A Montage of Mondates

I didn’t realize sixth months had passed since I’d last shared a Mondate adventure until I went back and checked. Never fear, my guy and I have continued to hike or paddle almost every Monday, but most of the trails I’ve written about before and really, I didn’t feel like I had a story to tell on each of them. But . . . put them all together and tada. So hang in here with me. I won’t write much, but do have a bunch of photos to share and hope you enjoy the journey.

Sometimes it was the root way to heaven that we’ve followed upon an ascent.

Other times a brook crossing that added a little tension to the adventure.

And in the mix there were a few granite scrambles to conquer.

We stepped out onto ledges,

rediscovered the rocky coast of Maine,

walked beside water racing around boulders,

stepped from the trail out onto the summit of a ski area,

paused beside a teepee that has withstood man and nature,

strolled across an airstrip,

followed more ledges,

took in the view from a spot where a fire tower once stood,

spotted the ridgeline of our hometown mountain on the cloudy horizon,

danced with hang clouds,

looked back at a summit we’d conquered a half hour before,

considered taking a chilly bath,

and always found lunch rock with a view.

Our journeys found us hiking in to mountain ponds,

and paddling upon a pond by a mountain.

During fleeting moments we enjoyed fall foliage.

On each hike/paddle we saw so much including this Northern Pygmy Dragonfly,

a Field Sparrow,

a Silver-spotted Skimmer Butterfly,

and a spider wrapping a dragonfly feast,

And did I mention Lady’s Slippers?

Over the course of three hikes in one week, we counted 963 of these beautiful orchids.

And then there was the Blinded Sphinx Moth,

a Giant Leopard Moth,

and a Green Lacewing pretending to be a leaf.

Our hearts ticked a little faster with the spot of bear claw marks upon a bog bridge.

And occasionally we were honored to spend some time with one of nature’s great engineers.

There was work to be done as the Beaver’s dam also serves as part of the path to a summit and people kept ruining it for the rodent.

Often, we’d spy a stick that suddenly slithered because it wasn’t really a stick at all but a Garter Snake.

One day we even had the pleasure to go on a Puffin Watch and spotted over a hundred of these colorful seabirds.

Today, we actually spotted a Doe who posed for about five minutes before giving us a huff and dashing off.

And a post from me wouldn’t be complete without a photo of scat–this being classic Red Fox–tapered at the ends, twisted, and located upon a rock in the middle of a trail.

We had the pleasure of hiking with our youngest (though we missed his girl),

and relaxing after another hike with our oldest and his gal, plus their pup.

My guy posed as a lobster,

and a picker of blueberries beside the water’s edge,

and across a mountain ridge.

Recently, I was talking with a friend about wondermyway.com and how it serves as a diary of our adventures as well as all the cool stuff I learn about almost daily in the world out the door.

And she replied, “Your blog is a love story.”

She’s right for it is a love story on so many levels like this one. He’ll forever be a Maine Black Bear and if you are looking for me, I’ll forever be following him into the next adventure wherever our Mondates lead us.

Cascading Mondate

Yeah, so on Sunday my guy and I hiked about four miles all told and found three geocaches in the mix cuze he’s now hooked, which is fun on my end since it slows him down a wee bit.

And on Monday–almost eight miles covered. But it wasn’t the mileage that mattered. Really.

Our morning began beside still waters. Well, the water was hardly still, but considering how crowded the area can be on a summer day, it was a delight to be the only two human beings in that space for those moments.

It’s a cool spot on many levels. No, we didn’t slide into the pool below; nor did we jump off the 20-foot cliff. Rather, we stood in awe and appreciated. That is, after finding another geocache located nearby.

Eventually, we pulled ourselves away because there was more water to meet, though we were surprised to arrive at a closed gate. No signs forbid our trespass and so we walked around the gate, and up the dirt road to the parking area and kiosk. On the way, we could hear a machine being operated and wondered if we’d stumbled upon a logging operation. A few minutes further along, a young man with an easy grin pulled up in a pick-up truck and knowing that the gate behind us was closed, we figured he must have something to do with the property. Sure enough, he told us they were working on the roadway and bike path ahead. The gate is closed for hunting season, but will reopen in the winter. Still, we were welcomed to hike on.

Half a mile later, we slipped into the woods and left the machinery sounds behind.

Occasionally, we walked across bog bridges and into the future.

Looking down at our feet was a constant, given that there were lots of slippery beech leaves to contend with, but . . . beech leaves mean one thing: American Beech Trees. And much to our delight, smack dab beside the trail stood a well-used beech tree. Some of the claw scratches weren’t all that old, given the width of the scars, and though this year proved to be yet another mast year for Northern Red Oaks (is it just me, or have red oaks been producing acorns on a yearly basis for at least the past five years?) it wasn’t so for the beeches. But perhaps last year or the year before or maybe a few years ago, this tree was a magnet for Ursus americanus.

We could have turned around then for our hearts were delighted, but, of course, we didn’t and soon found ourselves beside a single-wide stone wall.

Barbed wire that a tree had grown around told us the wall was intended to keep animals in . . . or out, depending on your point of view.

Certainly the tree knew, and had we spent a few more minutes with it, I suspect it would have quietly shared more knowledge with us, but we were on a quest and knew we only had so much daylight left.

And so, we hiked on. Until we reached one rather large blow-down and wondered: if a tree falls in a forest . . . Our answer: it land on the ground. Presumably with a thump. And this one must have created a ground-shaking thump.

Not far above the tree, a fanciful picnic table graces a knoll, and invites all questers, including this guy, to pause.

He didn’t pause for long. Back on the trail, as we climbed higher, the naturally community did what it does, and changed. For a bit, the delightful aroma of Balsam Fir spurred us forward, both by our feet and by our thoughts of the holiday season to come.

At last we reached water, and I thought our quest might be over. Could this be what we sought? As much as I loved watching bubbles form and pop, I was rather disappointed.

But after crossing rocks to get to the other side, the fall coloration of Tiarella (Heartleaf Foamflower) in all its hairiness called for attention.

And then, as we entered an opening where pine saplings grew in the sun, one showed off its crosier-shaped leader–bent over as commanded by a pine weevil. The tree will grow, but the live whorl of branches below will take over as leaders and change its stature.

Did I mention that the natural community kept changing? My guy and I soon realized that that was one of the things we really enjoyed about the trail, for there was so much diversity. And just steps beyond the weeviled pine, we entered a beech stand, where you know who had lumbered before us.

As much as we knew we needed to keep moving, we couldn’t help but search and didn’t have to stare far off trail to see evidence of so many bear claw trees. We figured we spied at least 25, though ask me tomorrow and I may say 30. They were everywhere and we wondered how many more we had missed.

But . . . there was more to see and so down a portion of trail that the young man we’d met had created all on his own and opened only last week, did we tramp. It was so new that the ground practically sprang under our feet. Can ground sprang?

We’d reached our quest at last and had to hurry three plus miles back as quickly as possible, promising each other not to stop and recount the bear trees, and we emerged at the parking lot as the sun was setting, with only the half mile walk down the road to our truck left to complete.

Oh, but what was our quest? It wasn’t a geocache this time.

And it wasn’t the bear trees; though they were a bonus.

Rather, it was the water that cascaded forth in three locations on this Mondate and already has us dreaming of return visits–though on a day when we either begin hiking earlier or there’s more daylight so we don’t have to hike down in twilight.

Thank you, Rosemary Wiser, for hiking this trail before us and giving us the inspiration.

Don’t Give Up Mondate

I wish there’d been a good place to stop along the Kanc (Kancamagus Highway) this morning to watch the snow-beasts wade like water buffalo in the Swift River. OK, so they weren’t really beasts, but large boulders topped with layers of snow and ice and looking rather beast-like in a friendly sort of way. Instead we continued on, tucking those images into our minds’ eyes.


About thirteen miles from the start of the Kanc, we reached our destination and knew we were there when we located the “You Are Here” sign. Our goal, Hedgehog Mountain.


The trail begins along the flat terrain of the old Swift River Railroad and among the spruces, firs and birches, a white pine shouted its presence. It appeared to have been weeviled  or split for some other reason, maybe railroad related, early in life. The railroad operated from 1906 to 1916 to service the Conway Lumber Company, shutting down one hundred years ago, so potentially this tree is at least that old.


Nearby, a much younger birch, yellower than normal, indicated we were on the right path. Yellow birch live the longest of the birches, to an average of 150 years, so potentially this one has a long life in front of it. We hope it will continue to lead the way for at least that many years–though it may need a fresh blaze paint job.


At the split in the trail, we decided to follow the counter-clockwise route, figuring we’d conquer the steeper route on the way up. It’s called the UNH Loop Trail because the property had been donated to the university in the 1960s and hosted a forestry camp for a time. The name stuck. The camp didn’t. Nor the ownership.


Within minutes, we went from a snow-packed trail to bare ground on a ridge under the thick canopy of spruce and hemlocks. It didn’t last long, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.


And then we came upon another trail sign, this one directing us to a spur that led to Allen’s Ledge.


And here, my guy, who was certain the namesake was his alone, welcomed me as if he were king of the mountain. Truth be told it was named for Jack Allen, a guide and hunter, who shared my guy’s love of telling a story. We were over a hundred years too late to meet Mr. Allen, but felt his presence all the same.


From here, the Swift River Intervale spread out before us and beyond, the mountains including the Moats.


A few minutes later, I spied another ledge and knew it must be my namesake for the spur trail was marked by pileated woodpecker chips and a chunk of scat–a capsule of ant skeletons surrounded by uric acid. Always a fun find.


The ledge wasn’t as long or view as expansive, but still, I’m certain it was named Leigh’s Ledge–the sign obviously buried in the snow.


Onward and upward, the curled fashion of the common polypody reminded us that though our tickers were tocking, it was cold–in the teens at best.


As we climbed, the spruce and hemlocks spoke of their sharing habits, roots entwined as if hugging arms extended.


Sunlight backlit branches, adding a stained-glass effect to this beautiful winter morn.


We knew we were approaching the summit when we spied the bell-like capsules of sheep laurel dangling below.


At last, our destination reached. And views embraced. We were warm and so was the sun.


We took in the expanse to the north first.


And then turned south, where we found lunch rock. Two young men had settled in, chatting while enjoying the view, but they kindly decided to move on when we arrived.


PB&J with hot cocoa, followed by a treat that had made its way into my Christmas stocking. Two bites for each–because Guinness® is good for you! We could have napped here and may have, but two more young men arrived and so we gave the spot to them and moved on down the trail, heading toward the East Ledge.


The beginning of our descent found us watching each footstep along a winding and rugged trail marked by ice. Sometimes we sat and slid as we made our way to the base of the summit cliffs. I wish I’d taken more photos, beautiful and remote as it was, but . . . I was focused on one step at a time.


We paused at one point to allow about 15 MIT students to pass by and then we reached the East Ledge and views of the Sandwich Range.


It was here that we turned to look back and the name of the mountain began to make sense. I’d wondered about its name and thought that it might be for the shape of the mountain and the spikey spruce trees that grow upon it. Indeed.


Besides the views,  the ledge’s offered the maroonish-green leaves and berries of wintergreen, delighting with color, scent and taste in any season.


As we continued down the ledges, their layers bespoke legends–tales of the past, the present on their faces, with the future tucked inside.


Being on the southern side as we wound our way down and around, we came upon another boulder witnessing a bad hair day–and this time the common polypody fern indicated the warmer temps on this side of the mountain. A few more young people passed us on their way up and I commented to my guy that everyone seemed to be young on this mountain. “A fountain of youth,” he commented. I can’t say I was feeling 100% young, but yeah.


The final mile seemed to last forever. “I found a sign,” my guy said at last, a grin on his face as he pointed to what he thought was blank. We’d been searching for the sign where the loop began. Instead, we found this. What he didn’t see was a message jotted on the painted board. “Don’t give up on love.”

It seemed a fitting message for our Mondate, for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, for our nation and the world.



A Devil of a Mondate

Ever since I first saw a photo of a family donning their Sunday best and standing on rocks that form the “Devil’s Staircase” in Lovell, Maine, I’ve been intrigued.


The photo and description on Lovell Historical Society’s Web site refers to a “staircase” on Sabattus Mountain. And so for years I imagined the staircase leading to that summit, but never located it. And then I learned that a section of trail at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Pond’s Reserve had earned the same name. Is there a staircase at Sabattus? Or was it accidentally misidentified? Whatever the case, when I suggested to my guy that we attempt the staircase off Route 5, he embraced the opportunity. (I’ve since learned from several friends that indeed, there is a staircase on Sabattus and the photo likely was taken there. The base of the staircase is apparently on private property and no longer a safe climb.)


And so about noon we ventured forth and figured out a direction that would take us up the steep portions of the trail to the staircase and El Pulpito, and then down the easy trail–with hope that there was such a thing as an easy trail.


Actually, at the start it all seemed quite easy as I followed our Monday tradition of racing to keep up.


We chuckled when he found an arrow that aimed heavenward–perhaps a sign that all would be well.


My guy played spin the arrow to set it toward our destination. (Actually, on the way down, he spun it the other way. Note to GLLT–perhaps this arrow needs two nails.)


Minutes later, we approached the ledges and visions of bobcats danced through my head.


Acting as our scout, my guy contemplated the upward advance.


We were forewarned and chose to bypass a bypass.


He started up what we believed to be the same trail traveled by those Sunday venturers.


I followed but not quite as speedily.


My heart pounded in Edgar Allen Poe manner as I followed him up. I have to admit that there was a point where I wanted to turn around and climb down, but wasn’t certain that would be any easier. And so after pausing for a few moments, I tried to put mind over matter and placed my hands and feet in what seemed to be “safe” spots as I continued to climb.


Above the staircase we were rewarded with a vantage point of Kezar Lake and the White Mountains and a chance to slow down our heartbeats.


And later, at El Pulpito, the pulpit, the complete opposite of the Devil’s Staircase–a place to pause, eat PB&J sandwiches, and contemplate life in a relaxed manner.


Within an hour we reached the summit of Amos Mountain and spent some time being.


Though the sun was in our eyes, the view south was a bit hazier than one would expect on a clear November day. We later learned that a forest fire burned in Albany, New Hampshire.


For our descent, we followed the blue blazes of the Amos Mountain Trail.


Though hardly as steep as the climb up, I was thankful for a few downed trees that slowed my guy–momentarily.


The beech and oak leaves were over a foot deep in places and obscured rocks and roots, making for a slippery slide down.

Nevertheless, we did it. Devil’s Staircase up and a devil of a climb down–and yet, two hours later we knew we’d do it again.



The Fruits Of Our Labor Day Mondate

I feel like a broken record when I say that my guy works too many hours, but so it has been. This was his weekend off and he worked more than a half day on Saturday and all day plus on Sunday. This morning he burned it all off with a seven mile run and then we headed off for a hike.

k-trail sign 1

Mount Kearsarge North off Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway, New Hampshire, is an old fav that deserved a visit.

K-trail goes this way

It was great to be out of town and finally goofing off on this Labor Day holiday. He’s labored. I’ve labored (really–even when it seems like I’m playing, I truly am working, honest). And we needed a break. If we followed this blaze, however, we would never have found the summit.

k-climbing higher

Fortunately, we knew better. The hike is challenging, especially on the upward climb. We later commented about how the downward climb is faster, but does require attention to foot placement.

K-approaching tower

Just over two hours later, we approached the fire tower at the summit. Though no longer in use, it’s obvious from the 360˚ view why a fire lookout was built at this summit. Constructed in 1909, the structure was rebuilt by the US Forest Service in 1951. Prior to the replacement of fire towers by airplane surveillance, this tower was in operation until 1968.

k-summit fire tower (1)

Since we were last here about a year or so ago, it looked as if some of the support beams had been replaced.

k-my guy at tower

Despite the cooler temps and wind, it’s always worth a climb up.

k-summit tower 3 (1)

Once inside, all was calm. And the view–to die for. It made the efforts of our labor well worth it. We signed the log before moving back outside.

k-summit view 1 (1)

I was thankful for the railing that kept me from being blown to the great beyond as I gazed toward the Baldfaces,  though the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as last week’s Mount Crawford Mondate.

k-summit Mount Washington (1)

Back on the granite, we twirled about and took in each view–including Mount Washington with cumulus clouds grazing its summit.

k-summit to ledges and moats (1)

The cloud cover varied as we looked toward the valley with Cathedral Ledge, the Moats and beyond. Because we’ve set our feet down at those various levels, we appreciated the layers before us.

k-summit toward cranmore (1)

And we noted the Green Hills Preserve, where we’ve also hiked many a trail.

K-Pleasant Mtn

The cloud cover changed as we turned toward home and saw Pleasant Mountain in the distance. Our house is located about center beyond the mountain. And our camp to the left end of said mountain.

k-summit lunch rock (1)

Of all the rocks, lunch rock was the most important find. Sometimes, it’s difficult to locate such among all the opportunities, but this one spoke to us. And so we sat. And ate. Sandwiches (not PB&J–those are more for winter fare) and brownies (great any time of the year).

k-my guy snoozing (1)

And then my guy decided to snooze. He deserved it.

k-hare scat

I took advantage of the opportunity to observe and was tickled to find these woody fruits–the milk duds of the north woods. Snowshoe hare scat. I found numerous examples and wondered where the hares hid. Actually, they could have been anywhere because among the bald rocks there were plenty of islands filled with brushy undergrowth.


And so I poked about. Though the low bush blueberry plants were plentiful, the fruits were sparse. In fact, I only spotted this one.

k-mountain cranberries

More prolific were the mountain cranberries, aka lingonberries.

k-summit speckled alder (1)

What surprised me was the presence of speckled alder in the mix because I think of this as a species with wet feet, but really, this mountain top is much moister than most of our lowlands, so in the end I guess it made sense. Always something to wonder about.

k-sheep laurel fruit.jpg

It wasn’t just speckled alder that made me wonder. Sheep laurel also grew there. I know it well in bogs and even along the power line behind our house. And yet, it loved the habitat on the summit.

k-summit huckleberries (1)

The same was true for huckleberries–which I look at beside Moose Pond all summer. How can they like wet feet and a bald mountain landscape. But again, I think perhaps it’s the moisture for these mountains are often lost in the clouds.

K-mountain holly

Mountain holly also liked this habitat. Again, I’ve seen this at camp where the fruits have already been consumed. Songbirds love these berries and the supply on Kearsarge will disappear soon as migration begins. Here today, gone tomorrow.

k-wild raisins 2

Wild raisins were equally plentiful and worth admiring.

k-wild raisins 3

The berries are edible, at least for birds. But . . . if not consumed, the fruits shrivel up–thus the name of wild raisin.

k-trail sign 2

At last, my guy awakened and we picked our way among the rocks and roots on our descent.

K-oak plum gall (1)

At least one more fruit showed its face on the downward route. Or was it a fruit? Actually not–it was an oak plum gall created by a wasp.

We talked about Labor Day as we climbed down. Labor Day is a tribute to the contribution of those who work and contribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. We gave thanks to our parents and the work ethic they taught us. And we noted the fruits of labor we saw in the natural world.

Finally, we toasted all with a beer at Delany’s Hole in the Wall in North Conway–a Shock Top for him and Tuckerman’s Pale Ale for me. On this Mondate, we felt rewarded with the fruits of all labor.


Filled to the Brim Mondate

It’s been a few weeks since my guy and I shared a Mondate. And so, this morning after joining our youngest for breakfast, we mosied on over to Pleasant Mountain in West Bridgton. Leaving the truck at the base of the Ledges Trail, we walked 1.5 miles down the road to the Bald Peak Trailhead. Since we didn’t have two vehicles, it was much easier to get the road piece done first, rather than at the end when we would be hot and tired. The climb up was a wee bit slippery since it had rained most of the weekend and was still raining at 5am. But the rain had stopped, the sun shone brilliantly and the breeze made for a pleasant adventure up our favorite mountain.

p-Indian cucumber root

My guy encouraged me to go first and I surprised him with a steady pace. I did pause, however, when I spotted fruit beginning to form on Indian cucumber root.

p-berries wet

By the time we reached the intersection with the North Ridge Trail, we realized we were in for more fruit–a sweet treat. Since the high bush blueberries at home aren’t ripe yet, we didn’t even think to bring containers for the low bush berries that carpet the mountain’s ridgeline.

p-rain on berry leaves

Bejeweled berries and leaves sparkled in the morning sun.

p-ridge view 2 (1)

We continued across the ridge, but in the slowest of motions for us. My guy lagged behind, which isn’t usually the case.

p-picking berries 1

Unless, that is, he spies blue. Everywhere.


At first, we ate them on the spot.

p-picking2 (1)

But then he decided that his hat would serve as the perfect container.

p-picking berries 1 (1)

And that’s when greed set in.

p-picking 6

Blueberry greed.

p-picking 5

He couldn’t pick them fast enough.

p-filled to the brim

Even as we sat to eat our sandwiches in an area where the only view was blueberry bushes, a few oaks and pines, he continued to pick until his hat was filled to the brim.

p-summit 1

Somehow, he finally pulled himself away and we continued on to the summit.

p-wood lily 2

I was eager to get to the summit and then move on because I hoped to find the wood lily in bloom.

p-wood lily 2 (1)

And I wasn’t disappointed.

p-ledges 2 (1)

Our descent was much quicker as the berries aren’t quite so abundant along the Ledges Trail. Speaking of that, those who fear that I’ve given away a prime location, fear not. My readership is low and the berries plentiful.

p-camp kayak

Back at camp, we checked on some high bush berries, but they’re still green. The greed will have to hold off for a few more days. Thank goodness we could find our way home with the help of a cairn–in the water?

p-cake 2

And then it was time to prepare dinner and help our youngest celebrate his birthday. He’d spent the day playing in Boston, much more fun that hanging out with the ‘rents.

A pleasant Mondate indeed. Filled to the brim were we–with each other, blueberries, cake and family time.

Work-date Mondate

Sometimes we just have to settle down and work. Thus was the case today, when my guy and I drove to camp to winterize it and put some boats away.


I helped. Honest, I did. I hauled some of the plexi-glass for the porch up from the basement. And held the plexi-glass in place. And handed him bunches of screws and washers. And lifted the back end of the kayaks. And rolled up the hammock.

PM 2

But mostly, I played with my camera.

fall at camp

Recording the season is also important work.

PM 1

And I figured out how to get my telephoto lens to work again.

 no. red oak 2

I was thrilled to focus on the scenes before me, including these Northern red oak leaves

huckleberry leaves

and those of the huckleberries.

island 1

My lens caught the island views,

leaves on water

leaf tapestry,

loon 2

and loons in action.

witch hazel 1witch hazel nuts

And I couldn’t pass up the flowering witch hazel with its fruits forming. This is a shrub that knows all about work–whether as a divining rod to locate underground water or an extract with healing powers.

So you see, my guy and I both worked on this Mondate.

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.

Double Mondate–Cape Style

My guy and I took off on an adventure a week ago today.

welcome, red road

We were excited to see that they’d rolled out the red carpet

Welcome sign

and welcome mat.


We rested our weary bodies at the Colby House B&B in Sydney each night and gorged on delicious  three-course breakfasts every morning–think pumpkin scones followed by blueberry cobbler topped with two scoops of frozen yogurt, fresh mint and a raspberry, followed by toast topped with guacamole, tomato and an egg, plus crisp bacon and orange slices. Each day, it was something equally decadent. Yeah, we didn’t eat again until about 9pm.

Beach walk, Port Hood

skipping stones

We walked along the beach near Port Hood, where the skipping stones begged to be set free.

mabou d1 cliff view

Our discovery of the Mabou trails was one of our favorite finds.

Mabou d1 b

Around every bend the scene changed.

Mabou hiking, day 1

We hiked here on our first day when the sun was shining.

mabou d2 enchanted forest 2

And returned for a five hour hike on our last full day, when the raindrops glistened.

Mabou d2 more moose bones

We found all kinds of animal sign, including plenty of scat and even a few moose bones.

Mabou 2 enchanted forest

The lady ferns decorated the slopes of the enchanted forest

mabou d2 lungwort

and lungwort on many trees let us know that we were in a rich, healthy ecosystem.

Mabou day 2, land trusts

The Cape Mabou Highlands encompasses about 5,000 acres of coastal wilderness centered around MacKinnon’s Brook on the western coast of the island.

Mabou trail signs

The trails are well signed and maintained.

cabot the road

Of course, no trip to the island is complete without a journey on the Cabot Trail.

cabot moose print

We followed the Skyline Trail and found plenty of moose prints beside the boardwalk.

cabot skyline moose gate

We walked through a gated area along the path intended to let all but moose pass through. The hope is that this area that has been fenced off because the moose had browsed it extensively, will eventually return to a boreal forest. The jury is still out on that one.

cabot descending skyline trail

We followed the boardwalk and descended to the lookout where the wind nearly blew us off the cliffs.

Moose moving off skyline trail

On our way back, we saw a young moose standing beside the trail. By the time I focused the camera, it had turned.

moose on skyline trail

Through the woods, we could see its mother and a sibling.

cabot water fall

On other trails, we hiked to a small waterfall,

big old sugar maple

through an old growth sugar maple forest and

cabot lone sheiling

beside the lone sheiling, a rectangular structure closely modeled after Scottish traditional dwellings for crofters or tenant farmers, with its rubblestone walls, rough-hewn timbers and thatched roof.

cabot jack pine forest colors

One of my favorites was the pitch pine forest, where the contrast of color and growth habit was most evident.

cabot cliff face

We discovered that life on the cliffs is abundant and lush.

fruit, bunchberries

Really lush.

fruit, wild raisins fruit wild raisins drying up fruits, wild r dried up

We saw how wild raisins earned their common name.

fruit, cherries

Everywhere we looked we saw fruit, like these cherries,

fruits mountain ash

mountain ash berries,

fruits rose hips

beach rose hips,

fruits, blue beads

and blue beads (Yellow clintonia).

apples in brook

But the tree that had us wondering the most caught our attention on the first hike. We saw apples in the brook far below.

apple trees

My assumption was that there must be a homestead nearby. Then we began to notice apple trees growing alongside many roads we traveled (and we traveled on many). Apparently, they are descendants of ancient trees planted by early settlers. The climate is obviously agreeable–while the growing season on the highland plateau is shorter and experiences harsher extremes, it appears that in the lowlands, the amount of sun and rain is just right. Life is good and plentiful. Wildlife that is.

mine hat

While we did hike in some rain, we also spent a couple of rainy days learning about local history. Our favorite museum was the Miners Museum in Glace Bay.

miners 2

Our guide and former miner, Wishie Donovan, played a huge role in making this the best of all tours.

mine 5

As he lead us down the tunnels, he shared the story of mining for coal miles beneath the ocean–based on historical facts and his own experiences.

mine 8

We donned capes and hardhats and had to bend low to avoid bumping our heads.

museum mine critters

Horses like Fred, well, not really like Fred because he’s not real, helped haul the mined coal and rats were actually important. We’ve always heard about the canaries in the mine, but rats lived there and if there were no rats running about in the morning, the men took that as a sign not to enter.

museum, mine, bending over

We came away with a greater understanding of this enterprise.

museums, Bell quote

In Baddeck, we stopped at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.

museums, water skater

There were many interesting things on display and we learned about the vast variety of interests and knowledge Bell had, including a look at the common water skater model built by his friend, Hector McNeil. They used this to better understand nature’s own hydrofoil, so they could apply its basic principles to the hydrofoil they were building.

museums, The bells in Baddeck

I do have to wonder, though, if Alec and Mabel Bell sat on the bench looking out over St. Patrick’s Channel and wondered why there weren’t any truly interactive displays at the museum. In a film clip, one of their daughters mentions how he would bring science projects to the dinner table for them to investigate. We spent way too much time reading about him and not enough time actually experiencing the discoveries he made. Or trying to make our own–which is what he apparently encouraged.

musuems, lynx

I did spot a bit of wildlife at the Bell museum–a Canada lynx. We saw plenty of cat scat on our hikes. Apparently, the lynx were the top cats on the island until the Canso Causeway was built and the bobcats found their way across. I’m not sure which cat owned the scat we saw, but the lynx are the main cat predators in the higher elevations, while bobcats inhabit the lower elevations. I’m in awe of either one of these elusive animals.

 museum Highland Center

It poured as we raced from one building to another at the Highland Village Museum in Iona.

Musuems Highland Center

I liked this portrayal of life as it was presented in a timeline from building to building. The Scottish Gaelic culture came alive as we traveled from one setting to the next and watched life transform.

Museums, Highland school

We almost got to watch life transform for longer than we’d intended. While in the schoolhouse, we heard the door close and then a latch moved. We were about to be locked in for the night.

Bras D'Or Bras D'or2

On our final day, as we left Cape Breton, the sun shown brightly over Bras d’Or Lake.

thistle 1

The waning thistle signaled the end of our Cape Breton tour.

Shephards 1

But the fun wasn’t over. We stopped in Saint John, New Brunswick, and connected with family. Another leaf on the family tree for my guy.

family church

It also meant a stop at the sight of the former parish his ancestors knew so well.

family grave:Allen

And a photo op beside their grave stone.

family home

No trip to Musquash is complete without a visit to his namesake’s home.

family homestead map

And this time we met the fire chief who knew the family well and pointed out the original homestead site.

family photos

The chief obviously values his local history. He took us upstairs in the firehouse and pointed out other photos he’s collected. We suspect some of my guy’s ancestors are students in the lower righthand photo.

the end border crossing

At last, it was time to cross the border–back to reality. Mondate to Mondate. Cape style.

This post is dedicated to our friend, Dick Olmsted, who passed away this week. Dick knew the value of family and friends. We’ll forever be enriched by our memories of time well spent with him. And the wise guy he could be 🙂

Stalking a Grasshopper

So it’s Monday, but my guy just returned from a business trip and a quiet day was in order.

That meant I had time to stalk the poor red-legged grasshopper that lives in the garden.

on leaf

Like me, it warmed itself in the sun before moving about. The temperature was 37° this morning.


Like any insect, a grasshopper’s body consists of three main parts: head; thorax; and abdomen.

antlers searching mint

This short-horned herbivore uses its antennae to feel about the mint leaves. The  pair of antennae serve as sensory organs.

On lavendar face

The head includes the antennae plus two compound eyes and three simple eyes or ocelli (yup, 5 eyes altogether). One ocellum is located between the antennae and the other two are near the compound eyes.


The head also features  several mouth parts including the palpi, which are used to handle food.The short palpi remind me of fangs.

herring bone legs

The thorax or middle part of the body actually consists of three separate parts. Closest to the head is the prothorax, which supports the first pair of legs. Next is the mesothorax, providing support for the middle pair of legs plus the first set of wings.  And the third section is the metathorax, which supports the third and largest pair of legs plus the second pair of wings that are used for flying.

back legs

The first two pairs of legs are short and used for walking and eating, while the third pair is used for hopping. Each leg consists of five parts. The largest part of each being the femur–identified easily on this specimen by the herring-bone pattern. Notice the rounded area at the bottom of the femur–that’s the knee.

moving off lavendar

The knee connects the femur to the more slender tibia, which has a spiny appearance.

on great lobelia

And below the tibia is the tarsus or foot, which consists of several segments and claws. (Sounds like time for a song–the hip bone is connected to the . . . you don’t want to hear me sing.)

 swing right

The abdomen or third section of the body begins behind the metathorax.

nibbling mint

The first segmented section of the abdomen features a pair of “ears” (tympanum) that are located under the wings (or behind mint leaves). A grasshopper can’t necessarily hear like we do, but it can distinguish the sounds of love–the intensity and rhythm of a male’s song. Each of the other segments features a pair of dots that are actually spiracles or openings for breathing tubes–there are five sets total. And at the tip of the abdomen is an ovipositor, the egg laying appendage.
on mint

Camouflage protects the grasshopper from predators, which includes birds, spiders, skunks, shrews, snakes, toads and salamanders. They all frequent our yard.

on dead stem

Each time I returned to the garden today, I had to stand still and scan the area for several minutes before I realized that I’d found my friend. Of course, I’m only assuming it was always the same one.


Sometimes it was an easy find.

Stalking a grasshopper–not a Mondate, but still a fun focus.

A Baggywrinkle of a Mondate

We learned a new word on today’s Mondate–baggywrinkle. I love how saying it makes my mouth work. Say it five times fast and I guarantee it will put a smile on your face. Might cause a few baggy wrinkles to form, but it will be worth the fun.

What does baggywrinkle mean? Read on.

Our Mondate took a different tack today–you might say we were coming about in Portland Harbor.

Picton castle

Tall Ships Portland 2015 is a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of Fort Georges.

aqua bus

The fort is in the background, center right of the Downeast Duck.

OP bow

This year also marks the maiden voyage of the first square-rigged tall ship built in the U.S. in 110 years. Introducing the Oliver Hazard Perry–a self-contained experiential school. Am I too old to go back to school?

Oliver Perry

Another view of the OHP.


We boarded some of the boats and were filled with admiration.


I have to say that I have enough of a problem holding onto one line when I sail, never mind a zillion.


Or hoisting acres of sailcloth.


El Galeón Andalucía, a replica galeón class vessel is the only one in the world sailing these days. Her design dates back to the late 16th century when these fabled merchant vessels and war ships made up the early European navies.

galeon 2

A stern view.

galeon 3

Ready. Aim. Please don’t fire.

window view

The one I really wanted to see came into view from below deck on the Oliver Hazard Perry.

working harborfront

So we walked along the working waterfront.

Portland Observatory

And observed the Portland Observatory from a distance.

harbor seal

Standing in line for almost an hour was worth the wait–a harbor seal.


A young osprey on a nest.

golden eagle

And finally the gold(en) eagle. I’ve always wanted to see one–especially this one.

stars and stripes 2

Her stars and stripes pledged her allegiance in the ocean breeze.

coast guard logo

Till today, I’d only seen her in the distance–sailing up Long Island Sound from New London, Connecticut.

eagle 2

But finally . . . up close and personal in Maine waters.

Eagle 1

Like the winds that propel her, she has her own fluid beauty.

 flag messages

Flag messages speak her language.

a million ropes

A million ropes and cables and masts–so much to learn. On the Coast Guard Academy Web site I found this information: Built at the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany in 1936, and commissioned as Horst Wessel, Eagle is one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German navy. At the close of the war, the ship was taken as a war reparation by the U.S., re-commissioned as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and sailed to New London, Connecticut, which has been its homeport ever since. Eagle has offered generations of Coast Guard Academy cadets, and more recently officer candidates, an unparalleled leadership experience at sea.

I didn’t know that. No wonder I feel a connection in so many ways–sailing, Connecticut and now I learn that the boat has a German origin. My maternal grandmother was born in Hamburg.

baggywrinkle 2

The question of the day and apparently the number one question always: What is that seaweedy looking stuff on the cables? How did it get there? Why is it there? Does it keep birds at bay?


That, my friends, is baggywrinkle. Think about the winds shifting suddenly during a tack. Sails slap against the rigging. In a big blow, they rip. Not so with baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle is old rope that’s been unraveled, cut to length and then rewoven to cover the cables and protect the sails from chafing. Kind of like how we use vaseline.

Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. Baggywrinkle. 🙂

Moosey Mondate

We finally moved to camp yesterday, and awoke early this morning to that hauntingly delightful sound–the cry of the loon.


While I stood on the dock, wishing the pair would come closer, something else caught my attention.


Suspended animation. I couldn’t see the web, but trusted it was there.

Black Mtn

Our Mondate began after we got some chores out of the way. A perfect day to hop in the tandem kayak and head north to Sweden. Thanks to our friends the Neubigs, who purchased the tandem for us years ago. They need to return and use it–just saying.

island shoreline

We love the upper basin because there are so many islands and stumps and inlets and coves and beaver lodges and you name it to explore.

tall weeds

The only thing that drove us crazy was the deer flies. Yeah. So we know insects are important for pollination and to provide food for fish, birds, dragonflies and others. But truly, what purpose do deer flies serve, other than to suck our blood? Mind over matter. Don’t scratch and the swelling will go down eventually. Note–like black flies, it’s the females that bite. I’d say, “Go Girls,” but hardly in this case.


Among the many dragonflies was this blue dasher, a common variety near quiet water. If only he would feast on those darn deer flies.

button bush

The buttonbush seems otherworldly with its pincushion styles protruding from each tubular flower.


The tight, waxy, petal-like sepals of the spatterdock, aka yellow pond lily or cow lily, stands upright above its leaf–featuring a small v-notch

fragrant water lily

On other ponds and lakes, I’ve seen the fragrant water lily in bloom already, but here it is just beginning to open. Its leaves are larger than those of the spatterdock and notched to the center.


Pickerelweed is like no other. Though the upside-down heart-shaped leaves are long-stemmed and look similar to arrowhead, once the flower blossoms, there’s no mistaking it.

pick 2

The flowers are worth a second or third look. They grow in spikes along the pond’s edge. And each is covered in hair. Why?

pick 3

Not only that, but each flower is two-lipped. And each lip is three-lobed. And the upper lip has two yellow spots.

sundews 1

The pond was dammed a long time ago and stumps support a variety of life–including the carnivorous sundews beginning to flower.

sundews 2

At first glance, I thought they were the round-leaved variety, but I now think they are spatulate-leaved sundews. Love that name–for the spoon or spatula-shaped leaves that are longer than they are wide.

love is in the air

Love is in the air.

As it should be on a Mondate with my guy well spent on Moose Pond. I bet you thought I was going to post a photo of a moose.

Red Hot Mondate

It’s Monday. Time for a Mondate. But this morning, we each went our separate ways. He to run and then cut some tree limbs in the yard. Me to meet up with a friend and explore a nearby reserve.

whitney pond

I’ve visited this secluded spot three times, all within the last two weeks. And each time I spy something different.

fragrant water lily

The fragrant water lilies are beginning to bloom. They remind me of dainty china teacups.


Near the water’s edge, a pink candy-crystal gall–I’m not sure of the actual name or creator because I’m still trying to identify the shrub. What causes the color?

beaver works

Bushwacking always means great finds like this beaver works. There are several lodges on the pond.

bracken 1

We were surprised to discover that something had been munching on the bracken fern. As ubiquitous as the plant is, we don’t often see that anything has consumed it.


White-tailed deer are about the only species that can tolerate bracken fern, which can poison some mammals. It produces a chemical thiaminase that prevents cows and sheep from metabolizing thiamine–they get sick and become disoriented. Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science Web site explains it this way: “When ingested, these enzymes split thiamin (Vitamin B1), an important compound in energy metabolism, and render it inactive.”

Here’s the good news about the fern–turned upside down, it makes a great summer hat and may keep mosquitoes off your head as you walk about the woods.

hemlock cones

Petite green cones dangle from the ever graceful hemlock trees.


One last view before we headed back down the long and narrow dirt road–baby phoebes all in a row.


At home, I wandered for a few minutes. It won’t be long before we’ll enjoy these.


The trumpet-like flowers of digitalis–aka foxgloves. OK, so these are also poisonous to humans, cats and dogs. Yeegads. So beautiful and yet . . .


A miniature world on the stone wall deserves a longer visit, with journal and colored pencils involved. I shall return to this spot to sit for a bit.

At last, I joined my guy for our Mondate.

barn 2

We’re painting the barn. Starting on the back side of the attached shed, we’ve primed it and late this afternoon I began using the actual color. You can see how high up I could reach. This isn’t the color the rest of the barn will be–but it’s so close you’ll never know the difference, unless I tell you. Oops, just did.

Yup, this was one red hot Mondate. And it looks like there will be more to come.