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.
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.
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.
Occasionally, our view was clear and colorful, the colors now more pastel than a week ago.
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.
For much of the time, we were wowed by the Witch Hazel’s flowers–for so thick were they on many a twig.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) leaning over the river offered their own hues that bespoke autumn.
And tucked into a fungi bowl, we found the yellow form of Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum).
Onward we continued with the river to our left, outlined with maples and evergreens, and backdropped by the Moat Mountains.
And to our right, a small pond where trees in the foreground helped create a stained glass effect filled with autumn’s display.
And once again, in the pond’s quiet waters reflections filled our souls.
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.
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.
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.
Back at the parking lot, we were wowed by a Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), its girth suggesting an age older than a century.
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!
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.
And then moved on again.
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.
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.