Overset Bouquet Mondate

We’d hiked at least a mile and passed a few Trout Lily leaves but no flowers when I asked my guy to hunt for the little yellow beauties that delight me. And so he did.

And felt quite pleased when he pointed one out to me. Well, um, how should I tell him it’s a False Hellebore and not the lily I sought. But, it is a member of the lily family, so it was a win, and I can’t resist photographing the hellebore’s spiral stalks of pleated leaves so it was actually a win/win for both of us. We never did find a flowering Trout Lily.

That was okay, because there were so many other flowers to honor and today marked the first day of this year that I spotted a Painted Trillium. Leaves of three (actually bracts), sepals of three, petals of three, but the best is the pinkish-reddish-purplish splotch at the base of the petals that acts as a pollinator guide.

Another pleasant surprise a few minutes later: American Fly Honeysuckle, its funnel-shaped yellow flowers tinged with a hint of purple dangling like a set of twins.

Also pale yellow in hue, but with petals that curve out slightly at the tip: Sessile-leaf Bellwort (aka Wild Oat). While most bell-shaped flowers are fused, these are not. And they are most subtle in appearance so you really have to focus to locate one. But chances are that once you find the first, your eyes will cue in on others.

No gathering of flowers is complete without a touch of red, and though we found only one Red Trillium (aka Stinking Benjamin), it was enough for its rose-colored flower was well accented with egg-yolk yellow anthers.

Of course, we continued to find more Painted Trillium and no hike at this time of year is finished without my guy commenting on the trillion Trillium that I insist upon photographing. I assured him that I wouldn’t take pictures of each one today, but I surely would honor all of them and so as we continued and he somehow managed to walk by without noticing, I obnoxiously drew his attention to all.

The one flower whose name he did learn today was Hobblebush. I swear I’ve introduced them before, and surely I have, but today the name and the floral display clicked–perhaps because they decorated so much of the trail we traveled, and truly, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many in flower in one place.

The flat-topped clusters of flowers have a lacy effect and contrast well with the accordian-veined leaves. The outer ring of sterile flowers are said to attract pollinators who will then focus on the tiny fertile watermelon tourmaline flowers in the center. My wonder is this: do the sterile flowers have a second use–perhaps to keep others away because they find no nectar or pollen and think the plant isn’t worth a further exploration?

As I explained to my guy, the reason for the common name is its straggly branches that often bend and take root, tripping or “hobbling” passers-by.

To not include Trailing Arbutus would be remiss on my part, for so many were still blooming along the trail. And after I paused to photograph this one and then caught up with my guy and explained my focus moment, he was quick to quip that I was the one trailing! Always . . . in his hiking book.

By water’s edge, where we sat upon an overturned canoe to dine on our sandwiches, I found a few examples of Leather-leaf in flower, its tiny nodding, urn-shaped, pearly white bells with crisp rolled upper lips, on a short stalk hanging all in a row rather like a line of laundry on the clothesline.

At the summit, it was Serviceberry, aka Shadbush, that announced its presence. Notice how the flowers have emerged before the leaves. Right now, mini-leaves are bronze-tinged, folded and half or less their mature size; eventually the leaves will become green and flat, with the upper surface smooth and the lower hairy just along the midrib but retaining a few hairs on the surface. Nothing like a bit of variation.

If you look closely, you’ll find at least one pollinator taking a pause as it was raining by this point in our hike, but another close gander may reveal a few others.

Again at the summit, and therefore closer to the sunlight that didn’t shine today, several urn-shaped white flowers with pinkish stripes, the petals fused and tips turned back, shouting that blueberry season is in the offing.

All of these we gathered in photographs as a bouquet to mark this Mondate.

There were a few other finds worth noting–like last year’s Lady’s Slipper capsule, the source of thousands of tiny seeds.

And the discovery of a few Morel mushrooms at the base of Northern Red Oak trees. That was another first find for me. I’m sure for my guy as well, though he hardly saw them 😉

Our journey today found us hiking beside Sanborn River . . .

lunching on top of one of many overturned canoes beside Overset Pond . . .

enjoying the mirror image of the pond from a false summit on the mountain . . .

and taking in the entire scenario from the granite we stood upon to pond below, mountains beyond, and sky that reflected the ledge under our feet.

The flowers, the landscape, it was all worth the journey and we made plans to return in the near future. But the icing on the cake or pollen on the flowers was the pair of loons who entertained us from time to time in water so clear that we could see them swim underwater. Their re-emergence, however, was best and we enjoyed our time spent with them.

Overset Mountain and Sanborn River. A perennial favorite. A place to gather a bouquet without picking any flowers. A place to enjoy a variety of natural communities. A place to be native with the natives.

Thanks to Larry Stifler and Mary McFadden for allowing all of us to create an Overset Bouquet any day of the year.

Overset Point of View

Winter hiking is our favorite, but what to wear on our feet is always a question. Today, we chose our hiking boots over winter boots and micro-spikes rather than snowshoes. 

We trusted L.L. Bean would have approved, especially given that we would be hiking in his hometown of Greenwood, Maine. We were, after all, wearing hiking boots purchased in his flagship store and various other products featuring his name. Don’t tell him that while our snowshoes, which remained in the truck came from his place, we’d purchased our micro-spikes at EMS. 

Before turning onto Willis Mills Road and heading toward the trailhead parking area, we first past by a cemetery of sorts, where old trucks and various truck-related equipment have gone to rest. 

And then, in a matter of minutes we were on the trail and our focus changed to all things natural, including weasel tracks. Notice the diagonal orientation in the pattern. 

It made perfect sense to see weasel prints because we were near the Sanborn River and though I didn’t take the time to measure them, but the size of the straddle I assumed mink. 

For over a mile we walked beside the river and loved the sights and sounds it offered, and especially the splash-created icicles. 

When we weren’t focused on the river, we noted its neighbors including snowshoe hare prints that were rather fresh. Some will remember that I refer to them as snow lobsters, for quite often the impression of the four feet (front two being their hind feet which swung around and landed parallel; back two on an angle being the front feet) looks rather like the large marine crustaceans visitors often equate with Maine. 

With David Brown’s Trackards as a reference, it was easy to imagine the hare’s motion. (Note: visit my book review linked to Trackards in the sentence above and you can locate David’s website. His books and ID cards are available for sale and he mentions that you can get a good deal just in time for Christmas.)

It wasn’t only tracks and ice that drew our attention. As we crossed from the river to the pond via a connector trail, we noted a huge burl that looked like two bear cubs holding fast to a paper birch.

Along the way there were also some examples of my favorite shrub, hobblebush. We always refer to their buds as being naked for they aren’t covered in waxy scales like most. And look at those leaf and bundle scars. Following them down the twig, its fun to note the changes in age from the fresh tan scars to the two below getting grayer and more wrinkled in age–much the way we do. 

As we continued on, the snow depth increased, but fortunately a family of four had passed through before us and created a trench. 

We knew we were close to the pond when we began to see canoes tucked among the trees and snowed in for the season. I’d say “for the winter,” but winter is still a month away. 

At last, Overset Pond stretched out before us. 

And Overset Mountain in the background became our next destination. 

But first, we had to walk the length of the pond as it narrowed, and then cross over a series of bog bridges below an old beaver dam. 

As I waited for my guy to get to the other side before I ventured forth, I noticed something on the dam that brought yet another smile to my face. 

But first, I had to get to the other side–which I surprised myself and did without hesitation. Prior to this crossing, we’d walked on at least ten other bog bridges, some easier to conquer than others. This was the longest and featured several different levels, but we were both successful in our attempts. 

And so I rewarded myself with another look at the dam–and the otter slide that crossed up to the pond. Do you see the otter’s prints? 

Feeling great about the crossing (because I’d been dreading it), we began the upward climb. Our spikes were a good choice because they gave us some traction on slippery leaves and rocks, but they did gather occasional clumps of snow. We got into the habit of banging them against any available rock to declump the frozen snow. As we moved upward, the snow depth deepened to about a foot. 

The family we’d passed on their way out had told us the mountain had been challenging, but they had neither snowshoes or micro-spikes and we could see where they’d slid frequently on rocks hiding below the snow. We moved with relative ease even as our heart rates increased and at last my guy looked down over his kingdom. Actually, it’s the kingdom of Mary McFadden and Larry Stifler. Through their generosity, many trails in the area are open to the public. And through the work of their employee, Bruce Barrett, those trails are well maintained.

Below . . . Overset Pond in the shape of a heart. What’s not to love. 

After a brief apple and water break, we began our descent on the loop trail. The trees growing beside and on the boulders reminded me of the truck graveyard . . . naturally. 

Our overall descent passed quickly. In no time at all, we came upon more canoes swamped with snow. 

At last the trail came to an end and we followed a snowmobile trail for at least a mile back to the truck–our six mile journey completed. 

We’d planned to enjoy a brew and burger at Norway Brewing Company after the hike and were thrilled with our choice. He sipped Life’s a Peach on the left–a new brew just released today and made with Maine peaches. My choice on the right–Left Turn. 

We played Rummy while we waited and then ate our burgers with gusto. We knew they’d serve as lunch and supper, a meal we’ve named lupper in the past. 

At the end of the day, we were beat (still are) but happy. Thought I’d hoped to see some wildlife other than the occasional squirrel, that wasn’t to be. But we saw plenty of tracks and I was especially pleased with those of the weasel, hare and otter. 

And, of course, the tree trucks!

The Overset Point of View–worth a wander. 

Lovejoy Mondate

A man walked into a hardware store . . . and told my guy about a couple of mountains we should climb. And my guy came home and told me. And we looked for trail maps and found none. And we decided to go anyway because we had a sorta idea about where one of them was located.

l1-Lovejoy Mountain Road

And so we drove up Hunts Corner Road in Albany, Maine, and located a road sign that bore the same name as the mountain we hoped to climb–and the road wasn’t plowed. But . . . another man was gathering mail across the street and so my guy asked him about the trail. The man said it would be fine for us to head in and we’d probably get as far as the pond where a few old camps stood, but wouldn’t reach the summit. We weren’t sure we would either, but figured it was worth a try.

l2-my guy way ahead

For those who have followed our Mondates previously, you’re well aware that my guy is often far ahead of me and such was the case today. The snow was deep and journey up a bit of a trudge, but that didn’t stop him. I really don’t mind for it gives me time to take in all that is around me and listen to the voices in my head. And I’ve a feeling he does the same–solving all the problems of the hardware world and any other issues that need to be addressed, plus possibly singing a few tunes to himself. The latter would never occur to me, but that’s another story.

l3-No Name Pond and Round Mtn

Today, we met periodically, the first time being at No Name Pond, where we enjoyed the backdrop of Round Mountain–a hike we’ve previously completed. Truthfully, this pond has no name–at least that I can find on any topo maps.

l4-bear pole

Onward we journeyed, for a few steps–because a telephone pole caught my attention. Do you see what I see? (Karen H.–I took you with me today and mentioned your name several times to my guy–read on.) Bites and scratches courtesy of a black bear.

l5-bearhair

And hair left behind. There was actually quite a bit of hair. But . . . I’d forgotten to put the battery in my Canon Rebel camera and so had to depend on my phone to capture all the moments.

l6-onward and upward

We really had no idea where we were going, and when we came to a Y, chose the left-hand route, which had a few water obstacles.

l7-bushwhack

And then we decided to do some bushwhacking because we had no idea where the road might lead and we assumed the mountain was to our right.

l8-Into the Evergreens

It wasn’t totally an assumption, for I’d downloaded a GPS program recently and played with it a bit. The mountain was to our right, but there was a ledge between us and it.

l9-finding our way

And so we did some traversing, and slipping and sliding, and offered each other advice and occasionally a hand. Well, he offered me a hand, which I gladly accepted. And all the while I dreaded our descent, though we figured we’d probably need to sit on our bums and pretend we were otters–belly up.

l10-over the tree

We finally saw the light of day and assumed the summit was just above. Only one more downed tree to conquer.

l11-me

We did–with lots of giggles thrown in as we practiced our graceful moves.

l12-moose work 1

But, we weren’t at the summit. Instead, we were in moose alley for such was the evidence we found on the numerous striped maple trees.

l13-moose work 2

There were no fresh tracks, but we knew who had dined . . .

l14- moose work 3

by the size of the tooth marks they left behind.

l16-striped maple leaf

Because we were in a striped maple community, my eye was drawn to their moose nipped buds of previous years, but also to the artful twist of occasional dried leaves.

l15- snowshoe hare track

We had also entered snowshoe hare (snow lobster) territory and their tracks were innumerable.

l15-view toward the Balds in Evans Notch

Again, we found ourselves on an old logging road, and then we decided to go off it and bushwhack some more. As we checked the GPS periodically, it showed that we were following a ridge, but still had a ways to trek.

l17-continuing on

We thought we’d been so smart when we left the road, until we swung through the forest and came to a bit of an opening where we realized it was in front of us again. Or at least we thought it was the same road.

l18-winter wonderland

And so we followed it through the winter wonderland.

l19-summit view

And at last, according to the GPS, reached the summit, where the view through the trees was of the Bald Faces in Evans Notch. It wasn’t much of a view–and we wondered if we might have missed one, but decided to save that thought for another time.

l22-cairn?

After treating ourselves to some dark chocolate McVities digestives, we started to follow our tracks back down. About fifty feet away, we spotted a cairn we’d walked right by–it was large and we didn’t know its purpose. To mark the summit? Or did it represent something else?

l23-bobcat print

On the way back down, we paused again–by some prints I’d seen earlier. Yes, Karen–this one is for you. A bobcat indeed. Because of the deep, soft snow, its nails had provided traction.

l24-hiking down

When we reached the spot where we’d done some bushwhacking, we decided to take a chance and stay on the road. It proved the right choice and soon we picked up our previous tracks.

l25-quartz snag

And then we got to see a couple of other things we’d missed on the way up, like this quartz snag. Huh? Funny things grow in trees ’round these parts.

l28-bear tree 3

And big mammals climb trees ’round these parts.

l27-bear tree 2

Yes, Karen, another bear tree. 😉

l30-final view

Just below that we found ourselves back at the point where we’d climbed up the ledge. And discovered that the road turned to the right. Again, we weren’t sure we were making the right choice, but decided to take our chances. Bingo–it eventually curved around and we found our own tracks once again. We were tickled with ourselves and paused by one of the old camps to take in their view–the same view we’d enjoyed from above, but more open because some trees had been cut.

Roger Lowell had suggested this hike to my guy and the man collecting the mail said that the land belongs to the Stiflers, who own Round Mountain, Long Mountain and Overset Mountain, all hikes that we had enjoyed in the past. We weren’t sure the mountain road we were on was open to the public, but we gave thanks to Roger for the suggestion and the Stiflers for not posting the land. And we toasted this Mondate with sips of water–as we appreciated our love and joy for today’s journey–on Lovejoy Mountain.