Transitions

Life, it seems, is always in transition. Or perhaps it is a series of transitions that we experience on this fast boat as we whiz through time and participate in endings and beginnings, with learning opportunities thrown into the mix. So it feels, when one season overlaps another.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not taste adversity then prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet

s3a-the crew

And so this morning, I enjoyed the opportunity to experience the natural transition from winter to spring at Sebago Lake State Park with a group of seven led by AMC volunteer JoAnne Diller. (JoAnne donned the lime green coat.)

s1- Ice on Songo River

We began our journey at the boat launch beside Songo River, where signs warned of thin ice and Canada geese honked in the distance.

s2-Songo River curves

Tree buds added a subtle hint of color to the landscape. And the ice in the oxbow indicated nights of cooler temps followed by days of warming.

s3-Jan examines beech scale insect

Trees within the forest showed other signs of change for we noted the cinnamon tinge on many a beech tree. Not all transitions were good.

The trees were dotted with the waxy exterior winter coating of the beech scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga, a tiny insect that sucks sugar and other nutrients from beech trees only.

Soon, the beech scale insect will molt into its second, legless nymph stage and emerge. Immediately, it will start sucking sap through its tubular mouthpart or stylet. That instar stage doesn’t last long, and quickly it will become a mature female. For the rest of its life it will remain sedentary, but repeatedly remove and reinsert its piercing stylet, wounding the tree and providing entry points for fungi to enter. An interesting fact about beech scale insects–its a world of females who reproduce by parthenogenesis; there are no known males.

But what about that cinnamon color? Was it a fungus? Or was it related to the insects? Yes and yes. Two species of nectria fungi are associated with beech bark disease, Nectria coccinea var. faginata and Nectria gallengia. What we examined was a large area of the former’s fruiting bodies.

s4-Y in the road

For the most part we followed the groomed trail system, though we did do some post holing as we crossed from one route to another. And then we came to a fork in the road–so we took it! Actually, first we went left and along the way startled some deer. And realized we weren’t exactly where we wanted to be so we backtracked and journeyed on to the right. How often does that happen on this boat ride? Frequently. But the best part about today was that no one complained because we were all happy to travel the trail and enjoy the world around us.

s5-beach on Sebago Lake

At last we arrived at the beach on Sebago Lake, where snow and sand in the cove and small bits of ice moving with the gentle waves spoke of what is to come.

s7-pitch pine

It was at the same spot, where we paused at a picnic table to eat a snack, that we stood in awe of the pitch pines as they showed off their plates of bark thickened by age and unique manner of needles growing from the trunk.

s8-pitch pine cone

Even their cones, each scale topped with a rigid prickle, were beginning to break down as they began their journey of giving back to the earth.

s9-tree roots

But what struck us the most were the tree roots all along the beach. And we began to wonder what had happened.

s10-roots

How old were the trees? Had the sand eroded?

s11-trees

Was the lake once much higher? And how do those trees survive? If only they could talk, we would hear their stories of pounding waves and raging storms. And maybe other adversities. Maybe they do talk and we just don’t know how to listen.

s13-back to the river

In what seemed like a flash, I realized we were on the opposite end of the oxbow I’d photographed when we first arrived–our journey had been a circular one, well sorta.

s14-buoys

By the boat launch two channel buoys waited patiently for spring to return in full force so they could move onto the river and do the job for which they were best suited.

s15-Canada geese

We took one last look before saying our goodbyes and going our own ways on this journey we call life. That’s when we spied the Canada geese–a sure sign that spring really is just around the corner.

Thank you, JoAnne, for organizing such a delightful hike and allowing us to absorb the richness of the woods, river and lake as they remind us about the transitions in life.

*And Tom, this trek is for you, and your own transition.  Love all.

 

Changing Focus Sundate

Because we’d traversed the trails along the western portion of Sebago Lake State Park a few weeks ago, my guy and I thought we’d try the eastern portion today. The sun shone brilliantly and there was a slight breeze as we drove down the park road to the boat launch parking lot.

s-map (1)

Studying the map, we decided to follow the Outer Loop in a counter-clockwise fashion.

s-following my guy (1)

Snowshoes were a must, but the trail was well traveled. My guy’s attire spoke to the breeze and a bit of a chill that greeted us.

s-songo 6 (1)

Whenever we could, we took in the view of the Songo River that winds its way from nearby Brandy Pond in Naples to Sebago Lake on the Casco side of the park. This river has been the focus of the Lakes Environmental Association for the past ten years as it was once heavily infested with variable-leaf milfoil. Thanks to LEA’s good works, the invasive aquatic plant has been eradicated, though the milfoil crew conducts routine check-ups each summer.

s-sandbar 2 (1)

When we reached the lake, we chose a diversion and followed the trail along the sandbar.

s-Songo from sandbar (1)

It offered a backward view of the lagoon and we could hear Canada geese honking from the open water.

s-picnic tables (1)

And then we turned and headed to the beach. The park service grooms the trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, making for an easy hike when we stayed on trail, which we did for the most part today. Picnic tables and outdoor grills were abundant and we had our choice.

s-Sebago lunch view

We chose one in the sun for it had little snow on it. This was our lunch view. As Maine’s second largest lake, Sebago Lake is twelve miles long and covers a surface area of 45.6 square miles. The maximum depth is over 300 feet and its mean depth is just over 100 feet. The 105-mile shoreline touches the towns of Naples, Casco, Raymond, Windham, Standish, Sebago, and Frye Island. All that and we’ve never spent any time on it. We’ll have to fix that in the future.

s-water (1)

Water clarity is excellent and the bottom can be viewed at 45 feet. That’s all good news for Portland and surrounding towns for the lake is the source of their drinking water–thanks to the Portland Water District.

s-songo river out of focus

We followed the trail along the boundary of the park, passing through hemlock groves and mixed hardwood communities. But really, there wasn’t much change in the terrain and we decided we much preferred the west side. A couple of hours later, we were happy to be back beside the Songo River, having completed the loop. And we were ready to change our focus.

s-wasp 3

Back at home, my guy decided to revamp our grill. And I decided to snowshoe some more. By 2:30, the temp had risen into the 40˚s and I didn’t bother with a jacket or gloves. Right off the deck, I found my first great find–a wasp moving sluggishly on the snow’s surface. Those wee claws at the end of its foot (tarsus) must have been frozen.

s-script lichen

I didn’t go far, but spent lots of time in quiet admiration. There were things to notice, like many, many mammal tracks. And this crustose lichen which is a script lichen. It’s “script” could easily be mistaken for a branching plant.

s-oak gall

Each time I stopped, I wondered what I might see that I hadn’t viewed before. And I wasn’t disappointed. One oak had several twigs with woody growth forms where buds should have been swelling. I decided they were galls and conducted some research when I returned home. I think the tumor-like swelling is a gouty gall that grows on oaks. Apparently, it’s created by a wasp. Hmmm. Not the one I saw, but a tiny wasp of the cynipidae family. The galls provide food and protection for the developing larvae.

s-red bud insect

I found another protective covering on the maleberry that grows near the cowpath. I’m not sure what insect created this cozy home, but being in the wind tunnel that comes down the powerline, its rather impressive that it still exists.

s-vernal pool

My last stop was the vernal pool. I wasn’t the only one who paid a visit. I found snowshoe tracks created by a neighbor who had stopped by to look and deer tracks that crossed the front edge of the pool. I think the snow will melt eventually and life will begin again for the spring peepers, wood frogs and salamanders–it always does.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love winter. But . . . I can feel a change of focus in the air and see it in all that surrounds me. I guess that’s why I love being a New Englander.

 

From Lion to Lioness

Given yesterday’s rain and fog, March forgot its lion-like nature and seemed rather tame. Or so we thought.

h-lion

This morning, however, dawn broke with sunshine and clouds, followed by raindrops the size of half dollars, followed by clouds and wind, followed by snow and wind, followed by clouds and sunshine, followed by hail, followed by sunshine and clouds. And all of that before noon.

h-clothes-line

The wind continued to blow, but was down a few knots when two friends and I noticed this bark hanging out to dry much the way laundry does.

h-beaver-bog

Our intention was to explore Lakes Environmental Association‘s newly acquired property in North Bridgton. The 325-acre property was the gift of the David and Carol Hancock Charitable Trust. And based on the wildlife signs we encountered today, it offers a valuable corridor. It’s all of that plus it’s part of the Highland Lake watershed and ultimately the Sebago Lake watershed. And it will provide a place for research, public education and recreation.

h-bog-1

And so today, I followed Marita Wiser, author of HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES Region and JoAnne Diller, who has conquered all 100 4,000-foot peaks. Our intention was to skirt around the outside of the wetland, but curiosity got the better of us.

h-coyote-prints

For a bit, we followed the tracks of several coyotes who had traveled through rather recently given that we could clearly see the toes, nails and X between pads .

h-coyote-trot

And then we found a set of prints, also coyote, that appeared to be even fresher. What made us wonder were the drag marks we saw in various places associated with the tracks, which we don’t often see.  It was obvious that the mammal was trotting give the sets of four prints in a backward C fashion. But was it dragging its tail because it was sinking in a bit, much as we were? Or was it dragging some prey? We never did figure it out, but enjoyed the chance to wonder.

h-heron-nest-2

We do know that it led us to a heron nest high up in a tree. I’d only visited the property twice before, in the early summer and had seen another heron nest, but this one was new to me. Such big birds. Such little nests given that they raise three or four young who grow as big as their parents while waiting to fledge.

h-beaver-brook-meanders

Though we could feel the wind on our faces, we enjoyed the sunshine as we journeyed on through this special place. Soon this world will change and so we were rejoicing in the opportunity to view it from such an upclose perspective.

h-beaver-lodge-1

Our next stop was one of the beaver lodges. It appeared that no one was home, given the fact that there was no meltdown at the top and no mammal tracks leading to or from it.

h-beaver-lodge-2-opening

Instead, we followed faded weasel tracks presumably made by an otter, to another lodge, where the top was exposed.

h-beaver-damotter

As we circled around behind it, we noted that many visits had been made.

h-heron-nest-3

And then we turned again, to another heron nest that I recognized. During my June visit, an adult had flown in, indicating there may have been young in the nest.

h-lungwort-brown-1

From there, we paused briefly to admire some lungwort that was the brownest and driest I’ve ever seen, especially given yesterday’s rain and today’s mixed precipitation.

h-beaver-dam-approach

And then our eyes were suddenly drawn to a line of lumps in the snow and we realized we were standing on the infinity pool created by a beaver dam.

h-beaver-dam-3

Being mighty explorers, Marita led the way and we climbed up and over a hemlock hill to garner a closer look. And then JoAnne led us onto a little island where we stood and took in the views.

h-beaver-brook-below-dam

Tracks leading to the water indicated we weren’t the only ones who had ventured this way. But . . . no sign of beaver activity.

h-beaver-trees

Back up over the hill we tramped and suddenly our eyes began to focus . . .

h-beaver-teeth-marks

on beaver works.

h-beaver-goddess

With our imagination wheels turning, we saw a sculpture of a pregnant woman.

h-beaver-birch

And marveled at the amount of fresh works everywhere.

h-beaver-trail

Their path was well traveled and led us to more.

h-beaver-chew-stick

We even spied beaver chews, the snack of choice.

h-beaver-dam-small

And another smaller dam.

h-marita-and-joanne

Eventually, we left the beavers behind and continued across the hardwood/hemlock/pine forest, crossing a couple of skid roads before finally following one out, sharing stories and future plans as we hiked.

For this day that came in like a lion, we were thankful for the opportunity to enjoy its more lioness form and to roar with our own joy and laughter shared.

Hiking the West Mondate

How could it be? We realized this past week that we’d only hiked in Sebago Lake State Park together once–thirty years ago. Oh, I’ve skied there, visited friends who were camping, and participated in several eighth grade class picnics back in my public education days.  But today we decided to remedy our hiking opportunity–or lack thereof.

s-sebago-sign

Our intention wasn’t to camp, but rather to explore the trails that circle around and cut through the 1,400-acre property. For those of you who know my guy, though we certainly haven’t spent a lot of time in the park, he does feel a certain affinity–to the brown stain that the park staff purchases in five gallon buckets from his hardware store. 🙂

s-boundary-blazes

After looking at a map near the entry booth, we headed off on a trail marked with orange blazes. Or so we thought. Until we realized we were following the boundary. But all the orange paint made me think of our young neighbor, Kyan, and as it turns out he was on my brain for a great reason–he’s been in remission for the past six months following his bone marrow transplant and today had his central line removed. No wonder we spent an hour following those orange blazes. All the while, however, we did think the trails were poorly marked.

s-high-point-1

Unwittingly, we spotted a bit of brown–on the picnic table. We appeared to be on a high spot, home to the table and a cairn garden.

s-cairns-3

I’m of several minds when it comes to cairns. I know that some are historical and symbolic and others mark trails, but these, though each different in sculptural form, bothered me.

s-cairn

While my guy saw them as offering hikers something to do, I saw them as disruptive to the natural landscape. That being said, the landscape was formed by a glacier and these pieces spoke to the bedrock geology of the Sebago pluton with their pinkish coloration.

s-kneeling-before-map

Turns out we were at the summit of the Lookout Trail, the highest point in the park at 499 feet. And behind the cairn park, we found the trail itself, blazed with red triangles, which we followed down to the campground road where we found a map–worth kneeling and worshiping. Well, actually, given the snow depth, that was the easiest way to read it. From that point forward, we found “You Are Here” maps whenever trails intersected, though we did tend to wander off occasionally.

s-ice-bubbles

Over a brook, where balls of ice formed,

s-artist-conks

past artist conks decorating a decaying birch tree,

s-locust-bark

and through woods featuring the braided ridges of black locust bark, we hiked.

s-tree-silhouette

And then we reached the beach. On Sebago Lake.

s-rocky-coast-of-maine

We’d arrived at Witch Cove Beach.

s-waves-and-wind

The wind had kicked up the waves and it felt almost ocean like. Almost.

s-maple-and-pitch

Certainly, tree roots beside the lake spoke to wave action and higher tides (no, the lake doesn’t have a tide, but in storms and floods it must surge higher). Beside the water, a red maple and pitch pine tree embraced from their root source.

s-pitch-pine-bark-1

The bark of the pitch pine featured its reddish plates surrounded by deep furrows.

s-red-pine-bark

While it’s similar to red pine bark that grows nearby, there are subtle differences–red pine bark being plated but much thinner and tighter to the trunk. Plus, the pitch pine has bundles of three needles, while the red features two needles.

s-pitch-pine-growth

The other unique characteristic of pitch pines, their epicormic sprouting of needles on the trunk that grow from dormant buds on the bark.

s-sand-prints

Eventually, we moved on, leaving prints in our wake.

s-beach

Our substrate switched from snow to sand and back to snow, which we much preferred.

s-beach-eyes

Before we turned away from the beach, we found the sand goddess eyeing the world. Again, we noted the orange and thought of Ky, but didn’t truly realize its significance.

s-lunch-table

Into the picnic area we moved, after watching a few deer who eventually flashed their white tails before moving on. Lunch table beckoned us. It needs some fresh stain–there’s job security in that thought–for the park staff and my guy.

s-buried-table-2

Some tables spoke to the snow depth.

s-cache-fest

After we finished our sandwiches, we discovered that others had used the picnic ground–for a cache site. Somewhere in the park, at least one red squirrel prospered through the winter.

s-glacial-kettle

Our journey took us past the glacial kettle formed by the melting of large blocks of ice.

s-map

And then we figured out our final trails to follow.

s-songo-river

We crossed Thompson Point Road and followed the oxbows and meandering of Songo River, which actually proved to be bittersweet. I’d only been on the river twice and both with the milfoil team of the Lakes Environmental Association. As we hiked beside it today, I recognized various points Adam Perron, the milfoil dude had pointed out. Again I say, RIP Adam.

s-beaver-bog-from-table

At last we reached Horseshoe Bog, home to one of those picnic tables needing work. You know who spied it from a mile off.

s-beaver-works-3

He also spied the work of others and eagerly showed me.

s-beaver-teeth

My what big teeth grooves a beaver leaves.

s-beaver-works-4

It left its mark everywhere.

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And sometimes such works met the forces of nature and all was well that ended well.

s-spur-trail

The same could be said for us. We began the day on a trail that wasn’t and ended by trying to follow a spur trail out, that we couldn’t quite locate (except for the sign at the beginning that identified it as a spur trail) and so we bushwhacked and then an anomaly caught our eyes–snow on a structure, which turned out to be the entry booth from which we’d begun our expedition.

As it turns out, we realized that our adventure thirty years ago was on the east (Casco) side of the park and this was our first visit to the west (Naples) side. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take us thirty more years to return for another Mondate–indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Fly By

It’s the height of summer. I love every season, but wish I could slow this one down and spend more time soaking in all that it has to offer. This week alone is flying by.

mystery stones

My offerings are a mishmash of what I saw and did during the week, beginning with the mystery stones on the backside of Amos Mountain at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve in Lovell.

me mystery stones 2

My friend, Jinny Mae, would love this mystery, so I’m going to ask her what she thinks this is all about. It’s a huge structure and I hope some people will want to check it out with me this Saturday during the Family Fun Day–A Celebration of People, Place and Nature hosted by the Greater Lovell Land Trust.

me mystery structure and mystery legs

There’s one more mystery in this photo–four legs. Do you see them?

trail signs

I continued on to the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve to make some tweaks along the newly installed self-guided nature tour beside Sucker Brook.

Shout out to docent Linda Wurm for all the work that went into re-creating and installing the signs. Warning to the wise: Do not hire the two of us for any house renovations. We discovered talents we don’t possess. A humbling experience.

me hobblebush fruit

One of my favorite plants along this trail–hobblebush showing off its fruits.

me hobblebush

And letting us know that times are a-changing. Say it isn’t so–it’s too early for fall colors. I only found it on this one shrub. Phew.

Indian pipe

A docent tramp at the Chip Stockford Reserve on Tuesday took a wee bit more than the usual three hours. The loop trail is only about a mile long, but we’re passionate about checking everything out. The parasitic plants were in full bloom, like this Indian Pipe,

pine sap

yellow-flowered pine-sap, and

squaw-root

squaw-root. Kind of looks like corn on the cob, doesn’t it? Or a pine cone?

painted turtle

Yesterday, I joined the Lovell Recreation Program for the grand finale to our land trust nature program–a field trip to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. Though it can be disconcerting to see wild animals caged, these are here for some reason–and they give us an opportunity to see animals that surround us but are elusive.

me brook trout

What were the kids’ favorites? The turtles and brook trout. Feeding the brook trout especially.

me jf houseme jf house 2

Last night, Brian Fox and Heidi Dikeman, grandchildren of John Fox, hosted a talk for the GLLT about their grandfather and his Yankee ingenuity.  This was John’s house–at the southern end of Heald Pond. Though they thought it funny that I entitled the talk “The Legendary John Fox,” I think it became more apparent as the evening wore on and the stories unfolded that he was indeed a legend in these parts. A magical evening for many who attended.

me dam

We returned today to learn more about the mill by John’s house. Another shout out–this time to docent Bob Winship, who shared his knowledge of dams with a large crowd. The rocks–a contrast of age and history.

me beech fern

A third shout out to docent Susan Winship for helping us all learn how to identify ferns, like this beech fern with its lowest leaflets pointing diagonally outward, winged attachment to the mid vein, and growth pattern arching toward the ground.

Pam 2

A final shout out to Pam Katz, who starred in her debut appearance as a docent. 🙂

view from otter rocks

We reached Otter Rocks and looked back toward John Fox’s house.

me sr2

My final stop, though the week isn’t over–the Songo River, which is the connection in the chain of lakes–Long Lake, Brandy Pond and Sebago Lake.

me-variable-leaf

The Songo was the source of a major variable-leaf milfoil infestation that Lakes Environmental Association has been working to eradicate. Notice the red stem? Underwater, it looks similar to our native bladderwort, but that stem is the giveaway.

Songo Lock

Among the heavily infested areas–the basin just below the Songo Lock. Today, it’s part of an LEA success story and I get to share that story in a newspaper article.

bags of milfoil

These mesh onion bags are filled with milfoil handpicked from the river. But . . . this is nothing compared to the past when the milfoil team used the suction harvester and benthic barriers as their major defense. This pile represents a couple of weeks worth of finds and will warrant a trip to the compost pile soon. In previous years they made daily trips to the compost pile.

me classic boats

Before leaving the river, we saw a couple of wooden Chris Crafts travel by–enroute to Naples for this weekend’s Antique and Classic Boat Show on the causeway.

me land trust sign

That being said, come to Lovell on Friday afternoon for Bonny Boatman’s presentation on the Uncommon Common Loon, Friday night for the annual education meeting featuring Geri Vistein, conservation biologist for Project Coyote, and on Saturday for the 2nd annual Family Fun Day. Follow the signs.

Summer may be flying by, but we’ll show you how to get out and enjoy it.