Carving Time

Summer arrived through the back door as we walked out the front on our way to the Raymond Community Forest for a lunch hike. We’d last hiked the property conserved by Loon Echo Land Trust on a fall Mondate and were curious about its offerings in a different season. That and we knew it would be a quick venture, which would serve us well today.

p-false solomon seal

The minute we stepped out of the truck, we were greeted by the cheerful cluster of flowers spraying forth from the tip of a False Solomon’s Seal. I immediately reminded my guy that I’d be taking photos, like he needed to hear it again. But really, it was too hot to move fast and we were thankful for the shaded route. I don’t think our blood has thinned yet as only a week ago we wore several layers.

p-maple leaf viburnum 1

One of the blessings of such a habitat is maple-leaved viburnum, with at least one already sporting flowers about to open, plus last year’s dangling fruits. We weren’t the only ones happy to view it up close, a pollinator already at work.

p-spider web 2

A bit off the trail, the sun shone through the canopy, casting rays of light upon spider works worth noticing.

p-hop hornbeam

Though not long in length, the trail provided some upward movement that got the heart ticking. And tickled my fancy along the way for some of its trees like the hop hornbeam, which prefers rich soils and often is found on warm slopes. It also made me chuckle to see that this was the tree chosen for the trail blaze. Given the hardness of the wood, it couldn’t have been easy to pound in the nail.

p-scarlet waxy cap 2

Most flowers had either already bloomed or are still to come. But we found a fruit of another kind–its waxy cap shining brightly at our feet.

p-scarlet waxy cap 1

The shiny bright tops of the scarlet waxy caps were hard to miss in a couple of spots.

p-scarlet gills

But even more attractive were the gills below with their arched formation and orangy-yellow coloration.

p-grass 1

As we approached the summit, the understory changed from woodland shrubs and much leaf cover to grass, bracken ferns and wild sarsaparilla–a signature to the forest’s past life before the trees grew tall.

p-signs 2

Last fall, we got mixed up at one point along the Highlands Loop, but today we noted how well marked the entire trail system was. And so, when we reached these signs, we turned right and headed to the bluff.

p-lunch view

Stopping briefly for a water break, we rejoiced in the breeze and realized that we’d dealt with nary a mosquito.

p-lady's slipper 2

Next, we decided to travel the Highland Loop in the opposite direction we’d followed in the fall. Being my guy, he was often far ahead, but then would find a stump or rock to sit patiently and wait. And while he waited, he noticed things. I love that for it’s not his intention to gawk about every flower or leaf, but he does see. So it was, that the only lady’s slipper we curtseyed to today was across from one of his perches.

p-trail work

Overall, the trail was well-maintained, but my guy did offer a hand by moving a recently fallen tree out of the way.

p-trail work 2

I told him he’d earn brownie points for his efforts. Perhaps I should bake him some brownies.

p-beech flowers 1

Today’s lesson came along the loop. And I’m still not sure I completely understand for this was the first time that I recall such a sight. But there are so many firsts in my life and once I’m finally aware of something, it seems to appear everywhere as if it had been there all along. Because . . . it had. Confused? Me too. I found these beech flowers on a tree that stood about two or three feet tall. I can’t recall ever seeing flowers on such a small beech before. And I know they have to be about 40 years old before they produce fruit. Beech can grow for a long time in the understory, but could such a short tree be so old? Did this tree not read the books? Do beech trees put energy into producing flowers that won’t be viable? Do I need to contact my district forester for a better understanding? Yes. Fortunately, he doesn’t mind when I pick his brain. And obviously, I have much to learn.

(NOTE: As promised, I contacted our district forester for the Maine Forest Service, Shane Duigan. Here’s what he had to say: “Hi Leigh, Those are good questions. The easy answer is, no, the trees never read the books. Beyond that, it is possible that such a little shoot could be 40 years old but more likely it is a root sprout–a young shoot arising from an old root system. Beech stumps sprout readily when cut and beech trees also produce root sprouts as a result of stress or physical damage to roots. In that scenario, though the shoot appears too young to flower, the organism (root system) is old enough to flower. Does that all make sense?” Yes, Shane–that does make sense. Another lesson learned.)

p-basswood bark and leaves

After wondering so long before the beech tree, I had to pick up my pace. But that only lasted for a bit because another of my favorite trees that also likes the richness of the soil stood tall beside the trail. I couldn’t resist running my hands over the smooth sections of bark on the basswood (linden) and admire the leaves already big on an offshoot below.

p-grassy field at summit

We knew we were completing the loop and approaching the trail to the bluff when the understory once again turned to grass.

p-bluff view 2

From the same rock where we’d taken our earlier water break, we sat for lunch as we looked out at Crescent Lake and across to Rattlesnake Mountain.

p-white oaks blowing in breeze

The wind continued to blow, causing the leaves to swish and sway with its language.


On our descent I spied various plants including a small patch of bedstraw not yet in flower.

p-cranefly 2

And because I was looking down, a cranefly couldn’t escape my focus.


It didn’t take us long to descend on the path carved by others along the side of Pismire Mountain. In the end, though we wanted to venture on the Spiller Homestead trail that is part of the forest, we had to head home. My guy has worked way too many hours this week, including all day yesterday and again this afternoon, on this, his weekend off, due to a customer appreciation sale that this year benefited the Lions Club (each year a different local charity is the beneficiary). But . . . we were thankful we carved out some time to be together doing what we most love to do.


Everybody Loves Raymond? Mondate

My guy and I were up for an adventure this morning as we headed off to a property recently acquired by Loon Echo Land Trust. I’d been there once before, but at that time there was no trail system and I certainly hadn’t climbed to the summit.


We were on a 356-acre property bisected by a paved road. First, we hiked the upper section, passing through a hardwood forest.


Immediately, I realized we were in the presence of one of my favorites–noted for the mitten-ish presentation of its leaves. One would have to be all thumbs to fit into this mitten, but still, my heart hums whenever I spy a white oak.


Or in this case, many white oaks, some exhibiting the wine color of their fall foliage.


And the bark–a blocky look that differs greatly . . .


from the ski trail ridges of red oak.


Hop Hornbeam also grows abundantly in this forest.


As we neared the summit, we noticed that the sky view had a yellowish tone reflected by the ground view. Most trees were of the same age due to past logging efforts, but the predominant species was sugar maple.


Another favorite tree also grew abundantly here. I think they are also favorites because I don’t see them as often. In this case, the bark, though furrowed and ridged like a northern red oak, featured an almost combed flattened ridge.


And its leaves–oh my! Notice the asymmetrical base? And the length–my boot is size 8. American basswood–an important timber tree that is known to share the community with sugar maples and hornbeams–all of which provided that yellow glow.


At last, we reached the vantage point.


Above us, a mix of colors and species.


Before us, a mix of white and red oak leaves.


And beyond us, the view of Crescent Lake


and Rattlesnake Mountain.


While we admired the view, ladybird beetles (aka ladybugs) swarmed us. Well, not exactly in swarm formation, but more than is the norm.


After admiring the view for a while and wondering about the ladybirds, we backtracked a bit and decided to explore the green trail, assuming that it looped about the summit.


The trail conditions changed constantly, and one thing we realized was that the leaves had dried out and we wished we could have bottled their scent along with our crispy footfall as we trudged through–the smells and sounds associated with autumn.


Eventually, we entered a beech commune and what to my wondering eyes should appear–bear claw marks? We ventured closer, circled the tree and looked at others in the neighborhood before determining that our eyes had perhaps played a trick on us.


That was OK because within seconds a twig moved at our feet.


We watched as its tongue darted in and out, red tipped with a black fork.


Finally, we moved back to what we’d named Ladybird Lookout and found lunch rock where we topped off sandwiches with Bailey’s Irish Cream fudge a la Megan and Becky Colby. Life is good. Life is very good. (And we know a town in western Maine that would benefit greatly from a bakery–just saying, Megan!)


After lunch, we climbed back down and crossed Conesca Road to check out trails on the other side. There is no trail map just yet, but we never got lost. And we appreciated the artwork nature created of manmade marks.


This space offered a different feel where hardwoods combined with softwoods. And more stonewalls crossed the property, speaking to past uses.


It’s here that we noticed an area demarked by pink flags and stopped to wonder why. Note to self–excavated hole and debris mean beware.


Upon closer examination, an old hive. So who dug it up? We had our suspicions.


We also noticed a fungi phenomena.


Fungi on fungi? Honey mushrooms attacked by something else?


The displays were large


and otherworldly. I don’t recall ever seeing this before.

I sent the photos to Parker and Jimmie Veitch, of White Mountain Mushrooms, and Jimmie responded with this explanation:

“That’s what mycologists call “rosecomb” mutation, where a mushroom’s gills start forming on the cap in a really mutated fashion. It’s been reported in many mushroom species but I haven’t seen it in this one (Armillaria AKA honey mushrooms). As far as I know, no secondary fungus is involved.

The suspected cause (not so nice) is ‘hydrocarbons, phenols and other compounds contaminating the casing or contacting the mushroom surface. Diesel oil, exhaust from engines, and petroleum-based pesticides are thought to be the principal source.'”


As we concluded our visit, we passed over one more stone wall decorated with red maple leaves.


And then we hopped into the truck and traveled a couple of miles south to conquer another small mountain–one visible to us from Ladybird Lookout. (I really think LELT should name it such.)


Here the milkweed plants grew abundantly.


In the field leading to the trail, the property owners planted white oak saplings in hopes of providing food for wildlife. Um, by the same token, they’d enclosed the saplings in plastic sleeves (reminding us of our findings in Ireland) to keep deer at bay.


The understory differed and ferns offered their own autumn hues.


In contrast were the many examples of evergreen wood ferns.


We soon realized that quite literate bears frequented this path and announced their presence.


At last, the view opened and we looked back at the opposite shore of Crescent Lake, though realizing that our earlier ascent was masked by the trees.


Turning about, Panther Pond came into view.

We’d spent the day embracing Raymond because everybody loves Raymond.



Raymond, Maine, that is. Loon Echo Land Trust is gearing up to celebrate the Raymond Community Forest that we explored this morning and the Bri-Mar Trail up Rattlesnake Mountain has long been traveled by many. In fact, when I used to write copy for the local chamber of commerce, I spent some time learning about Edgar Welch, who was the fastest man on foot and ran up Mount Washington at least once a year. He lived in Raymond and worked for David McLellan, who was partially blind from a Civil War injury. Because Mr. McLellan’s farm was at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain, the sun would set one hour earlier than elsewhere in town. According to legend, after work each day Edgar ran up the mountain and moved rocks. Finally, he’d moved enough to let the sun shine on the farm for an hour longer. Another story has it that one day a man bet Edgar that he could beat him in a race to Portland. The man would race with his horse and buggy, while Edgar ran. When the opponent pulled into the city, Edgar was waiting for him. I love local lore.

And everybody loves Raymond. Well, my guy and I certainly gained a better appreciation for this town today.