From Peak to Shining Peak

Maybe we’re a wee bit crazy. Maybe there’s no maybe about it. My guy and I climbed Pleasant Mountain again, only this time we took a much longer route than yesterday.

p-Bald sign

After leaving a truck at the Southwest Ridge trail, we drove around the mountain and began today’s trek via Bald Peak. It’s always a good way to get the heart beating, but then again, any of the trails up the mountain will accomplish that mission.

p-bald stream 2

One of my favorite features of this path is the voice of the stream–water rippled with laughter as it flowed over moss-covered rocks before splashing joyously below.

p-Sue's Way signs

And then we turned right onto Sue’s Way. We never knew Sue, but are thankful for this path carved in her honor.

p-Sue's snow on East

Across the ravine, snow still clung to the East slope at Shawnee Peak Ski Area.

p-Sue's porky

Oaks, beech, hemlock and yellow birch form most of the community, feeding the needs of their neighbors–including porcupines.

p-Sue's 2

We followed the trail as it embraced another stream and watched the landscape change.

p-Sue's polypody

Eventually, we were in the land of large boulders and ledges, all decorated with common polypody and moss–an enchanted forest.

p-shawnee chair

At the top of Sue’s Way, we detoured to our first peak–Shawnee Peak.

p-shawnee

Splotches of snow signified the end of a season.

p-Shawnee chair 1

The Pine chairlift silently rested, its duty accomplished until it snows again.

p-shawnee ski chair 2

And in the shack, the back of ski chair spoke of past adventures and adventurers.

p-signs by mtn

From there, we followed the North Ridge Trail to our first official peak.

p-north peak trail ice1

Despite today’s warmth, ice still reflected movement frozen in time.

p-north peak pines

North Peak has always been one of my favorite spots on this mountain. In the land of reindeer lichen, blueberries and dwarfed red pines, we ate lunch–day two also of ham and  Swiss. This is becoming as much of a habit as climbing the mountain.

p-Mtn W from lunch rock

When we stood up on lunch rock, our view included the master of all New England mountains glowing in the distance.

p-north peak

In a few months, the treasures of this place will give forth fruitful offerings.

p-ridge line

With North Peak behind, our view encompassed the rest of the peaks.

p-Bald Peak, Mtn W and Kezar Pond

Continuing down and up again, we heard plenty of quaking coming from a vernal pool about one hundred feet off the trail. And then we were atop Bald Peak, where Mount Washington again showed its face, with Kezar Pond below.

p-bald peak causeway

The other side of the trail offered a photo opp of the Route 302 causeway that divides the north and middle basins of Moose Pond.

p-ft again

Our decision today was to hike the mountain in a backward fashion as compared to our normal routes, so we approached the main summit from the Firewarden’s Trail.

p-summit crowd

Once again, many others also took advantage. We did chuckle because except for one guy, of all the people we encountered, we were the oldest. The youngest–a baby in a backpack.

p-SW sign

At the junction below the main summit, we began to retrace yesterday’s footsteps on the Southwest Ridge Trail.

p-SW mayflower

The sunny exposure made this the warmest of all trails and the Trailing Arbutus prepared to make its proclamation about the arrival of spring.

p-SW Hancock

Near the teepee, I felt compelled to capture the ponds again. Another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

p-SW 2

After chatting with a family at the teepee, we began our descent. Of course, someone was mighty quicker than me.

p-SW 3

Where no trees grow on the bedrock, cairns showed the way.

p-SW mnts

Before slipping into the forest again, I was thankful for the opportunity to capture the  blue hue of sky, mountains and ponds.

p-cairns final turn

We made our final turn at the three cairns and

p-SW final

followed the path down–though we did begin to think that maybe they’d moved the parking lot.

p-LELT

Over six miles and four hours later, we had Loon Echo Land Trust to thank once again for protecting so much of the mountain and maintaing the trails. We reminisced today about how our relationship began at a halloween party held at the ski area thirty years ago and the number of treks we’ve made along these trails since then. Whether hiking to the ledges or teepee, making a loop or walking peak to peak on a sunshiny day such as this–it never gets old.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Sabattus

Following this morning’s Greater Lovell Land Trust trek at Chip Stockford Reserve, where we helped old and new friends form bark eyes as they examined various members of the birch family, my feet were itchy. Not in the scratchy sort of way–but rather to keep moving.

It was a lovely day for a hike and Sabattus Mountain in Lovell was my destination. I love this little mountain because it offers several different natural communities and great views.

s-com 1

Though there are a few softwoods on the lower portion of the trail, it’s really the land of a hardwood mix.

s-downed twigs

About halfway up, the neighborhood switches to a hemlock-pine-oak community. It was then that I began looking for downed hemlock twigs in an array at the base of trees. I’ve found them here before, and today I wasn’t disappointed.

s-porky chew 3

The twigs had been chewed off and dropped by a porcupine as evidenced by the 45˚-angled cut and incisor marks. Though red squirrels also nip off the tips of hemlock twigs, they do just that–nip the tips. Porcupines cut branches.

s-porky cliff

Downed branches usually mean scat, but I searched high and low and under numerous trees that showed signs of activity and found none. A disappointment certainly.

s-pippipsewa

My search, however, led me to other delightful finds that are showing up now that most of the snow has melted, like this pipsissewa that glowed in the afternoon sun. As is its habit, the shiny evergreen leaves look brand new–even though they’ve spent the winter plastered under snow and ice. A cheery reminder that spring isn’t far off.

s-Pleasant 1

At the summit, I got my bearings–the ridge of Pleasant Mountain and Shawnee Peak Ski Area to the southeast.

s-mount tom & kezar pond

To the southwest, the asymmetrical Roche Moutonnée, Mount Tom, visible as it stands guard over Kezar Pond in Fryeburg.

s-Kearsarge 2

And to the west, Kezar Lake backed by Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire. I wanted to venture further out on the ledge, but some others hikers had arrived and I opted not to disturb their peace.

s-summit wind

Instead, I sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the strong breeze offering possibilities as it floated over the summit and me.

s-porky cuts1

Crossing the ridge, I left the trail and found more porcupine trees, including this young hemlock that had several cuts–look in the upper right-hand corner and lower left hand. A number of younger trees along this stretch will forever be Lorax trees.

s-golden moonglow1

On the outcrop of quartz, I paused to admire the golden moonglow lichen–it’s almost as if someone drew each hand-like section in black and then filled in the color, creating an effect that radiates outward.

s-polypody patch

I was pleasantly surprised to find a patch of polypody ferns on what appears to be the forest floor but was actually the rocky ridge. Notice how open-faced it is, indicating that the temperature was quite a bit warmer than what I’d seen on cold winter days.

s-polypody sun

Sunlight made the pinna translucent and the pompoms of sori on the backside shone through.

s-glacial 1

The trail doesn’t pass this glacial erratic, but I stepped over the logs indicating I should turn left and continued a wee bit further until I reached this special spot.

s-porky scat 1

Its backside has been a porcupine den forever and ever. Nice to know that some things never change.

s-hemlocks and oaks

After returning to the trail, I followed it down through the hemlocks and oaks. This is my favorite part of the trail and though it’s a loop, I like to save this section for the downward hike–maybe because it forces me to slow down.

s-fairies 1

For one thing, it features the land of the fairies. I always feel their presence when here. Blame it on my father who knew of their existence.

s-fairies 2

I had a feeling a few friends were home–those who found their way into a fairy tale I wrote years ago. I left them be–trusting they were resting until this evening.

s-community transition 1

As swiftly as the community changed on the upward trail, the same was true on my descent.

s-birch bark color

On our morning trek, we’d looked at paper birch, but none of the trees we saw showed the range of colors like this one–a watercolor painting of a sunset.

s-birch bark 1

This one shows the black scar that occurs when people peel bark. The tree will live, but think about having your winter coat torn off of you on a frigid winter day. Or worse.

s-black birch 1

Off the trail again, I paused by a few trees that I believe are black birch. Lately, a few of us have been questioning black birch/pin cherry because they have similar bark. The telltale sign should be catkins dangling from the birch branches. I looked up and didn’t see catkins, but the trees may not be old enough to be viable. This particular one, however, featured birch polypores. So maybe I was right. I do know one thing–it’s not healthy.

s-pines 2a

And then I reached a section of trail that I’ve watched grow and change in a way that’s more noticeable than most. I counted the whorls on these white pines and determined that they are about 25 years old. I remember when our sons, who are in their early twenties, towered over the trees in their sapling form. Now two to three times taller than our young men, the trees crowded growing conditions have naturally culled them.

s-birch planter

Nature isn’t the only one that has culled the trees. Following their selection to be logged, however, some became planters for other species.

s-3 trees

Nearing the end of the trail another view warmed my heart. Three trees, three species, three amigos. Despite their differences, they’ve found a way to live together. It strikes me as a message to our nation.

Perhaps our leaders need to turn the spotlight on places like Sabattus. It’s worth a wonder.

 

 

 

 

Small Rewards . . .

are huge in my book of life. Today’s Mondate (Monday date) found us climbing The Mountain at GLLT’s Back Pond Reserve in North Waterford.

name signs

As is the tradition around these parts, family names are posted at the beginning of the road. A sure welcome.

5 Kezars Pond Road

Since yesterday’s precipitation, no one had traveled down the Five Kezar Ponds Road–except for the red fox and snowshoe hares that crossed it. We know the red fox marked its territory as it moved along, because even though we didn’t climb over the snowbank to follow its tracks, we could smell the skunky scent. Seems a bit late in the year for that, but this year, everything is a bit late.

Hi Ho

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s off to climb we go. Oh–be thankful you can’t hear me sing. My voice is as flat as the computer screen you are staring at and someone reminded me that enough was enough. 🙂

ponds coming into view

Pausing along the way, the ponds were coming into view. It won’t be long before leaves obscure this. That’s one of the things I’ll miss about winter, which I know must come to an end eventually. But it provides us with sightings we might not see during other seasons.

bear claw marks1

Like this. I was scanning the landscape, with the hope of finding this. And I was rewarded. Yes, this tree has a case of beech bark disease and exhibits the perennial cankers, but look toward the left of the trunk and you’ll see the pattern of bear claw marks.

snowshoe hare tracks

As we continued to climb, we were also rewarded with a variety of animal tracks, from mice and squirrels to snowshoe hare, weasels and porcupines. I really wanted to see bobcat, but it wasn’t to be. I’ve seen their tracks and coyote tracks here in the past. The thing I should remember is that I need to live in the moment and enjoy what I see, rather than have expectations of what I want to see.

view

The view of several of the ponds at Five Kezars. I’m not sure, but I think this view is of Back Pond, Middle Pond and Mud Pond. Pleasant Mountain and Shawnee Peak Ski Area are in the background.

rock tripe

As we started down the connecting trail, marked with orange blazes, the flat and  flappy growths of rock tripe lichen jumped out at me. Though it’s supposed to be edible, I think you have to do some severe boiling and who knows what else to eat this. I’m not about to try, but what I do appreciate, is that like the lungwort that I shared in a previous post, rock tripe changes with the weather–from leathery and brown to pliable and bright green.

split maple

And then there was this maple. What in the world? Talk about resilience. We decided that maybe a weather event caused the split and then the tree reacted. Some reaction. And recovery. This tree has the will to live, despite any obstacles put in its way.

bear claws 3

Yup, another bear claw tree. It never gets old. Sighting one I mean. The claw marks become more apparent with age, so getting old is good in this case–to me.

hare

But I’ve saved today’s best reward until almost the end. Do you see it?

snowshoe 1

How about now?

snowshoe 2

This guy was big. As were its eyes and ears. Eyes on the side–born to hide. A prey animal for a predators like bobcats.

snowshoe 3

My, what big feet you have. And to you we gave thanks today for our snowshoes.

selfie

Selfie.

lunch rock view

We crossed the bridge and then sat on a rock to eat lunch. PB&J as usual. And the final reward–homemade brownies. Life is good.

Thanks for stopping by for another wonder-filled wander. I hope you found today’s tramp as rewarding as I did.