Spying Like an Eagle

Working in tandem, we paddled against the wind and despite its force gave thanks for the relief from the heat offered. Our intention was to explore the islands of Moose Pond, a place where the two of us can get lost in time.

It was movement above that caught our attention as we watched a large bird fly into a tree. And so we paddled even harder in hopes of getting a better look. About midway up a White Pine, an immature Bald Eagle sat upon a branch . . . and panted, feeling the heat like we did. Since birds can’t sweat, this was its way of dissipating the sweltering weather.

We watched the bird until it finally flew off and headed south.

Then we continued our journey north.

My guy jumped ship to wander an island or two and I stayed aboard to see what I might find, like the Spatterdock petals hiding within the petal-like sepals.

There were Buttonbush flowers with their funky orb shapes and spiky protrusions.

And I was delighted to see a Rose Pogonia, its fringed beard hiding among the grasses and reeds.

The damselflies wrote love notes on almost every stem, but this gathering I found most comical–as the guys each attempted to be her suitor. In the end the top Bluet gracefully acquiesced.

And then there was the Variable Darner Damsel to wonder about as she posed upon a Pickerel Weed of matching color. Were her wings so shiny because she’d just emerged? And though its difficult to see the left-hand wing, they appeared to be spread–perhaps another indication of her recent adventure from aquatic nymph to sky dancer.

Our discoveries were many, but I’ve shared just a few from this afternoon as my guy and I . . . we spied like an eagle.

To Pause and Focus

I had no idea what to expect of today’s tramp with two friends as I didn’t even know prior to this afternoon that the trail we would walk even existed. And so I pulled in to the parking area at the end of Meetinghouse Road in Conway, New Hampshire, sure that we’d only be able to walk down to the Saco River about a hundred feet away and that would be the extent of our adventure.

1-Conway Rec Path

But . . .  much to my pleasant surprise I was wrong and in the northeastern corner of the parking lot we crossed a bridge into the unexpected setting.

2-Saco River framed

For the entire journey, we walked above and beside the Saco River. And our minds were awed by the frames through which we viewed the flowing water and boulders.

3-clear view of the Saco River

Occasionally, our view was clear and colorful, the colors now more pastel than a week ago.

5-witch hazel, understory

Even as the colors have begun to wane and leaves fall, we looked up from our spot below the under and upper stories and sighed.

4-Witch Hazel

For much of the time, we were wowed by the Witch Hazel’s flowers–for so thick were they on many a twig.

4a-witch hazel flowers

In fact, if one didn’t pause to notice, you might think that each flower featured a bunch of ribbons, but really, four was the count over and over again.

4b-witch hazel flowers, leaf:bundle scars

And some were much more crinkly than others. One of my other favorites about this shot is the scar left behind by a recently dropped leaf. Do you see the dark smile at the base of the woody yet hairy flower petiole? And the dots within that represented the bundles where water and nutrients passed between leaf and woody structure?

6-spotted wintergreen

And then one among us who is known for her eagle eyes spied a Spotted Wintergreen, Chimaphila maculata, a name that has always made us wonder for its dark green leathery leaves seem far more stripped than spotted. It’s one of those plants with a bunch of common names and so we should try another one on: spotted wintergreen; striped prince’s pine; striped wintergreen; striped pipsissewa; spotted pipissewa; and pipissewa. But perhaps the fact that it’s striped and referred to as spotted helps me to remember its name each time we meet. A sign of how my brain works.

7-spotted wintergreen patch

While we know it to be rare and endangered in Maine, it grew abundantly under the pines on the slight slope beside the river in New Hampshire, and we rejoiced.

8-spotted wintergreen capsules

Its newer capsules were green, but a few of last year’s woody structures also graced the forest floor. Reseeding helps the plant propagate, but it also spreads through its rhizomes.

9-maple-leaf viburnum

Everywhere we looked there was a different sight to focus our lenses and we took photo upon photo of the variations in color of some like Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), a shrub with three-lobed maple-like leaves and small white flowers in the spring that form blue fruits in the early fall and had been consumed, only their stems left to tell the story.

10-red maple leaves

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) leaning over the river offered their own hues that bespoke autumn.

16-platter sized mushrooms

And tucked into a fungi bowl, we found the yellow form of Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum). 

11-Saco River with Moat Mountains in background

Onward we continued with the river to our left, outlined with maples and evergreens, and backdropped by the Moat Mountains.

12-small pond stained glass window

And to our right, a small pond where trees in the foreground helped create a stained glass effect filled with autumn’s display.

13-reflection

And once again, in the pond’s quiet waters reflections filled our souls.

14-turn around trespass

A wee bit further, we trespassed onto private land, and decided to make that our turn-around point as we got our bearings via GPS.

15-trail

Backtracking was as enjoyable as our forward motion. We had been on a trail called the Conway Rec Path, part of the Mount Washington Valley Rec Path, intended for walking, running, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, bird watching, wildflower viewing , tree study, plus river and mountain views. Kennett High School athletes ran past us and we encountered couples out for exercise. None took their time as we did, but that’s our way and occasionally we ventured off trail because something caught our eye.

9-rock carvings match the waves

Meanwhile, the river continued to flow, as it has for almost ever, and the water continued to carve patterns yet to be seen, but we enjoyed those that reflected its action.

17-old silver maple

Back at the parking lot, we were wowed by a Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), its girth suggesting an age older than a century.

18-silver maple buds

As had been the case all along the way, we experienced another wow moment when we realized how developed were the flower and leaf buds already. We know they form in the summer, but . . . they looked ready to pop!

19-white-throated sparrow

As we stood and admired, a flock of Juncos and White-throated Sparrows flew from one spot to the next as they sought seeds on the ground. Occasionally, the sparrows paused for a moment.

20-2 white-throated sparrows

And then moved on again.

21-Eagle over Moose Pond

At last it was time for us to move on as well and head for home, my friends’ to their mountainside abode in New Hampshire and me to my humble house on the other side of the Moose Pond Causeway. But as I always do when making the crossing, I looked up.

22-immature Bald Eagle

And was honored by a sighting that pulled me out of my truck. The immature Bald Eagle I’d watched and listened to all summer graced me with another opportunity to view it.

One scene after another, it was a delightful autumn afternoon. Thanks P&B, for the sharing a new trail with me and providing many moments to pause and focus.

A Berry Pleasant Mountain Hike

Thirty-two years ago I moved to Maine (the only place I’ve ever lived where the number of years counts as bragging rights) and Pleasant Mountain quickly figured into my life. The first day I drove past it on Route 302, I was killing time before a job interview and one look at Moose Pond with the mountain looming over it and I knew I very much wanted to live here. A couple of days later, I received the phone call I’d been waiting for and principal Larry Thompson said it was only a matter of formality that my name go before the school board. By the next week, I was packing up in New Hampshire and making my way further north. I’d found a place to live that meant I’d pass by the mountain on my way to and from school each day. And then that October I attended a Halloween party with friends at the ski lodge of what was then called Pleasant Mountain Ski Resort. I was an olive and I met this guy dressed as a duck hunter. Turns out he’d never been duck hunting, but had a great duck puppet and he could turn its head with the stick within. He certainly turned my head!

Thus began the journey with my guy. Our first hike together–up the Southwest Trail of Pleasant Mountain. That first winter, he taught me to downhill ski, well sorta. My way of turning that first time included falling as I neared the edge of the trail, shifting my body once I was down on the snow, begging for the components of a steak dinner, rising and skiing across at a diagonal to the opposite side only to repeat my performance. Dinner was great that night! And well deserved.

Time flashed forward four years, and at noon on August 4, 1990, we were married; our reception in the Treehouse Lounge at the Ski Resort. In all the years since we first met and then were married and beyond, we’ve skied (though I have managed to avoid that concept more recently) together and with our sons before their abilities outgrew mine, snowshoed and hiked and grown only fonder of the place we call home. Our intention yesterday was to climb the mountain in celebration of our 28th anniversary, but the weather gods outpouring of moisture was not in our favor.

Today, however, dawned differently and so mid-morning we made our way with a plan to hike up the Bald Peak Trail, across the ridge to the summit, and down the Ledges Trail. We’d left the truck at the Ledges, ever mindful that the last thing we want to do after climbing down the mountain is to walk 1.5 miles to reach our vehicle.

1-heading up

As I’ve done over and over again in the past 32 years, I followed my guy–over rocks and roots and bald granite faces.

2-Pinesap

Once in a while I announced the need for a stop because my Nature Distraction Disorder ticked into action. In this case, it was Pine-sap, or Monotropa hypopitysMono meaning once and tropa turned; hypopitys for its habitat under a pine or fir. Also called Dutchmen’s Pipe, this is a parasitic plant that obtains all its nutrients by stealing them from the roots of a host tree. It doesn’t enter the host directly, but through a fungal intermediary. And like Indian Pipe, it has no green tissues. It differs from I.P. in two ways, its yellow color as compared to white, and two to eleven flowers versus a single flower. In my book of life, both Pine-sap and Indian Pipe are great finds.

3-Moose Pond below

I didn’t let my NDD get the better of me too often on the way up. It was extremely humid and so we did stop frequently, but also kept a pace that worked for both of us and soon emerged onto the ridge where a look back through the red and white pines revealed a peek of the causeway that crosses Moose Pond.

5-hidden camp

Employing the telephoto lens, I spied our camp hidden among the trees, only the dock and our little boat showing. It’s amazing how obvious all the neighboring camps seemed when viewed from up high.

7-ridge line trail

After the climb up, the ridge always seems a cinch as the pathway wanders through blueberries, pines and oaks.

6-lunch rock

At last we found lunch rock, a place to pause in the shade and enjoy our PB&J sandwiches. We’d packed cookies for dessert, but decided to save those for later. My guy, however, had accidentally unpacked my work backpack and discovered a few pieces of a dark chocolate KitKat–my stash when I’m tired at the end of the day and need a pick-me-up before driving home. It looks like the purchase of another KitKat is in my near future for we topped off the sandwiches with a sweet treat.

8-picking blueberries

After lunch, my guy’s eyes focused in on one thing only. That is after he moved away from his original spot behind the rock we’d sat upon for our repose. Unwittingly, he’d stirred up a yellow jacket nest and managed to walk calmly away, only one bee stinging his leg.

14-blueberries

While his attention was on the gold at his feet–in the form of low-bush blueberries, I turned my lens in a variety of directions. Oh, I helped pick. A. Wee. Bit.

9-Lake Darner Dragongly

But there were other things to see as well and this dragonfly was a new one for me. A few highlights of this beauty: Do you notice the black cross line in the middle of the face. And on the thoracic side stripe, do you see the deep notch?

10-Lake Darner Dragonfly

Both of those characteristics helped in ID: Meet a Lake Darner. Even the male claspers at the tip of the abdomen are key, for they’re paddle-shaped and thicker toward the end. Though he didn’t pause often, Lake Darners are known to perch vertically on tree trunks. I was in awe.

11-grasshopper

All the while we were on the ridge, the Lake Darners flew about, their strong wing beats reminiscent of hummingbirds, so close did they come to our ears that we could hear the whir. And then there was another sound that filled the summer air with a saw-like buzziness–snapping and crackling as they flew. I couldn’t capture their flight for so quick and erratic it was, but by rubbing pegs on the inner surface of their hind femurs against the edges of their forewings, the grasshoppers performed what’s known in the sound world as crepitation. Crepitation–can’t you almost hear the snap as you pronounce the word?

12-coyote scat

It wasn’t just insects that caught my eye, for I found a fine specimen of coyote scat worth noting for it was full of hair and bones. It was a sign bespeaking age, health, availability, and boundaries.

12A

Turns out, it wasn’t the only sign in the area and whenever we hike the trails on Pleasant Mountain these days, we give thanks to Loon Echo Land Trust for preserving so much of it. According to the land trust’s website: “Currently, Loon Echo owns 2,064 mountain acres and protects an additional 24 acres through conservation easements.”

13-picking some more

Our time on the ridge passed not in nano seconds, for my guy was intent on his foraging efforts. I prefer to pick cranberries, maybe because they are bigger and bring quicker satisfaction as one tries to fill a container. But, he leaves no leaf unturned. And enjoys the rewards on yogurt or the possible muffin if his wife is so kind, until late in the winter.

15-middle basin of Moose Pond

As we slowly moved above the middle basin of Moose Pond, I found other berries growing there.

14-lingonberries

Among them, lingonberries were beginning to ripen. They grow low to the ground, below the blueberries, and resemble little cranberries. In fact, some call them mountain cranberries. Like blueberries, they like acidic, well-drained soil. For all the leaves, however, there were few fruits and I had to wonder if the birds were enjoying a feast.

16-huckleberries

Huckleberries also grow there, though not quite as abundantly as along our shorefront on Moose Pond. They’re seedier than blueberries, though the local squirrels don’t seem to mind. Both red and gray harvest them constantly as they move throughout the vegetated buffer in front of camp.

17-summit fire tower

It took some convincing, but finally my guy realized that we needed to move on and so we gradually made our way to the summit, where the once useful fire tower still stands as a monument to an era gone by.

18-summit view in the haze

Our pause wasn’t too long for so strong was the sun. And hazy the view, Kearsarge showed its pointed profile to the left, but Mount Washington remained in hiding today.

19-ledges view of Moose Pond's southern basin

The journey down was rather quick. Perhaps because we were so tired, it felt like we just rolled down. But we did stop to admire the view of the southern bay of Moose Pond in Denmark. Our intention was also to eat the cookies we’d packed once we reached this point. Through both bags we hunted to no avail. I remembered packing the cookies under our sandwiches. And then moving the sandwiches to the second pack, but leaving the cookies. Did we accidentally take them out after all? Were they on the kitchen counter? In the truck? The final answer was no on all fronts. We think we must have taken them out at lunch rock and they never made it back into the pack. I had moved the backpacks with great calmness once we discovered the yellow jacket nest. Just maybe the yellow jackets are dining on some lemon cookies. Perhaps it was our unintended peace offering.

20-hiking down following this guy

After a five plus hour tour, filled with blueberries and sweat, I followed my guy down. We’ve spent the greater part of our lives following in each other’s footsteps and it’s a journey we continue to cherish, especially on our favorite hometown mountain.

Here’s to many more Berry Pleasant Mountain Hikes with my guy.

 

 

 

Island Hopping Mondate

Paddling together in “Big News,” our double kayak so named for it was a gift from the Neubigs many moons ago (thank you, Carissa and Bob), is one of our favorite summer pastimes. With wrist almost fully mended, it’s an even sweeter journey for me because it means I don’t have to work hard.

1-prepping the kayak

And so it was that my guy prepped Big Red for today’s journey–an exploration of the northern basin of Moose Pond. The “pond” is a 1,697 water body with a 33.3 mile perimeter that’s broken into three sections. We know the north best, which offers about a four-mile round-trip journey from camp up into the islands of Sweden. The other section that we don’t visit as often, but do enjoy exploring, is the southern section in Denmark, for it’s equally interesting.

2-BLUEBERRIES!

Today, though, my guy had a mission worth gold in mind–to make some headway on his blueberry greed.

6-yellow-necked caterpillars

Along the way we discovered an interesting sight. Our friend, and pond neighbor from the western shore, Lili Fox, asked yesterday if I could identify some yellow and black caterpillars. After a wee bit of research, I suggested Yellow-necked Moth Caterpillars. I didn’t expect to meet them quite so soon myself, but immediately recognized the group that clustered at the tip of a blueberry twig. At first, they seemed immobilized, but then I realized they were in the defense form that I’ve witnessed with other caterpillars, curling outward to form a U. I’d just picked a few berries below and so they saw me as prime predator. Fortunately, no attack was made.

8-yellownecked 2

Overall, they have yellow and black stripes, but it’s the yellow segment or neck behind their black heads for which they were named. These very hungry caterpillars were reaching maturity and soon should drop to the ground. They’ll apparently overwinter burrowed below as pupa and emerge in adult form next year.

10a-fluffy yellownecked

I assumed that those with the most wiry hair were the oldest. We probably should have shaken them off the branches and into the water, but we didn’t. Nature knows what to do and some will become a food source for wasps or birds, passing along the energy contained in the blueberry leaves to another level.

3-variable dancer damselfly

In the meantime, I became the Yellow-necked Lookout Warden as my guy continued to pick. Accompanying me with his own bulbous set of eyes was a male Variable Dancer Damselfly.

4-spreadwing

The damselflies actually could care less about the caterpillars and more about finding a mate and so they all posed, either on the kayak, or nearby vegetation.

5-orange bluet damselflies

Both turned out to be the right substrate on which to perform mating rituals, this being a pair of Orange Bluet Damselflies on the kayak.

7-emerald spreadwings canoodling

And Emerald Spreadwings offering a reflection on the pond of their canoodling efforts.

10-heading north

At last we continued further north, island hopping along the way.

12-Eastern Pondhawk Dragonfly

Though their natural communities all looked similar, with each stop came a different offering, including the Eastern Pondhawk that displayed one of my favorite combinations of color-sky blue pond green.

13-EAstern Pondhawk

Eye to eye, we contemplated each other. I have no idea what he thought of me. Well, actually, I’ve no idea if dragonflies can think. Is all their action instinctive? As for my thoughts, I didn’t want to gobble him up in a literal fashion, but wish I could have taken him with me so I could continue to stare, infatuated with his colors as I was. On his thorax I saw a watercolor painting reflecting a sunny day by the pond.

14-Floating Heart Plant

Another island and another find–the delicate flower of a Floating Heart Plant.

14-bullfrog on lily pad

And then a frog on a lily pad, a young frog that is.

15-bullfrog froglet

If you look closely, you may see her tail extending behind. I couldn’t help but think that she’s got big feet to grow into.

16-beaver lodge

Beside one of the last islands we visited, we saw that the neighborhood had changed quite recently and a new house had been built. Though none of the residents came out to greet us, we weren’t surprised. Based on the greenery and wet mud we suspected they’d been busy as beavers all night and needed a rest.

17-beaver island

A quick look around and we knew the source of their building materials. It reminded us that they’ve been secret visitors to our land in the past and have helped themselves to young saplings much to our dismay. Then again, it is their land as well. We’re just the ones who pay the taxes.

11-spadderdock with damselfly exuvia

Of course, no water adventure is complete without a photo of Spatterdock, this one featuring a damselfly exuvia.

17-fragrant water lily

And Fragrant Water Lily. That rayed presentation. Those prominent yellow stamens. The symmetry. And, of course, the fragrance.

18-honeybee

What could be better than the two together? The two together with small flies on one and a honey bee, its buckets full, visiting the other.

19-painted turtle

At last, it was well after lunch, which we’d neglected to pack and my wrist was sore, so my guy said he’d paddle us home. And because we’d startled a turtle earlier, he said he’d find one for me. Wow! Both the turtle and I were impressed.

20-turtle basking

As turtles do, he stretched out his back legs demonstrating how they need to capture additional heat given that they are cold-blooded animals. Basking helps them to absorb warmth and vital UV rays.

21-waving goodbye

What he did next surprised us. He began to wave his front left leg–I took it as a goodbye, but it was probably either a way to push an insect toward his mouth or an aggressive move telling us to move on. We did, heading back to camp as we finished up our Island Hopping Mondate.

 

 

Christmas in July Mondate

We did celebrate Christmas in December as has long been the tradition, but for one of his presents my guy received a box with a photo and a set of oar locks. It made absolutely no sense to him. Why oar locks? And why a photo of a boat that needed some work and was sitting in someone’s barn. By now, you know where I’m going with this. As did he, once he gave it a moment’s thought.

The back story is that it was a selfish gift for we do have a fleet of boats already, including a 12-foot aluminum that has seen its own set of better days. The rest of our boats are man/woman-powered, from canoe and kayaks to sailfish and rowing shell. But a boat with a motor–other than the aluminum that has been a piece of yard art since our youngest went off to college so many years ago–had not been in our possession for three or four years. And even then, we only enjoyed it sporadically for it always seemed to have an engine issue of one sort or another. Finally, we sold it as is. And thankfully haven’t heard since if it isn’t.

But . . . our trips beyond the northern basin of Moose Pond had been more limited, and I like going for the occasional tour. So when our Wiser friends (Marita and Bob), said they were planning to sell their circa 1988 Maine Guide Boat last fall, I jumped on the opportunity and turned it into a Christmas present. First, however, they intended to sand and stain the woodwork and paint the interior. All the better for us, I figured. And I didn’t care when the job would be completed for it wasn’t like we’d be boating in January.

c1-SS Christmas

They kindly dropped the refurbished boat off last week and again it sat. Until today, when my guy had a chance to make a couple of minor adjustments, like adding the registration stickers and some epoxy to a couple of spots on the stern.

c4-trimming a branch

While the epoxy dried, there was a branch dangling over the side of the dock that needed to be trimmed. We love hiding behind the trees, and so haven’t done what most have–cut the bottom third of the branches off view-blocking trees. Even making this minor adjustment didn’t feel quite right, but we did need a place to dock the boat. And it wasn’t the first time we’d made such a cut in the same spot. I guess we were just surprised at how much the tree had grown since we last docked a boat there.

c2-Canada geese at neighbors

Of course, while he sawed the lower part of the branch off, I looked around and spied Canada geese visiting the neighbor’s well-groomed property. There were at least 25 geese in all, each leaving a multitude of gifts as thanks for the neighbor’s hospitality.

c5-boat launched

And then the boat was launched without much fanfare.

c6-lancet clubtail dragonfly

Unless you consider the fact that a Lancet Clubtail Dragonfly stopped by frequently to check on the happenings.

c7-variable dancer damselfly

A Variable Dancer Damselfly also kept taking a look, and even checked out the boat’s seats.

c3-bryozoan mass

Meanwhile, as I was exclaiming over the clarity of the water, I noticed a Bryozoan mass, a most definite gift for the tiny colonial aquatic creatures that connect their tubes together and form the jelly-like blob, effectively filter particles from the water. The animals live in the tubes and extend their tentacles that capture even smaller microscopic organisms for food. The gelatinous species, also known as moss animals, is native to North America.

c5-motor added

Ah, but it was a boat we were there to focus on and a four-stroke motor that’s been sitting dormant in the basement was attached to the stern. Fresh gas and a quick pull of the cord and we were in business.

c9-onto the northern basin

Off we headed onto our section of the pond.

c10-Shawnee Peak Ski Area

A turn to the left and the slopes of Shawnee Peak Ski Area at Pleasant Mountain appeared before us.

c11-under Route 302 Causeway

Another turn to the left and then to the right and we passed under the Route 302 Causeway into the much larger middle basin.

c12-Loon and chick

It was there that more gifts were to be presented.

c12-loon chick

Momma or Poppa Loon, for one can’t tell the difference from this angle, with a chick snuggled on its back.

c14-momma or poppa and chick

Always a favorite sight.

c15-Camp Winona

We had stopped the engine by the loons and drifted for a bit. But then it was time to move on toward Camp Winona, where not a camper or counselor was to be seen by the platform tents or any of the waterfront. We thought of stopping to visit our friend, Camp Nurse Rosemary, but weren’t sure if she was working today and so on we chugged at our ever so slow speed, which was much to my liking.

c18-unicorn

Thankfully, it was fast enough to keep away from the pond monster, Moosey the Unicorn. We sure do share this water body with a variety of creatures.

c16-Pleasant Mountain and East Ski Area

Across the way, most of the ridge line of Pleasant Mountain came into view and we made a discovery.

c16-East Ski Area-lobster

It looked like a lobster! Or maybe it was a crayfish, since we were on Moose Pond.

c19-home captain

Eventually we turned around, saving the southern basin for another day.

c20-backing into the dock spot

Our maiden voyage in our new/old boat came to an end as my guy successfully backed it into its resting spot at the dock. And Sam Adams helped us toast the adventure as we christened the boat: S.S. Christmas.

Christmas in July was certainly celebrated on this Mondate.

 

 

 

 

Sunday’s Point of View

After church we had exactly five hours to pack our lunches, drive to the trailhead and complete our trek. After all, the New England Patriot’s were scheduled to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game at 3pm and we intended to be in the audience–from the comfort of our couch, of course.

p1-pleasant mountain sign

By 10:30, we’d pulled into the Ledges Trail parking lot on Mountain Road in Denmark (Denmark, Maine, that is) and began the one and a half mile walk back down the road. Our intended route along the trails of Pleasant Mountain in Loon Echo’s preserve was to climb up the Bald Peak Trail to the fire tower at the summit and then follow the Ledges Trail down. We love hiking a circular route, and like to get the road walk out of the way first.

p2-mountain stream

We had no idea what trail conditions would be like, but decided on micro-spikes, which proved to be the best choice. Beside the trail, the mountain stream was layered thick with icy sculptures.

p3-brook ice

Everywhere we looked, the water had frozen into a variety of formations.

p4-Needle's Eye

Less than a half mile up, we came to the sign for Needle’s Eye.

“Do you want to go in?” I asked my guy.

“It’s up to you,” he replied for he knows my love/hate relationship with the spur path to the geological feature.

“Let’s try,” I said.

p5-Needle's Eye

Somehow, we made it to the chasm in only a few minutes. And then we stood in awe, rejoicing that we’d made the effort for we were well rewarded.

p6-ice of the needle

At the back of the eye, the waterfall stood still for a moment. Eventually, we made our way back to the main trail, and I’m proud to say I only exclaimed once when a tree that I grabbed wiggled. I thought of my friend, Marita, and her patience with me last spring when my brain didn’t want me to venture forth along the spur.

p8-ice layers

Upward we continued, chuckling as we always do at the sign for Sue’s Way that also indicated we would reach the intersection of the North Ridge Trail in three tenths of a mile. Somehow, that three tenths always feels like three miles. Is it really only three tenths of a mile, we wondered.

p7-Sabattus Island on Moose Pond

We were rewarded again, however, when we did pass by the intersection and continued on to the summit of Big Bald Peak. It’s always a spot to stop and look back at Moose Pond below where we could see our camp and Sabatis Island.

p8a-lunch rock looking north

It was just beyond that stop that we found lunch rock. Our view to the northwest was a bit obscured by the pines, but they helped block the breeze, so we didn’t mind.

p8-fire tower in distance

And to the southwest, the ridgeline we intended to walk. We could even see the fire warden’s tower at the main summit.

p9-crossing the ridge

After lunch, across the ridge we trekked, enjoying the sights along the way.

p10-Sebago Lake's open water

In the distance, we could see Sebago Lake and noted its open water which evoked a conversation about global warming. Many thought this would be the year it finally froze over again, but . . . not to be.

p11-racing through blueberry patch

Because trail conditions on the ridge were favorable, we moved quickly–practically running through the blueberry fields that will call my guy’s name come July.

p12-the tower

In what seemed like no time, we turned left onto the Fire Warden’s Trail and then made our way up to the iconic tower that was built in 1920. My hope is that it will still stand stalwart in 2020 and celebrate its one hundredth birthday.

p13-summit view toward Washington

Sometimes the summit view includes Mount Washington, but today the summits of the Presidentials were hidden in clouds.

p14-red pine scale

One scene that didn’t make us happy was that of the red pines. About five years ago I noted their decline and communicated with a forester who was studying red pine scale. Since then, most of the trees have been infested by the tiny insect and died.

p14-Southwest Ridge and sky

A much prettier picture we saw as we began our descent down the Ledges Trail, where the sky displayed a rainbow of colors above the Southwest summit of the mountain.

p15-Moose Pond from the ledges

As we made our way down, we paused as we always do along the ledges for which the trail was named. The south basin of Moose Pond dominated the vantage point.

p16-smiley face and heart

Along the entire route, we only met a few other hiking parties, but one apparently enjoyed the journey as much as we did and left smiles for our hearts.

p17-Needle's Eye

We arrived home with ten minutes to spare until kickoff.

Before the game began, we both agreed that our favorite point of view for this Sunday  was Needle’s Eye.

And now, the Patriot’s just defeated Jacksonville. That may mean two other scenes compete for today’s fav–when #24 Gilmore blocked Jacksonville’s final pass or Bill Belichick showed emotion before the game officially ended.

 

 

 

 

Sherpas for the Loons

I can’t remember what year I began volunteering to haul food to the top of Pleasant Mountain for Loon Echo Land Trust’s Trek. I do, however, remember this–it was chilly that first time. I also remember some of the folks I hiked up to our location at the summit with–including JoAnne Diller, Carol Sudduth and Sara Stockwell. And then, at some point  in the future my position was switched to the summit of Southwest Ridge and I’ve been there every since–along with my pal in crime, Marita.

l1-me 4 (1)

And so it was that this morning she and I packed as much as we could into our backpacks and extra bags as we started up the trail at 7.

l2-into the fog

The fog had been so thick as I’d driven across the Moose Pond Causeway of Route 302, that I couldn’t even see the mountain. As we started up the trail, the morning light added a ghostly effect.

l3-web 1

At viewpoints along the way, the mountains beyond remained invisible, but . . . we could see the work of others.

l4-web 2

Webs decorated branches like Christmas ornaments decorate trees.

l7a-following the loons

Despite the fog, we easily followed the hiking loon up the trail,

l7-breaking into the sunlight

and eventually broke through into the sun.

l8-looking westward

As we continued to climb, we looked back, but our view was limited . . .

l9-islands among the sea of clouds

to mountaintops that looked like islands poking above a sea of clouds.

l9a-teepee and islands in background

Finally, we reached our destination–just below the teepee at the summit of Southwest Ridge.

l10-rest area 1

It was there that we set up our rest area with an assortment of goodies.

l12-Maine to China

Some were quite local, like the salsa from Windham, Maine, apples from Five Fields Farm in Bridgton, hot pepper jelly from Massachusetts and coffee mug filled with Dreamlands coffee by Magnolia Coffee of North Carolina, which benefits Five Kezars Watershed Association in North Waterford. (Judy Lynne–I believe you know the origin of my coffee thermos. I’m still using it every day.)

l13-me 1

While the temperature had cooled off a bit at the end of August, this mid-September day was hot and muggy–especially if one was hiking. But, we were ready to greet our guests  with a smile and plenty of food. Our hope was that they’d gobble it all up.

l14-Marita

Of course, being on the Southwest Ridge, one must look the part.

l15-young hikers

Slowly our guests trickled up–full of smiles despite the heat.

l18-family time

Our hikers for the six mile trek included families and friends, and even one dog.

l16-mountain islands 1

Ever so slowly, the sun began to break through the sea of clouds.

l17-mountain islands disappearing

Suddenly, as if in a poof, the mountains and lakes came into view.

l20-view from main summit, Kezar Pond, Mt Wash in clouds

After several hours, the Sweep came through and it was time for us to pack up and move on. And so we did–hiking across to the main summit, where the western views showed that Mount Washington was still in hiding.

l22-Jon

It was at the summit that we met up with Loon Echo’s stewardship manager, Jon Evans, whose work we greatly appreciate.

l23-Paul

His partner in crime was Loon Echo’s biologist, Paul Miller. Today, Paul taught us a new word: crepitation–the snapping or crackling sounds some grasshoppers make with their wings as they fly.

l24-Moose Pond 1

After chatting with them for a few minutes, we continued on across the ridge line, going backwards or so it felt for often we hike in the opposite direction. Just before reaching the point that the Bald Peak trail takes a sharp right hand turn downward, we paused among the pines to take in the view of Moose Pond and the causeway below.

l25-Marita in split rock

Rather than turn down at the Bald Peak junction, we continued on. At the North Ridge, we passed through one of our favorite parts (though like I said to Marita–every part along this mountain is my favorite), passing through the narrow split in the granite.

l26-Shawnee Peak summit 1

Finally, we reached the summit of Shawnee Peak Ski Area where we paused at the last rest stop to enjoy some watermelon slices.

l26-slowly descending

And then it was time to descend along the ski trails, first via the Main and then the Pine, traversing as we went to take the pressure off our knees.

l27-painted lady 1

It was there that the goldenrod grew and we admired the Painted Ladies seeking nourishment.

l28-painted lady 2

Though they look similar to the regal monarchs, we noted their characteristics–the painted ladies having forewings that are mostly orange, highlighted with black and spotted white. Their undersides really tell the story for they feature shades of brown, tan and white, with prominent veins, and row of blackish-blue spots along the margin.

l29-framing camp

Eventually, we left the flower zone as we continued down on grass. The lower we descended, the more our camp came obscurely into view. It’s framed in this photo, but unless you know it, you may not see it.

l30-water snake 1

At the ski area, we helped ourselves to a free Allagash and lunch, then sat on the lawn to chat with friends who’d either volunteered their time or biked 100 miles (Go Alanna!).

We had one other visitor–a young water snake that seemed to have lost its way from the pond.

By the time we left in the late afternoon, we were tired, sweaty and stinky, but happy for the honor of serving as sherpas to haul food and set up the rest area in this annual event that helps protect the lands around us and those who live here–whether they be loons, painted ladies or water snakes.

Congratulations Loon Echo Land Trust on another successful Trek.

 

Propinquity

I slipped into a kayak this morning and rather than paddle two miles north into the islands, decided to turn the bend round our point and search the shallows closer to home.

c-stump garden

It is there that the old stumps remind me once again that this water was once land until it was dammed back in the early 1800s. The stumps have given way to gardens and I have to wonder about the age of the mosses and plants that call them home.

c-fragrant 5

In a water garden below the stumps, fragrant water lilies added grace.

c-fragrant with visitors 2

And within, they offered a feast for those who foraged.

c-feather

Nearby was evidence of another foraging expedition. It didn’t bode well for the young bird that sacrificed its life, but I suspect a larger bird gained a few jules of energy.

c-cove views

Everywhere I turned, there was another garden to inspect.

c-spider 1

And friends to meet, be they spiders . . .

c-dragonhunter exuvae

dragonhunter exoskeletons . . .

c-meadowhawk 2

or meadowhawks.

c-spatulate-leaved sundew and insects

Among my favorites were the sundews and I watched several insects approach a spatulate-leaved bent down to the water.

c-round-leaved sundew

Among the spatulates, another showed its face–the round-leaved sundew standing tall above its family members.

c-pickerel 1 a

As I continued to swoon over those beauties, a different color caught my attention.

c-pickerel frog 1

As still as could be, a pickerel frog posed and waited . . . I suppose for me to move on.

c-bullfrog 1

Eventually I did, and then I met a large male bullfrog–its external eardrum or tympanum larger than its eye. This guy was certainly all ears. 😉 (The female’s eardrum is about the same size as the eye). He sat in wait . . .

c-bullfrog youngster

while a young bullfrog of two or three years tried to hide about eighteen inches away. A bullfrog is a carnivore and while its diet consists of crayfish, water beetles, snails and dragonfly larvae, they also dine on fish, small turtles, young water birds . . . and other frogs. Beware little friend.

c-bullfrog reflection

For a while another bullfrog and I took a stab at a starring contest. He won.

c-beaver scent mound

Again I moved on and at last found one of the reasons I headed around the corner. I’d been  wondering about beaver works in this area–and found a scent mound that looked rather fresh.

c-beaver lodge

Across the way was the lodge–that’s been in place since I’ve frequented Moose Pond, which means for just over thirty years.

c-beaver lodge garden

I noticed that the beavers have their own kitchen garden from which to choose–and poking out from it were a variety of sticks. Which ones came from our property? And how many more will be added in October, for I know that’s when they’ll come shopping.

c-camp from south side

Finally, it was time to head back out of the cove to our humble abode on the point.

c-camp 2

It was there that I would finally join my guy for some time in our  rocking chairs.

Propinquity.

Embracing Quiet

If you are like me, you spend too much time racing from one moment to the next during this fleeting season of summer. With that in mind, I chose to slow down today.

m-stump islands

I know of few better places to do that than among the stump islands in the Upper Basin of Moose Pond. It’s been my place since I moved to Maine over thirty years ago.

Once upon a time, this was timberland–albeit prior to impoundment. A log sluiceway was built at the Denmark end in 1792 by Cyrus Ingalls, thus turning pastureland into the Lower Basin, so he could float logs to a nearby mill. In 1824, a more substantial dam was created and the height of that dam was raised by William Haynes in 1872 to create the current impoundment. While the Middle Basin of the nine-mile “pond” may be the largest at over 900 acres, its the 300-plus-acre Upper and Lower Basins that I like best to explore. And because the Upper is right out my summertime back door, I spend the most time there.

m-painted turtle

As I moved slowly, I greeted old friends like this painted turtle and even had the opportunity to pet a snapping turtle, so close to my kayak was it, but I paddled on.

m-newly emerged damsel 2

Actually, I didn’t paddle much once I reached the islands and stumps. Instead, I floated. And noticed. Before my eyes newly emerged damselflies pumped fluid into their bodies and wings, while their shed exuviae sat empty.

A family of three passed by in a canoe and I asked if they wanted to see something cool. When I told them about the damselfly, the father asked what a damselfly was and I told the family about its size and wing formation. They knew about dragons but had never heard of damsels. And didn’t want to stop and look. The mother commented on how magical it all was, but the father was eager to move on. I was sad for the son’s sake. He missed the real magic.

m-emerging damsel 3

Returning to my quiet mode, I found another, waiting as they all do, for the transformation to be completed. Do you see that the wings are not yet clear? I decided my presence was important, for I was keeping predators at bay.

m-orange bluet male

And then . . .

m-orange bluet 3

and then I met a new friend. An orange bluet–this being the male. I wanted to name him the Halloween damsel, but my field guide told me differently.

m-water shield and orange bluets 2

I kept waiting for him to meet her

m-orange bluets on water shield 1

and finally he did–

m-orange bluets mating

completing the wheel of damselfly love.

m-water shield 4

Because of the orange bluets, I also met the watershield flowers in their moment of glory. The flowers are described as being dull purple and inconspicuous. I found them to be various shades from mauve to muted red and lovely in presentation on day one of their life cycle.

According the US Forest Service Website, “On the first day the bud emerges above the water. Sepals and petals open and bend downward. Although stamens and pistils are present in each flower, on the first day of blooming, only the pistils emerge. Stalks of the pistils lengthen and spread outward over the petals. At night, the flower stalk bends and the flowers submerge beneath the water. On the second day, flowers emerge from the water again, but with the pistils retracted. The stamen stalks are lengthened and the anthers open. In this way flowers are cross-pollinated (Osborn and Schneider).

m-water shield old

Hardly dull, certainly unique. Even on day two.

m-newly emerged Hudsonian whiteface

Today, I also met a new dragonfly. And thought that I did it a favor, but I may not have. You see, when we first met, I noticed a web all around this immature Hudsonian whiteface (or so I think it is). With my paddle, I removed the web to free the dragonfly. But, um, it flew off and that’s when I realized it was several hours old and still drying its wings. Do you see how shiny they are? And the exuviae to which it clung prior to my “helping” hand? It’s best to leave nature alone. If it had been caught in the web, then good for the spider.

m-cotton grass 1

Speaking of spiders, I found some cotton grass gone to seed . . .

m-cotton grass with spider 2

and when I moved to photograph it with the sun behind me, I noticed what looked to be a camouflaged crab spider hiding in wait.

m-beaver lodge 1

Among the stumps, I’ve seen numerous beaver lodges over the years and know from the saplings they cut down on our property, that at least a few are active.

m-beaver scent mound 1

Today a recently visited scent mound added to that knowledge. Beavers pull aquatic plants and mud up from the bottom of the pond and create these mounds. They then secrete castoreum from castor glands beneath their tails to mark territory, deter predators, and say, “Hey baby, wanna check out my sticks?”

m-meadowsweet

The island flowers also grabbed my attention, including the fluffy heads of meadowsweet and . . .

m-grasspink orchid

grass-pink orchids now waning.

m-sweet-scented water lily

But . . . besides the dragons and damsels, I really went to see the aquatic flowers, like the sweet-scented water lily,

m-spatterdock

spatterdock,

m-pickerel weed 3

and one of my favs–pickerelweed.

m-pickerel weed

I love it for all its fine hairs and the way the flowers spiral up the stalk.

m-pickerel 2

I also love the coloration with two yellow dots on the upper lip providing a guide to the nectar it offers.

m-white face on leatherleaf 1

While I looked, another white-faced dragonfly, small in stature, kept following me. Finally, it paused on a leatherleaf shrub.

m-spatulate-leaved sundews with flower 2

And I paused beside the spatulate-leaved sundews.

m-spatulate--leaved sundew flower

I was about a week early, but one was in flower, with promises of plenty more to come.

m-pitcher plant 1

As I looked at the sundews, I realized that I’d never seen a pitcher plant in this place. As should happen, I was proven wrong, though I never would have noticed it if it didn’t have such a tall flower since its leaves were hidden by a mass of vegetation.

m-pitcher flower

Damselflies, dragonflies, and carnivorous plants–its an eat or be eaten world out there on the pond.

Bullfrogs bellowed from the edges, green frogs plinked, and fish splashed. I listened to Eastern kingbirds’ wingbeats as they dropped to the water to snatch insects, and red-winged blackbirds delightful conk-la-rees. I startled a great blue heron, the first I’ve seen on the pond all summer, and it flew off. In the midst of all the natural sounds and sights around me, I embraced the quiet on my four-hour paddle/float. And as Robert Frost might say, “That has made all the difference.”

 

Flying on the Wild Wind of Western Maine

My intention was good. As I sat on the porch on July 1st, I began to download dragonfly and damselfly photographs. And then the sky darkened and I moved indoors. Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, the wind came up. Torrential rain followed. And thunder and lightening. Wind circled around and first I was making sure all screens and doors were closed on one side of the wee house and then it was coming from a different direction and I had to check the other side. Trees creaked and cracked. Limbs broke. And the lightening hit close by. That’s when I quickly shut down my computer and checked my phone to see how much battery life it had. And saw two messages. One was an emergency weather alert. Tornado Watch. And the other was from my friend Marita, warning me that there was a tornado watch for our area. I stood between the kitchen door and the downstairs water closet, where a hatchway leads to the basement. But, there was stuff in the way and I really wanted to watch the storm. At the same time, I was frightened. Of course, in the midst of it all, the power went off.

ph 3 (1)

It didn’t last all that long, as storms go, but the damage was incredible, including telephone poles left standing at 45-degree angles. Soon, the neighbors and I assessed our properties. We somehow lucked out and only two branches plus a bunch of twigs fell. Others were not so fortunate. Trees uprooted along the shoreline or crashed onto houses, sheds, vehicles and boats. Our neighbors float shifted about thirty feet north from its usual anchored spot. And the National Weather service did indeed determine it was an EF-1 Tornado with winds of 90-100 miles per hour.

d-firetruck on causeway

At first traffic along the causeway moved extremely slowly because fallen trees had closed the south-side lane, but eventually the police shut the road down and the fire crew arrived to begin the clearing process. After the first storm, it rained on and off, but once my guy got back to camp (he dodged a detour–don’t tell), we still managed to grill a steak and sat on the porch in the dark, which is our evening habit anyway. Central Maine Power worked most of the night and they’ve been at it all day–resetting poles and lines while neighbors’ generators and the buzz of chainsaws filled the air.

And my focus returned to others who also fill the air–though in a much more welcome manner, to we humans that is. Damselflies and dragonflies. Other insects don’t necessarily agree with us–as they become quick food.

Therefore, it seems apropos that the Book of July is the Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies by Blair Nikula, Jackie Sones, with Donald & Lillian Stokes.

d-book

It’s not a big book by any means, and doesn’t include all species of the insect order Odonata, but for me right now, it’s enough. And it fits easily into my pack. I can not only try to give a name to what I see, but more importantly to recognize the subtle differences in these favorite of insects.

d-book key

One of the features I really like is that it has a key on the inside cover, first divided between damselflies and dragonflies, and then further divided by families based on size, percher or flier, flight height, wings, body colors, eye position and other clues. As you can see, there are color tabs and I can quickly move to that section and search for the species before me. I’ve discovered that I’m now looking at eye position and colors as a quick key, with other features falling into place.

The book also discusses the life cycle and behavior of damselflies and dragonflies.

d-pond damsels mating, Marsh bluets 1

Of course, it all begins when he grabs her–for damselflies such as these marsh bluets, he clasps her by the neck. Dragonflies do the same, only he clasps his female of choice behind the eyes.

d-damsel love, variable dancers

Eventually damsel love occurs as the mating couple forms a “copulation” wheel, thus allowing him to remove any sperm she may have already received from another, and replacing it with his own. Sneaky dudes. Soon after, hundreds to thousands of eggs are deposited, either in the water or on vegetation, depending on the species.

d-damselfly nymph1

Emerging from an egg, the larvae develop underwater. Damselflies such as this one, obtain oxygen through the three tail-like projections at the end of their abdomens. From 8-17 times, they molt, shedding their outer shells, or exoskeletons.

d-exoskeleton shrubs

In the spring, the big event happens. We all celebrate the emergence of the last stage in the larval skeleton, when the insects climb up vegetation or onto rocks, or even the ground, and make that final metamorphosis into the damsel or dragonfly form we are so familiar with, thus leaving their shed outer shell (exuviae) behind.

d-emerging dragonfly

On a warm, sunny spring day toward the end of May, there’s no better place to be than sitting in the presence of an emerging adult.

d-emerging 2

I encourage you to look around any wetland, even as the summer goes on, for you never know when those moments of wonder might occur.

d-Broad-winged damsel, River Jewelwing 1

In the guide, the authors include all kinds of observation tips. And then, the real nitty gritty. The first thirty-six pages of the Identification section are devoted to damselflies. And those are divided into Broad-winged damsels, Spreading, and Pond damsels. This is a river jewelwing, and for me it was a first a few weeks ago. I spotted this beauty beside the Saco River in Brownfield Bog–its iridescent green body showing through the dark-tipped wings.

d-pond damsel, ebony jewelwing, male

In the same category, the ebony jewelwing is equally stunning with brilliant green highlighted by black accents. This was a male; the female has a white dot or stigma toward the tip of her wings.

d-spreadwing, common spreadwing

Spreadwings are next and so named for their spread wings. This one happened to be a common spreadwing, though really, I don’t find them to be all that common.

d-pond damsel, variable dancer

The pond damsels are the ones I do see often, including the female variable dancers. Check out her spotted eyes.

d-pond damsel, sedge sprite 1

And one of my favorites for its colors and name–the sedge sprite. If you noted the dancer’s eyes, do you see how the sprite’s differ?

From page 79-155, dragonflies are identified. I don’t have one from every type, but I’m working on it.

d-clubtail, lancet clubtail, male

Clubtails have clear wings, and their coloration is often green, yellow or brown. Check out those eyes–and how widely separated they are. Meet a lancet club tail, so named for the yellow “dagger” markings on its back.

d-Emeralds, Ameican Emerald 2

The emeralds are known by their eyes, which are often green. This American emerald has a black abdomen with a narrow yellow ring at the base near the wings.

d-baskettail, common baskettail 1

Also included with the emeralds is the common baskettail. Notice how stout this handsome guy is.

d-skimmer, chalk-fronted corporal male

Among the easiest dragonflies to actually get a good look at are the skimmers. And it seems that on many paths I follow, the chalk-fronted corporals are there before me. His thorax has two bluish-gray stripes with brown on the sides. And his wings–a small brownish-black patch.

d-skimmer, slaty blue 2

Then there’s the slaty skimmer, in a shade of blue I adore. His wings are clear, except for the black stigmas toward the tips.

d-skimmer, common whitetail

The common whitetail is also a skimmer. Not only is his abdomen different–with white markings on the side, but he has wings with black and chalky white bases and broad black bands in the middle.

d-skimmer, calico pennant, male

They’re all pretty, but I think that so far, my all time favorites are the calico pennants; the male with red highlights including stigmas on his wings and hearts on his back, plus a hint of red everywhere else.

d-skimmer, calico pennant female

For once the male isn’t to be outdone in the color department, and the female looks similar except that she’s yellow.

d-skimmer, yellow legged meadowhawk, wings

There’s so much to admire about damselflies and dragonflies. I mean, first there are those compound eyes. But look at the thorax–where both the three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings attach. I find that attachment to be an incredible work of nature. It’s awe inspiring at least.

d-ending, female calico pennant on screen

Then again, nature is awe-inspiring. When I awoke as the sun rose yesterday morning, I wondered about the damsels and dragons. Did they survive the storm? I stepped outside to once again check for damage and look who I spotted on the porch screen. Mrs. Calico stayed for about an hour or two, letting her wings dry off before heading out to perform today’s duties–flying on the wild wind of western Maine.

Damselflies and dragonflies are one more point of distraction for me these days. I won’t always get their ID correct, but I’m thankful for the Book of July, Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies, that I found at Bridgton Books.

Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies by Blair Nikula, Jackie Sones, with Donald & Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown and Company, 2002.

Homecoming Mondate

After months of waiting and an arduous drive, we arrived at our camp on Moose Pond late yesterday afternoon. It’s that anticipation following months away and the five mile road trip that always make the final turn into the driveway so sweet.

m-night sky 2

We unpacked and put everything away, ordered a pizza because our Sunday night tradition of making our own takes a hiatus for a couple of months, and then settled on the porch as dark clouds gathered, their hues enhanced by the water’s reflection. And then we spotted a friend from across the pond jumping into his boat and pulling away from his dock. He raced south and we thought perhaps he hadn’t seen the lightning that was visible to us. Suddenly the wind increased dramatically and then the rain came. We moved indoors and checked windows and looked to our south and assumed Brian’s boat was fast enough to get beyond the storm. When the rain began to teem, we realized he hadn’t outrun it for two boats came flying back into the North Basin, his being one. We knew he was soaked and probably had a story to tell. Such is life on the pond, where our focus switches from world news to the news of our immediate world.

m-loon off the dock

And so we awoke this morning to the announcer of said news–a pair of common loons calling. We answered as we headed outdoors.

m-robber fly 1

Of course, being back meant we had chores to complete, but most of them were outside. I finished mine first and so I began taking inventory–greeting old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. The first was a robber fly posed by the porch door.

m-robber fly side view

Its compound eyes aren’t as large as those of a dragonfly, but still . . . they are large enough and allow this mighty predator to spot and catch prey more than a foot away in a split second. I wanted to see it, but wasn’t privy. Instead, I admired his body features.

m-flesh fly

Then I headed to the pond. My first find beside the water was a flesh fly–and I wondered what dead insects his bright red eyes may have feasted upon.

m-familiar bluet 2

More to my liking was the sight of a male familiar bluet damselfly. I can’t see enough of these and I think it has something to do with the color blue–especially when it contrasts against a dark green leaf.

m-chalk-fronted corporal 1

As I stood there, a perennial favorite appeared. It seems the chalk-fronted corporal dragonfly and I like the same habitats for wherever I go, at least a half dozen are also there. Perhaps that means that wherever I go, I’m always at home.

m-lancet 1

And then another dragonfly caught my eye and I recognized it as another familiar friend,  a lancet clubtail. But what surprised me was that a damselfly, possibly a familiar bluet, was exploring the underside of the same leaf.

m-lancet 2

That is . . . until I looked again.

m-lancet 3

And noticed the bend in the damselfly’s abdomen.

m-lancet 5

And watched the dragonfly move the damsel body with one wing attached and another dropped.

m-lancet 7

Ever so slowly . . .

m-lancet 8

the damselfly . . .

m-lancet 9

disappeared . . .

m-lancet 10

until only a bit of its abdomen,

m-lancet 11

a leg part and the wing were left. Wow. I felt privileged to have observed such a meal. Of course, I was sad for the damselfly, but also thankful for the energy it passed on to the dragonfly.

m-loon in Sweden, Maine 1

At last, my guy’s chores were completed. We pulled out the kayaks and paddled north to Sweden. Sweden, Maine, that is. And in the shallows of the northern-most end of the pond (Moose Pond is actually nine-plus miles long), we again met the loons.

m-eastern kingbird

A trillion damselflies and dragonflies darted about, some in mating position. And the kingbirds hovered above the water before making quick dips to retrieve insects.

m-rose pogonia driftwood garden 1

We floated around and noted that the water was deep enough for us to get almost to the very tip of the pond. At the same time, the old stump islands delighted us with their gardens.

m-rose pogonia 1

And within some of those islands another delight–rose pogonia in bloom.

m-looking south 2

At last it was time to leave our favorite section of the pond where all kinds of life thrived, knowing that we’ll return time and time again.

m-red winged blackbird

As we moved along, a red-winged blackbird began to turn circles above us–squawking as he showed off his shoulder patches in glaring scarlet form. He landed on a cattail and we paddled on, assuming there was a nest nearby. We also spotted Mrs. Red-Winged, who chose to go grocery shopping at that time. Even though we were headed away, the Mr. came after us one more time, so close that we could almost touch him. He was definitely a good dad–protecting the nest and/or young.

m-painted turtle 1

Continuing south, a painted turtle surprised us by staying atop a rock until we passed by, as if he wanted to welcome us back (or so we believed–after all, this is our story).

m-camp 1

A couple of hours later and we returned to camp sweet camp, to this place that has marked many occasions in our journey together since we first started dating in 1986.

Camp will always represent a homecoming to us, made especially sweet when we can share a Mondate here as we rediscover the world that surrounds it.

 

 

 

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.

p-Mountain stream

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.

p-bald peak trail

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.

p-ice chunk

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.

p-returning from Needles Eye

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.

p-snow on trail

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.

p-pileated scat

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.

p-view from lunch rock 2 (1)

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).

p-view from lunch rock

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

p-blueberries 1

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

p-along ridge line

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.

p-wood frogs

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.

p-fire tower 1

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

p-summit 6 (1)

We took in the view toward Brownfield and beyond.

p-summit toward Washington

And again looked toward Mount Washington.

p-Mt Wash1

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.

p-hiking down ledges

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

p-ledge view 1

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.

p-tent caterpillars

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

p-red maple 1

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

p-striped maple buds

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

p-acorn

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.

p-beaked hazelnut 2

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.

p-mourning cloak 1

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.

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.

p-picking4

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

s-sheep 1

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

s-sheepish look

Waiting their turn, they offered sheepish looks.

s-sheep shearing

But we heard no complaints as the shearing began.

s-MacKay 1

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.

s-Mac 2

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.

s-Denmark_1858

(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.

s-hiking

We love climbing up this trail and pausing . . .

s-mac 3

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.

s-lunch

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.

s-lunch view

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.

s-fire tower 1

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

s-vp

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.

s-ft2

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

s-summit 3

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

s-summit view

plus Kezar Pond in Fryeburg and Mount Washington beyond.

s-summit 2

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

s-trail sign

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

s-toadskin

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.

s-rest

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

s-ledges 1

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.

s-trees

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.

s-dino1

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

 

 

 

 

Top Notch Mondate

Every Monday spent with my guy is top notch, but this one will stand out above others.

Mt Willard

Our destination–Mount Willard in Crawford Notch. Yup, scaling up that sheer rock face was in our future. We were headed to the top of the Notch.

trail sign

We chose this trail because it is rather easy and quick, yet offers a fabulous view.

Pool

Somehow before reaching Centennial Pool, I did a face plant. (Don’t tell my sister). This time it was a rock that dislodged under my foot. Yeegads, it’s been a rough couple of days, but all is well.

pool falls

Watching water fall is like watching flames leap in a campfire–mesmerizing.

pool 2

And refreshing–as in downright chilly.

snow

Here and there, we found patches of snow. While one woman we met on the trail wasn’t thrilled about it, we rejoiced.

well-trodden path

The path up Mount Willard is well trodden. In fact, it’s an old horse-drawn logging road.

rocky path

Though muddy in spots, for the most part, it’s rocky–requiring an attentive perspective.

in the groove

Like the moss growing in this cut log, we’ve developed a groove over the years that allows us to walk and talk or just walk. I love that we allow each other that space and time to think as we take it all in. To be in our own big worlds.

light at the end of the tunnel

At the start, the trail passes through a hardwood forest mix of beech, birch and oak. And then the community switches to the softwood neighborhood–hemlock and spruce–it takes on that Christmas fragrance.

reaching summit 2

The prize awaits at the end of the tunnel,

prayersprayer 2

where prayers reach far and wide as they blow in the wind.

summit 2

A picture perfect view of Crawford Notch–who can ask for anything more? Route 302 directly below (hard to believe that this very road passes by our home) and the railroad tracks carved into the side of Mount Willey on our right.

lunch rock

It was quite warm as we sat on lunch rock and enjoyed the usual–PB&J (with butter for me!)

Mount Webster ridge

Below us stretched the U-shaped glacial valley, formed to the left by Mount Webster. I’m forever in awe of such settings, where one can only imagine the forces that have shaped this landscape.

erosion

falling rock

And continue to shape it, as evidenced by the mountainside erosion and landslides.

spruce on edge

Though the spruce and firs do their best to hold all in check, nature happens.

MW 4

A few steps to our left and a look over our shoulders–Mount Washington.

RR station

Somehow the descent passed quickly and we reached the Crawford Notch Depot in record time. But . . . we missed the train–by a month or so. Good thing our truck was still in the parking lot.

Mt W and R

Since we were so close, we drove up to Bretton Woods for a rear view (as in backside, not rare) of the Great Mountain. Two clear days in a row–a treat.

Tuckerman's Pale Ale

To celebrate, we treated ourselves to a glass of Tuckerman’s Pale Ale.

BE 1 BE 2BE 3BE 4BE 5

And in return, we were treated to this view as we drove across the Moose Pond Causeway on Route 302.

Most definitely a Top Notch Mondate.

Moosey Mondate

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

loon

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

suspendedsusp2

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.

dragonfly

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.

spadderdock

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.

pickerel

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.

life IS good, but we NEED rain

Logger PHil 2

“Einstein said ‘The difference between stupidity and genius,” quoted Maine logger Phil Dow, “is that genius has its limits.'” Whether or not Einstein actually made that statement doesn’t matter. What’s matter is that on a beautiful day in May, Mr. Dow stood beside the reading tree at China Schools Forest in China, Maine, and in his soft-spoken way he informed the students sitting on picnic tables in front of him about Maine’s history and the logging industry. They were mesmerized. So was I. Life IS good. And check out his beard and that reading tree platform. Wow!

China Schools Forest

A friend and I had journeyed to China this morning to observe Forest Days in the 50-acre forest abutting the China Primary and Middle Schools. Six hundred, yes, you read that correctly, 600 kids participated in the program. With their teachers and parent volunteers, they moved from station to station, learning about forest management, pond critters, soil composition, tree id, flower dissection, and so much more from over 30 presenters. They were engaged, happy, polite . . .  and not in school. 600 kids roaming about. We loved hearing their voices wafting through the woodland.

station 4, wildlife pond

We not only wanted to see how the program worked, but also to take a look at the outside classrooms. Created in the 1990s, this demonstration forest is an on-going project. To date, there are seventeen classrooms. At each, an interpretive sign explains what you should notice. (Disclaimer: the signs were created by Anita Smith, a former teacher at the schools and a Maine Master Naturalist graduate, who served as our most gracious guide today. Anita and a colleague have spent the last year developing today’s program. They offer Forest Day every other year, but the outdoor classrooms are always available.)

kids on bridge

There’s a silviculture classroom, a red pine plantation, a tracking pit, den tree and more. And across the man-made pond, is a bridge that expands at the center, creating plenty of room for an entire class of students. Today, they used nets to explore pond life from the bridge.

leach

My friend and I explored pond life as well. Check out this leach.

dragonfly

And a dragonfly. Dragonfly sitings–always worthy of a celebration.

measuring-wood-300x200

Though I didn’t see them work with this today, at the Forest Measurement classroom, they learn how to measure a cord of wood and board feet. And about the clinometer, a hand-held instrument used to measure ground slope, road grade and tree height, plus a biltmore or woodland stick used to estimate tree height and diameter. When we paused today, a local forester had middle school students simulate best forest management practices.

white lady's slipper

As we walked along part of the 1.4-mile path, we also noticed the flora–a White Lady’s Slipper. In Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, this is listed as very rare.

pink

Pink Lady’s Slippers grow abundantly in these woods.

False Solomon's Seal

We also saw False Solomon’s Seal or Wild Spikenard.

job-started-300x200

I have a lot of favorite things about this place, but the two that top my list are the reading tree where Logger Phil spoke and the signs above the pavilion–especially this one: “Congratulations on a job well started.” Indeed.

The driving was a cinch because we chatted non-stop and two hours later, I was home again, home again, jiggity jig.

If you read my post yesterday about the vernal pool, you won’t necessarily want to read any further. The life cycle is complete. Less than 24 hours after my visit yesterday afternoon, the pool has dried up.

VP 1

And, I’m afraid the tadpoles have succumbed.

dead tadpoles

To the earth they shall return in one form or another.

flies galore

The place was buzzing with flies.

Moose Pond

So on a brighter note, I visited my third “pond” of the day–Moose Pond. It was the perfect setting for a late afternoon interview.

life IS good, but we do NEED rain.

Milling About

snow waves

Today’s tramp found us heading north on Moose Pond again. The pond is covered in snowmobile tracks and snow swirls like these.

coyote print

Though we sink into the snow, this coyote had no problem moving along.

snowshoes

Snowshoes were a must for both of us. Our intended destination was Rueben Bennett’s saw mill–or at least the remnants of it. I’d been there about a year and a half ago with the current land owner and another friend, and wanted to show my guy. A couple of men who lived in the Old City neighborhood I wrote about yesterday, may have worked at the mill.

beaver lodge

We were almost to the outlet of the brook when we saw that this beaver lodge is active. Notice the breathing hole at the top. We moved away quickly so as not to add any more stress to them.

 cat tails

It looks like the fluffy seeds of these cattails are still emerging. It won’t be long before the Red-winged Blackbirds are perching on them.

stream

Following the stream, we kept looking for the rocks left from the mill site.

liverwort

Along the way, I spotted this lungwort or lung lichen. It’s one of my favorites because when it’s dry like this, it’s light in color and very brittle. But after a rain storm, it turns bright green and is quite pliable. And it’s got that lettuce leafy look to it. Some describe it as a lung tissue appearance. I’ll stick with the lettuce, thank you very much. Lungwort is an indicator species for a rich, healthy ecosystem. Always a good find.

chaga

I’m not a mushroom expert, but I do know that this is Chaga. Another good find.  Unlike most other  hard, woody fungi, Chaga is coveted for its nutritional and medicinal benefits. If you want to know where this one is, you’ll have to follow our breadcrumb trail. I recently learned that the Siberians call it the “Gift from God” and the “Mushroom of Immortality.” To the Japanese, it is “The Diamond of the Forest,” and for the Chinese, “The King of Plants.” A mighty good find. It’s still there.

red maple swamp

We looked high and low for the mill site. At last we came to this Red Maple swamp and decided that perhaps it was Duck Pond, and we’d gone too far.

old City up the hill

Old City is located right up the hill. I was almost certain we were in the right place, but our search turned up nothing.

examining the erratic

We examined this rock to see if it was a glacial erratic or had been moved here for some reason. I vote for glacial erratic.

slush

After three hours of tramping about, we started for home. The wind was cool at our backs, but someone took of his snowshoes and you can see that it’s getting a bit slushy on the pond.

heading home

What’s that line about walk beside me and be my friend. I know it looks like I’m always following, but that’s not the case all the time. I do like to pause frequently and take photos to remember and ponder at a later time.

It turns out that we were milling about in the wrong area. I should have looked at my friend’s Web site prior to today’s adventure. She almost always has her GPS handy and had posted the exact location. I knew it didn’t feel quite right, but I was so certain it was closer to Old City than it actually is.

Oh well. A destination for another time.

Thanks for joining me for today’s wonder-filled discoveries.

To Old City and Back

Leaving camp

From camp. To Old City. Bridgton to Sweden. Via Moose Pond.

Toward Black Mtn

The temp was about 40 degrees, but with the brilliant sunshine, it felt even warmer. We reminisced about kayaking and rowing as we headed north on the pond.

Mink 1

Beside one of the islands, a mink had made numerous trails and holes.

Mink 2

I love it when a critter behaves like it’s supposed to. In this case, the prints are on the slant that the weasel family is known for. A mink is a small mammal with a long body and short legs. It has partially-webbed feet, an adaptation to a near-aquatic habitat. A few years ago, an acquaintance and I were helping with the Moose Pond watershed survey. We were sitting on some rocks by the shore, with a dock in front of us, as we jotted down notes. Much to our surprise, a mink came up from under the rocks by the dock. We starred at it, it starred at us. We had cameras. Did we take a photo? Nope. Another one for the mind’s eye.

Mink3

Bound and slide. Like otters. I still want to be an otter in my next life, but minks do have fun too.

following tracks

Tracks tell the story about behavior, but it’s often a guessing game. I think I got this one right. Homo sapiens. Male. About 6 feet tall. Handsome. Puts up with a lot.

finding a seat

He borrowed a resting spot while I examined those mink tracks and holes. There were tons of holes.

on the trail

At the northernmost end of the pond, we followed the snowmobile trail toward Old City. Today it’s a wooded snowmobile trail around the base of Black Mountain in Sweden, Maine, but during the 19th century a road passed by at least six homesteads. All were reportedly occupied by young men who chose not to live at home–perhaps increasing their status as eligible bachelors. Their names included Cushman, Farrington and Eastman, among others–names long associated with Sweden and Lovell. (Sweden was originally part of Lovell)

foundation

The area was abandoned at some point after the Civil War, but foundations like this one remain. This may have belonged to P. Farrington or J. Edgecomb, but I’m thrown off because it occurs on the wrong side of the current “road.” That doesn’t mean the road was originally in the same spot.

stone walls

Stone walls, like this one near the I. Eastman property, formed boundaries to keep animals in or out. I suspect this guy was a major landowner.

stone wall 2

I’m fascinated by stone walls. Not only are they beautiful and functional, but they also represent a tremendous amount of labor. And the stones have their own story to tell about the lay of our land in New England.

color in the woods

I’d been looking at tracks, trees (always looking for bear claw marks on beech trees and quizzing myself on bark) and stones. On the way back, this touch of color caught my eye. Red Pine bark is among my favorites. Then again, I haven’t meet a tree I didn’t like. And the contrast with the hemlock needles, beech leaves and touch of blue sky gave me pause.

vine?

This also caught my eye. Last fall, a friend had sent me a photo of a beech tree with a similar case of strange scars. I didn’t know what it was, so I sent it on to a forester I know. He sent it on to someone in the invasive insect department at the state level. It all boiled down to what they thought was wounds from bittersweet vine being wrapped around the tree at one time.

vine 2

That made sense then. Today, I dunno. As I looked around, I noticed the same phenomenon on other beech trees. But I didn’t see any evidence of vines nearby. Of course, there’s still a lot of snow on the ground, as my guy can tell you since he chose not to wear snowshoes. The area had been logged at some point. But, I’m just not sure.

heading back to camp

Back on the pond and heading toward Bridgton and camp. Shawnee Peak and Pleasant Mountain provide the perfect backdrop. Yesterday, my guy took one of our grand-nephews for another ski lesson. The young’un skied straight over moguls on the Pine, slipped off the trail into the woods several times and fell a kazillion times. On the ride home this tired seven-year-old said that his younger brother probably spent the day playing Xbox. When asked if he wished he’d done the same, he remarked, “No, this was the most fun day I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE life.” I can hear my mother-in-law guffawing in heaven. 🙂

islands and mountain

Only another mile to go before we rest. Thanks for wondering along with us on today’s wander.