Thinking Big

A return trek to the old neighborhood off Hut Road in Stoneham left me thinking big.

J.M joined me for this exploration and it’s a wonder we got any further than our parking place beside Great Brook.

Great Brook

It was a sensational, albeit too warm for this time of year, December day. We could have spent all our time taking in the sounds and smells and sights as the water coursed over the rocks.

road

But we pulled ourselves away and went in search of a time gone by. Single and double-wide stone walls line the old road and mark pastures and gardens. Miles of walls.

rock pile

And dotting the landscape–piles of rocks picked from the ground. This was farm country before the forest took over.

fdn 1root cellar

We called on the neighbors and were glad they didn’t mind us examining their root cellar. The only contents–old porcupine scat in the back corner.

tree

The foundation is big and must have supported a large family. Today, it’s home to a large family tree.

well

It always excites us to find other signs of life–including a stone-lined well; it’s a deep subject.

fdn 2

The neighbors lived up the street in an equally large home. Were they related? We’re still trying to figure that out.

Red Rock Brook

We paused beside Willard Brook before turning back.

polypores chaga

Passing through rich woods, we found ourselves in the land where giant polypores and chaga thrive.

moose scat

That’s not all that thrives here. Moose browse on striped maple and piles of scat were abundant.

bearblack bear scat

We practically tripped over the biggest scat of all. Well, J.M. tripped. And that’s how it caught our attention. Classic. Love it.

sugar maple

Equally impressive in size and perseverance. And age. The sugar maples.

leaves

And because J.M. was with me, we saw things I may have passed by like the ice patterns on leaves. We celebrated hiking together knowing that the small things in life are the biggest.

We Will Be Known Forever By The Tracks We Leave

So said the Dakota Sioux, who were woodland people. That Native American proverb was with me today as I moved along a logging road behind our land. A muddy, sometimes frozen, sometimes gushy and smushy, logging road.

coyote and deer

I think I missed the party. Deer and coyote prints were abundant and if I’d only visited a few hours earlier, I may have seen some of the action. But, part of my problem is that I don’t walk like a Native American, who supposedly could move through the woods with fabled stealthiness. Of course, that may be referring to a much grassier woodland than we know–especially in a logging area where slash is left behind. But, logging or not, I clunk along–crackling through ice, splashing through puddles, sloshing through mud and crunching through snow. I’m hardly quiet–ever.

ice and rocks

The logging road has changed over the last two years, but it’s not all bad. I get to see sites like this where the water and rocks make art together.

It used to be that the gray and paper birch, those early succession trees, hung over the road. After a heavy snowstorm, my guy and I, or a friend of ours (that’s you, D.B), would snowshoe down the road, trying to relieve the trees of some of their burden. It was rare that anyone else ever went there, so the three of us made it our mission to take care of the trees. Those trees are all gone now to make way for the logging truck, but their offspring will soon fill in the space.

In the meantime, a playground has been created for our local wildlife. And play they did. Their tracks are everywhere–traveling to and fro.

bobcat

Including bobcat.

moose

And moose.

moose 1deer

Moose and Deer

muddy boots

Not to be left out, I also got a bit muddy.

my boot

And left behind my own set of prints.

landing

I crossed the landing and decided to return home via one of my snowshoe trails. This time I was walking on top of the snow for the most part–thanks to last night’s low temperature.

following snowshoe trail

As usual, I stopped frequently to scan the woods, looking for movement or some anomaly. I startled a few ruffed grouse, who in turn startled me. Of course, I couldn’t catch it in film.

grouse

But I did capture this moment. A grouse must have burrowed into one of my former boot prints–maybe because the snow is crustier some nights. It munched the fungus on a small branch and left a pile of its trademark scat.

Sometimes, when we’re on a hike and I pause to take a photo or extropolate on something I see, my guy points to my tracks and says, “I wonder if the deer look at these and say, ‘A human came this way. Don’t you detect a whiff of PB&J?'” I have to remind him that he likes making discoveries just as much as I do.

fresh deer

A little further along, a flash of movement. I looked up and saw only the tail of a deer as it dashed across my trail. But it left behind a bit of a muddy footprint. Dew claw marks and all.

And then the  crème de la crème . . .

moose scat

Moose scat. Mind you–it isn’t fresh. You can see the hemlock needles atop it. But it’s a firm winter scat–I’m thinking it was deposited earlier this season.

moose scat 1

My glove loved modeling in these photos. Ya know, some people make jewelry out of moose scat. I didn’t have a container to collect this today, but I know where it is. Maybe tomorrow or sometime in the near future. And maybe I’ll think about Christmas presents–hmmm . . . who wants to be on my list?

snowmobile trails

Finally, I’d finished the loop and found myself back on the snowmobile trail.

Red maple

Time to look at the Red Maple twigs.

red maplesketch

It won’t be long now before they burst into flower.

I hope you’ll find some time to search for tracks during this mud season. And think about the tracks you leave behind–literally and figuratively. I’ve left some that would best be washed away in the rain, but others that I wish could last forever.

Thanks for wondering my way.