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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

 

From Sheep to Dinosaurs, Oh My!

After leaving a truck at the base of the Ledges Trail on Pleasant Mountain, my guy and I drove to Denmark Village to attend an annual celebration of fiber: the Denmark Sheepfest.

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Like us, local sheep were ready to shed their winter coats.

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Waiting their turn, they offered sheepish looks.

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But we heard no complaints as the shearing began.

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From there, we continued on to the Southwest Ridge Trail of Pleasant Mountain. As we climbed, we thought about the former name of the trail: MacKay’s Pasture Trail.

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Between the rock outcrops and slope we decided that in the 1800s sheep probably roamed this side of the mountain. I found an 1858 map on the Denmark Historical Society’s Web site, but it’s too small to check names.

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(Thanks to Jinny Mae for sending me a better copy of the map–the McKay’s property is located near the base of the trail on the Denmark/Fryeburg line–makes perfect sense that the side of the mountain served as pastureland for their farm.) Sheep and shepherds–We feel a certain affinity to shepherds/shephards because it’s a family name and were saddened to learn yesterday of the death of one relative we met this past fall in New Brunswick, Canada. Our acquaintance was short, but relationship long. As the Irish say, “May the light of heaven shine upon your grave.” Rest in peace, Ellis Shephard.

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We love climbing up this trail and pausing . . .

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to take in the views behind us–Brownfield Bog, Lovewell Pond, Eastern Slopes Airport in Fryeburg, Maine, and White Mountains of New Hampshire in the distance.

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In no time, or so it seemed, we reached lunch rock by the teepee. The teepee was constructed by the late George Sudduth, director/owner of Wyonegonic Camps , the oldest camp for girls in America. His wife, Carol, whom I’ve had the pleasure of hiking with, and family still run the camp, located below on Moose Pond.

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Our view as we appreciated fine dining–ham and swiss instead of PB&J–Moose Pond’s lower basin to the left, Sand (aka Walden) Pond with Hancock Pond behind it, Granger Pond and Beaver Pond directly below us. Actually, if you look closely, you might see Long Lake between Moose and Hancock. This is the Lakes Region of Maine.

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We continued along the ridge and the fire tower came into view. Once the leaves pop, this view will disappear until fall.

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At the vernal pool between knobs, we only saw one large egg mass–I had to wonder if the number is related to the amount of human and dog traffic.

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And then . . . we were there. At the summit of Pleasant Mountain. With a kazillion other people and dogs.

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Again, we could see the bog and Lovewell Pond behind it,

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plus Kezar Pond in Fryeburg and Mount Washington beyond.

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No matter how often I gaze upon this view, I’m always awestruck.

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We had two options because we’d left two trucks, and decided to follow the Ledges Trail to Mountain Road.

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Though I was with my guy, Mr. Destinationitis, I did stop long enough to admire the common toadskin lichen with its warty pustules.

s-toadskin and tripe

Had this been a teaching moment, the lesson plan was laid out in front of me–toadskin versus common rock tripe. Warty versus smooth. A difference in color. Both umbilicate lichens–attached to the rock substrate at a single point. OK, so maybe it was a teachable moment.

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But one of us didn’t give two hoots. He tolerated me . . . while he rested. 😉

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For the most part, we hiked within feet of each other, but I can never resist stopping at this point as we come upon the beginning of the ledges that gave this trail its name.

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Continuing down, I frequently grasped trees and thought about how many handprints are imbedded in the history of this land–from Native Americans to surveyors to shepherds to trail blazers and hikers. On this made-in-Maine type of day, we encountered many people of all ages and abilities–and were glad to share the trail with them.

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It’s not only people and sheep who have moved across Pleasant Mountain. Even today, dinosaurs made their presence known.

 

 

 

 

Rain Drops and Mondates Always Make Me Glad (and humble)

My guy and I ventured off to the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area in Brownfield today. Cooler temps and plenty of sunshine marked the early morning hours.

BBog sign

Covering almost 6,000 acres, this area was formerly known as the Brownfield Bog, but was renamed to honor Major Sanborn, a beloved Maine Warden, who lost his battle with cancer several years ago.

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This is a place we return to often, but I have to admit that my sense of place was thrown off within the past week.

Saco River

We came to explore the Saco River. So this is where our pride takes a ribbing. We’ve walked to the river on most of our visits, but we never realized that this was the actual river. Huh? Yup, it’s true. In our brains, this was either the Shepard River or an old course of the Saco. Maybe it’s because when we’ve stood beside its bank, we’ve never seen anyone paddling along. Maybe it’s because until yesterday we never looked at the map. We never bothered to locate our place–just assumed we knew where we were. Another life lesson. Just a week ago, we were the merry paddlers, cruising along at tandem kayak speed, passing through the bog from Lovewell Pond to maybe a  half mile north of the Brownfield Bridge (maybe less). Maybe it’s because we were such swift paddlers that we were clueless. Anyway, now we know: The Saco River bisects the bog.

SR exploration

Exploring the floodplain became our focus as we followed the river.

river erosion

Each year, the river consumes more land, making me wonder what it was like when Brownfield was founded in 1802.

sensitive fern, chest height

We walked down a mowed path, where the sensitive fern grows chest high on either side.

royal fern

And the royal ferns are equally large and plentiful.

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Saco River 3

We explored in a different direction, perhaps trespassing on private land. (Oops, did that chain between the posts really mean “keep out”?)

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We recognized an elm growing over the river that we’d spotted while kayaking last week and knew that we’d established our sense of place.

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And then we turned from the river, retraced our steps and continued on to explore more of the bog via foot.

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Wild raisins are abundant.

wild raisins

Eventually, the fruits will all turn blueish black and if the birds don’t eat them, they’ll shrivel up–like raisins.

common winterberry

The showy red fruits of common winterberry also dot the landscape. The curious thing about this plant–though this is a member of the holly family, the leaves are not sharply toothed like other hollies, nor are they evergreen.

milkweed dispersal

Milkweed is ready to fly away and find a new home.

green darner dragonfly

Speaking of flying, if I hadn’t seen this green darner fly into the foliage, I never would have discovered it.

Meadowhawk dragonfly

Meadowhawk dragonflies were much easier to spot, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.

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Openings in the shrubs and trees provide frequent views,

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including the backside of Pleasant Mountain.

white oak bark

The community changed a wee bit, and suddenly we were under white oaks with their flaky-surfaced, rectangular, block-like bark.

northern red oak bark

Beside them grow the Northern red oaks, with their flat-topped ridges outlined by the rusty red inner bark.

big tooth aspen bark

The horizontal/vertical line design of big-toothed aspen also made its presence known.

big tooth aspen leaf

And on the ground, a big-toothed leaf provides a hint of what is to come.

red maple leaves changing

A few red maples are beginning to announce the changing season as well.

Bbog 2

When we reached our turn-around point, we were feeling a bit hot and sticky. We’d shed our sweatshirts and were thankful for a slight breeze.

fragrant water lily

I admired a few fragrant water lilies still in flower, while my guy followed the action of a northern harrier through the binoculars.

storm leaves

And then the wind really picked up. I looked at the trees and could see the backs of the leaves–my mother had long ago told me that that was a sure sign of rain to come.

storm cloud

We looked up and had an Eeyore moment.

boots

I was wearing my boots, but no raincoat.

raindrops 1

It rained. It poured. It felt good.

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And then it was only a memory–and a pleasant one at that.

rain: Pleasant Mtn

We watched it move across the southwest end of Pleasant Mountain as we headed back.

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When we arrived home, the air was a bit cooler. I stepped outside to check out the insect activity in the yard and through the camera lens I realized something was photobombing the bee.

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Two somethings in fact–a pair of locust borers apparently shared their own Mondate. The only locust tree in the neighborhood is down the street, but I suspect that momma will be laying some eggs in the bark at dusk tonight.

It looks like rain once again, but we’re glad for the opportunity to explore together on another Mondate–and gain a better understanding of our greater neighborhood, our sense of place. So much for pride. Life is a humbling experience.

Saco River Mondate on a Sunday

My relationship with the Saco River began in 1985 when I was a YMCA camp director in Laconia, New Hampshire. My charges were tweens and teens. Each week they piled into the 15 passenger van and I took them on an adventure–just as much fun for me as for them.

I’d scoped out this particular canoeing/camping trip ahead of time and felt confident that we had a good plan.

We rented canoes from Saco River Canoe and Kayak in Fryeburg, Maine, and the first leg of our journey was a long day spent paddling down the river and then up the old course to the covered Hemlock Bridge. My copilot was a 16-year-old lifeguard named George.

Though we’d practiced canoeing techniques in the Y pool, the real thing was a challenge.  Once on the river, the kids eventually learned to paddle in an almost straight line after many circular attempts.

At last we reached our destination, set up camp, told ghost stories, spooked each other and settled down for the night. Sleep alluded me so I watched the lightning show and listened to serenading bullfrogs.

In the middle of the night, one of the girls yelled out, “Help! Somebody! Help me!” When I arrived at her tent, I asked, “Dawn, did you have a nightmare?”

“It wasn’t Dawn. It was me,” replied Melissa quietly. “The zipper on my sleeping bag just got stuck.”

The next morning we paddled back to the main course of the river and enjoyed a pancake breakfast on a sandbar. As the day went on, we lolled about–splashing each other, getting out to swim, and singing silly camp songs.

Until . . . a few girls forged on and forgot to pull over when they saw Walker’s Rip. Two canoes went over the rip without any problems. The third got caught atop two rocks in the rapids. The girls panicked when water began to flow in one side and out the other as the bow and stern bent toward the river. The current and slippery rocks made the ten feet from the riverbank feel like ten yards. People on either side came to the rescue. In a fast few moments things went from bad to worse and we had several injuries accompanied by lots of high drama, including an ambulance ride to Memorial Hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire.

The diagnosis: everyone was fine with a few minor bruises. The prescription: ice cream and Tylenol.

Though we were supposed to camp out that night, the kids were done, so I drove back to Laconia and the Y director met us there (with a 6 pack to calm my nerves.)

As far as summer jobs go, this ranks number one on my list. I don’t know what has happened to any of the kids, but I hope they still remember the pranks and fun we shared. (Number 2 favorite summer job: painting Yale bowl)

A year later I landed a teaching job in western Maine and the Saco River and Hemlock Bridge became part of my place.

So it was that yesterday, my guy and I left one truck at the Brownfield Bridge and drove to Lovewell Pond to launch our tandem kayak. It was actually a reconnaissance mission for me because the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust has asked me to lead a paddle on this portion of the river in a few weeks.

Mt Tom

Mount Tom, a Roche Moutonnée, is visible to the left. This asymmetrical hill features a gently sloping up-ice side that has been smoothed and polished by a glacier. The other side is  abrupt and steep–the down-ice side where the rocks were plucked off, leaving a more cliff-like appearance.

Lovewell Pond

We’d never been on Lovewell Pond before, so were a bit astonished by the white sandy beaches accentuated by the mountain backdrop as we looked toward Fryeburg and North Conway.

Pleasant Mtn

Pleasant Mountain also forms part of the backdrop, giving us a sense of direction. Home is on the other side of the far left peak.

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Paddling about for a bit, we checked out the local wildlife, including this pair of cormorants and

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a wading great blue heron.

SR access

And then we were ready to begin our journey. We thought we might be a wee bit crazy to be on the river this weekend, along with the boys from deliverance, but we only met a few. For the most part, we encountered families and friends enjoying a beautiful day in Maine. And a clean river thanks to the Saco River Recreation Council.

Saco Access

Silver maple trees grace the banks.

shallow water

Being September, the river was quite shallow in some spots. But walking in the water felt good.

round the bend

Around each bend, we reminisced about previous river runs, including the time we did a much longer trip in an inflatable raft–we were young, in love and clueless. And uncomfortable. Now we are old, in love and still clueless. But happy.

silver maples

Though the river is at a low point, you can tell by the bank that water rushes through here. The silver maple, known for the silvery color of its leaf’s underside, is fast growing and a bank stabilizer, but it also succumbs to the river’s force.

Elm leaves

As we floated along, I began to wonder what I should point out in a few weeks.  Yes, there’s the silver maple floodplain forest, which includes red maples. Royal fern, sensitive fern and ostrich fern were visible along the way. And some shrubs and plants. Finally, we came upon this American elm leaning over the river–large and healthy with its asymmetrical leaves.

Burnt Meadow Mtn in background

We were close to our pull-out point when I saw some white and red pines and thought I might talk about the King Pines–those massive pine trees that were marked with the king of England’s arrow, so selected because they grew straight and tall and would be perfect for ships’ masts.

I may also mention the river’s curse, but I might save it until the end when Burnt Meadow Mountain is visible in the background.

According to legend, in 1675 the wife and infant son of Squandro, chief of the Sokokis tribe, were playing on a river sandbar when they encountered three rowdy, drunken English sailors.  The mother and child were laughing and didn’t hear an approaching canoe. One of the three sailors claimed that a papoose could swim like a wild animal (dog paddle) naturally from birth. The others doubted him. To prove it, the man jumped out and grabbed the child. The mother watched in horror while the sailors threw her baby into the water. She grabbed the baby and ran to Squandro. It was too late. Squandro raised the limp body toward the sky and said, “As long as the grass grows and the water runs, it shall be the will of the Great Spirit that every year the waters of this Great River shall take three White Men’s lives.”

There is also a version whereby the mother was pregnant and she, her infant and her unborn child all died.

Some say the curse ended in 1947 when no lives were taken. That was also the year of the Great Fires, including in Brownfield, our take-out point. Related?

It seems to me that respect may be the key. Respect for the land, respect for the river and respect for each other.

Though our trip yesterday was short (about four miles), this wander has been a bit long. Thanks for coming along for the ride.