Bear to Beer: Bishop Cardinal to Lord Hill

Our destination sounded rather regal; as if we’d be paying our respects to Bishop Cardinal and Lord Hill. And indeed we did.

We also paid our respects to telephone poles. Well, actually only certain ones. They had to have a certain look–as if a Black Bear had backed into the pole and turned its head around at an angle and bit the wood with its upper and lower canine teeth thus leaving nearly horizontal marks that look like a dot and dash. In the process, the aluminum numbers had to be a bit mangled in order to receive our attention. This particular pole was right by the trailhead and so after examining it, we headed up the blue trail at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Bishop Cardinal Reserve on Horseshoe Pond Road in Lovell.

Along the way, we examined every American Beech we saw, but actually passed by a spot where we know there are several with the marks we sought. If you go, look for the blue dot on the white arrow and hike in at a diagonal from there.

Our hope today was to find other bear claw trees we’d missed previously and so we kept going off trail in search. Turning onto the red trail, we continued to check. Sometimes it’s the shape of the tree’s crown that makes us wonder.

We have learned that we can’t dismiss any bark without walking all the way around and bingo–we had a new-to-us bear claw tree.

I don’t know why it is, but those marks make our hearts sing. Perhaps it’s the knowledge of the wildness of it all and the fact that we share this place with such intelligent beings.

Whatever it is, we decided that rather than creating waypoints for each tree we found, we’d try to remember the location by using other landmarks such as a certain waterbar that was intended to divert snowmelt and rain from washing out the trail. When you reach that certain waterbar on the red trail, turn left and walk in about twenty yards. If you don’t find our tree, perhaps you’ll discover another.

Continuing up the trail, we did note a few other favorites off to the right.

Sometimes, in my mind’s eye, I could just see the movement of the climber.

With one such tree, the marks were lower than most and I wondered if it was a younger bear. Of course, we have no idea how long ago those marks were left behind. Mary Holland suggests a way to age them that we haven’t tried yet. And we didn’t look for fresh marks. Really, we need to be better sleuths going forward.

In case you are wondering, occasionally we noted other points of interest, such as the burst of beech buds, their spring green leaves all hairy and soft, which is actually quite a contrast to the papery feel they eventually acquire.

Here and there, the cheerful display of Round-leaved Violets brightened the path.

And drone flies, with their bigger than life eyes, posed. Any black flies? Yes, a few, but not biting . . . yet.

We were almost to the old shack site, if you know where I mean, when our journey off trail revealed another fine specimen. Again, the claw marks were on the backside since we approached from the trail. Always, always, always circle about and you might be surprised.

Eventually, we reached the intersection with the trail to Lord Hill and continued our surveillance as we continued our hike.

Once we turned right onto the Conant Trail, we did find one tree with marks long ago made . . . by some bears with either an extreme understanding of relationships, or more likely, a few who weren’t all that intelligent after all.

At last, the trail opened onto the ledges overlooking Horseshoe Pond and it was there that we sat down on the warm granite as a nippy breeze flowed across. Enjoying the view of Horseshoe Pond below and the mountains beyond, we ate lunch.

We also toasted a few others with a Honey of a Beer brewed by Lee of another spelling! Dubbel Trouble was double delicious. Thank you, Lee Fraitag. 😉 Our toast was also doubled for we gave thanks to Paula and Tom Hughes, who live just below on the pond. Tomorrow we’ll enjoy a Mother’s Day Brunch at the Old Saco Inn courtesy of the Hugheses. 😉

Clink. Clink.

After enjoying lunch rock we journeyed up to the Lord Hill Mine.

According to, Lord Hill Mine was “a former rare mineral specimen quarry. Briefly worked in episodes in the mid-20th century for feldspar. Originally a mineral collector’s site in the late 1870s. Opened by Nathan Perry and Edgar D. Andrews in the early 1880s. Originally called Harndon Hill, but the named changed in a complex change of names about 1917. Operated solely by Nathan Perry by 1882. Operated for massive topaz for educational mineral collections in the 1970’s by Col. Joseph Pollack of Harrison, Maine. The locality is the type locality for hamlinite, now regarded as a synonym for goyazite. Granite pegmatite. Oxford pegmatite field. Local rocks include Carboniferous alkali feldspar granite (muscovite accessory mineral).

We spotted several people busy digging for their fortunes and decided to let them. They either were so tuned in to their work that they didn’t hear us or they chose not to. No matter. After a quick look about, we quietly followed the mine trail down–our own focus still on the trees.

And at the point where the National Forest abuts the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s property, we turned back onto the land trust’s loop trail. We’d come up from the left, so turned right to continue our descent.

And yes, we found one more bear tree. Somewhere along the way, I lost track of the number of new finds. But, we trusted that for all we found, there were so many more we must have missed. And then some.

Back on Horseshoe Pond Road, we turned left and checked all the telephone poles along the edge, examining each for bear hair because we’ve seen it stuck on them before. Today, no hair.

So why do the bears pay attention to telephone poles? Think of it as a combo backscratcher and messageboard. Pretend I’m a young male, ready and available. Wanna go out for a date tonight? Give me a call.

Despite the lack of hair, because we were looking, we found a Mayfly. That in itself, was another reason to celebrate.

Bishop Cardinal and Lord Hill. We thank you both. Black Bears, we thank you. Lee, we thank you. Paula and Tom, we thank you. (Happy Mother’s Day, Paula) All are regal indeed.

Bear to beer possibilities: Bishops Cardinal Reserve and Lord Hill Mine.

A Boulder Degree

When I began writing this blog in 2015, my intention was to focus on the wonder of the natural world in western Maine. But sometimes, it’s other wonders and points further west (or even east) that grab my attention.

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And so it was that midweek last week we headed west of our west and landed in Denver, Colorado, for an extra long weekend. All that being said, this photo with the Rockies in the background made it look like it was sunny when we landed. Not so. It even rains in Colorado, though nothing like we’ve experienced in New England this month, and we landed in the mist on Wednesday night. But we made several trips to the airport and Big Sky country enveloped us.

Not only that, but there were prairie dogs everywhere along Peña Drive. OK, so they aren’t in my backyard, thankfully, but they were incredibly cute. We deal with mole mounds, but prairie dog mounds seem to be even more pronounced. Still . . . I smiled with each sighting.

Our home base for the next four nights was a garden suite in the Arvada home of Donevon and Beth–an Airbnb rental. It was clean, comfortable and located between our two destinations: Boulder and Denver. We highly recommend this two-bedroom space should you be in the area. Don’t forget to say we recommended it–and be sure to pet Maggie.

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A road traveled often was the one that led us to Boulder and we soon became familiar with the wind farm to the left, which evoked memories of the first wind farm we ever encountered on Prince Edward Island in Canada when our sons were but youngsters. And this past weekend, it was the younger of the two for whom we made the journey.

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His home these past years has been at the base of the mountains, where he’s earned an education on many levels.

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With him, we walked along Pearl Street, mindful always of the artistic endeavors (and similarities to Church Street in Burlington, Vermont).

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And among it all, one Lion appreciated the work of others who’d built a fountain.

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Then we headed further northwest, toward Estes Park, enjoying the mountain and sky views along the route.

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Like Maine, spring was just arriving, adding a contrast from brown and green below to white summits.

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And in the midst of it all . . .

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elk stopping traffic. (Didn’t they know they were supposed to turn to their other right?)

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We oohed and awed, but had a plane to meet and so we didn’t stay long.

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Over the course of our journey we explored Denver as well, where we walked the 16th Street Mall a couple of times.  We lunched and we dined–our companions ever changing, which added to the highlights.

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In historic terms, 16th is such a blend, though leans more toward the modern than so many back East.

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But, history stood tall . . .

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and lit the way toward the future.

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No visit is ever complete without a stop at our favorite bookstore–Tattered Cover.

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We also made time to learn about the exotic. Or so they seemed to our New England brains.

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We viewed an alligator-snapping turtle–a first for us. According to a sign, adult males are known to move very little and in fact, may stay in the same location for up to ten years. There’s a lesson in that, I suppose–about perseverance, which our youngest can certainly attest to.

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We noted the range of scales,

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differing in patterns and . . .

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size. Those pointed to another lesson about diversity among people and their outer skins that shield inner experiences.

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While some displays denoted hairy situations,

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others demonstrated the creativity that can overcome.

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There were times when the world looked best from an upside-down position,


but in the end, stardom ruled.

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So did rays of another sort, who flapped their “wings” in forward motion.

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And then there was the whisperer . . .

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who patiently encouraged slow movement . . .

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rewarded with a gentle stroke.

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In the end, we had our favorites. The sting rays and the king of them all–a least expected resident in the aquarium, a Sumatran Tiger.

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And jellyfish! Bioluminescent sea nettles–the fireflies of the aquatic world. (Memories swam through my mind of glowing night swims in my own youth.)

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But our main reason for heading west was to watch Folsom Stadium fill up.

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The stage was set and bag pipes tuned.

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Ever so slowly, soon-to-be graduates marched in.

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We were most interested in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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When I sent a text message asking, “Where are you?” I received this response: “I’m sitting down and wearing black.” Ah, that boy! Or young man, I should say.

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But, he could not escape his mother’s eye and she found him in the sea of Waldos. Or rather, Buffs. (Have fun looking.)

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A couple of hours and sunshine later, degrees were conferred and tassels moved over.

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But then, a second ceremony for each school, and this for film studies, where his cousin from Denver (and also a CU grad) joined us and offered congratulations.

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After speeches and honors, at last the diplomas were awarded.

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And in the wink of an eye, he was done. Fini.

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Our grad tolerated his mom–as the sun shone brilliantly.

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We all gave thanks for Pat’s achievements, from Hannah and Shep, to cousin Christian, our grad Pat, and my guy.

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The signs . . .

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said . . .

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it all.

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He did it. And our smiles beamed for our wonder-ful son. Forever a Buff. Congratulations to Pat on your CU Boulder degree. Best. Mother’s. Day. Gift. Ever.