Bear to Beer: Rumford Whitecap on Memorial Day

It had been a couple of years since we’d hiked Rumford Whitecap together. As we drove north we recalled summer, fall and winter adventures on the loop trail, but never spring. And so today, we rectified that.

The 761-acre Rumford Whitecap Mountain Preserve was purchased by the Mahoosuc Land Trust in 2007. Our preferred route is to hike up the Orange/Red Trail and descend via the Starr Trail denoted by yellow blazes.

As we ascended, we chatted about our relatives and friends who had and do serve in the Armed Forces, including grandparents, dads, uncles, my brother-in-law, cousins, friends, and classmates.

Memorial Day was always special in our home growing up as my hometown celebrated with a parade that sometimes featured my siblings, neighbors, and me. Before it became a Monday holiday, it was celebrated the day before my mom’s birthday, so we always noted that the parade was held in her honor. And furthermore, her younger brother died in WWII, so it was a celebration of his service and life. I noted today that I only have known him all these years through photographs of a handsome young man, and stories of his youthful adventures.

Because we were chatting and spending much of our time looking at the ground to avoid tripping on rocks or roots, the trail passed quickly under our feet. Suddenly, I realized we were in an area of mature American Beech trees and so I started to search the bark on our never ending quest of bear claw marks. Two seconds later and bingo–I spotted one tree with a couple and then together we found another with many scars made by the bear’s long, sharp claws.

Some were older than others, and it appeared that during the mast beechnut year we had two and three years ago, this tree had been climbed several times.

We felt instant satisfaction for our efforts and continued to look as we followed the trail to the summit. But . . . we never found another.

That was okay as there was much more to see including the fluttering petals of Serviceberry or Eastern Shadbush, a shrub that loves the understory. According to Dr. Michael L. Cline’s Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest, the names Serviceberry and Shadbush “refers to early flowering corresponding to the time that those departed in winter could be interred and when anadromous shad returned to major rivers in spring.”

The natural community changes several times on this mountain, like many, and eventually it thins into a bald with islands of lichens, Black Crowberry, Alpine Bilberry, Lowbush Blueberry, Leatherleaf, Sheep Laurel, and . . . Red Pines. The summit is host to one of the largest Red Pine communities in the state–some dwarfed by the wind that flows across the granite daily.

Others standing tall in their military stature.

The wind was welcome as we continued up the granite pegmatite, and then a deposit appeared before our eyes and we knew we were indeed in the right place for this Mondate–Black Bear scat. By its color and texture, it was obvious that Ursus americanus had dined on the organ meat of a hairy critter. Too much information, I’m sure, but consider the wildness of it all.

Given all the blueberry blossoms, we suspect Ursus will return. Be ye forewarned.

At the summit, it’s always fun to find a survey monument-–the bronze disks used by surveyors since 1879 for mapping purposes.

From there (lunch rock–why does PB&J always taste so good when one hikes?) we took in the view toward Black Mountain in the near beyond,

Rumford in the valley below,

and several ridges covered with wind turbines. I’m of two minds on this topic–the old wishy-washy self that I am. In Canada, wind turbines are located across the landscape and even as we hiked the Cape Mabou trails on Cape Breton Island a few years ago, we stood below one and listened to its airplane engine-like sound, but we didn’t hear it until we were quite close. I actually think they are quite beautiful as they turn–ballet of a sort.

At last it was time to get out of the chilly wind and begin our descent. If you look closely, you might spot Sunday River with a wee bit of snow still on the ski trails. But . . . you have to look closely (Faith–I’m talking to you!)

It was on the way down the bald peak that I noticed the pompoms of several Tamarack (Larch) trees–because we don’t meet on an every day basis, they always bring a smile to my face.

We slipped from the Orange/Red trail to the Starr and found Rhodora beginning to bloom–its magenta buds bursting with pride prior to its leaves.

Pollination was happening everywhere we turned, including by Hover Flies becoming familiar with Pin Cherries.

The trail down was sometimes wooded and other times granite. As I was about to step up onto one slab, a mottled design captured my attention. It would have been easy to overlook for so well did it blend in–even seeming to mimic green lichen. But . . . it was a moth that hugged the stone face.

Soon after I made a curious observation. Colonies of Painted Trillium greeted us several times, but always at a higher elevation. I know they grow low, for I’ve encountered them many times, but it had to be a soil consideration that I don’t yet understand that caused such behavior.

Those that we saw had not yet been pollinated for their petals were not translucent . . . a give-away trait.

Further down the trail, we began to meet patches of Stinking Ben, aka Red Trillium.

There were also selections of White Quartz to admire.

And tiny Bluets that edged the lower pathway. Red, White, and Blue.

Being a Bear to Beer, we honored the hike and the day with a few sips at Sunday River Brewing Company in Bethel before heading home.

But really, the sight that best represented the day was the Red Admiral–red, white, and blue all in one. And an admiral to boot.

Thank you to all who have sacrificed your lives for our country. I did spend much of the day thinking about the peace and freedom that my guy and I enjoy. And the fact that we were surrounded by a variety of colors other than those of the American flag, which made me think of how the American Flag represents so many no matter their color or creed. And wondering why we can’t all agree to get along. We don’t have to like each other, but why can’t we agree to disagree and leave it at that?

Bear to Beer possibilities: Rumford Whitecap on Memorial Day.

Peace be with you.

Mondate with a Quest

My guy and I set off on a quest this morning–not a long and arduous search, but a search none-the-less.

trail sign

The setting for our quest–Rumford Whitecap made possible by the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

selfie hiker

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie at the trailhead.

red maples 1

Though this is a popular trail during blueberry season, we never think of it until fall.

red maple on fire

And this fall is particularly spectacular. The red maples are on fire everywhere we turn.

color quest in water

Our initial quest was two-fold: 1. to hike to the summit, and 2. to absorb as much color into our mind’s eye as we could. The palette will change soon ’round these parts and though we love winter, we relish the dance of color that seems to last only for a fleeting moment.

wet trail

Aptly known as the red/orange trail, we ascended the mountain, ever mindful of the water on the rocks. Along the way, we recalled hikes along this same trail much later in the season, when crampons were a necessity.

whitecap:black sign

Though an option presented itself, we stuck to our quest for the summit of Whitecap. We’re saving Black Mountain for another day.

color quest

color quest tapestry

As we moved out of the woods and onto the bald ledges, the tapestry revealed itself.

color quest 2

Splashes of blueberry plants and sheep laurel grace the granite landscape.

color quest 3

No matter where we turned, color begged to be captured.

getting closer to the summit

The whitecap at the top of this photo is not the summit, but our destination was getting closer with each footstep.

caterpillar quest

We weren’t the only ones on a quest. I’m not sure of the species, but this lone caterpillar moved quickly across the bald face.

color quest 4

Finally, we reached the top, where the display was over the top.

geo survey

It’s always fun to find the survey monument–bronze disks used by surveyors since 1879 for mapping purposes.

Andover 2

In the middle of this photo are the larger-than-life satellite dishes located in Andover. When I was a kid and we vacationed in Maine, our parents took us to the Andover Earth Station. It was one of the first satellite stations in the USA, built in 1961 with the Telstar 1 satellite–an experimental link between North America and Europe. The Telstar Bubble, which housed the immense horn antenna, was taken down in the 1990s.

wind turbines

For the past few years, these wind turbines have been visible. Today, we noticed two other ridges decorated with turbines. I’m of two minds on this topic–the old wishy washy self that I am. In Canada,  wind turbines are located across the landscape and even as we hiked the Cape Mabou trails on Cape Breton Island last week, we stood below one and listened to its airplane engine-like sound, but we didn’t hear it until we were quite close. I actually think they are quite beautiful as they turn–ballet of a sort.

view toward Rumford

In the midst of the mountains, a peek at Rumford.

my guy napping

lunch exploration

After our usual PB&J, I explored further along the ridge while my guy napped. You might be able to spot him in the center of the top photo. Of course, he did run this morning before hiking–he’s training for the Moose Pond Half Marathon, a race that raises $$$ for the Maine Adaptive Ski Program at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton.

summit wait

It was a short nap–given that it was on a bed of rock.

color quest descent 2

We hiked down the Starr trail, where our color quest found further fulfillment.

color quest descent 3

color quest descent

Simply stunning.

climbing down 2

As we descended, we switched from one community to another.

changed community

Sometimes, it was the bracken fern that lit the way.

color quest descent golden

Other times, the sugar and striped maples cast a bright light.

prints

We took only photos and memories, and left only footprints–mine on the left, his on the right.

Before our Mondate ended, we decided an ice cream was in order. We hike so we can eat. This turned out to be the more arduous part of our quest–hiking 6 or so miles was a cinch in hindsight. A drive through Bethel revealed no ice cream shops. We continued on Route 2 for a bit and found one hopeful spot, but it had closed an hour earlier. My mouth was watering for a peppermint stick hot fudge sundae–with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Half an hour later, with my tongue hanging out, we stopped at Melby’s in North Waterford. After purchasing a pint of Hagen Daz chocolate (not a sundae, but sometimes you just have to make do), we turned and my dear friend Ursula Duve appeared before our eyes. She was on her own ice cream quest. I had the pleasure of introducing her to my guy and he instantly fell in love. As we chatted about our outdoor adventures, Ursula gave us this advice, “For as long as you can do it, do it.” Well, maybe those weren’t her exact words–after all, I did have ice cream on my brain–but they’re mighty close to  it. She and her husband have hiked many more trails than we’ll ever conquer, but we’re thankful for the opportunity to wander together as often as we can–especially on a Mondate.

ice cream quest

We finished that pint in record time. It was arduous, but someone or two had to do  it.

selfie 1 smiley face

A Mondate with  quest or two or three–always brings a smile to our faces.