Connecting the Dots

We thought we were so smart. A friend had drawn a map in the snow last week to show me the location of an alternate trailhead for Peary Mountain in Brownfield, Maine, and spoke of a round-trip hike that would include Frost Mountain. A quick look at a map in our worn and torn Delorme Gazeteer and we knew exactly where we were going–until we didn’t. We soon discovered that the gate and sign I’d been told about didn’t exist and the road turned 90˚ to the left and eventually became impassable and so we turned around and paused again at the sharp turn and wondered some more and drove back out to the main road and continued on to another road and looked for other possible trailheads that appeared on the road map and turned around again and returned to that sharp turn and parked the truck and slipped on our micro-spikes.

p1-Peary Mtn Road sign

It was worth a try we decided. The name was right though it looked less like a road and more like a snowmobile trail. No matter, we figured we’d give it a whirl and if nothing else, at least we’d enjoy exploring.

p2-wetland below mountains

Almost immediately, we spied two mountains above a wetland and wondered if those were the two summits we sought. We’d never looked at Peary from what we considered the back side before, since all of our previous experiences had been from Farnsworth Road off of Routes 5/113.

p3-trail

The road was quite icy and it had been more than a few days since any snowmobiles had passed by.

p5-trail sign

Eventually we came to a snowmobile sign, looked around for a map that I thought my friend had mentioned, and decided to begin with a journey up the Peary Mountain Trail.

p7-trailing arbutus and wintergreen

Conditions were such where previous logging had left the southwestern side open to the sun’s powerful rays and so in places the snow had melted and wildflowers such as trailing arbutus and winterberry basked in the warmth.

p8-Peary Mtn basement

We continued on up, hopeful that we were on the right path, when a familiar foundation confirmed our location. It’s directly across from this foundation that the Peary Mountain trail makes a 90˚ turn–in the past the turn had always been to the left, but yesterday’s turn was to the right. That is, after we noted that my guy should probably encourage the homeowners to purchase a sump pump, so full was their cellar.

p9-trail sign

If you do approach from Peary Mountain Road, you’ll only see a tad of the back of this sign. And if you come from Farnsworth Road, again, it’s not very obvious. But, for both, the turn is located at the height of land . . . and directly across from the foundation.

p10-Peary view 1

The hike to the bald summit isn’t difficult and offers the best of views on any day, but especially in the fall when the tapestry of color stretches forever–or at least to the White Mountains in the distance.

p11-Mount Washington

Yesterday, the view of Mount Washington was obscured by clouds, but we could see that even there the snow was receding.

p13-Mountain view

We stood for a bit, taking in the scene to the west.

p14-Mountain views

And to the north.

p15-across the ridge

And then we followed the ridge, certain that at the end we’d slip onto another trail we’ve never traveled before and begin to make the loop to Frost Mountain.

p16-Pleasant Mtn, Brownfield Bog

Just before slipping onto that other trail, we had one more view to partake–Brownfield Bog and the Saco River were backdropped by Pleasant Mountain.

Well, we followed that other trail for a while, but realized that rather than going toward Frost Mountain, we were moving further and further away from it. And so . . . we backtracked and rose once again to the summit of Peary and retraced our steps down.

p17-another foundation

We were disappointed, except that we knew we would return. And as often happens when following the same trail, we made new discoveries, including an L-shaped foundation.

p19-well

And then I spied a circular sunken formation subtly outlined with rocks and trusted it was a well.

p19-third foundation

Bingo. For behind it was another foundation, the largest we saw.

p20-day 2-red pines

And so late this morning we returned. But first, we looked for maps in our hiking books and online and found only those created by the local snowmobile club. We had a copy that dated to 2011 and decide to bring it along. We also copied a portion of the map from the Delorme Gazeteer–just in case.

Upon our return, we remembered to pause at the beginning of the trail and take note of the red pine cathedral. Brownfield is a town that knew the fury of the wildfires of October 1947. Most homes and public buildings were mere piles of ash the day after the fire. Many stately places including the summer home and laboratory of Dr. Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed.

Red pines were planted in reaction and today they stand tall in honor of that event of just over seventy years ago.

p21-water flowed

Our plan today was to follow the same route to the turn off for Frost Mountain. And so we did. This time the snow and ice were softer and mud a constant as snow melted and streams formed.

p21-ruffed grouse scat

One of the things we noted yesterday was a lack of mammal prints. But today made up for that and we found plenty of deer tracks in mud and snow. And then, a pile of bird scat–left behind by a ruffed grouse who had probably plowed into the snow when it was a couple of feet thick and spent the night, leaving behind its signature.

p22-kill site

We also found a kill site with no tracks leading to or fro and so we thought a bird had eaten another bird. The circle of life continued in the Maine woods.

p23-fisher prints

A bit further up the trail we spied weasel prints–left behind by a fisher, the meanest of mean. Notice the teardrop shaped toes and diagonal positioning.

p22-sweet fern

We were distracted (or at least I was) by sculptures a many, including those created by sweet-fern.

p24-another foundation

My guy was also distracted and spied an opening in the woods.

p25-fourth foundation

It was another L-shaped cellar. And nearby were what would have been some outbuildings and possibly even a mill. Along most of today’s trail we encountered one stone wall after another, some single and others double.

I don’t know how to decipher stone that’s known fire, but hope one of these days to be able to make that interpretation. In the meantime we wondered–why had these homes been abandoned. Did they burn? I did later note that homesteads in the area belonged to the Johnsons, Grays and other families in the 1880s.

p28-confusing signs

Though we continued on, we really had no idea where we were going and hoped that we had made the right decision with the intention of reaching the summit of Frost Mountain. But, even if we didn’t, we were delighted with our finds. And confused by the signs.

p29-Pleasant Mtn behind us

And then, we started to climb. I turned around as we moved upward and noted our beloved Pleasant Mountain behind us.

p29-summit at lasst

And finally–success. We’d reached the summit of Frost Mountain.

p30-looking toward Peary

About 300 feet below, we had a view from the ledge, but it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as that on Peary Mountain, which my guy looked toward. It was hardly visible from where we stood.

p32-Burnt Meadow Mountain

From the summit, we followed a loop around, pausing to take in the view of Burnt Meadow Mountain.

p33-Brownfield below

And the town of Brownfield below. As the historical society likes to proclaim, “Brownfield’s still here.” Indeed.

p34--my heart bleeds blue pine sap for you

We’d planned to climb Frost and then make our way to Peary, but changed our minds. We’d already climbed Peary yesterday and after finding our way today had a better understanding of the trail system. We also knew that had we made the loop, we’d have walked on Farnsworth Road for over a half mile and then climbed up and down Peary on trails we already knew. Instead, we let our hearts bleed pine blue sap with happiness.

p27-bear prints

Our happiness overflowed when we spied the final set of prints.

p26-bear prints

A black bear. How cool is that? Our second sighting of black bear prints this winter.

We’d connected the dots–even if not literally–and gained a better understanding of the neighborhood and all who live(d) there.

A Generous Wander

When I donated a guided walk to a recent Lakes Environmental Association fundraiser, I was a wee bit nervous. Would anyone bid on it during the silent auction? And who might bid?

Thankfully, Carol notified me right away that she’d been the high bidder and my relief was immediate. I knew we’d have fun and the offer brought in a few bucks for an organization that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. She chose the date, time and location. Plus she got to invite some friends along for the journey.

b-Kathy's sign 1

The chosen place–one of my favorites–Brownfield Bog. We started at the shack, where I pointed out Kathy McGreavy’s tiled map. Of course, they were wowed.

b-heron

And then we followed a short spur from the parking lot for the first view of the bog and a great blue heron flew up and then settled again.

b-buttonbush

It was there that they first viewed a buttonbush. Or at least that it first made its presence known, for I think that so many things we see often and they blend into the landscape until that moment when our eyes are opened–and our minds as well.

b-color 1

We followed another spur and noticed a sampling of fall foliage along the bog’s edge. In our minds it was swamp maple, aka red maple–or so we thought for a bit.

b-interrupted fern

At a fork in the road, Carol, Marylou and Sara chose the left-hand turn and so we entered the land of the ferns. It was here that they began to familiarize themselves with royal, cinnamon, interrupted and sensitive–noting features in their forms to tell them apart. While we walked, and at times we walked quickly for the mosquitoes were ferocious, it was fun for me to listen as they quizzed themselves.

b-meadowsweet

In a field at the end of the road, the spireas bloomed and we looked at the branching structure of meadowsweet with blossoms slowly opening in dainty clusters.

b-Saco River 2

When we reached Pirate’s Cove along the Saco River, we paused for a bit.

b-alder-leaf buckthorn 1

It was there that Sara spotted a shrub I couldn’t identify until I arrived home and slowed my brain down.

alder-leaf buckthorn2

The leaves were alternate and simple, with deep veins. But it was the color that stopped us–for it was a deep green, almost bronze on some. And we’d missed the flowers, but the fruits were spherical and when Sara opened one, she found three seeds. Turns out it was an alder-leaf buckthorn. And as far as I remember, it was the only one we spotted. But . . . as I said earlier, our minds were open and let’s hope it made an impact and the memory  lingers.

b-yellow loosestrife

We finally left the river area and as we started back on the road, they asked me to name a flower. I knew when I said its name I was wrong, but I couldn’t pull the real name out of the depths of my brain. So here ’tis–yellow loosestrife.

b-raccoon prints

Making our way back to the main road through the bog, we saw handprints in the mud and knew a raccoon had passed before.

b-Pleasant Mountain 2

Back at the intersection, we turned left and journeyed on, noticing all the pickerelweed and water lilies at the lower layer and changes in vegetation leading all the way to Pleasant Mountain.

b-meadow rue

It was along this route that we stopped most often, sometimes for things we knew like meadow rue

b-steeplebush

and the other spirea, steeplebush–these presenting several renditions of the same theme.

b-elm

We spied an elm tree and reminisced about elms of the past.

b-willow gall

And then a few willow galls shaped like pinecones called to us. This was a new one for them and though I couldn’t remember that the creator was a midge larva, the gall struck them as being a fruit, especially as we broke it open. Had we opened one in the winter, we might have seen the maggot nestled within a chamber at the center of the structure. In the spring a female midge fly lays a single egg in a terminal bud, initiating the gall formation through a chemical reaction causing the leaf tissue to harden into the shape of scales.

b-maleberry 1

I got stumped again when we kept seeing fruits on long stalks, with last year’s growth among the offering.

b-maleberry fruits 2

Once at home, I spent some more time with Michael L. Cline’s Shrubs of the Northern New England Forest, and realized it was a maleberry.

b-witherrod1

Another shrub that was plentiful throughout our journey was the witherod, aka wild raisin, its fruit ovoid in shape, turning blue as they withered.

b-swamp milkweed 1

Adding a splash of fuchsia along the way, swamp milkweed with its upright umbels.

b-silver maples 1

And then the other color that we’d noticed along the perimeter of the bog earlier and thought was red maples. Turns out those trees are silver maples and the ones with the wettest feet seemed to have already shut down their sugar production, thus allowing anthocyanin to form. This happens when sugar gets trapped in a leaf after the chlorophyll is gone and the leaf is exposed to sunlight–the resulting color being reds and purples.

b-silver maple 3

As hot as the day was, these presented a taste of the future. Some years they seem to turn earlier than others and this seems like one of the early years.

b-three amigos 1

At last we reached a turn-around point and these three amigos posed for a photo–Sara, Carol and Marylou.

b-picking blueberries

Of course, we only walked a few feet on our way back when high bush blueberries begged to be noticed. And gathered. And eaten.

b-carrion flower

Our journey back was much quicker, but still we stopped occasionally. Again I was stumped when one in the party spotted this vine. Turns out its the vine and fruit of carrion flower–one that I had never heard of before. (You know what that means.) According to Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, the green flower is ill-smelling, apparently giving rise to its common name.

b-yellow-legged meadowhawk female

Though the mosquitoes were plentiful, more so at the start than the finish, we didn’t see too many dragonflies and I’m not sure why. But this female yellow-legged meadowhawk did pause briefly.

b-checking out the map

Back by my truck, we stopped again. While Sara went in search of the white and red oak trees and their different leaves, Carol and Marylou studied Kathy’s map as they figured where we’d traveled.

It was a glorious adventure–for me anyway. A casual ramble filled with good cheer and conversation. Thank you, Carol Nugent, for your generosity in support of LEA to make this wander possible. I hope the three of you enjoyed our time together as much as I did and took some of Brownfield Bog home in your hearts.

Mount Tom Revisited

As we tried to figure out where we’d hike today, we decided a familiar route would suit us and I was pleased when my guy suggested Mount Tom in Fryeburg. It’s an old favorite that has improved with age since The Nature Conservancy added a new trail recently. This property was important to them because the Saco River flows below.

I’d first explored the new trail with Marita Wiser, author of HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, in October and then with my guy a short time later.

m1-cemetery-buried

Today, we decided to park our truck across from the old trailhead and walk down Menotomy Road so we wouldn’t have that trudge after our hike. I wish the trail was a loop, but it can’t be and so we made our own. The snowstorms of the last two weeks had buried the cemetery entrance and only a couple of headstones poked out.

m2-preserve-sign

One and a half miles later, we climbed over the snowbank at the trailhead and strapped on our snowshoes.

m5-my-guy

We were thankful that someone or two or three had packed the trail before us.

m4-center-chimney

Just after stepping onto the West Ridge Trail, we passed between a house and barn foundation. All that was visible–the center chimney’s supporting structure, which probably dates back to the 1800s. Perhaps the original homesteaders were buried in the cemetery.

m6-tinder-1

At first the tromp was easy because it passes gently across the terrain and so I had time to look around. Fresh tinder conks growing on paper birch trees pleased my eye.

m7-tinder-2

I love their colors, which reminded me of oyster shells I’d spent a childhood collecting.

m8-erratics

A few minutes later I spied a house I hadn’t noticed in the fall. My guy looked over and told me it wasn’t a house at all.

m9-erratics-2

He was right, of course. Two large boulders, erratics dropped by the glaciers that formed Mount Tom, a Roche Moutonnée, stood out because of their snow covered tops. We didn’t move closer, but I’ve a feeling they provided homes for mosses and ferns and other assorted flora and perhaps even wildlife. So maybe I was also correct.

m10-summit-in-distance

After crossing the snowmobile trail that passes through the preserve, we continued on through the hardwood forest and started climbing up and sometimes down. Through the trees we spied the summit, but still had a ways to go.

m11-white-oak-bark

One of my favorite trees grows in this forest–white oak. And though it’s not common in the woods I normally traverse, I’m learning to identify it by the plated blocks of its bark.

m12-white-oak-leaf

It helps, of course, when the round-lobed leaves are found nearby.

m13-ledges

At last we reached the ledges, where I’d hoped to see bobcat sign. We did see porcupine evidence, but the snow was soft and tracks almost indecipherable.

m14-pileated-pile

We also found plenty of signs of another frequent visitor. But with that–a major disappointment. I’m sorry to report that I didn’t find any pileated woodpecker scat today.

m16-squirell-works

Across the trail from the pileated debris, the work of a gray squirrel. Dinner required toil–it had dug a hole that looked to be about three feet deep. How do they know where to find those acorns they cached last fall? I’m always in wonder of such digs. And those that they don’t find become trees. It’s all good.

m17-tree-welcome

I probably wouldn’t have missed this tree, but my guy wanted to make sure I saw it. He spread his arms in the same manner and felt it was welcoming us to the ridge. Indeed.

m18-downy-feather

Nearby, someone else was welcomed–and I’m not referring to the acorn. Yes, that provided a squirrel meal, but scattered feathers indicated a downy woodpecker met its demise. And a predator dined.

m19-burl-revealed

We were almost to the summit when a burl revealed some of its inner beauty–the bark having fallen off. Grains once straight twisted and contorted thanks to a virus or fungus or some other means. I loved the swirl of lines, some thin and squiggly.

m20-summit-view

And then the beauty of the view greeted us–Pleasant Mountain in the distance and the Saco River valley below. We met a young family at the summit and thanked them for paving the way. They’d never climbed here before and asked about the old trail down.

m21-trail-signs-at-intersection

We explained that that was our choice and though it’s a bit steeper, it’s a quicker way back to the road.

m22-blazing-trail

We also told them we’d do the honor of paving the way because it had been a storm or more since anyone had trudged that way.

m23-mount-kearsarge-in-view

Because it’s a rather straight downhill, we felt like we were floating for most of the trail and welcomed the sight of Mount Kearsarge among the beauty of the young birches. Once the trail widened, the snow was deeper and it became a trudge again, but the end was nearing.

m24-flag

Right before reaching the road, Old Glory flew as she faithfully does in the field.

m25-barn-and-kearsarge

And always a favorite–the barn beside the trailhead highlighted by the mountains and sky.

We’d come to the end and were thankful for the opportunity to climb Mount Tom again. We were especially thankful for the family who’d gone before on the West Ridge Trail–it was a bit of a slug for us, but even more so for them and we wondered if we’d have completed the loop had it not been for their hard work. We don’t know their names, though we do know their dog’s–Roscoe. May Roscoe’s owners sleep well tonight.

 

 

 

 

Horsepower Mondate

My guy works way too many hours and such is his life. So our attempt to head out early this morning didn’t exactly happen because he needed to sleep in a bit. It was just after ten when we reached our intended trailhead–Davis Path in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

c-bridge

Our hike began as we crossed over the Saco River via a suspension bridge. In 1931, Samuel Bemis built a bridge that spanned 108 feet. The bridge was rebuilt in 1999, when the Town of Hart’s Location received a grant from the National Scenic Byways. The current award-winning bridge is five feet wide, spans 168 feet and was designed as an asymmetrical cable stay bridge–possibly the first such in the USA.

c-Saco River

Below, the Saco River barely trickled.

c-stairway to heaven

The Davis Path begins almost directly across the street from The Notchland Inn on Route 302. At the beginning of the trail, a sign informed us that Abel and Hannah Crawford’s son-in-law, Nathaniel Davis, built the Davis Path in 1845 as a bridle path. As intended, the trail covers 14.4 miles to the top of Mt. Washington. Our destination was the first peak–Mount Crawford at 2.5 miles along the path. Thanks to the AMC, what had been the bridle path is now transformed into a trail that includes a variety of stairways to heaven.

c-climbing higher

Conditions changed constantly as we climbed–in tune with the changing forest. Mixed woods to hemlocks groves to firs to spruces. The higher we hiked, the more I kept thinking about the fact that this was a former horse path. However did they do it? How many in a team? We were each operating at one-horse power as we huffed and puffed along, but I think a team of at least six would be much more appropriate. Six horses pulling me up–I liked that thought.

c-dinner plate

Instead, I spent a lot of time looking down, so I got to see the low sights–like this dinner spot;

c-puffballs

emerging fungi;

c-fern shadows

and fern shadows.

c-trail sign

Eventually we reached the sign pointing the way to the 3,119-foot summit.

c-hitting the balds

The trail changed as we hit the balds.

c-short horned grasshopper

And my view changed. I heard this guy’s crackling sound as he flew from one spot to the next only a foot or so apart. This is a short-horned, band-winged grasshopper.

c-mountain cranberry

Also at our feet–mountain cranberries.

c-mushroom on rock

And then there was this single fruiting structure sticking out of the moss on a rock–a bolete, I believe, but I’m out of my league on this one.

c-summit view 8 (1)

Less than two hours and lots of sweat later, we emerged at the top where many had tracked before us. No horse prints. The wind hit our faces with a cold blast and we were forced to hold onto our hats. Mount Washington and others were obscured by clouds.

c-summit view 7 (1)

c-summit view 5 (1)

c-summit view 4 (1)

The view was 360˚. We took it in, but the clouds truly did tell the story of the wind. And so we paused only briefly, noted the notch for which this area is named and then started our descent.

c-heading down (1)

On the way down, we found a less windy spot and located lunch rock–it’s the rock to the far right.

c- artists conk

My focus was a bit higher as we descended and so I saw artist’s conks,

c-hierogliphics

heiroglyphics left by bark borers,

c-red maple

and signs of the future.

Our descent was quicker than I thought it would be. As we practically rolled down the mountain, I was sure that had I been behind a team of horses, I’d be pulling on the reins and yelling, “Whoa Nellie.” And that brought memories of my mom, who was named Nellie, but went by Nell. She and Dad would have loved the fact that we have made a point to fold as many Mondates as possible into our lives. They loved long walks along beaches and finding picnic places. We love long hikes and finding lunch rocks. Same thing at a higher elevation.

My guy and I enjoyed another wonderful Mondate–at one-horsepower speed.

 

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.

 

 

Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Every weekend in Maine should be named the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. Especially when the weather cooperates.

morning fog 1

This morning’s fog didn’t daunt the crowd of 20+ that gathered for the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust’s paddle to celebrate being outdoors in Maine.

morning fog 2

When we arrived at the boat launch on Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg, we could barely see the trees that line the access route to the Saco River.

fog lifting2

Ever so slowly, the sun burned through.

fog lifting 2

It was a tad bit chilly–think 29˚.

from the beach

But the sun felt heavenly.

baby garter

I think this guy felt the same. We were about to shove off when a member of the group found this baby garter snake in his canoe. I let it go on the shore and it quickly slithered away.

Lovewell Pond

By the time we paddled onto the pond, the mountains were in full view, bookmarked by Kearsarge and Washington on the left and the Baldfaces on the right.

heading to the access channel

The water was shallow on the access route so twice we got out and walked. As you would expect, the water was warmer than the air, though the air temp continued to rise.

immature bald

A few fun finds along the way included four bald eagles. This was one of three immatures that we spotted. Our bird count included a great blue heron, cormorant, ravens, blue jays and cat birds.

network of roots

We were in the silver maple floodplain where these magnificent trees hang low over the river. Their network of roots are equally beautiful.

peeking into brownfield bog

For the better part of our trip, the river bisects Brownfield Bog (Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area), so we decided to jump ship, climb up the muddy bank and take a peek. Even the poison ivy didn’t deter us.

royal fern

A common herbal feature of a silver maple floodplain community is royal fern. At the point where we stood to admire the bog, the fern grew abundantly in front of us. Its spore stalks are now dried up.

royal fern 2royal fern 3

In early June, they would have stood tall, looking like the royal crown for which this fern was named.

touch of color

It is fall. The days are obviously getting shorter and we are just beginning to experience cool nights when the temperature is below 45˚. Any sugar made in the leaves during the day can no longer move to the trees. When the sugar becomes trapped in the leaves, the red pigment called anthocyanin forms and the green pigment (chlorophyll) disappears. The leaves are beginning to turn along the river, but this one was especially colorful.

Fall splendor on the Saco River. Another Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.

Rain Drops and Mondates Always Make Me Glad (and humble)

My guy and I ventured off to the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area in Brownfield today. Cooler temps and plenty of sunshine marked the early morning hours.

BBog sign

Covering almost 6,000 acres, this area was formerly known as the Brownfield Bog, but was renamed to honor Major Sanborn, a beloved Maine Warden, who lost his battle with cancer several years ago.

Bbog1

This is a place we return to often, but I have to admit that my sense of place was thrown off within the past week.

Saco River

We came to explore the Saco River. So this is where our pride takes a ribbing. We’ve walked to the river on most of our visits, but we never realized that this was the actual river. Huh? Yup, it’s true. In our brains, this was either the Shepard River or an old course of the Saco. Maybe it’s because when we’ve stood beside its bank, we’ve never seen anyone paddling along. Maybe it’s because until yesterday we never looked at the map. We never bothered to locate our place–just assumed we knew where we were. Another life lesson. Just a week ago, we were the merry paddlers, cruising along at tandem kayak speed, passing through the bog from Lovewell Pond to maybe a  half mile north of the Brownfield Bridge (maybe less). Maybe it’s because we were such swift paddlers that we were clueless. Anyway, now we know: The Saco River bisects the bog.

SR exploration

Exploring the floodplain became our focus as we followed the river.

river erosion

Each year, the river consumes more land, making me wonder what it was like when Brownfield was founded in 1802.

sensitive fern, chest height

We walked down a mowed path, where the sensitive fern grows chest high on either side.

royal fern

And the royal ferns are equally large and plentiful.

glen

Saco River 3

We explored in a different direction, perhaps trespassing on private land. (Oops, did that chain between the posts really mean “keep out”?)

elm 2

We recognized an elm growing over the river that we’d spotted while kayaking last week and knew that we’d established our sense of place.

SR 2

And then we turned from the river, retraced our steps and continued on to explore more of the bog via foot.

wild raisins 1

Wild raisins are abundant.

wild raisins

Eventually, the fruits will all turn blueish black and if the birds don’t eat them, they’ll shrivel up–like raisins.

common winterberry

The showy red fruits of common winterberry also dot the landscape. The curious thing about this plant–though this is a member of the holly family, the leaves are not sharply toothed like other hollies, nor are they evergreen.

milkweed dispersal

Milkweed is ready to fly away and find a new home.

green darner dragonfly

Speaking of flying, if I hadn’t seen this green darner fly into the foliage, I never would have discovered it.

Meadowhawk dragonfly

Meadowhawk dragonflies were much easier to spot, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.

BBog 5

Openings in the shrubs and trees provide frequent views,

Pleasant Mtn 4

including the backside of Pleasant Mountain.

white oak bark

The community changed a wee bit, and suddenly we were under white oaks with their flaky-surfaced, rectangular, block-like bark.

northern red oak bark

Beside them grow the Northern red oaks, with their flat-topped ridges outlined by the rusty red inner bark.

big tooth aspen bark

The horizontal/vertical line design of big-toothed aspen also made its presence known.

big tooth aspen leaf

And on the ground, a big-toothed leaf provides a hint of what is to come.

red maple leaves changing

A few red maples are beginning to announce the changing season as well.

Bbog 2

When we reached our turn-around point, we were feeling a bit hot and sticky. We’d shed our sweatshirts and were thankful for a slight breeze.

fragrant water lily

I admired a few fragrant water lilies still in flower, while my guy followed the action of a northern harrier through the binoculars.

storm leaves

And then the wind really picked up. I looked at the trees and could see the backs of the leaves–my mother had long ago told me that that was a sure sign of rain to come.

storm cloud

We looked up and had an Eeyore moment.

boots

I was wearing my boots, but no raincoat.

raindrops 1

It rained. It poured. It felt good.

raindrops 2

And then it was only a memory–and a pleasant one at that.

rain: Pleasant Mtn

We watched it move across the southwest end of Pleasant Mountain as we headed back.

lb andbee

When we arrived home, the air was a bit cooler. I stepped outside to check out the insect activity in the yard and through the camera lens I realized something was photobombing the bee.

lb7

Two somethings in fact–a pair of locust borers apparently shared their own Mondate. The only locust tree in the neighborhood is down the street, but I suspect that momma will be laying some eggs in the bark at dusk tonight.

It looks like rain once again, but we’re glad for the opportunity to explore together on another Mondate–and gain a better understanding of our greater neighborhood, our sense of place. So much for pride. Life is a humbling experience.