With the Four on the Fourth Road Race only five days away, my friend Marita Wiser and I are in training. Perhaps a more apt description would be cross-training, for our actual time spent running has been sporadic, but we’ve both been on hikes that we’re sure will give us an upper edge. Look for us to cross the finish line in record time on Tuesday–or not.
To that end, this morning we climbed Mount Tom–with a desire to see what the new West Ridge Trail had to offer in a different season. In the past year, she and I hiked it in October, while my guy and I snowshoed up the trail in February. And so, Marita did what I like best because we wanted to make a loop–she parked at the base of the original trail about 2.3 miles in on Menotomy Road and we walked 1.4 miles down the road to the new trailhead.
The last time I visited, the snow was deep and up to the base of the preserve sign. Today, a red maple sapling claimed that spot.
Next to it grew a bristly sarsaparilla, its rounded umbels standing tall above the leaves.
As we stood there and applied some bug dope, a hoverfly, an important pollinator, worked its magic on the flowers.
And then we stepped onto the trail and were immediately reminded of the past by a relic someone left on a rock.
The homestead, possibly that of A.H. Evans, is located within feet of the trail’s head. And it appears that if this did belong to A.H., he was the head of a large family for it’s a huge foundation.
Equally large was the center chimney.
And based on the configuration of rocks and boulders we stepped over as we turned left between the house, outbuildings and barn, all were once attached.
The barn foundation was also impressive and we could sense the work that went into such a creation. Among all the buildings were some recovered artifacts and I’ve a feeling I know who unearthed them. I love to see these relics, but hope that others won’t continue to follow suit and look for them. Or take them. Okay–that’s my salt box speech for today.
Again, assuming all of this belonged to A.H., I did discover a 1916 document that suggested he grew rutabagas: “A. H. Evans, Fryeburg, raised 90 bushels rutabagas in 1-8 of an acre.”
We followed the white-blaze trail, which was fairly well defined, and passed through a mixed forest, where at least one old white pine spoke to the history of this land, for it obviously once stood in an opening allowing it to stretch its arms and perhaps provide shade for farm animals.
One of my other favorite features of the West Ridge Trail, besides the foundations, are the ledges that stand as tall rock gardens.
Some were even terraced and though we didn’t pause to look for evidence today, we got the sense of where the house and barn foundation stones were found.
As we continued to climb (and sweat for it was a bit of a cardio workout–and humid), a couple of woodland plants stood out, including the wild sarsaparilla, which had flowered in the spring. It was fun to note the difference between the bristly and wild–for the former flowers now with those umbels above the leaves, while the flowers of the latter developed below its leaves.
The wild sarsaparilla flowers have since turned to green fruits, which in time will ripen to a reddish-purple display. They were rather like mini green pumpkins in fireworks formation, a description conceived due to the pending holiday.
Another offering was the bluish-green fronds of a marginal wood fern.
A bent frond on one showed off the round sori located near the margins.
After about an hour and a half, which included our walk down the road to the trailhead and then up the trail, we reached the summit. In the fall and winter, Pleasant Mountain had been plainly visible in the background, but today we had to peek through leaves to see it.
As we peeked, Marita asked about the red leaves on an oak–fall couldn’t be on the horizon already, could it? I shared one theory with her, but after a wee bit of research discovered there may be a second–and possibly more.
The leaves were young and the red may act as a sunscreen, protecting them until photosynthesis takes place when they are fully developed.
The other thought is that the red may serve as a warning sign to mammals that the leaves contain chemicals that will taste bad, thus preventing them from being eaten.
Our summit stay wasn’t long, but long enough to enjoy the bushy stamen of spotted St. Johnswort.
And the daintiness of pink corydalis.
And then we followed the old trail down, through the hemlock grove and onto the logging road, which had grown in so much that it made us wonder if The Nature Conservancy wants to discourage its use. The thought of ticks crossed our minds, but she sported her treated tick gators and I used Repel®. Both worked for us, though I do want to get a pair of gators. I’m taking recommendations for brand.
Just before the end of the trail, we once again paused by the Mt. Tom Cabin, the real deal for a 19th century “camp” experience, but with a few added amenities including electricity. I like it for its structure, views and Northern white cedar.
Across the field, Old Glory blew in the breeze and reminded us of our need to “train.”
Our hike to the summit–it was as quick as we could make it, even with me taking a few pics, for the mosquitoes were thick. But–thanks to those very mosquitoes, we sprinted up Mount Tom in honor of our training regime.
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