“Can you meet on Wednesday morning for a hike?”
“Yes, where and when?”
After a few notes sent back and forth, the decision was made: Sawyer Mountain in Limington, Maine, at 10:00am. Though we were coming from opposite directions, somehow we timed it just right and both pulled into the parking area on Route 117 at 9:47. I’m never on time. She’s never late.
For at least the first half mile or more of our four mile hike, we talked non-stop, barely taking the time to notice our surroundings for so much catching up did we have to do. But then . . . two old Red Oaks growing upon a ledge with rock tripe and spring green moss between made us stop and pay reverence.
And because we stopped, we began to notice others who deserved our deep respect for we recalled a hike years ago upon the Ledges Trail of Pleasant Mountain, a place where this species also grows. It was there that we were first introduced to it and it is there that our minds always take us back to the first moment of meeting: Hophornbeam with its lovely thin, shaggy strands of vertical strips.
A quick scan of the bare ground and we found the seed structure (hops) for which is was named.
Crossing through one of many stonewalls, I followed my dear friend, for she was leading the way today.
And she told me that it was places like this pasture and the walls that surrounded it that made her think of me upon her previous tramps in this place. Just imagine: In 1815, Ebenezer Walker let his livestock graze the high pasture. We don’t know when such farm activity ended, but the trees that have filled in the space probably only have stories passed on by their ancestors to tell of times past for rather on the youthful side did they seem.
Still, there were others that showed their age and inner workings.
Like wise sages, they pointed out their idiosyncrasies and by their whorled inner branches we knew their names: White Pine.
Shortly after meeting the pine, we came upon another sight that reminded us of another day. It was along a stone wall at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Chip Stockford Reserve that the two of us first realized the offerings of such.
A look up and we knew the tree had been visited by a Pileated Woodpecker in the past tense and present.
And because of our GLLT experience all those moons ago (we really can’t remember how many moons, but it’s been many), we knew to look through the debris on the ground. As is often the case, we were rewarded with the tubular bird scat filled with insect body parts.
Further on, a burl upon a Yellow Birch invited us to curtsy. And in looking at that, my friend spied something else nearby.
A bear claw tree. Ah, another memory was evoked . . . the time we led a bear walk for the GLLT upon the Bishops Cardinal Trail. Only one participant joined us and we got rather carried away with our bear evidence sightings.
That participant didn’t come back for a while and we feared we’d scared her off, but I’ve since learned otherwise. Her job and her family occupied much of her time and now she comes to events when she can.
And by all the opened beech nut husks, we knew that last summer had been a mast year for such nuts and we hoped that meant a great supply of nutrition for Ursus americanus.
Then there was the tree with the hieroglyphics that resembled a treasure map. Really though, they represented trails followed by various bark beetles that bored through the wood. Each pattern represents a different species, and a place where eggs were laid and the larvae ate their way through the tunnels.
We were almost to the end of our hike when another group of trees begged our awe for so white were they that we could have been easily fooled. It seemed that in Tom Sawyer fashion, these trees had been painted . . . with Whitewash Lichen. It’s a crustose lichen that looks like . . . whitewash.
With our vehicles in sight, we spotted one more to bow before, for by the colors, lines, and cracks of its dead inner bark we saw sculpted art.
And stepping back a few feet, we noticed several faces.
The most obvious whispered tales to all who would listen. Tales of the land upon which we’d hiked. Tales of the people whose pastures and foundations and gravestones we encountered. Tales of the issues between the land trust that owns the property and the current residents.
If we listen to the trees, we might hear the stories of the canopy as reflected in the bubbles and the gurgling water. Trees can talk; we just need to pay more attention.
P.S. Thank you, Joan, for sharing the trail and a brain with me today. The trees evoked so many memories and helped us make new ones.