first light with his non-stop gobbling–his way of calling the hens to join him. Disclaimer: I didn’t take this photo until later in the day. In all his ugliness, I have to say that he really is a handsome fellow.

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The hens who hang out with him don’t appear to care, but maybe they’re just playing coy.

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We left them to the bird seed scattered on the ground and drove to Farnsworth Road in Brownfield for a hike up Peary Mountain. The trail is located on private property and we’re thankful that it’s open to hikers. Much of it is a snowmobile trail as well.

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The Little Saco flows over moss-covered rocks beside the lower part of the trail.

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As we followed it, bright green growth in the damp soil warranted a closer look.

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A true sign of spring–false hellebore with its corrugated leaves.

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There are plenty of other signs, including the pink and green striped maple buds. I’m missing my macro for these moments of early glory, but so it is.

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While some beech trees still have a few marcescent leaves clinging until they can no more, I noticed a few buds beginning to burst.

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At a stone wall, the trail suddenly turns 90˚ to the left.

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But in the opposite direction–the remains of an old foundation.

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And above, a ledge from whence the stones presumably came.

p-porc scat

The ledge continues to provide a dwelling–for critters like the porcupines who keep the hemlocks well trimmed.

p-bluets

As we climbed to the top, delicate bluets showed their smiling faces.

p-bench view1

And then we emerged on the 958-foot summit, where the bench view is glorious. The small mountain was named for Admiral Peary. Apparently, his mother’s family, the Wileys, lived in neighboring Fryeburg. Upon graduating from Bowdoin College in 1877, Peary lived in Fryeburg and conducted survey studies of the area for a couple of years, before moving to DC and later leading an expedition to the North Pole.

p-mount wash

If you’ve seen similar views of the big mountain, its because it’s part of our place.

p-my guy view

I followed my guy along the ridge line to the end–where the view turned homeward.

p-pointing

My guy made a point of recognizing landmarks from Mount Tom and Lovewell Pond along the Saco River to Pleasant Mountain and Brownfield Bog.

p-Pleasant 2

If you look closely, you’ll notice a horizontal line just below the bog–that’s the Saco River. And the little mountain to the left of Pleasant Mountain–Little Mountain in West Bridgton.

p-Pleasant Road1

The only part of the view that we don’t get–the new road that was constructed up the backside of the mountain within the past year. It worries us. And that is why we appreciate the efforts of Loon Echo Land Trust for protecting most of the rest of the mountain.

b-pitch pine

We headed home for lunch and to pull out the lawn furniture.* And then we parted ways, my guy to attend a celebration of life for an old friend, and me to climb Bald Pate. My purpose–to look at the pitch pines and jack pines.

b-pitch 2

In bundles of three, the stiff needles surround the male pollen bearing cones on the pitch pine.

b-jack pine1

Jack pine features two needles per bundle–think Jack and Jill.

b-peabody & sebago

From the summit, I paused to take in the view of Peabody Pond and Sebago Lake beyond. It doesn’t matter how often I climb to the top of this 1,100-foot mountain, the view is ever changing.

b-mount wash1

And again, I could see Pleasant with Mount Washington in its saddle. This time, however, I was on the opposite side looking at the front of Pleasant Mountain. You may wonder about the road–it leads to two cell towers near the Southwest Ridge summit.

b-sweet fern 1

As I made my way to the Foster Pond Lookout, I stopped frequently to enjoy the ever-artful presentation of sweet fern.

b-blueberries

And I noticed another sweet offering that many of us will enjoy this summer–blueberry plants in bloom.  A year ago next week, I saw the same on this very mountain. Seems early, but I think they’re well protected in a sunny spot.

b-foster pond 2

I’m sure had my guy been with me, he would have named a color chip that matched Foster Pond–perhaps turquoise blue best described it in that moment.

b-bird treat 1

Heading back to my truck, I noticed some bird treats dangling from the trees. Perhaps our turkeys will fly to South Bridgton.

h-tom 3

Apparently not. Back at home, Tom had returned. He’s a frequent visitor to our place. And we’re frequent visitors to the area beyond our backyard. It’s all really his place and our place.

* If you live in our area, expect at least one more snowstorm. It always snows once we pull out the lawn furniture.

 

 

Every Day is a Gift

It’s Earth Day and yet, I wanted to hibernate. That didn’t go so well. First, I looked out the living room window this morning and noticed a skunk staggering as it walked in circles–like a dog chasing its tail–only the skunk kept falling to the ground and then getting up and continuing in the same fashion. So I called the game warden. A neighbor did the same and a short time later an animal control officer put the skunk out of its rabid misery.

a-blues1

And then I was supposed to co-lead a hike in Pondicherry Park, but still in hibernate-mode, I managed to get out of it. My excuse–work load. Which was true, but staying focused wasn’t happening. So, I headed out the back door and decided to change my point of view. The high bush blueberry leaf buds began to do the trick as they offered their gift of quiet beauty.

a-red map2

a-red maple 1

Nearby, red maples practically screamed for attention. Male flowers have long, extended stamens that are coated in dusty yellow-green pollen. The females have a well developed ovary with two long stigmas but the stamens are reduced in size and non-functional. Just seeing them lifted my mood.

a-ta1

As I made my way to the vernal pool, I stopped to smell the trailing arbutus, aka Mayflower. But sniff as I did while squatting on all fours, I couldn’t smell the soft scent people rave about. And I have a good sniffer. For me, the gift of this wildflower is all in the joy it brings as one of our first to bloom.

a-tad 4

My next stop, was of course, the vernal pool that I frequent on a regular basis. While something has been disturbing some of the egg masses, others continue to develop.

a-tadpole 1

Each little tadpole swims about in its jelly-covered egg, offering a gift of hope.

a-sally3

Salamander eggs also are enjoying the warmth of being encased in jelly–especially where the sun shines upon them. It’s most helpful for development when the egg masses can float to the top of the pond and take advantage of the sun’s heat.

a-sally 1

For now, each little pod within the orb reminds me of coffee beans.

a-water st2

While standing silently beside the pool, I began to notice other forms of life, including the water striders. Do you see the two mating? These wonders of the natural world appear to skate on water, but really its the water-repellant hairs on their hind and middle legs that allow them to glide nimbly across the surface. They offer a gift of amazement.

a-mosquito1

Their favorite food happens to be abundant in this pool–mosquito larvae. I have to say it’s a food offering, but also a gift to all of us–we should celebrate the water striders as much as we do the dragonflies.

a-tom 2

I left the pool and realized I was among the turkeys. Tom was ready to offer his gift to his harem. Such a handsome dude.

a-grady 4

And with that, I realized that I was ready to join the world again so I drove to the trailhead for Bald Pate to join Loon Echo Land Trust for an Earth Day hike. The leader of the gang was this precocious tyke. At three years old, I kept insisting he’s 33. He kept telling me he’s only three. It can’t be. Though this was his first mountain to climb, I suspect there are many more in his future. He offered just the right tonic today and I fell in love.

a-view

As we climbed, we paused to look west and admire the view. Though the sun wasn’t truly shining, the day was getting brighter, literally and figuratively.

a-pitch cone

At the summit, we took time to examine the pitch pine cones with their prickly scales. Sometimes beauty has an edge.

a-grady and carrie mean pose

Before we descended, our little hiking buddy posed with his mom, the outgoing executive director of Loon Echo. Carrie will be missed and we wish her and her family well as they prepare for their move to Wisconsin in a couple of months. Her dedication to land conservation is to be admired. And that mean-looking grin–oh my.

a-adam 1

Also to be admired and the reason our local community and those beyond have been dealing with extreme shock these past couple of days–Adam Perron, who’s life was snuffed out two days ago in a tragic accident. Adam was the milfoil dude and a naturalist/educator at Lakes Environmental Association in Bridgton, where I serve on the board (and chair the ed cmt). He was also a student in the Maine Master Naturalist Program (Falmouth 2014) when I served in my first year as a mentor, so we spent many hours carpooling to classes and field trips and solving all kinds of environmental problems–in our opinions at least.

a-adam2

He was most at home in places like Holt Pond, where he loved to share his knowledge with others. R.I.P. Adam. I’m grateful for the gift of time spent in your presence. It strikes us all that your candle was snuffed out way too early, but as a friend reminded me today, we never know when it is our turn. Here’s to you, Beth and Abby.

And to everyone else, hug the ones you love and don’t forget to wonder. Every day is a gift.

 

 

 

From Peak to Shining Peak

Maybe we’re a wee bit crazy. Maybe there’s no maybe about it. My guy and I climbed Pleasant Mountain again, only this time we took a much longer route than yesterday.

p-Bald sign

After leaving a truck at the Southwest Ridge trail, we drove around the mountain and began today’s trek via Bald Peak. It’s always a good way to get the heart beating, but then again, any of the trails up the mountain will accomplish that mission.

p-bald stream 2

One of my favorite features of this path is the voice of the stream–water rippled with laughter as it flowed over moss-covered rocks before splashing joyously below.

p-Sue's Way signs

And then we turned right onto Sue’s Way. We never knew Sue, but are thankful for this path carved in her honor.

p-Sue's snow on East

Across the ravine, snow still clung to the East slope at Shawnee Peak Ski Area.

p-Sue's porky

Oaks, beech, hemlock and yellow birch form most of the community, feeding the needs of their neighbors–including porcupines.

p-Sue's 2

We followed the trail as it embraced another stream and watched the landscape change.

p-Sue's polypody

Eventually, we were in the land of large boulders and ledges, all decorated with common polypody and moss–an enchanted forest.

p-shawnee chair

At the top of Sue’s Way, we detoured to our first peak–Shawnee Peak.

p-shawnee

Splotches of snow signified the end of a season.

p-Shawnee chair 1

The Pine chairlift silently rested, its duty accomplished until it snows again.

p-shawnee ski chair 2

And in the shack, the back of ski chair spoke of past adventures and adventurers.

p-signs by mtn

From there, we followed the North Ridge Trail to our first official peak.

p-north peak trail ice1

Despite today’s warmth, ice still reflected movement frozen in time.

p-north peak pines

North Peak has always been one of my favorite spots on this mountain. In the land of reindeer lichen, blueberries and dwarfed red pines, we ate lunch–day two also of ham and  Swiss. This is becoming as much of a habit as climbing the mountain.

p-Mtn W from lunch rock

When we stood up on lunch rock, our view included the master of all New England mountains glowing in the distance.

p-north peak

In a few months, the treasures of this place will give forth fruitful offerings.

p-ridge line

With North Peak behind, our view encompassed the rest of the peaks.

p-Bald Peak, Mtn W and Kezar Pond

Continuing down and up again, we heard plenty of quaking coming from a vernal pool about one hundred feet off the trail. And then we were atop Bald Peak, where Mount Washington again showed its face, with Kezar Pond below.

p-bald peak causeway

The other side of the trail offered a photo opp of the Route 302 causeway that divides the north and middle basins of Moose Pond.

p-ft again

Our decision today was to hike the mountain in a backward fashion as compared to our normal routes, so we approached the main summit from the Firewarden’s Trail.

p-summit crowd

Once again, many others also took advantage. We did chuckle because except for one guy, of all the people we encountered, we were the oldest. The youngest–a baby in a backpack.

p-SW sign

At the junction below the main summit, we began to retrace yesterday’s footsteps on the Southwest Ridge Trail.

p-SW mayflower

The sunny exposure made this the warmest of all trails and the Trailing Arbutus prepared to make its proclamation about the arrival of spring.

p-SW Hancock

Near the teepee, I felt compelled to capture the ponds again. Another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

p-SW 2

After chatting with a family at the teepee, we began our descent. Of course, someone was mighty quicker than me.

p-SW 3

Where no trees grow on the bedrock, cairns showed the way.

p-SW mnts

Before slipping into the forest again, I was thankful for the opportunity to capture the  blue hue of sky, mountains and ponds.

p-cairns final turn

We made our final turn at the three cairns and

p-SW final

followed the path down–though we did begin to think that maybe they’d moved the parking lot.

p-LELT

Over six miles and four hours later, we had Loon Echo Land Trust to thank once again for protecting so much of the mountain and maintaing the trails. We reminisced today about how our relationship began at a halloween party held at the ski area thirty years ago and the number of treks we’ve made along these trails since then. Whether hiking to the ledges or teepee, making a loop or walking peak to peak on a sunshiny day such as this–it never gets old.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

We fell asleep to winter and awoke early this morning–eager to celebrate the vernal equinox.

b-dark

It was dark and cold (15˚) with a brisk breeze when we joined others for a 6am hike up Bald Pate sponsored by Loon Echo Land Trust.

b-sun begins

While we waited at the summit and tried to stay warm, we were treated to hot cocoa and amaretto cake. YUM!

b-sunrise1

And then . . .

b-sunrise 3

the sun shone upon this first day of spring.

b-vernal pool

After church, I made a quick visit to the vernal pool where ice is still the name of the game.

b-wet road

And after lunch, we headed off on another adventure. At first we followed an old road, which was tricky business.

b-1st fdn

Though at least six foundations are located along this road where young men carved out a living prior to the Civil War, we allowed ourselves time only to stop at one. We were on a mission.

b-powerline1

We turned north at the power line and trudged up and down hills in search of a brook.

b-stream crossing

That direction didn’t feel quite right, so we followed our noses and turned into the woods.

b-posted 1

And then we stumbled upon a property line that was posted. We love the fact that in Maine one can walk upon any property that isn’t posted. This one was recently marked and so we respected the landowner’s wishes.

b-meandering stream

That is, until we got to a point where we decided to trespass after all. Our journey took us past meandering streams,

b-stream crossing 2

stepping across others,

b-wetland 1

slogging through boggy areas,

b-bushwhack

and tripping among the understory.

b-deer rub

We saw where a deer had rubbed its antlers,

b-deer scrape

another enjoyed fine dining, and

b-deer skull

a third said goodbye as it returned from whence it came.

b-polypody 2

We found common polypody fern (Polypodium vulgare) indicating that the temperature was higher than it had been earlier in the morning.

b-polypody 1

This was our view of polypody when the temperature was much lower on Bald Pate.

b-pork den

We passed a porcupine den.

b-porky tree

And then we came upon downed hemlock branches and

b-pork scat 1

fresh scat.

b-pork in tree 1

I looked up.

b-pork in tree

He looked down.

b-game trail beside brook

Finally, we found ourselves walking along a game trail beside a brook–feeling like we might just be on the right track.

b-mill pond

Where the brook widened into a pond, we knew we were in the right place.

b-on a rock

Just below the pond, my guy stood in the middle of the brook, excited about our find. We’d attempted to locate this spot a year ago and missed it by a long shot.

b-mill site1

According to the 1858 map of Oxford County, we were at the sight of R. Bennett’s sawmill. I’d first visited two years ago with my friends, Sue and Janet. It’s actually located on Sue’s land. We’d come in from her home on my first visit, but today we came via Old City.

b-b mill 3

b-b mill 2

 

b-bmill stones brook

A year ago, my guy and I snowshoed in search of this sight but never found it so we were gleeful about today’s success.

b-fdn near mill.jpg

Our intention had been to search for the mill until 3:30. We found it just after 4pm. And rather than try to follow the stream back, we decided to bushwhack in a more westerly direction. On a hill above the mill we found a foundation made of drilled stones that are neatly hidden by moss and ferns and assume it was part of the mill.

b-rock pile?

Our bushwhack continued until we finally emerged by a rock pile beside Old City Road. Its circular formation had me thinking water well.

b-double wall

Will we ever find it again? That’s always a question, but now we know to walk along the road until we reach the last double-wide wall and then turn at the well.

b-ghost

I liked the ghost-like effect of my guy walking back on the road–reminiscent of the men who once lived here and worked these woods. I followed my guy out and both of us occasionally felt the suction of mud. Occasionally one foot was drawn into the earth as if it intended to stay behind. We finally returned to our truck at 6pm (so much for our intention to be home by 4:30), our celebration of the vernal equinox complete.

 

 

 

 

To Bear Trap and Back

A change of plans today meant I had time for a trek to Narramissic Farm and the historic bear trap in South Bridgton before the rain began.

N-view from road

From Ingalls Road, where I decided to park, I took in the view of the front fields and house.

N-Narramissic Road

Narramissic Road is passable, but I wanted to slow down and soak it all in.

N-pussy willow 1

From pussy willows to

N-staghorn

fuzzy staghorn sumac, I was thankful I’d taken time for the noticing.

N-house & attached barn

The Bridgton Historical Society acquired the 20-acre property in 1987 when it was bequeathed by Mrs. Margaret Monroe.

N-house

Turning the clock back to 1797, William Peabody, one of Bridgton’s first settlers, built the main part of the house.

Peabody sold the farm to his daughter Mary and her husband, George Fitch, in 1830 and they did some updating while adding an ell.

N-barn front

The Fitches had a barn erected that has come to be known as the Temperance Barn; historical records claim it to be so named “because it was raised without the traditional barrel of rum.”

N- barn face

Both the barn and the house are in need of repair, but I couldn’t help but wonder about what mighty fine structures they were in their day. While today, a visit to the farm feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, during its heyday it was located in the center of somewhere–at the junction of two roads that have since been abandoned.

When Mrs. Monroe purchased the property in 1938, she named it Narramissic, apparently an Abenaki word for “hard to find” because it reflected her long search for just the right piece of real estate.

N-blacksmith shop

A blacksmith shop is located between the house and Temperance Barn, and beside the trail I chose to follow through another field and off into the woods.

N-garden wall 1a

Massive stone walls indicate the fields had been plowed.

N-rock uplifting

Even today, “stone potatoes” continue to “rise” from the ground, making them one of the farmer’s best crops.

N-pearly 2

My destination was two-fold: the quarry and bear trap. But along the trail, I stopped to smell the roses. Or at least admire the beauty of pearly everlasting in its winter form.

N-gray birch litter

Several trees had snapped in the season’s wind, including a gray birch that scattered scales and seeds as it crashed to the ground.

N-gray fruit seeds

But . . . because the top of the tree was no longer in the wind zone, a surprising number of catkins continued to dangle–all the better for me to see. Notice the shiny seeds attached to the scales.

N-gray birch generations

The tree speaks of generations past and into the future.

N-jelly 2

Further along, I found a wavy and rubbery jelly ear (Auricularia auricla) beside a gray birch seed.

N-sign 2

Finally, I reached my turn-off.

N-quarry 1

N-feather 2

This is the spot from which the foundations for the buildings were quarried so long ago, using the plug and feather technique that was common in that time.

N-common toadskin 2

Life of a different sort has overtaken some of the stones–common toadskin lichen covers their faces.

N-common toadskin 3

In its dry form, it looks perhaps like the surface of a foreign planet, but this is another lichen that turns green when wet–allowing the “toad” to become visible.

N-bishop's face in ice

Speaking of becoming visible, I noticed the bishop’s face topped with a mitre as water dripped off the rocks and froze. My thoughts turned to my sister–she doesn’t always see what I see, but maybe this one will work for her.

N-young beech

Heading back out to the main trail, I startled a snowshoe hare and of course, didn’t have my camera ready. As I turned toward the bear trap, I continued in the land of the beech trees. Most are too young to produce fruit, but I looked for larger trees and, of course, checked for claw marks.

N-beech slashes

The best I found were slashes–probably caused by another tree rubbing against this one.

N-initials

Oh, and some initials carved by one very precise bear.

N-No parking

I was almost there when I encountered a “No Parking” sign. A new “No Parking” sign. On a trail in the middle of nowhere that used to be somewhere. The pileated woodpeckers obviously ignored it. Me too.

N-BT1

At last, Bear Trap! According to an August 17, 1963 article in the Bridgton News, “Enoch Perley, early settler of South Bridgton, built his first house in 1777 and brought his bride to their new home in 1778. [I believe this was at Five Fields Farm.]

As Enoch acquired livestock, he was much troubled by depredations from bears. He built a bear trap on the hill back of his first home . . .

Tradition says that four bears were caught in this trap–not enough! So Mr. Perley later had an iron bear trap made which took care of eight bears. Without a doubt, many were disposed of by him personally. A story is told that in an unarmed encounter with a bear and two cubs beside a wood road at dusk, Mr. Perley allegedly strangled the mother bear with his garters . . .”

N-bear trap 1

The article continues, “The bear trap is built of stone. A large stone door is suspended and as the bear takes the bait, he trips the lever and is caught in the stone enclosure.”

N-BT inside

I looked inside and found no one in residence. In a December 1954 issue of the Bridgton News, a brief article states: “The old stone bear trap on the mountain in South Bridgton known as ‘Fitch’s Hill,’ unused for more than one hundred years, has been reactivated by Dr. Fred G. Noble and Gerald Palmer and put in readiness to capture a bear.” As the story goes, they never did succeed.

N-BT back view

A side view.

N-BT*back side

And a rear view. A few years ago there was talk of moving this monument because land ownership had changed. I hope it stays put because its authenticity would be lost in a move.

N-pine scale?

Just below the trap, I noticed a white hue decorating only one of a bunch of young pine trees. I can’t say I’ve ever seen this before or venture a guess about its origin. I’m waiting to hear back for our district forester–maybe he has some insight.

N-heading back 1

As I headed back down the trail and the barn came into view, I spied a single red pine thrown into the mix of forest species that have taken over this land.

N-red pine

Ever on my bear claw quest, I checked the bark of this tree. Though beech provides an easy display of such marks, it’s not the only species of choice. Among others, single red pines that appear to be anomalies have been known to receive a visit.

N-hare

There was sudden movement as I approached the pine and then what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a second snowshoe hare! It paused long enough for me to snap a photo. Do you see it? Also known as the varying hare, its fur is still white.

Behind the tree, I found where it had been dining and defecating.

N-Pleasant Mtn ridge

N-farm view from back

As I crossed the upper field, the ridge line of Pleasant Mountain and ski trails at Shawnee Peak made themselves known to the west. And beyond the farmhouse, the White Mountains.

And then,

N-shagbark hickory

and then . . .  an oversized bud captured my attention as I walked back down the road.

 

Shagbark hickory isn’t a common species around here. But, Jon Evans of Loon Echo Land Trust had recently told me some mature trees were found on a property in South Bridgton that is under conservation easement. (We actually may visit them tomorrow). The bulbous, hairy bud scales and large leaf scar made even the young trees easy to identify. Curiously, according to Forest Trees of Maine, the wood “was formerly used in the manufacture of agricultural implements, axe and tool handles, carriages and wagons, especially the spokes and rims of the wheels.” That fits right in with the neighborhood I’d been visiting.

N-mud season

One final view–yup, it’s mud season in western Maine. But still worth a trek to bear trap and back. Thankfully, the rain held off until my drive home.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcoming Embrace

It was a wee bit foggy when I arrived at the trailhead for Bald Pate Mountain today. I was on a return reconnaissance mission in preparation for an upcoming hike for Loon Echo Land Trust.

As I walked along, I felt the welcoming embrace of the fog–soft in its touch as it enveloped me.

foggy trail

My intention was to hike to the Foster Pond Outlook first because it was getting dark earlier in the week when I’d visited. I was on my eternal search for bear claw marks. Instead, there were other discoveries to be made.

foggy pines

Like me, the pines were wrapped in the fog’s grace.

Foster Pond lookout

And the pond invisible, yet I trusted it was still there. 

beech leaveswitch hazel leaves

I discovered the light of the season . . . in leaves lingering still,.

birch bark

in bark appearing snowy,

young paper birch bark

in beauty revealing inward,

Brit 1

in miniatures branching upward,

droplets 1

in droplets anticipating release,

mountains floating

and mountains floating beyond.

This is the season of expectation. I expected to find bear claw marks, but didn’t. Instead, I found warmth and light. And some other cool things to share with others.

I welcomed the fog and its revelations. I reveled in its embrace. Happy am I for opening my eyes and heart and mind.

 

Rejoicing for Jinny Mae

When my friend Jinny Mae received an ominous diagnosis in June, she faced it with admirable spirit and courage. All who know her watched in awe as she  underwent treatment and slowly made her way back into our midst. Despite everything, she continued to spend as much time in nature as possible, whether observing from her chair by the window, walking her dogs or eventually joining friends for tramps. And today–she received fabulous news that I learned about as I was about to hike up Bald Pate Mountain in South Bridgton. She is in remission. INDEED!

So as I did when I first learned of her diagnosis, I took her along with me in spirit on today’s hike. I would have asked her to join me for a celebratory tramp, but it was late in the day. We’ll have plenty of opportunities.

I was on a reconnaissance expedition because I’m leading a hike for Loon Echo Land Trust next weekend. Having Jinny Mae along meant I noticed some things I may have walked by previously. In the end, I discovered a mixture of my favorites and hers.

beech slash

Because there is a beech forest at the base of the mountain, and it’s located adjacent to an orchard, I’m determined to find bear activity. Is this the work of a bear that gave the tree a side-ways slap?

beech slash 2

I don’t think so. More likely, the younger trees beside it waved in the breeze enough to create slight scars that have grown with the bark.

porcupine scat

I poked around under a large hemlock, and noticed what I thought was old deer scat. But then I realized that some of it was a wee bit longer and had the curved shape characteristic of porcupines. As I continued to look, I saw that many small twigs had nipped off ends cut at an angle–porcupine it was.

funnel weaver web

For a while, hemlocks became my focus as I checked under each for signs of activity. On the backside of one, I found this funnel weaver web–standing strong against the elements. It reminded me of someone else.

hemlock varnish shelf

That someone would certainly have stopped by this old hemlock stump to admire these varnish shelf fungi–it wouldn’t matter to her that they are withered and old. There’s beauty in age.

pileated log

Every once in a while I felt the nudge to go off the trail and explore–when J.M. keeps track of our tramps on her GPS, the line always zigzags. This rotting log caught my attention. Bear or fisher activity?

pileated scat

No hair or obvious scratch marks from claws, but some scat–pileated woodpecker scat. I left it there in hopes I can show it to people on the hike and let them see that it’s filled with carpenter ant bodies.

ledge

Behind the log was this ledge. A quick look at it and I knew that a certain someone would want to inspect it.

ledge 2

It’s almost completely covered in smooth rock tripe. Sorta looks delicious enough to eat–if you boil it for days on end maybe. Apparently it can be used to thicken stew. Too bad I made stew the other day.

polypody & tripe

And growing among the tripe–a few polypody ferns, who also appreciate a moist, rock surface. Thanks J.M. for encouraging me to take a closer look.

Many-fruited pelt

While I’m on the topic of lichens, here’s one that was new to me. The rust-colored projections among the shiny brown lobes made me squat for a photo call. At home, I thumbed through my go-to lichen book, Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski, and discovered that this foliose lichen is Many-fruited Pelt. Those reddish-brown projections are the fruiting bodies on the leafy margins–thus the name. One for us to learn, J.M. We’ll probably see it everywhere now as it grows on soil, moss or rocks.

common toadskin lichen

And because we like to learn, here’s another–Common Toadstool Lichen. That should be easy enough to remember, given its warty appearance.

Peabody Pond

At the summit, I paused briefly to take in the views of Peabody Pond and

Pleasant Mtn

Pleasant Mountain. It was getting late and I still wanted to hike to the Foster Pond Outlook via the Bob Chase Scenic Loop.

bob1

And then, just as I stepped back onto the trail, I saw this print in the mud and a couple in front of it. My heart sang.

bobcat 2

I was in bobcat territory. My favorite place to be. I only hope I have such luck next weekend and that I can pull out my David Brown Trackards to show the difference between bobcat and coyote prints.

bobcat in sandbob 4

The substrate changed a few times, but we traveled the same route.

coyote print

I also found coyote prints. My hope was that since I was hiking so late in the afternoon, I might actually see one or both of these mammals, but that was asking too much. Finding evidence that they’re here is enough.

Foster Pond

One last view–the Foster Pond Overlook. And then I followed the trail back to the parking lot, thankful to have Jinny Mae along with me in spirit as I rejoiced in her glad news. I’m looking forward to many more opportunities to wander and wonder with her.

Down Low, Up High

I needed some time for quiet contemplation mid-morning, so I was thankful my guy was working for a few hours.

Sunday morning

I knew exactly where to go to sort out my thoughts.

orange peel on logging road

Along the way, I made discoveries like this–orange peel fungi (Aleuria aurantia), which prefers disturbed areas. Hmmm . . . and disturbed brains?

oak leaf iced in

I found a Northern red oak leaf frozen in ice. But it won’t remain that way forever. Eventually, the ice will melt and the leaf will gradually break down, adding nutrients to the soil. It takes time. I need to remember that.

flowering witch hazel

The witch hazels are in full bloom and they made me smile. Life is good after all.

moose track 1

Another reason to smile–moose tracks. Not the ice cream, but the real thing. Though the ice cream is mighty delicious. Our sons tease me because I mine a gallon for the big chunks of chocolate.

home sweet home

Home sweet home at last. My brain was cleared and I knew the path to take.

Prehike view

After lunch, my guy and I also chose a path. Our destination–the one and only Pleasant Mountain. We planned to leave one truck at the bottom of the Ledges Trail and the other at the Bald Peak trail head. Lots of other people also took advantage of the crisp air–a day meant for hiking.

new BP trailhead

The sign has been moved to the back of the new parking lot

new trailhead

where steps lead the way to the new trailhead. Thanks to Loon Echo Land Trust for all the work they and their volunteers and the AMC did to recreate this trail. My guy hadn’t been on it this year and he joined me in singing its praises.

Bald Peak trail stream

Below Needle’s Eye, water cascades over the rocks.

follow the yellow leaved bedrock

Sometimes we followed the yellow brick road, I mean, yellow leafed bedrock

thrift shop

and found a thrift shop along the way. I only hope the owners of these jackets didn’t regret that they’d left them on the lower portion of the trail. The climb up is sweat inducing, but the wind at the summit–brrr.

causeway 2

I love this peek back at the causeway by Sabattus Island, where I had taken the photo of the mountain about an hour previously.

North Ridge summit view

At the North Ridge intersection, mountain views opened.

ridge 2

The fall foliage is beginning to wan, but ever so slightly and the blueberry plants provide a colorful contrast.

Moose Pond from ridge

One moment Moose Pond was clearly visible

waves of flurries

and the next it was clouded by waves of flurries. Snow flurries 🙂

The People's Marathon

Step for step, I followed my guy who sported his Marine Corps Marathon jacket. It’s been a while since he’s run a marathon, but only a year since he last ran a half marathon. He’s in training again–the Moose Pond Half Marathon is in two weeks. He ran the course yesterday–13.1 miles around the pond. I’m mighty proud of this guy–he’s raising money for the marathon’s cause–the adaptive ski program at Shawnee Peak. If you are so inclined and want to support him, please stop by his store. This is only one of the numerous things he quietly does for others.

fire tower 2

At last we reached the fire tower at the summit.

windy summit 1

It was a wee bit windy as the flag indicates.

summit, us

That didn’t stop us from pausing

summit view 4

summit view 2

summit view, Kezar Pond:snow

to take in the view. Yes, that is snow falling from those clouds. But only flurries.

ledges view 3

On our way down the Ledges Trail, Moose Pond again came into sight.

I was thankful for yet another opportunity to enjoy a mountain high with my guy–and overcome the low points of the day.

This may be a Sunday Mondate. Not sure what tomorrow will bring us. That’s the thing about life and nature–we never completely know everything. I like that. Lows and highs–it keeps us wondering and wandering.

This post is dedicated to my guy who will run in the Moose Pond Half Marathon on November 7 and to Major Kimberly Olmsted Jennings, USAF, who will run in the Marine Corps Marathon, The People’s Marathon, next Sunday. So proud of both of you.

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.

Jon, LELT

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.

Out of the fog

morning fog

Morning fog embraced Pleasant Mountain, making it only a memory.

new parking lot

In my need to know that it was still there, I drove down Mountain Road to the brand-spanking new Bald Peak parking lot. I guess I was early since my truck was the lone vehicle.

Bald Peak Trail Sign

Thanks to Loon Echo Land Trust and the AMC, the Bald Peak trail has undergone a transformation this year.

Stairway to heaven

new trail

trailwork 4trailwork2trailwork 3

More stairways, a new path and switchbacks make for an easier climb. Um, that’s all relative. It’s still moderately challenging compared to the other trails on the mountain.

trail signs

Trail signs mark the way, giving a sense of direction and distance.

debarked

I’m a bit out of order with this photo, but that’s my nature. Near the start is this debarked birch. People have carved their initials to note their presence. I know I occasionally post photos of beech trees with carvings, but the fact that someone took the time to peel the bark off this tree bothers me. Please leave bark on trees. I know it peels easily on birches, but the tree will shed its bark when it is ready. For us to peel it is like someone peeling off a layer of skin. Shivers run up and down my spine as I think of that. Bark is the tree’s form of protection from the elements. ‘Nuf said . . . I hope.

mossy rocks

For much of the way, the trail follows a stream featuring moss covered boulders

lush mtn garden

and terraced rock gardens.

rock garden

I pause beside one boulder where lichen, mosses, wildflowers, ferns and even a striped maple tree have made a home.

Christmas fern

Christmas fern–do you see the shape of the leaflets or pinnae? Little Christmas stockings or boots? Some say Santa sits in his sleigh with the reindeer before him. Each leaflet is attached to the main stem via a short petiole.

polypody1

Polypody fern loves to give rocks a crazy-hair-day look. While its leaflets look similar to that of Christmas fern, they attach directly to the main stem and give the  entire blade a rather ladder-like appearance.

betsy's lookout

I’m not sure who Betsy is, but along the path, there is a new cutout providing a bit of a view of Moose Pond below.

American Toad

Before I hiked onto the ridge, an American toad paused for a photo op.

looking at camp

Out of the fog. Camp is about smack-dab in the middle of this photo on the north basin of Moose Pond.

trail along the ridge

I met no one as I hiked up and only encountered two people and their dogs along the ridge trail heading toward the summit.

blueberries and huckleberries

There aren’t too many blueberries left, but the huckleberries are abundant–and seedier.

gall of the earth 2

Also plentiful–Gall-of-the-Earth or Rattlesnake Root (Prenanthes trifoliata). Such a curious name for this plant. Hilary Hopkins writes in Never Say It’s Just a Dandelion, “Gall-of-the-Earth: a mysterious name dating from at least 1567, referring to a plant’s bitterness, though not this plant, but rather one said to have been discovered by Chiron the centaur, a physician of Greek mythology.” OK–so if not this plant, then why the name?

Hopkins continues, “Rattlesnake Root refers to the plant’s supposed efficacy against rattlers.” Always good to know I have a tool handily available when hiking alone.

And finally, she writes, “Prenanthes means ‘drooping flower,’ a perfect description; trifoliata describes the three-parted leaves.” That is definitely accurate.

gall aphids

Though I saw numerous Prenanthes trifoliata along the trail, only this one was covered with aphids.

gall ant

And one ant. It is said that ants herd the aphids, protecting them from predators and parasites, so that the ants can enjoy the honeydew left behind by the tiny insects. This ant must have had sentry duty–he roamed all over this leaf and then down to the next one. Perhaps he thought I was the predator and he had to keep an eye on me.

whorled asters

Whorled Asters graced the trail periodically and the base of a Northern Red Oak.

Firewarden's Trail

Moments before I reached the Firewarden’s Trail, I startled a red fox that ran into a rock den.

fire tower 2

Standing forever stalwart is the fire tower. I hope it will continue to stand tall forever, as it marks a piece of the mountain’s history.

summit view1

Out of the fog. Looking west from the summit.

trail signs heading down

There was a time when one could easily get lost on this mountain, but thanks to the LELT, those days are no more. Good thing. There were six people at the summit and I passed quite a few more as I descended via the Ledges Trail.

 white goldenrod

Silverod is our only white goldenrod and it prefers the drier soil of this path.

Ledges 1

The ledges offer a peek at the south basin of Moose Pond.

Mountain Road

Finally, I was back on Mountain Road for the 1.5 mile walk back to my truck.

red eft

Interestingly, along the way I found thirteen smooshed red efts. These are the terrestrial teenagers of the newts. My first thought–snacks galore. Then I remembered–their color is a warning sign of their toxicity. No one wants such a snack. (Reportedly, they aren’t harmful to humans, but I wasn’t about to find out.)

And so it was today that I’m glad I climbed out of the fog. Thanks for joining me on this long wander.

Painting Naturally

It finally rained in Maine–for several days. But today featured sunlight, clouds and cool temps–just the right conditions to join my friend, Marita Wiser, (author of  Hikes and Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION) for a climb up Pleasant Mountain.

LELT sign

Loon Echo Land Trust owns 1,859 acres on the mountain, including the Ledges Trail, which was our choice.

steps

Thanks to the efforts of Loon Echo’s volunteer base and the help of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the trail is well maintained. (AMC actually happened to be working down the road at the Bald Peak trail)

view from ledges

About halfway up, the view from the ledges includes the Denmark end of Moose Pond.

rock tripe

Marita was kind enough to endure my photography stops. Here, the greenish hue of rock tripe, that turns brown when dry and can survive for a long time without water.

pink lady's slipper

Pink Lady’s Slippers decorate the path.

footprint

A few wet spots meant we occasionally left tracks.

summit sign

At the summit, we paused for a while.

ft 1

Here stands the 48-foot fire tower, erected in 1920 and manned until 1992 (I know this because Marita wrote about it). We chatted about The Pleasant Mountain House, a hotel that was built on the summit in the late 1800s and was torn down in 1908. It’s difficult to envision people coming to town via the Cumberland and Oxford Canal, then riding in a stage coach from the boat landing on Long Lake to the mountain. But they did.

summit view w: tree

We spent most of our time in awe of the colors.

summit view

view 2

view 3

Marita

I wasn’t the only one taking photos. By her sweater, you can see that it was just a tad nippy, though we both wore short-sleeved shirts and only an extra layer at the summit.

green shield

On the way down, the common green shield lichen was also brighter because of the rain.

ss 2

The dainty greenish-yellow flowers of Solomon’s Seal tried to hide, but we knew to look underneath.

false ss

False Solomon’s Seal, with its flowers at the tip of the stem, also grows along the trail.

water flowing

Where a few days ago, the few streams that cross the trail were dry, today they bubbled.

And so, upon my return home, it seemed only natural that I should head out to the vernal pool. Its story isn’t exactly over yet.

 bunchberry

On the way, patches of Bunchberries are in full bloom.

bb 5

Like so many flowers, this one also has its own story to tell. Though it looks like it’s a plant with four white petals, those are actually bracts, the leaf-like structure located below the flowers.

bb & spider

The tiny flowers are in the center of the white bracts.

BB 4 leaves, 6 leaves

And here’s another thing to notice. Plants with four leaves do not have flowers, while plants with six leaves do have them. Reminds me of the Canada Mayflower, Wild Oats and Indian Cucumber Root–another case of a plant needing the extra energy from additional leaves in order to produce flowers.

Canada Mayflower

Not to be left out, the Canada Mayflowers are still in bloom.

Okey dokey–I’m finally getting to the vernal pool.

sallies

There was a bit of water in the depression, and I hoped that I might find wood frog tadpoles swimming about. Not to be. I didn’t even see any of those that died the other day. Nor did it smell so bad and there were only a couple of flies. The salamander eggs, however, were in different places than where they had started life. The sticks they were attached to have moved. Yet, the eggs were still there and except for being in different locations, they seemed okay.

sally 2

Will they survive with only a bit of dampness?

sally 4

True Confession: I did something I shouldn’t have done. I interfered with nature and put some of them into the wee bit of water. The jelly masses were warm to touch. Something will probably eat them soon, but I had to give them a chance.

butterfly 1

It was time to head home and get some work done. But . . . in the herb garden just outside the kitchen door–a Painted Lady.

Nature’s colors–a painting worth viewing each and every day.

Thanks for joining me for today’s wonder.