The Bears of Mount Tire’m

Mary Holland posted in her Naturally Curious blog that black bears are emerging now and it’s time to bring in the bird feeders. Maybe so, but today surely didn’t feel like a good day to give up a cozy spot and head out in search of food that doesn’t exist because the snow is crusted and two feet deep.

Winds were out of the northwest at about 18 miles per hour. The temperature was 8˚ that felt like -10˚ or lower. But sunshine. We had plenty of sunshine. So maybe the bears are waking from their long winter’s nap.

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Post lunch, my guy and I decided to don micro-spikes because of the snow conditions and ascend the trail to the summit of Mount Tire’m in Waterford. Only a few seconds after starting up the trail, we spied downed hemlock branches and knew one of the critters that frequents these woods.

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As I looked on the stonewall beside the trail, I could see that the porcupine had left its own trail while it came and went. We wondered where it might be, but when I turned and looked back down to the road, I saw that the trail continued that way and have a feeling that Porky lives under one of the nearby barns, much the same as our local Porky lives under our barn.

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Our hike to the summit was brisk because it was so cold. Every once in a while, my guy paused, including beside this newly excavated pileated woodpecker hole. If I were the local chickadees, I’d choose this one tonight and gather all my friends and relatives within since it was deeper than many.

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There were the fire tenders nearby–birch bark and false tinder conks–so keeping the home fire lit should help keep them warm.

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Over halfway to the summit, there’s a brief opening to Keoka Lake and Streaked Mountain in the offing. We could see a wee bit of open water below, and know that despite this weekend’s weather, change is in the air.

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It seemed like we reached the summit in a matter of minutes, so cold was it. But, we were out of the way of the wind and the southerly exposure meant less snow.

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We looked to the left, with Keoka Lake below. And behind the single pine, Bear and Hawk Mountains.

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To our right and through the pines, we could see the snow covered ski trails at Shawnee Peak Ski Area on Pleasant Mountain.

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Straight below, Waterford City, Bear Pond and Long Lake beyond.

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This hike is never complete without a visit to the rock castle hidden in a hemlock stand behind the summit. It was a favorite for our sons when they were youngsters and we still like to pay homage.

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Life on a rock has long been exemplified here, with crustose lichens topped by mosses that grow among the cracks, where pine needles and seeds gather.

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The result– dirt so birch trees may grow out of the side of the boulders.

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When one visits the castle, it’s important to check out the caves because you never know . . . t-me-2-1

who might emerge.

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We decided to bushwhack on our way down. Turns out, Ms. Holland was right. We met a bear in the woods today.

 

Taking In The Views

The Pequawket Indians of Fryeburg, knew the 1,100-foot mountain in Waterford as the mountain that would “tire um out” because climbing its steep side wasn’t easy. Fortunately, a much gentler trail that is only a bit steep at the start, has led to the summit of Mount Tire’m for many moons. And that was my trail of choice this afternoon.

While my guys (and a girlfriend) toiled at the family business, I snuck off to the mountain to enjoy the views.

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It’s located up the street from the quintessential New England village known around these parts as Waterford Flats. Think white clapboard houses, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And a triangular green. To the right of the sign is the former Lake House, which for many  years was a high-end restaurant and inn. It’s for sale now. And comes with an interesting history–in 1847, it was known as Shattuck’s Hygienic Institution, or “Maine Hygienic Institute for Ladies” and offered a water cure.

Another house on the  green was home to Artemus Ward, pen name of Charles Farrar Browne, a favorite author of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain’s mentor.

Then there’s the  Waterford Library designed by John Calvin Stevens and his son, John Howard Stevens. And the former town office and meeting hall–ladies sat on one side of the room facing their menfolk during town meetings and were not allowed to vote or even speak. Can you imagine?

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The Waterford Congregational Church was one of Stevens’ designs.

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It’s easy to miss the nondescript trailhead located up the road from the church.

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The public path that has traversed the mountain for many years was apparently known as the Old Squire Brown Trail. From what I gather, Daniel Brown owned a large house and farm near Bear Pond–perhaps the Lake House? He was involved in town politics and went on to serve in both houses of state legislature, becoming known as Squire Daniel Brown.

Red trillium

Though the flower is long past, the leaves of Red Trillium reminded me that I need to hike this trail earlier in the spring.

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Stonewalls announce that this land was once upon a time used for agriculture.

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The odd leaf formation of this young ash tree made me stop. It has become host to either a fungus or insects who  are using the leaves as protection while they complete their lifecycle.

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Another ash has been invaded by mites that cause the raised galls.

challenges along the path

Like most trails, this one provides the rocks and roots that draw my eyes downward, so I pause frequently to look around. It’s just as well that I was alone, because not only was I taking my time, but my mind was so filled with chatter that I doubt I would have heard anyone else speak.

pine needles

On the drive to Waterford, I’d noticed that so many of the white pines are once again suffering from the needle drop fungus. The same was true on the trail. In the newspaper, an article about climate change referred to the needle drop as occurring for only the past several years. Methinks more like ten years. The fungus infests trees during a wet spring, such as we had last year and the resulting defoliation is seen the following year. So–I’m thinking out loud here–though we haven’t seen much rain lately, the needles are dropping because of last year’s infestation. While they look so pitiful right now, within a few weeks, they’ll finish dropping. But . . . do the trees have the energy to survive? And what about next year? Will it be a good year for white pines? And then I think about all the pinecones the trees produced last year–it was certainly a mast year, so maybe it doesn’t affect them to such an extreme. Yeah, this was the sort of chatter I was experiencing.

beech spots

Some beech leaves are displaying their own relationship with a fungus. Where only weeks ago, they were the site of beauty as they opened and their hairiness kept insects and others at bay, they can’t fight off everything. Nor can we.

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Through my hand lens, the bright pink on the Red Maple leaves has a crystal-like formation. It’s actually quite beautiful.

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I had no idea what caused this until I looked it up. These are maple velvet erineum galls, also caused by mites. Apparently they won’t harm the tree, so they aren’t considered parasitic. It’s all a wonder to me. If you do find this, take a close look.

spittle on hemlock

Growing up, whenever we saw spit on wildflowers and grasses, we assumed it was from snakes. A rather scientific observation. Do snakes even spit? And a foot off the ground? I’ve since learned that the foamy substance is the work of Spittlebugs. As the nymphs feed in the spring, they excrete undigested sap and pump air into it.

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But I didn’t expect to see this on a hemlock. Turns out–there’s a pine Spittlebug that attacks evergreens. More reasons to keep my eyes open.

Keoka Lake and Oxford Hills

Enough about hosts and fungi. It was time to take in the views. About halfway up, Keoka Lake and the Oxford Hills are visible through a cut in the trees.

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Gnome homes are everywhere.

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And finally, the summit with Pleasant Mountain in the background.

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And Bear Pond and Long Lake below.

the rocks

No visit is complete without a stop at the glacial erratics.

the rocks split

Maybe I shouldn’t use the plural form as it’s obvious this was all one rock

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that split apart.

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Perhaps there’s more to come.

As the saying goes, “so much to see, so little time.” Thanks for joining me to take in the views.