Progressive Lunch Mondate

Today’s hike found us climbing one of our favorite mountains in western Maine. We love the fact that we can ascend along various trails and change it up if we want with up and back routes, circular routes and ridge-line routes.

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Since we chose the Southwest Ridge Trail, we drove to the parking area on Denmark Road. Ours was the only vehicle, but trail conditions and a single Stabilicers™ ice cleat indicated many others had traveled this way recently. As for those ice cleats, my guy informed me he’s sold tons this winter and he has STABILicers™ Powder Straps for sale as well, so they don’t end up as trail sign decorations.

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The beginning of the trail was mostly covered in frozen snow. Immediately we wondered who had used the trail more–humans or deer? The imprints of the latter spoke of timing. The smaller skipper on the left, must have moved this way after a recent warm day and the adult, which I suspected was a doe, earlier when temperatures were colder and the snow firmer. With temps a bit lower than yesterday, we found it rather firm for our purposes.

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At least seven different deer runs crossed the trail between the parking area and first ledge.

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Being on the southwestern side of the mountain, the snow level was significantly less than elsewhere and one run was completely open to the leaf litter, making it easier for food foraging.

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Conditions kept changing for us as well. A friend from Florida had been asking about signs of spring, and this trail certainly hinted at a change of seasons.

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In fact, we experienced a bit of every season, from snow and ice to leaves, mud and water.

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About an hour into our climb, we found two rocks meant for a pause. And so we did.

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Lunch Course Number One: Pineland Farms Creamery’s Salsa Jack cheese on crackers.

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Our break gave us time to take in the view toward the White Mountains where we’d hiked yesterday. Though our visibility was rather good for a cloudy day, it was obvious that those mountains were again in the mist.

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A bit further on, the bright orange-red fruit clusters of staghorn sumac brightened our day. As vibrant as they are, most of the pompom fruits remained, waiting for songbirds, turkeys and grouse. Apparently, they are not a preferred food source and will often remain until late winter. Though I’ve never tried it, the crushed fruit can be used to make a lemonade-like tea. And the tannin-rich bark was used to tan hides.

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The “staghorn” part of the common name derived from the fact that the stem is covered in reddish-brown hairs and features a manner of growth that somewhat resembles the velvet-covered horns (antlers) of a stag (male deer).

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We solved the problems of the world as we continued up, all the while looking down to choose the right foot placement so we were both surprised when we realized we’d already reached the teepee at the summit of the trail.

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Lunch Course Number Two: Black Bean Soup.

The recipe was shared with me eons ago by my friend Carissa. When our sons were young, they loved to help me make it. And I was thrilled when our oldest asked for the recipe last week. I thought you might appreciate it.

Black Bean Soup

1 lb plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 large onion, halved and cut into wedges

1 lb carrots, peeled and quartered

3 lg garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

4 C vegetable broth

3 1/4 C cooked black beans or two 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine first six ingredients and roast at 350˚ for one hour, stirring occasionally. Set carrots aside. Purée other roasted veggies. Pour some broth into roasting pan and scrape up bits. Hold aside one cup beans. Purée other beans, using some broth if necessary. Chop carrots. Heat everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.

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We enjoyed the view and talked about the Hike and Bike Trek that Loon Echo Land Trust hosts each year. This is the spot that my friend, Marita, and I spend the day at as we perform our hostess duties for the six-mile hikers.

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Before we began our descent, we took one last look at the teepee, created years ago by the late George Sudduth, director/owner of Wyonegonic Camps, the oldest camp for girls in America.

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Back down we went, carefully picking our way. We were actually surprised at how quickly we finished, the climb down not nearly as treacherous as at least one of us had anticipated.

We’re expecting a Nor’easter overnight into tomorrow and hope it’s an all snow event (despite the prediction for freezing rain and sleet after the snow) because we aren’t ready to give up winter yet.

Lunch Course Number Three: Two Dark Chocolate McVitie’s Digestives when we reached the truck. A perfect ending to a Progressive Lunch Mondate on Pleasant Mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final(ly) Mondate

With lunch packed, donning new hiking boots for him and longjohns for me, my guy and I climbed the Ledges Trail up Pleasant Mountain today.

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Our destination: the main summit.

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The bright blue trail blazes shone brilliantly in the winter landscape, some decorated by those who’d passed this way before us.

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We gave thanks to them and snowshoers, who’d packed the trail down, which meant we could get away with micro-spikes. It felt more like a walk in the park. We love it when conditions are such and watching our every step on slippery leaves or rocks is not a worry.

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All along, deer tracks criss-crossed over the “human” route, creating their own trails from shelter to food.

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A porcupine had done the same, its trough at least six inches deep.

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Though no water flowed through the streams that the trail crosses, snow created the effect of fluid motion and offered a promise for the future.

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As I looked down, the papery fruit of a hop hornbeam reminded me to look up.

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And right there, the tree showed off its shaggy bark. With that came a recollection of the first time I’d met said tree–it may have been this very one for it was on this trail many years ago.

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I knew I’d spent too much time looking about when in his smart aleck way, my guy pointed to a rock. “Tall rock,” he said. “What’s growing on it?” I asked. “Snow,” he responded.

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But still, he was the one to notice the beech contortionist.

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And another that demonstrated the circle of life.

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And then there was Beech Man–his mouth agape with laughter . . . and just maybe wonder.

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We paused briefly at the Ledges overlook and then continued up, our eyes focused more on the sky than anything else at that point.

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My least favorite section of trail, where the rock face sometimes makes me pause and contemplate my next step, provided for an easy ascent given the conditions.

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It seemed like no time had passed when we reached the top and we felt like we’d missed parts of the trail, everything being different with the new season.

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We had the summit to ourselves. My guy immediately found lunch rock–and the view.

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I pulled out our sandwiches and surprised him with two beverages–one having found its way into the fridge this past week that spoke to our Colorado connection. We toasted our opportunity to be on top of the world.

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All around us, serene hues of blue and icy gray contrasted with pastels and reflected winter’s enchantment.

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We didn’t stay on top too long as the wind started to pick up. Just below the summit, I spotted another moment of wonder.

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As we continued to climb down, our eyes were again drawn to the sky. “It’s the middle of the day and yet it looks like a sunrise or sunset,” said my guy.

Indeed. The perfect ending to our Mondate. Finally a Mondate. A final Mondate–for 2016, that is.

 

 

 

 

 

The Be-Attitudes Sundate

Today marks the beginning of the season of hope and with that in mind, my guy and I climbed Singepole Mountain in Paris. Paris, Maine, that is.

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Our hike began beside Hall’s Pond, where the water reflected the steel gray sky of this late November day.

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And stonewalls and barbed wire reflected the previous use of the land.

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In a matter of minutes we learned of its present use.

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Everywhere we looked, beaver sculptures decorated the shoreline.

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We passed from the hardwood community to a hemlock grove . . .

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where more beaver activity was evident. I’ve been reading The Hidden Life of TREES by Peter Wohlleben and have some questions about tree girdling such as this. There is a theory that beavers chew off the bark all the way around (girdle) to eventually kill trees such as hemlock, so preferable species will grow in their place. But, that’s thinking ahead to future generations. Do beavers really do that?

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On page 18, Wohlleben states the following: “As the roots starve, they shut down their pumping mechanisms, and because water no longer flows through the trunk up to the crown, the whole tree dries out. However, many of the trees I girdled continued to grow with more or less vigor. I know now that this was only possible with the help of intact neighboring trees. Thanks to the underground network, neighbors took over the disrupted task of provisioning the roots and thus made it possible for their buddies to survive. Some trees even managed to bridge the gap in their bark with new growth, and I’ll admit it: I am always a bit ashamed when I see what I wrought back then. Nevertheless, I have learned from this just how powerful a community of trees can be.”

Could this theory be true? Are the surrounding hemlocks feeding that tree via their roots? If so, does that throw out the other theory? So many questions worth asking.

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Soon, we left the Pond Loop Trail and started to climb the Singepole Trail, passing by a gentle giant.

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It’s a snag now, but this old maple offered tales of the forest’s past and hope for the future.

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On a smaller scale, Downy Rattlesnake Plaintain provided a cheery contrast among the leaf and needle carpet.

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The climb was a bit challenging in places, but we held out hope among the ledges that we might see a bobcat.

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No such luck, but we did find this . . .

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a well used porcupine den.

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Water dripped in constant harmony as we stepped gingerly along the narrow ledges and tucked under overhanging rocks.

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About halfway up, we took a break and paused to admire the view.

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The hardwood and softwood communities became more obvious as we looked down.

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And suddenly or so it seemed, my guy reached the moment of truth–the summit.

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From the top, we looked around and embraced our home place, which appeared on the horizon in the form of Pleasant Mountain.

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A slight turn and the view extended from Pleasant Mountain to the White Mountains.

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Below our feet, the granite pegmatite shared its showy display.

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We’d read that there was a quarry at the summit, so we headed toward a cairn, in hopes of locating it. Too many jeep trails confused us and we decided to save the quarry for another day. Instead, we turned into the woods to get out of the wind and munch our PB & J sandwiches, the grape jelly courtesy of Marita Wiser and family.

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As we poked about, something caught our attention and we moved closer.

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A wickiup frame. We admired the efforts of someone to create this traditional structure.

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Emerging from the woods, we took one last look at Pleasant Mountain, and . . .

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one last view of what seemed to be the summit (though it may have been a false summit).

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And then we started down, once again hugging the rocks and trying not to slip.

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On the way, I did note a few things, including this fungi that looked more flowerlike than mushroom like.

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And I spotted a phenomenon that occurred repeatedly. Girdled beech trees too far uphill for a beaver. What or who had debarked these trees?

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I may have been seeing things that weren’t real, but the lines on this particular tree made me wonder about the porcupines. Was I looking at the design they leave with teeth marks created in the distant past? Or were they wounds of another kind?

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When at last we reached the Pond Trail again, we continued to circle around it, noting more beaver works.

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At last, we found the mud-packed lodge built into the edge of the pond. Here’s hoping for a warm winter within.

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Completing the circle, the biting breeze forced us to walk quickly toward our truck and the end of our hike. We have chores to complete tomorrow so our Sundate may have to suffice for a Mondate.

That being said, in this season of hope, we trust we’ll find more opportunities to consider these be-attitudes:

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Be supportive of each other.

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Be watchful of what’s to come.

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Be hopeful of love everlasting.

Book of October: HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION

Better late than never is the name of my game. And so it is that I’m finally posting the Book of October. Since I was away at the beginning of the month, I’ve been playing catch-up, but also, I had three different books I wanted to write about and couldn’t choose one. And then, the other day after hiking with my friend, Marita, and mentioning her book, I realized when I tried to provide a link from my Book of the Month posts that though I’ve mentioned the book several times, I’ve never actually written about it. And so, without further ado . . .

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the Book of October is HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION by Marita Wiser.

Of course, since we’ve been friends for a long time and I’ve served as editor on several editions of the book, I suppose you might deem my review as being biased. It is.

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And if you find the typo that has survived several editions, I might give you an extra candy bar for Halloween. Just remember, only God is perfect.

As you can see from the table of contents, trail descriptions are organized based on location and she ranks the difficulty, making it easy for the user to make a decision about which trail to hike. Do you see the blue box on Mount Cutler in Hiram? I actually had a brain freeze there and couldn’t put mind over matter and get to the summit. I was stuck in one spot for at least a half hour before feeling a slight bit of bravery and making my way down. I laugh at that now because I’ve completed all the black diamonds except for Chocorua–guess that needs to go on my list. Of course, my guy and I did have a heck of a time descending one trail on the Baldfaces, but we survived and have a story to tell.

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The trail descriptions include directions, distances, time allotment, difficulty and often history. I think knowing the history of the place is extremely valuable so you can better understand the features around you.

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For one of the local favorites, Pleasant Mountain, she includes five pages to describe the various trails and even includes an old photograph of the Pleasant Mountain Hotel. Standing at the summit, I often imagine the horses and carriages that carried visitors up the Firewardens trail, that is after they’d arrived by Steamboat, having followed the Cumberland and Oxford Canal from Portland to Harrison. Their journey makes any hike we take seem so easy. Well, maybe not, but still.

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The centerfold provides an overview of all the areas Marita writes about.

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And while she begins the book with a variety of hiking tips about everything from water, food, trash and clothing to ticks, hunting and trail markings, she ends with a scavenger hunt and information on how to reorder the book.

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With time comes change and her covers reflect such. Marita started this project when she wrote a hiking column for The Bridgton News years ago.

The beauty of her book is that she actually goes out and explores all of the trails over and over again, and in each edition she provides updated descriptions. She also adds and deletes trails, so even if you have an older version, you might want to purchase the current copy.

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I’m thankful for the book and my friendship with Marita. And glad that I often get to join her on a reconnaissance mission. (We also co-host the rest stop at the teepee on the Southwest Ridge Trail of Pleasant Mountain each September for Loon Echo Land Trust’s Hike ‘n Bike fundraiser before we traverse the ridgeline to the summit of Shawnee Peak Ski Area–thus our southern-themed headwear.)

This Book of October is a must have if you live in or plan to visit the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region area. And it’s available at many local shops, including Bridgton Books.

HIKES & Woodland Walks in and Around Maine’s LAKES REGION, fifth edition, by Marita Wiser, © 2013.

 

 

Finding Our Way on Mount Tom in Fryeburg, Maine

I ventured this afternoon with my friend Marita, author of  Hikes and Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, along with her daughter’s beagle, Gracie, on a new trail in Fryeburg.

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Mount Tom, a Roche Moutonnée, is an asymmetrical hill with a gently sloping up-ice side that has been smoothed and polished by a glacier. The other side is abrupt and steep–the down-ice side where the rocks were plucked off, leaving a more cliff-like appearance. As Marita noted, its most impressive view is from a distance, but today we sang its praises from up close. We’ve both hiked a 1.5 mile trail to the summit for years, but recently The Nature Conservancy developed a new trail that we were eager to explore.

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Within seconds I was exclaiming with joy. A huge, and I mean HUGE foundation shared the forest floor. Note the outer staircase to the basement.

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And the large center chimney.

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On an 1858 map, I found that A.H. Evans owned a home in about this vicinity, but I don’t know if this was his. Or any more about him. It will be worth exploring further at the Fryeburg Historical Society.

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The house extended beyond the basement.

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And was attached to an even bigger barn.

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Ash trees grow beside the opening, but I wondered if we were looking at the manure basement.

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Finally, we pulled ourselves away and returned to the trail. Well, actually, we tried to return to the trail but couldn’t find it. So we backtracked, found this initial blaze and again looked for the next one. Nothing. Nada. No go. How could it be?

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That didn’t seem right, so we decided to follow our noses, or rather Gracie’s nose, and sure enough we found the trail. If you go, turn left and cross between the house and barn foundations.

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After that, for the most part, we were able to locate the trail, but it was obscured by the newly fallen leaves and could use a few extra blazes. Gracie, however, did an excellent job following the scent of those who had gone before and leaving her own.

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The path took us over a large mound of sawdust, something I’ve found in several areas of Fryeburg.

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The predominate trees were beech, white and red oaks, thus providing a golden glow to the landscape.

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And then we came to the ledges. Bobcat territory. Note to self: snowshoe this way to examine mammal tracks.

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The trail was situated to provide a close up view of the ledge island, where all manner of life has existed for longer than my brain could comprehend. Life on a rock was certainly epitomized here.

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We continued our upward journey for over 2.3 miles (thanks to Marita’s Fitbit for that info) and eventually came to the intersection with the trail we both knew so well.

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From there, we walked to the summit where the views have become obscured by tree growth.

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But . . . we could see the long ridge of Pleasant Mountain in front of us,

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Kezar Pond to our left,

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and the Richardson Farm on Stanley Hill Road to our right.

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Also along the summit trail, the woody seedpod of a Lady’s Slipper. Ten-to-twenty thousand seeds were packaged within, awaiting wind dispersal.

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We decided to follow the old trail down, which passes through a hemlock grove and then suddenly changes to a hardwood mix. Both of us were surprised at how quickly we descended. And suddenly, we were walking past some private properties including the 1883 Mt. Tom cabin.

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The cabin sign was actually attached to a Northern White Cedar tree. I’m forever wowed by its bark and scaly leaves.

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In the field beyond, Old Glory fluttered in the breeze.

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And just before Menotomy Road, we spied Mount Kearsarge in the distance.

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Since we’d taken the loop trail approach rather than an out and back on the same trail, we had to walk along Menotomy Road, so we paid the cemetery a visit and checked out the names and ages of those who had lived in this neighborhood.

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One of the older stones intrigued me with its illustration. I think I would have enjoyed getting to know these people.

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As we continued on, I was reminded of recent adventures in Ireland  and the realization that we notice more when we walk along the road rather than merely driving by. We both admired this simple yet artful pumpkin display.

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If you go, you might want to drive to the old trailhead, park your vehicle and then walk back to the West Ridge Trail. We parked at the latter and had to walk the 1.5 back at the end, when it seemed even longer. But truly, the road offers its own pretty sights and the temperature was certainly just right, even with a few snow flurries thrown into the mix, so we didn’t mind. We were thankful we’d found our way along the new trail and revisited the old at Mount Tom. And I’m already eager to do it again.

 

 

 

 

The Fruits Of Our Labor Day Mondate

I feel like a broken record when I say that my guy works too many hours, but so it has been. This was his weekend off and he worked more than a half day on Saturday and all day plus on Sunday. This morning he burned it all off with a seven mile run and then we headed off for a hike.

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Mount Kearsarge North off Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway, New Hampshire, is an old fav that deserved a visit.

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It was great to be out of town and finally goofing off on this Labor Day holiday. He’s labored. I’ve labored (really–even when it seems like I’m playing, I truly am working, honest). And we needed a break. If we followed this blaze, however, we would never have found the summit.

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Fortunately, we knew better. The hike is challenging, especially on the upward climb. We later commented about how the downward climb is faster, but does require attention to foot placement.

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Just over two hours later, we approached the fire tower at the summit. Though no longer in use, it’s obvious from the 360˚ view why a fire lookout was built at this summit. Constructed in 1909, the structure was rebuilt by the US Forest Service in 1951. Prior to the replacement of fire towers by airplane surveillance, this tower was in operation until 1968.

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Since we were last here about a year or so ago, it looked as if some of the support beams had been replaced.

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Despite the cooler temps and wind, it’s always worth a climb up.

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Once inside, all was calm. And the view–to die for. It made the efforts of our labor well worth it. We signed the log before moving back outside.

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I was thankful for the railing that kept me from being blown to the great beyond as I gazed toward the Baldfaces,  though the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as last week’s Mount Crawford Mondate.

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Back on the granite, we twirled about and took in each view–including Mount Washington with cumulus clouds grazing its summit.

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The cloud cover varied as we looked toward the valley with Cathedral Ledge, the Moats and beyond. Because we’ve set our feet down at those various levels, we appreciated the layers before us.

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And we noted the Green Hills Preserve, where we’ve also hiked many a trail.

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The cloud cover changed as we turned toward home and saw Pleasant Mountain in the distance. Our house is located about center beyond the mountain. And our camp to the left end of said mountain.

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Of all the rocks, lunch rock was the most important find. Sometimes, it’s difficult to locate such among all the opportunities, but this one spoke to us. And so we sat. And ate. Sandwiches (not PB&J–those are more for winter fare) and brownies (great any time of the year).

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And then my guy decided to snooze. He deserved it.

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I took advantage of the opportunity to observe and was tickled to find these woody fruits–the milk duds of the north woods. Snowshoe hare scat. I found numerous examples and wondered where the hares hid. Actually, they could have been anywhere because among the bald rocks there were plenty of islands filled with brushy undergrowth.

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And so I poked about. Though the low bush blueberry plants were plentiful, the fruits were sparse. In fact, I only spotted this one.

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More prolific were the mountain cranberries, aka lingonberries.

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What surprised me was the presence of speckled alder in the mix because I think of this as a species with wet feet, but really, this mountain top is much moister than most of our lowlands, so in the end I guess it made sense. Always something to wonder about.

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It wasn’t just speckled alder that made me wonder. Sheep laurel also grew there. I know it well in bogs and even along the power line behind our house. And yet, it loved the habitat on the summit.

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The same was true for huckleberries–which I look at beside Moose Pond all summer. How can they like wet feet and a bald mountain landscape. But again, I think perhaps it’s the moisture for these mountains are often lost in the clouds.

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Mountain holly also liked this habitat. Again, I’ve seen this at camp where the fruits have already been consumed. Songbirds love these berries and the supply on Kearsarge will disappear soon as migration begins. Here today, gone tomorrow.

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Wild raisins were equally plentiful and worth admiring.

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The berries are edible, at least for birds. But . . . if not consumed, the fruits shrivel up–thus the name of wild raisin.

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At last, my guy awakened and we picked our way among the rocks and roots on our descent.

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At least one more fruit showed its face on the downward route. Or was it a fruit? Actually not–it was an oak plum gall created by a wasp.

We talked about Labor Day as we climbed down. Labor Day is a tribute to the contribution of those who work and contribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. We gave thanks to our parents and the work ethic they taught us. And we noted the fruits of labor we saw in the natural world.

Finally, we toasted all with a beer at Delany’s Hole in the Wall in North Conway–a Shock Top for him and Tuckerman’s Pale Ale for me. On this Mondate, we felt rewarded with the fruits of all labor.

 

Our I Dos

Twenty-six years ago we both said, “I do.” And those two little words have stuck with us ever since.

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The road has had a few bumps and turns, but relatively speaking, it’s been an easy path to follow.

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Sometimes the web we’ve woven has torn, but we’ve learned to mend it when necessary.

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We’ve filled the nest and watched our sons disperse, and welcomed them home again.

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We’ve found fulfillment  . . .

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and tried to share it with others.

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We’ve each grown wings and let the other fly.

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We’ve cherished the beginning of our journey and give thanks for all the uphill moments.

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At the end of the day, we don’t know what the future holds, but we appreciate the past.

Happy Anniversary to my guy. If I had to do it all over again, I’d still say, “I do.” And I know you would too.

Filled to the Brim Mondate

It’s been a few weeks since my guy and I shared a Mondate. And so, this morning after joining our youngest for breakfast, we mosied on over to Pleasant Mountain in West Bridgton. Leaving the truck at the base of the Ledges Trail, we walked 1.5 miles down the road to the Bald Peak Trailhead. Since we didn’t have two vehicles, it was much easier to get the road piece done first, rather than at the end when we would be hot and tired. The climb up was a wee bit slippery since it had rained most of the weekend and was still raining at 5am. But the rain had stopped, the sun shone brilliantly and the breeze made for a pleasant adventure up our favorite mountain.

p-Indian cucumber root

My guy encouraged me to go first and I surprised him with a steady pace. I did pause, however, when I spotted fruit beginning to form on Indian cucumber root.

p-berries wet

By the time we reached the intersection with the North Ridge Trail, we realized we were in for more fruit–a sweet treat. Since the high bush blueberries at home aren’t ripe yet, we didn’t even think to bring containers for the low bush berries that carpet the mountain’s ridgeline.

p-rain on berry leaves

Bejeweled berries and leaves sparkled in the morning sun.

p-ridge view 2 (1)

We continued across the ridge, but in the slowest of motions for us. My guy lagged behind, which isn’t usually the case.

p-picking berries 1

Unless, that is, he spies blue. Everywhere.

p-picking4

At first, we ate them on the spot.

p-picking2 (1)

But then he decided that his hat would serve as the perfect container.

p-picking berries 1 (1)

And that’s when greed set in.

p-picking 6

Blueberry greed.

p-picking 5

He couldn’t pick them fast enough.

p-filled to the brim

Even as we sat to eat our sandwiches in an area where the only view was blueberry bushes, a few oaks and pines, he continued to pick until his hat was filled to the brim.

p-summit 1

Somehow, he finally pulled himself away and we continued on to the summit.

p-wood lily 2

I was eager to get to the summit and then move on because I hoped to find the wood lily in bloom.

p-wood lily 2 (1)

And I wasn’t disappointed.

p-ledges 2 (1)

Our descent was much quicker as the berries aren’t quite so abundant along the Ledges Trail. Speaking of that, those who fear that I’ve given away a prime location, fear not. My readership is low and the berries plentiful.

p-camp kayak

Back at camp, we checked on some high bush berries, but they’re still green. The greed will have to hold off for a few more days. Thank goodness we could find our way home with the help of a cairn–in the water?

p-cake 2

And then it was time to prepare dinner and help our youngest celebrate his birthday. He’d spent the day playing in Boston, much more fun that hanging out with the ‘rents.

A pleasant Mondate indeed. Filled to the brim were we–with each other, blueberries, cake and family time.

Hawk-eye Mondate

Some Mondates are shorter than others and such was the case today. But . . . we made the most of it as we walked up the trail to Hawk Mountain in Waterford.

hm-sign

It’s a half mile trek up a dirt and gravel road–just right when you want a great view and time is short. Of course, you could spend hours at the summit, but we weren’t there long.

hm-interrupted1

On the way up, I noticed interrupted fern in its interrupted form. Fertile leaves toward the middle are densely covered with sporangia (spore-bearing structures). I’m fascinated by their contorted, yet beautiful structures.

hm-lady1

Another favorite–lady’s slippers. Again, its structure is beyond my understanding.

hm-cyrstal and long2, ph

At the summit, we paused briefly and gazed toward Crystal and Long Lakes.

hm-white oak 4, ph

While my guy moved on to the better vantage point, I stopped several times. First, it was the color of these leaves that slowed me down. Have you noticed how spring foliage provides a subtle play on fall foliage? A few friends and I have been thinking about this lately, and this morning I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Dr. Rick Van de Poll, a well-known mycologist/naturalist/educator.

hm-red maple 1

He reminded me that the various hues of color in leaves is caused by the presence of pigments called anthocyanins or carbohydrates that are dissolved in the cell sap and mask the chlorophyll. As our spring temperatures rise and light intensity increases, red pigment forms on a leaf and acts as a sunscreen to protect the plant from an increase in ultraviolet rays.

hm-white oak1

It wasn’t only the color that caught my eye. Take a look at the lobe shape of the reddish leaves and that of the green in the background. In my continuing personal citizen science project to informally connect the dots of where white oaks meet red oaks, I added another pin on the map. Rounded lobes=white oak in the foreground. Pointed lobes=Northern red oak in the background.

hm-bee1

As I headed toward my guy, I noted that the cherry trees were abuzz.

hm-wild columbine1, ph

And hiding among the rocks at the base of a tree–another treat for the eyes. Wild columbine. Splendid indeed.

hm, cyrstal and long, ph

Equally splendid–the view from the ledges. Crystal and Long Lakes again.

hm-bear river

Bear River below. I always expect to see a moose here. Or maybe a bear. One of these days.

hm-pm1, ph

Pleasant Mountain and my guy.

hm-dragon5

As we walked back down the trail and concluded our Mondate, we celebrated the fact that dragonfly season has begun. With their hawk eyes, may they capture and consume a kazillion black flies and mosquitoes.

 

 

Our Place

h-tom2

Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Gooble. Seriously . . . is all that noise necessary? Apparently it is. Mr. Tom felt the need to awaken us at this morning’s first light with his non-stop gobbling–his way of calling the hens to join him. Disclaimer: I didn’t take this photo until later in the day. In all his ugliness, I have to say that he really is a handsome fellow.

h-female turkey

The hens who hang out with him don’t appear to care, but maybe they’re just playing coy.

p-little saco sign

We left them to the bird seed scattered on the ground and drove to Farnsworth Road in Brownfield for a hike up Peary Mountain. The trail is located on private property and we’re thankful that it’s open to hikers. Much of it is a snowmobile trail as well.

p-Little Saco

The Little Saco flows over moss-covered rocks beside the lower part of the trail.

p-false 4

As we followed it, bright green growth in the damp soil warranted a closer look.

p-false hellibore 2

A true sign of spring–false hellebore with its corrugated leaves.

p-striped 2

There are plenty of other signs, including the pink and green striped maple buds. I’m missing my macro for these moments of early glory, but so it is.

p-beech 1

While some beech trees still have a few marcescent leaves clinging until they can no more, I noticed a few buds beginning to burst.

p-summit sign

At a stone wall, the trail suddenly turns 90˚ to the left.

p-fdn 2

But in the opposite direction–the remains of an old foundation.

p-fdn ledge 2

And above, a ledge from whence the stones presumably came.

p-porc scat

The ledge continues to provide a dwelling–for critters like the porcupines who keep the hemlocks well trimmed.

p-bluets

As we climbed to the top, delicate bluets showed their smiling faces.

p-bench view1

And then we emerged on the 958-foot summit, where the bench view is glorious. The small mountain was named for Admiral Peary. Apparently, his mother’s family, the Wileys, lived in neighboring Fryeburg. Upon graduating from Bowdoin College in 1877, Peary lived in Fryeburg and conducted survey studies of the area for a couple of years, before moving to DC and later leading an expedition to the North Pole.

p-mount wash

If you’ve seen similar views of the big mountain, its because it’s part of our place.

p-my guy view

I followed my guy along the ridge line to the end–where the view turned homeward.

p-pointing

My guy made a point of recognizing landmarks from Mount Tom and Lovewell Pond along the Saco River to Pleasant Mountain and Brownfield Bog.

p-Pleasant 2

If you look closely, you’ll notice a horizontal line just below the bog–that’s the Saco River. And the little mountain to the left of Pleasant Mountain–Little Mountain in West Bridgton.

p-Pleasant Road1

The only part of the view that we don’t get–the new road that was constructed up the backside of the mountain within the past year. It worries us. And that is why we appreciate the efforts of Loon Echo Land Trust for protecting most of the rest of the mountain.

b-pitch pine

We headed home for lunch and to pull out the lawn furniture.* And then we parted ways, my guy to attend a celebration of life for an old friend, and me to climb Bald Pate. My purpose–to look at the pitch pines and jack pines.

b-pitch 2

In bundles of three, the stiff needles surround the male pollen bearing cones on the pitch pine.

b-jack pine1

Jack pine features two needles per bundle–think Jack and Jill.

b-peabody & sebago

From the summit, I paused to take in the view of Peabody Pond and Sebago Lake beyond. It doesn’t matter how often I climb to the top of this 1,100-foot mountain, the view is ever changing.

b-mount wash1

And again, I could see Pleasant with Mount Washington in its saddle. This time, however, I was on the opposite side looking at the front of Pleasant Mountain. You may wonder about the road–it leads to two cell towers near the Southwest Ridge summit.

b-sweet fern 1

As I made my way to the Foster Pond Lookout, I stopped frequently to enjoy the ever-artful presentation of sweet fern.

b-blueberries

And I noticed another sweet offering that many of us will enjoy this summer–blueberry plants in bloom.  A year ago next week, I saw the same on this very mountain. Seems early, but I think they’re well protected in a sunny spot.

b-foster pond 2

I’m sure had my guy been with me, he would have named a color chip that matched Foster Pond–perhaps turquoise blue best described it in that moment.

b-bird treat 1

Heading back to my truck, I noticed some bird treats dangling from the trees. Perhaps our turkeys will fly to South Bridgton.

h-tom 3

Apparently not. Back at home, Tom had returned. He’s a frequent visitor to our place. And we’re frequent visitors to the area beyond our backyard. It’s all really his place and our place.

* If you live in our area, expect at least one more snowstorm. It always snows once we pull out the lawn furniture.

 

 

From Peak to Shining Peak

Maybe we’re a wee bit crazy. Maybe there’s no maybe about it. My guy and I climbed Pleasant Mountain again, only this time we took a much longer route than yesterday.

p-Bald sign

After leaving a truck at the Southwest Ridge trail, we drove around the mountain and began today’s trek via Bald Peak. It’s always a good way to get the heart beating, but then again, any of the trails up the mountain will accomplish that mission.

p-bald stream 2

One of my favorite features of this path is the voice of the stream–water rippled with laughter as it flowed over moss-covered rocks before splashing joyously below.

p-Sue's Way signs

And then we turned right onto Sue’s Way. We never knew Sue, but are thankful for this path carved in her honor.

p-Sue's snow on East

Across the ravine, snow still clung to the East slope at Shawnee Peak Ski Area.

p-Sue's porky

Oaks, beech, hemlock and yellow birch form most of the community, feeding the needs of their neighbors–including porcupines.

p-Sue's 2

We followed the trail as it embraced another stream and watched the landscape change.

p-Sue's polypody

Eventually, we were in the land of large boulders and ledges, all decorated with common polypody and moss–an enchanted forest.

p-shawnee chair

At the top of Sue’s Way, we detoured to our first peak–Shawnee Peak.

p-shawnee

Splotches of snow signified the end of a season.

p-Shawnee chair 1

The Pine chairlift silently rested, its duty accomplished until it snows again.

p-shawnee ski chair 2

And in the shack, the back of ski chair spoke of past adventures and adventurers.

p-signs by mtn

From there, we followed the North Ridge Trail to our first official peak.

p-north peak trail ice1

Despite today’s warmth, ice still reflected movement frozen in time.

p-north peak pines

North Peak has always been one of my favorite spots on this mountain. In the land of reindeer lichen, blueberries and dwarfed red pines, we ate lunch–day two also of ham and  Swiss. This is becoming as much of a habit as climbing the mountain.

p-Mtn W from lunch rock

When we stood up on lunch rock, our view included the master of all New England mountains glowing in the distance.

p-north peak

In a few months, the treasures of this place will give forth fruitful offerings.

p-ridge line

With North Peak behind, our view encompassed the rest of the peaks.

p-Bald Peak, Mtn W and Kezar Pond

Continuing down and up again, we heard plenty of quaking coming from a vernal pool about one hundred feet off the trail. And then we were atop Bald Peak, where Mount Washington again showed its face, with Kezar Pond below.

p-bald peak causeway

The other side of the trail offered a photo opp of the Route 302 causeway that divides the north and middle basins of Moose Pond.

p-ft again

Our decision today was to hike the mountain in a backward fashion as compared to our normal routes, so we approached the main summit from the Firewarden’s Trail.

p-summit crowd

Once again, many others also took advantage. We did chuckle because except for one guy, of all the people we encountered, we were the oldest. The youngest–a baby in a backpack.

p-SW sign

At the junction below the main summit, we began to retrace yesterday’s footsteps on the Southwest Ridge Trail.

p-SW mayflower

The sunny exposure made this the warmest of all trails and the Trailing Arbutus prepared to make its proclamation about the arrival of spring.

p-SW Hancock

Near the teepee, I felt compelled to capture the ponds again. Another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

p-SW 2

After chatting with a family at the teepee, we began our descent. Of course, someone was mighty quicker than me.

p-SW 3

Where no trees grow on the bedrock, cairns showed the way.

p-SW mnts

Before slipping into the forest again, I was thankful for the opportunity to capture the  blue hue of sky, mountains and ponds.

p-cairns final turn

We made our final turn at the three cairns and

p-SW final

followed the path down–though we did begin to think that maybe they’d moved the parking lot.

p-LELT

Over six miles and four hours later, we had Loon Echo Land Trust to thank once again for protecting so much of the mountain and maintaing the trails. We reminisced today about how our relationship began at a halloween party held at the ski area thirty years ago and the number of treks we’ve made along these trails since then. Whether hiking to the ledges or teepee, making a loop or walking peak to peak on a sunshiny day such as this–it never gets old.

 

 

 

 

From Sheep to Dinosaurs, Oh My!

After leaving a truck at the base of the Ledges Trail on Pleasant Mountain, my guy and I drove to Denmark Village to attend an annual celebration of fiber: the Denmark Sheepfest.

s-sheep 1

Like us, local sheep were ready to shed their winter coats.

s-sheepish look

Waiting their turn, they offered sheepish looks.

s-sheep shearing

But we heard no complaints as the shearing began.

s-MacKay 1

From there, we continued on to the Southwest Ridge Trail of Pleasant Mountain. As we climbed, we thought about the former name of the trail: MacKay’s Pasture Trail.

s-Mac 2

Between the rock outcrops and slope we decided that in the 1800s sheep probably roamed this side of the mountain. I found an 1858 map on the Denmark Historical Society’s Web site, but it’s too small to check names.

s-Denmark_1858

(Thanks to Jinny Mae for sending me a better copy of the map–the McKay’s property is located near the base of the trail on the Denmark/Fryeburg line–makes perfect sense that the side of the mountain served as pastureland for their farm.) Sheep and shepherds–We feel a certain affinity to shepherds/shephards because it’s a family name and were saddened to learn yesterday of the death of one relative we met this past fall in New Brunswick, Canada. Our acquaintance was short, but relationship long. As the Irish say, “May the light of heaven shine upon your grave.” Rest in peace, Ellis Shephard.

s-hiking

We love climbing up this trail and pausing . . .

s-mac 3

to take in the views behind us–Brownfield Bog, Lovewell Pond, Eastern Slopes Airport in Fryeburg, Maine, and White Mountains of New Hampshire in the distance.

s-lunch

In no time, or so it seemed, we reached lunch rock by the teepee. The teepee was constructed by the late George Sudduth, director/owner of Wyonegonic Camps , the oldest camp for girls in America. His wife, Carol, whom I’ve had the pleasure of hiking with, and family still run the camp, located below on Moose Pond.

s-lunch view

Our view as we appreciated fine dining–ham and swiss instead of PB&J–Moose Pond’s lower basin to the left, Sand (aka Walden) Pond with Hancock Pond behind it, Granger Pond and Beaver Pond directly below us. Actually, if you look closely, you might see Long Lake between Moose and Hancock. This is the Lakes Region of Maine.

s-fire tower 1

We continued along the ridge and the fire tower came into view. Once the leaves pop, this view will disappear until fall.

s-vp

At the vernal pool between knobs, we only saw one large egg mass–I had to wonder if the number is related to the amount of human and dog traffic.

s-ft2

And then . . . we were there. At the summit of Pleasant Mountain. With a kazillion other people and dogs.

s-summit 3

Again, we could see the bog and Lovewell Pond behind it,

s-summit view

plus Kezar Pond in Fryeburg and Mount Washington beyond.

s-summit 2

No matter how often I gaze upon this view, I’m always awestruck.

s-trail sign

We had two options because we’d left two trucks, and decided to follow the Ledges Trail to Mountain Road.

s-toadskin

Though I was with my guy, Mr. Destinationitis, I did stop long enough to admire the common toadskin lichen with its warty pustules.

s-toadskin and tripe

Had this been a teaching moment, the lesson plan was laid out in front of me–toadskin versus common rock tripe. Warty versus smooth. A difference in color. Both umbilicate lichens–attached to the rock substrate at a single point. OK, so maybe it was a teachable moment.

s-rest

But one of us didn’t give two hoots. He tolerated me . . . while he rested. 😉

s-ledges 1

For the most part, we hiked within feet of each other, but I can never resist stopping at this point as we come upon the beginning of the ledges that gave this trail its name.

s-trees

Continuing down, I frequently grasped trees and thought about how many handprints are imbedded in the history of this land–from Native Americans to surveyors to shepherds to trail blazers and hikers. On this made-in-Maine type of day, we encountered many people of all ages and abilities–and were glad to share the trail with them.

s-dino1

It’s not only people and sheep who have moved across Pleasant Mountain. Even today, dinosaurs made their presence known.

 

 

 

 

Wet Feet at Brownfield Bog

When I suggested to Marita that we explore Brownfield Bog this afternoon, she wondered  how much water we might encounter on the road. And so we wore boots. Marita donned her Boggs, while I sported my waterproof hiking boots.

b-johnny jump up

Until we got there, we didn’t realize that the privately-owned road leading into the bog isn’t open yet, but thought we’d park at a driveway near the beginning and leave a note. The owner came along, whom she knew, and graciously invited us to park  near his home and cross through his woods down to the bog road. He and his wife share a piece of heaven and I took only one cheery photo to remind me of their beautiful spot and kind hospitality.

b-river road literally

And then on to the bog it was. Just after the gate, we realized that we couldn’t walk to the Saco River–literally a river road.

b-bog 1

But this is a bog, where all forms of life enjoy wet feet.

b-willow 2

From pussy willows to . . .

b-speckled alder 1

speckled alders,

b-cranberry

cranberries,

b-red maple 2

and flowering red maples–wet feet are happy feet and they all thrive in seasonally flooded places.

b-ducks 1

We kept scaring the ducks off, but know that there were wood ducks among the mix. They, of course, know the importance of wet and webbed feet.

b-lodge 2

b-beaver tree

b-beaver scent mound

And by their lodges, tree works and scent mounds, we knew the beavers had been active–another wet-footed species. We did wonder about the survival rate of those that built beside the road–seems like risky business given the predators that travel this way.

b-pellet

Speaking of predators, check out the orange rodent teeth among all the bones in this owl pellet.

b-bog 2

On this robin’s egg kind of day

b-pleasant mtn

with Pleasant Mountain sandwiched between layers of blue,

b-field 1

the breeze brisk at times and the sun warm always,

b-water over road on way back

the flow of water didn’t stop us.

b-wet feet

Waterproof boots and wool socks–the perfect combination to avoid wet feet. Well, maybe a wee bit damp, but five hours later and I just took my socks off.

 

Spotlight on Sabattus

Following this morning’s Greater Lovell Land Trust trek at Chip Stockford Reserve, where we helped old and new friends form bark eyes as they examined various members of the birch family, my feet were itchy. Not in the scratchy sort of way–but rather to keep moving.

It was a lovely day for a hike and Sabattus Mountain in Lovell was my destination. I love this little mountain because it offers several different natural communities and great views.

s-com 1

Though there are a few softwoods on the lower portion of the trail, it’s really the land of a hardwood mix.

s-downed twigs

About halfway up, the neighborhood switches to a hemlock-pine-oak community. It was then that I began looking for downed hemlock twigs in an array at the base of trees. I’ve found them here before, and today I wasn’t disappointed.

s-porky chew 3

The twigs had been chewed off and dropped by a porcupine as evidenced by the 45˚-angled cut and incisor marks. Though red squirrels also nip off the tips of hemlock twigs, they do just that–nip the tips. Porcupines cut branches.

s-porky cliff

Downed branches usually mean scat, but I searched high and low and under numerous trees that showed signs of activity and found none. A disappointment certainly.

s-pippipsewa

My search, however, led me to other delightful finds that are showing up now that most of the snow has melted, like this pipsissewa that glowed in the afternoon sun. As is its habit, the shiny evergreen leaves look brand new–even though they’ve spent the winter plastered under snow and ice. A cheery reminder that spring isn’t far off.

s-Pleasant 1

At the summit, I got my bearings–the ridge of Pleasant Mountain and Shawnee Peak Ski Area to the southeast.

s-mount tom & kezar pond

To the southwest, the asymmetrical Roche Moutonnée, Mount Tom, visible as it stands guard over Kezar Pond in Fryeburg.

s-Kearsarge 2

And to the west, Kezar Lake backed by Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire. I wanted to venture further out on the ledge, but some others hikers had arrived and I opted not to disturb their peace.

s-summit wind

Instead, I sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the strong breeze offering possibilities as it floated over the summit and me.

s-porky cuts1

Crossing the ridge, I left the trail and found more porcupine trees, including this young hemlock that had several cuts–look in the upper right-hand corner and lower left hand. A number of younger trees along this stretch will forever be Lorax trees.

s-golden moonglow1

On the outcrop of quartz, I paused to admire the golden moonglow lichen–it’s almost as if someone drew each hand-like section in black and then filled in the color, creating an effect that radiates outward.

s-polypody patch

I was pleasantly surprised to find a patch of polypody ferns on what appears to be the forest floor but was actually the rocky ridge. Notice how open-faced it is, indicating that the temperature was quite a bit warmer than what I’d seen on cold winter days.

s-polypody sun

Sunlight made the pinna translucent and the pompoms of sori on the backside shone through.

s-glacial 1

The trail doesn’t pass this glacial erratic, but I stepped over the logs indicating I should turn left and continued a wee bit further until I reached this special spot.

s-porky scat 1

Its backside has been a porcupine den forever and ever. Nice to know that some things never change.

s-hemlocks and oaks

After returning to the trail, I followed it down through the hemlocks and oaks. This is my favorite part of the trail and though it’s a loop, I like to save this section for the downward hike–maybe because it forces me to slow down.

s-fairies 1

For one thing, it features the land of the fairies. I always feel their presence when here. Blame it on my father who knew of their existence.

s-fairies 2

I had a feeling a few friends were home–those who found their way into a fairy tale I wrote years ago. I left them be–trusting they were resting until this evening.

s-community transition 1

As swiftly as the community changed on the upward trail, the same was true on my descent.

s-birch bark color

On our morning trek, we’d looked at paper birch, but none of the trees we saw showed the range of colors like this one–a watercolor painting of a sunset.

s-birch bark 1

This one shows the black scar that occurs when people peel bark. The tree will live, but think about having your winter coat torn off of you on a frigid winter day. Or worse.

s-black birch 1

Off the trail again, I paused by a few trees that I believe are black birch. Lately, a few of us have been questioning black birch/pin cherry because they have similar bark. The telltale sign should be catkins dangling from the birch branches. I looked up and didn’t see catkins, but the trees may not be old enough to be viable. This particular one, however, featured birch polypores. So maybe I was right. I do know one thing–it’s not healthy.

s-pines 2a

And then I reached a section of trail that I’ve watched grow and change in a way that’s more noticeable than most. I counted the whorls on these white pines and determined that they are about 25 years old. I remember when our sons, who are in their early twenties, towered over the trees in their sapling form. Now two to three times taller than our young men, the trees crowded growing conditions have naturally culled them.

s-birch planter

Nature isn’t the only one that has culled the trees. Following their selection to be logged, however, some became planters for other species.

s-3 trees

Nearing the end of the trail another view warmed my heart. Three trees, three species, three amigos. Despite their differences, they’ve found a way to live together. It strikes me as a message to our nation.

Perhaps our leaders need to turn the spotlight on places like Sabattus. It’s worth a wonder.

 

 

 

 

Pure Bliss Mondate

It took us a while to get our act together today, but finally we heard the call from the Ledges Trail up Pleasant Mountain. Since it was late morning, we packed a lunch. Very late morning. 11:30 a.m. start.

ledges sign

And a very warm day. February first and the temperature is 53˚ in western Maine. Unreal. The  breeze was downright balmy and more reminiscent of a spring day. Will the ground hog see his shadow tomorrow?

ledges trail 2

Trail conditions varied from mud and soft snow to slush and ice. Not a snowshoe-type of day at all. We haven’t had too many of those lately. Micro-spikes were the right choice.

ledges O 2

Of course, I was still a slow-poke. But that’s okay because as he waited for me along the way, my guy began to notice his surroundings. OOOOh my! He started pointing out the oddities in the beech trees.

ledges beech elbow

This one struck him as an elbow–well, not literally. Popeye’s biceps perhaps.

ledges beech joined in dance

And then there were the two that joined hands in a woodland dance.

ledges wedge 1

We even found a couple kissing a long gone relative.

So what causes a tree to graft? Under the bark is the cambium layer, which consists of living cells. Outside the cambium layer, the cells divide and multiply, thus creating bark tissue. And inside, they create woody tissue. The newest cells act as a two-way system–moving  water and minerals that the roots sucked from the soil up into the tree and carbohydrates made by the leaves down.

In order for two trees to create a union by fusing together they have to be compatible–so a joint fusion occurs within one tree or between two trees of the same or closely related species.

Of course, the tree or limbs have to be in direct contact and under pressure for the cells to naturally graft. A dash of magic also helps.
ledges laughing faceThis woodland spirit laughs at us for gawking at its relatives. But really, it is amazing and worth a wonder.

ledges green leaves

Here and there, leaves litter the trail. But this one stopped me in my tracks. Green leaves? How can that be? Another mystery.

ledges Canada mayflower

Because the snow was melting rapidly, we found bare ground here and there showing off some treasures, like these Canada mayflower leaves. We all know that one person’s junk is someone else’s treasure–so for every person who sees this as a dead leaf, I bet there are as many of us who are fascinated by the design left behind by the vascular system and rejoice in the nutrients the leaves have contributed to the earth as nourishment for future generations.

ledges trailing arbutus

That wasn’t the only find. I’m reminded by this sight that Trailing Arbutus, also known as  Mayflower, has evergreen leaves. If today’s temperature is any indication of what’s to come, it won’t be long for these harbingers of spring to bloom. I’m not ready for that and can only hope that the woodland spirit can pass on the word that more snow would be most welcome.

ledges glacial 2

Glacial striations mark some of the bare rocks. Those glaciers must have been crazy as they retreated–melting and scraping this way and that. 😉

ledges icicle 2

No matter what season we pass by this rock, water drips from it. Today, it’s suspended in a milky icicle.

ledges mossy maple

Mossy maple polypores gathered at the base of this old tree while

ledges toadskin tripe1ledges smooth rock tripeledges toadskin 2

smooth rock tripe and common toadstool lichen decorated the rocks nearby.

ledges mooseledges lunch view

Lunch rock provided us a view of the middle basin of Moose Pond on the left and lower basin on the right.

We stayed just long enough to eat our sandwiches on the ledges. We didn’t have time to head to the summit. On the way down, both of us left plenty of handprints on the trees that grow beside the trail–happy to have their support.

ledges bliss

We had an errand to run in Portland this afternoon, and then it was home again, home again, jiggity jig. Our day was topped off with a supper of blueberry pancakes coated with maple syrup while watching the Beanpot hockey tournament. Thanks to Pam Lord Bliss for the amber treat–this Mondate was truly pure bliss.

The Homecoming

The other day a friend handed me a piece of paper and told me to read it later. We were about to go tracking, so I stuck it into my pack and forgot about it. This afternoon, as I prepared for a hike up Mount Tom in Fryeburg, I found the paper.

I’d originally thought it was an article, but instead, it’s a quote from the October 1967 issue of Yankee. A friend had given it to him and he passed it on to me: “We hunt as much for the memories as for the birds. For the memories, and for the hours afield in the autumn woods where a man can get back, for a while, to remembered realities, to a time and a way of life close to the eternities of the land. It’s hard to explain this to the outlander who never knew such things. He thinks of it as an escape. To us it is more like a homecoming. We live here, of course, but only in the leisure after we’ve done the stint at our jobs do we go out on the hills and up the brooks. There we find the truth of our world, even the truth of ourselves.” ~author unknown.

trail sign

I reflected upon those words as I slipped into my snowshoes at the trail head. I’d made a decision to end one of my freelance writing/editing jobs this week (not Lake Living, which is my all time favorite writing job. Hard to believe the spring issue will mark my tenth anniversary!) and declutter my world.

porky paths stump dump

It will never happen, but certainly the porcupines that inhabit this mountain should consider the same.

stump dumpporcupine den

I had a hunch I’d see evidence of their existence once I got up into the hemlock neighborhood, but a small stump dump early on provided ample den space.

porcupine tracks 1

I didn’t even realize as I climbed toward the summit that I wasn’t taking too many photos. Instead, I was cued into the tracks left behind by two people who had traveled this way before me and the porcupines, deer, hare, coyote, bobcats and little brown things. While the people stuck to the trail, I wandered this way and that as I tried to decipher what I saw–my own zig zag trail reminiscent of those I followed.

logged community, thin trees

I didn’t get lost today, though truly, when I do get fake lost, it’s a time to understand myself better– listening to my inner self sort things out. Most of today’s trail is an old logging road. And most of what I saw was familiar. Perhaps that’s what it’s all about–knowing a place so no matter where you are, you recognize it.

hemlock community

The community changes abruptly from birch, beech and maple saplings to hemlocks and pines. I, too, can change abruptly and have a tendency to be blunt. I don’t see that as a bad thing, though occasionally I do regret what I’ve said.

striped maple scrapes

And then I began to look up and notice other parts of my surroundings like these old deer or moose scrapes on striped maples. Forever scared, they provided nourishment in the past–and may do so in the future when the time is right.

striped maple samaras

One striped maple still sported a few seeds that have yet to go forth in the world. What’s holding them back? Don’t they know the time has come to let go?

frost crack

Amongst the evergreens  a paper birch offered a twist on life. I believe this is the result of sun scald–the heating and freezing of thin bark. Typically, the white reflective bark helps the tree avoid such danger–but something obviously happened to cause this candycane-like stripe..

sun on hemlocks

Though it was getting late in the day, rays of sunshine illuminated the darker side of things.
white oak leaf

As I followed more porcupine tracks at the summit, a dried leaf captured my attention. In my ongoing attempt to draw an imaginary line showing the boundary of white oak, I added another dot.

white, beech, red oak

Nestled within animal tracks, three leaves told me more about the members of this neighborhood–white oak, beech and Northern red oak.

white oak 2 white oak 3 white oak layers

So then I searched for the white oak trees–and found them. My bark eyes still don’t cue into this one immediately and I need to learn its idiosyncrasies, including its ashy gray color and blocky presentation.

bird nest 1 bird nest 2

I discovered a snow-covered nest that made me ask–bird-made or human-made? It’s constructed of reindeer lichen and sits upon a base of sticks about four feet up in a scrubby old oak. I was as excited by the find as I was by my wonder and lack of an answer. What fun would it be to know everything?

summit

From the summit, I could see Pleasant Mountain’s ridge–giving me another sense of home. The view isn’t spectacular, but that isn’t the point.

Kearsarge 2

Heading down, a second old favorite came into view–Kearsarge North. I stopped frequently as I descended–to listen and watch. And smell. Twice, a strong cat-like pee odor tickled my nose. The tracks were there, but I couldn’t find any other bobcat evidence. One of these days.

paper 4 paper birch 1 paper birch 3 paper birch rainbow paper burgundy Paper pastel

A rainbow of color presented itself among the paper birch trees–such variation for what is commonly called white birch.

Mount Tom cabin 1 Mt tom cabin 2

Near the bottom, the Mt Tom cabin speaks to an earlier time when living off this land was the norm. Though I like to think that I could stay here by myself for a week, I’m not so sure. Of course, that would force the issue and surely the truth about myself would be revealed. Maybe it’s best left a mystery. 😉

staghorn sumac1 staghorn red

Before slipping out of my snowshoes, I paused beside the staghorn sumac. It was my height, so I had an opportunity to examine its hairy features closely. Animal from The Muppets must have cloned himself.

Full moon

There was a time when I was easily unnerved being in the woods alone. And I still have moments–especially when a ruffed grouse erupts. Geesh–that can certainly make my heart sound like it’s going to jump out of my body. But, the more time I spend out there, the more time I want to spend out there–exploring, discovering, wondering. This afternoon, I finally followed the full moon home, thankful to find even an inkling of my spirit. I recognize that the word “home” has come to mean more than one place. Our abode is our home, but time in the woods is also a homecoming.

 

 

Savoring the Sanctity of the Mountains

“Savor the sanctity of the mountains in these incredibly discouraging times,” said a friend on Friday. And so we did.

MW morning

The mid-morning sun highlighted Mount Washington as we passed through Fryeburg Harbor–always a breath-taking view.

trail sign

Our destination: Speckled Mountain in Evans Notch–via Blueberry Mountain.

Bricket Place

Parking is at the Brickett Place, where the Brickett family farmed, logged and produced maple syrup in the mid-1800s. Their original home was log, but they later built this house with locally-fired bricks.

Bricket place signage

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Y

Hop Hornbeam trees are abundant in a section of the lower trail. My guy saw slingshots in the unusual growth of these two, but I saw Ys. Why? Why? Paris? Syria? Around the globe?

B slides upper

About .7 of a mile from the trailhead, we paused at Bickford Slides–one of the many places for contemplation along the way.

B slides 2

While the upper slides are calm at the trail crossing, the brook funneled below us into a narrow chute, where the water’s fast movement has carved a channel in time.

granite, glacier

Later, on the Blueberry Ridge trail, I saw this pattern in the granite and thought of how the glaciers that covered our northern states scoured the land as they receded.    The land tells the story–I just need to learn how to read it.

climbng up Blueberry

We usually hike down the Blueberry Ridge Trail because it offers magnificent mountain views, but I was thankful that we switched things up today. A different perspective was welcome.

rime ice

I found myself paying attention to each step upward, mindful of leaves and rocks and water and ice. Because of this, I spent a lot of time staring at the ground. There’s plenty to appreciate at this level, like the crystals of needle ice that form within the earth.

ice 1

We left our crampons at home, but in the future, we need to add them to the pack.

ice 4

As dangerous as it is to walk on, I’m fascinated by the dramatic formations that change with the moment–forever fluid.

wintergreen

Other things worth noting–wintergreen leaves taking on their winter hue;

sheep laurel 1

Sheep laurel leaves protecting its spherical fruit;

reindeer lichen

and a variety of reindeer lichens awaiting a visit from the red-nosed, sled-pulling residents of the North Pole.

MW from Blueberry Ridge

After pausing on Blueberry Mountain, we continued up the ridge, remembering to turn back frequently and take in the view,

Shell Pond and PM

including Shell Pond below and Pleasant Mountain in the background. My guy pointed out that Shell Pond really does look like a conch shell from here.

Kezar Lake

Our view also included the islands on the northern end of Kezar Lake in Lovell.

lunch rock

We chose the largest rock we could find for today’s lunch spot. Lunch? The usual–PB&J, followed by brownies,

looking back

and topped off with another spectacular view.

squirrel lunch rock 2

We weren’t the only ones choosing a rock for lunch. This squirrel prefers the top rock on the cairn.

spruce scales

Red Spruce scales and cobs line much of the trail.

squirrel cache

And we found a few caches–a sign of things to come.

nd 4

The higher we hiked, the more natural devastation we encountered. Gazing upon it brought me back to today’s reality. Blow downs, galls, fungi, animal interactions with the landscape–it’s constantly in flux. Then there’s the human factor–we leave our imprint in ways we can’t even imagine. But . . . across our nation and around the globe?

ice on Speckled Trail

We encountered more ice on the climb to the summit of Speckled Mountain.

summit wind

The wind was blowing when we reached the summit, where a fire tower once stood.

summit view miles of mountains

The stanchions are all that remain of this former lookout site.

summit, MW in clouds

It was getting late, so we didn’t stay long,

summit, MW,

just long enough to notice that Mount Washington was disappearing into the clouds.

sphagnum and snow 2

We followed the old jeep trail that is the Bickford Brook Trail, on the way down. Rather than ice, we found snowflakes among the sphagnum moss.

hidden rocks

Once we got below the spruce-fir forest, the beech and oak leaves obscured the rocks, making it almost more difficult than the upward climb.

beech sign

I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted scanning the beech trees for bear claw marks because I was paying attention to my foot placement, but I did pause by this tree that has served as a sign post for many years.

1976

1976–a very good year. I happen to be a member of the Bicentennial Class of North Branford Senior High School. Go Thunderbirds!

Eight plus miles and five and a half hours later, we’d completed the loop as the sun   lowered behind the mountains.

hobblebush, global prayer

My hope is that these hobblebush buds encircle the world in prayer so that all may savor the sanctity that we find in the mountains.

Mountain Moments

I took to The Mountain today, as we fondly refer to Pleasant Mountain ’round these parts, in search of what it might teach me.

It was chilly as I started up the Bald Peak Trail. Beside the stream, I thought about its life-giving capacity.

mountain stream

 tear-shaped droplet

It wasn’t only the stream that was wet. The leaves were covered in droplets that acted as a hand lens–offering a closer look at the structure.

Sue's sign

Sue’s Way is about .7 up Bald Peak. For all my treks up The Mountain, I’ve never tried her way. I don’t know Sue and had no idea what to expect.

Sue's Way 1

It begins in a beech grove. As I continued, the beech and oak leaves were so thick that I couldn’t identify the trail, and sometimes had to pause and search for the next orange blaze. It slowed me down and made me pay attention.

Beech on Sue's 1

Especially to things like this old beech. I knelt beside it, praying the wind wouldn’t decide this was the moment to shout timber, and realized the tree was hollow in the center. Somehow, with a minimum bit of sapwood under what’s left of the outer bark, this fella made enough food to leaf out. To keep on giving even when  times are tough.

beech on Sue's 2

Its leaves looked a bit worse for wear, but they exist. This beech is. So am I.

Sue's Way 2

The community soon changed and I followed a stream bed where water flowed below the rocks.

evergreen wood fern

An enchanted valley–I was in the land of the evergreen ferns. Evergreen Wood Fern (Dryopteris intermedia)–first downward pointing pinnule on the lowest pinna is shorter than the pinnule next to it. Huh? In fern terms: a fern frond consists of the blade and stipe or stalk;  a blade is the leafy part of one frond; each blade is divided into separate leaflets or pinna; and the pinna may be divided into smaller leaflets called pinnules.

Evergreen wood fern 2

I didn’t mention the rachis–that’s the stalk within the blade. So take a look at the rachis and the first set of pinnae. The one on the right is a big ragged, but on the left, you should see that the first downward-pointing pinnule is shorter than the second.

marginal wood fern

Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis) also flourishes here. Its margins are smooth, where as the Evergreen’s are toothed and have bristle tips.

marginal wood fern 2

I found some that were fertile, with their round sori located near the margin–thus the common name.

evergreen & marginal

In some spots, they grow so close to each other, that they seem to be the same plant. Not so–Evergreen Wood on the left and Marginal Wood on the right. Teachable moment.

polypody

Polypody also grows abundantly, giving the rocks a green head of tussled hair.

 Ski Slope sign

At last I reached the next intersection and took a quick trip out to the Shawnee Peak ski slopes.

lifts 3

It won’t be long. I thought about my guy who raced yesterday in the Moose Pond Half Marathon, a fundraiser that benefits the Shawnee Peak Adaptive Ski Program. I’m so proud of him for finishing the race in 1:56:44, four minutes faster than his time last year, and for placing first in his age group (last year he was second). Not only that, but he raised $550 for the cause.

ice on leaves

Back on the trail, heading along the North Ridge, I realized that the leaves made a louder crackling sound–ice. Winter will come again.

north ridge pines

The North Ridge, with its white and red pines towering above and blueberries and sheep laurel below, has always been one of my favorite spots.

speckled alder

gray birch

What I didn’t realize is that speckled alders and gray birches also manage to live in this neighborhood.

ridge 2

I was no longer following Sue’s Way, but trust she looped around the North Ridge often. My journey took me in the opposite direction than is my norm at this point, so it was fun to view the mountain ridge and see the fire tower halfway across–my destination.

snow snow 2

Look what I found when I moved onto the Bald Peak Trail to follow the ridge line: SNOW!

looking for a home

And a parachute that flew in on the breeze. Perhaps this will grow into a healthy milkweed and the monarchs will find it. Hope is eternal.

 Mt W 2

At the summit, I couldn’t have asked for a crisper view of Mount Washington.

Mt. W 2

Like our mountain, Mount Washington always gives us a sense of location. But it provides more than that. Beauty and splendor. Awe and wonder.

beetle bark tunnels

man tunnels

Hiking down the Ledges Trail, I noticed the hieroglyphic work of bark beetles on one tree, and human beetles on another. I prefer the former, but this goes to show that natural and human forces constantly change what is before us.

black knot

And then I came to black knot fungus on a cherry tree. In a previous post, I identified a growth on a cherry tree as black knot and a friend corrected me. I wasn’t sure he was right, but turns out he was. What I saw previously was the casing of tent caterpillars–not black knot. Thanks to Alan S. for pointing that out. I still have a lot to learn. Thank goodness.

beaver pond:

A glistening Beaver Pond in Denmark offered a brilliant reflection of this cool, crisp day.

As I continued to descend, I was ever mindful of the leaves beneath my feet. They weren’t so wet on this trail, but still slippery. I was wallowing in my good luck as I neared the road, when the earth reached up to grab me. A rock actually. Maybe two rocks. I landed with a thud. A young couple didn’t see me go down, but they heard me. I stood up and shook it off, though I can tell you right now exactly where my body made contact. Humbling for sure. It’s not my first fall. And I hope it won’t be my last. Not that I want to fall again, but I don’t want a fall to prevent me from hiking.

Five point two miles later I was back on Mountain Road and still had a mile and a half to walk before reaching my truck, which I’d left at the other trailhead.

No matter how often I climb The Mountain, I come away a better person for time spent enjoying moments in its presence.

Work We Must Mondate

Today was a day made for some writing/editing work and yard work, but . . . my guy and I managed to squeeze in a hike–yesterday.

Last week, our friend, Dick B., excitedly shared with us a hiking location we’d never explored–Notch Mountain in Porter. He had recently walked the trail with the Denmark Mountain Hikers, a local group that ventures off each Friday.

So it was, we followed Dick’s directions and drove to Porter in search of the trailhead. An easy miss, but we spied the wood kiln he spoke of as we drove past it and turned around at the Hiram town line, knowing we’d gone too far. Backtracking, the trailhead was across from Clemons Point Road and the kiln.

.Notch sign

The sign–about twenty feet in from the road. Unassuming to say the least.

Notch trail wet

As we played dodge the water and looked at the slayed trees, we turned to each other and grimaced. What was Dick thinking?

Notch foundation 1

But we journeyed on and the muckiness abated. Then, this foundation practically jumped out at us.

Notch foundation 2

We weren’t sure exactly what we were looking at, but felt that this was a large house and there was either an attached barn or large shed, or the other structure was located quite close to the house.

Notch fdn bricks

Buried beneath the leaves, bricks indicated a chimney on an outside wall.

Notch tool shed?

We discovered what may have been a tool shed–a separate, three-sided room.

Notch farm remnantNotch plow 2

Indeed, we even found a few tools, including a plow, which became significant as we continued to explore along the trail.

Notch fdn feather:wedge

In the barn foundation, I like how one stone is wedged between the other two. It offers a reflection of how these rocks came to be in this place. The minerals, like quartz and feldspar, that are an essential part of granite’s make-up, interlock like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The end result: granite is one of the strongest and most durable rocks.

Using the plug and feather method practiced in the 19th century, small holes were hand drilled every six or seven inches across the stone. Two shims, called feathers, were placed in the hole and a wedge or plug was hammered between them. The farmer probably built this house in the winter when his farming duties weren’t as plentiful. And by drilling then, ice formed in the holes and helped to complete the work of splitting the granite. He and his family would have used a stone boat or sledge pulled by oxen to move the stones into place.

Notch mound of stones

A little further along, we came upon a massive wall of medium-size stones. This farmer must have cleared many, many acres, thus producing an incredible stone potato crop. And then moved them all so he could plow. My fingers twinge and my back hurts just thinking about all the work involved–makes our yard work look so easy.

Notch trail

On either side of the trail were stone walls, indicating this was more than a logging road at one point in time.

Notch big rocks

Throughout the woods, we found more piles of rocks, some with small stones and others, like this with medium-size stones. Rather than quilting bees, this family must have enjoyed stone bees–an exercise to remove as many stones from the ground as possible.

Notch wall:gnarly old maple

The stone wall frenzy is evidenced all along the trail. Sometimes double-wide garden walls, and other times single walls, also called farmer or pasture walls that were built as boundaries, and to keep animals from destroying crops.

Notch cemetery

Dick had mentioned the Wormwood cemetery, but we were still surprised when we happened upon it.

Notch grave 2

Charles B. Fly

b. Jun. 20, 1828; d. Oct. 27, 1860

Notch grave 1

Mehitable Wormwood

b. Oct. 16, 1825; d. Nov. 27, 1851

Notch, stone 4

Lydia Jane Osgood Wormwood

b. 1826; d. Dec. 27, 1851

Notch, stone 3

Rosanna Warren Wormwood, 2nd wife of Ithamar Wormwood

b. Oct., 1791; d. Feb. 28, 1856

Notch, 2 stones

Hannah and Ithamar Wormwood (b. May 29, 1791; d. Jul. 16, 1865). Two-year-old Jason Fly was also buried here.

Apparently the Flys were related to the Wormwoods, which makes sense. I suspect that there are other foundations to be discovered, but I was with my guy–Mr. Destinationitis, and so we continued toward the summit.

Notch glacier

As we climbed, we noticed glacial striations on rocks (aka snowmobile etchings),

Notch, beech contortionist

beech trees that think they are contortionists,

Notch oaks

and a mix of white and Northern red oak leaves.

Notch summit 1

Then the summit came into view.

Notch stop sign

Thank goodness for the faded stop sign

Notch summit fairy

and the fairy who watches over all who step too close to the edge.

Notch view

As the rain clouds gathered, we ate our PB&J sandwiches, this time topped off with Halloween candy and views of Clemons and Little Clemons ponds.

Notch, burnt meadow and pleasant

Burnt Meadow Mountain and Pleasant Mountain formed the backdrop.

We hiked down among rain drops, but the sun shone once we arrived home.

mansion, hunter and hunted

I was restless and didn’t want to deal with yard work, so I went for a walk and came upon evidence of the hunter and the hunted.

Today, while our work continued, I had the opportunity to escape to Pondicherry Park for a stewardship committee meeting–now that’s my idea of a great meeting place.

snowman

On my way, this guy reminded me that the next season is right around the corner (literally).

Pondicherry Reflection

And in the park–still plenty of color to reflect upon.

We know we have to work, whether to earn a living or maintain a home, but we do love our opportunities to explore new and old places. Thanks for sharing this one with us, Dick. It warrants further exploration to wander and wonder.

Three-Season Mondate at Back Pond Reserve

OK, so it wasn’t three seasons all packed into one Monday date, but walking up the   Mountain Trail at GLLT’s Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham today brought back memories of previous visits by my guy and me.

yellow

The woods are awash in golden-green yellows right now, especially where the trees include beech, big-tooth aspen and striped maple.

a dose of red

Climbing higher, variations of red join the carpet display.

summit 3 of 5 Kezars

We were surprised by how quickly we reached the summit, which is what got us recalling previous visits.  Today, the water of three of the Five Kezars sparkled while Pleasant Mountain stood watch in the background.

summit, summersummit, winter

As I looked through my photo files, I realized we have never hiked this trail in the spring. In the summer there are wildflowers to make us pause, and winter finds us exploring mammal activity–thus our treks are slower.

summit, Mt Washington

Today’s view included snow on Mount Washington, the grayish-white mountain located between the pines.

Ganong chocolates

As we enjoyed the view, we topped off our PB&J sandwiches with the last couple of truffles we had purchased at Ganong Chocolatier in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, earlier this month.

water bottle 2

And water, of course.

which way do we go?

Instead of letting the arrows confuse us, we turned 180˚ and followed the connector trail between the Mountain and Ron’s Loop. It’s not on the map yet and still needs some work, but it’s full of surprises–only a few of which I’ll share right now.

winter, connecting trail

We’ve always enjoyed this trail and today realized that though it’s much easier to follow than it was a few years ago, many trees have blown down along the way.

numerous trees 2

They’re easy enough to climb over. If you go, do know that there are two or three mucky spots along this trail as well, but again, easy to get around.

lone red pine, connecting trailred pine, winter

This lone red pine always makes us wonder. Perhaps it found its way here via a seed on a skidder?

winter bobcat prints

Today we found moose tracks, plus red fox and coyote scat. If there was bobcat scat, it was obscured by the leaf litter, but we know they frequent this area.

winter, snowshoe hare

We also know the bobcat’s favorite meal lives here–we saw this guy in early March and of course, always see his prints on winter treks.

artist's conkcrowded parchment, connecting trail

Lion's Mane past peak

A couple of fun finds along the way–artist’s conk, crowded parchment and an old lion’s mane.

the bridge on Ron's Loop

winter, the bridge at Ron's Loop

The bridge on Ron’s Loop is all decked out with autumn colors–a contrast to its winter coat.

honoring Ron

We’re forever thankful to Ron for his leadership and foresight,

bench on Ron's Loop

even when we can’t see the plaque that honors him.

Kendra and Jewell

We met no other people on the trail today, but one of my fondest memories dates back two years when one of GLLT’s interns, Kendra, offered her arm to Jewell for a safe journey. Once upon a time, Jewell was Kendra’s Sunday School teacher and on this summer day, Kendra was Jewell’s guide.

water bottle by Ron's Loop

As we walked into the parking area of Ron’s Loop, we noticed that someone had left behind a water bottle. If it’s yours, it’s still there.   wasp nest Ron's Loop

Each time we visit, we take a moment to check out the wasp nest at the kiosk.

Ron's Loop kiosk, Jan 2015

We can’t remember when we first noticed it, but it’s been there for a while.

coffee sign

One last thing to note before we walked back to the Mountain trailhead where our truck was parked–Magnolia coffee. Wish I’d ordered more than one this past year. Dark roast.

One Mondate–three seasons. And now the quest is to turn it into a four-season destination. Stay tuned.