The Fruits Of Our Labor Day Mondate

I feel like a broken record when I say that my guy works too many hours, but so it has been. This was his weekend off and he worked more than a half day on Saturday and all day plus on Sunday. This morning he burned it all off with a seven mile run and then we headed off for a hike.

k-trail sign 1

Mount Kearsarge North off Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway, New Hampshire, is an old fav that deserved a visit.

K-trail goes this way

It was great to be out of town and finally goofing off on this Labor Day holiday. He’s labored. I’ve labored (really–even when it seems like I’m playing, I truly am working, honest). And we needed a break. If we followed this blaze, however, we would never have found the summit.

k-climbing higher

Fortunately, we knew better. The hike is challenging, especially on the upward climb. We later commented about how the downward climb is faster, but does require attention to foot placement.

K-approaching tower

Just over two hours later, we approached the fire tower at the summit. Though no longer in use, it’s obvious from the 360˚ view why a fire lookout was built at this summit. Constructed in 1909, the structure was rebuilt by the US Forest Service in 1951. Prior to the replacement of fire towers by airplane surveillance, this tower was in operation until 1968.

k-summit fire tower (1)

Since we were last here about a year or so ago, it looked as if some of the support beams had been replaced.

k-my guy at tower

Despite the cooler temps and wind, it’s always worth a climb up.

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Once inside, all was calm. And the view–to die for. It made the efforts of our labor well worth it. We signed the log before moving back outside.

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I was thankful for the railing that kept me from being blown to the great beyond as I gazed toward the Baldfaces,  though the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as last week’s Mount Crawford Mondate.

k-summit Mount Washington (1)

Back on the granite, we twirled about and took in each view–including Mount Washington with cumulus clouds grazing its summit.

k-summit to ledges and moats (1)

The cloud cover varied as we looked toward the valley with Cathedral Ledge, the Moats and beyond. Because we’ve set our feet down at those various levels, we appreciated the layers before us.

k-summit toward cranmore (1)

And we noted the Green Hills Preserve, where we’ve also hiked many a trail.

K-Pleasant Mtn

The cloud cover changed as we turned toward home and saw Pleasant Mountain in the distance. Our house is located about center beyond the mountain. And our camp to the left end of said mountain.

k-summit lunch rock (1)

Of all the rocks, lunch rock was the most important find. Sometimes, it’s difficult to locate such among all the opportunities, but this one spoke to us. And so we sat. And ate. Sandwiches (not PB&J–those are more for winter fare) and brownies (great any time of the year).

k-my guy snoozing (1)

And then my guy decided to snooze. He deserved it.

k-hare scat

I took advantage of the opportunity to observe and was tickled to find these woody fruits–the milk duds of the north woods. Snowshoe hare scat. I found numerous examples and wondered where the hares hid. Actually, they could have been anywhere because among the bald rocks there were plenty of islands filled with brushy undergrowth.

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And so I poked about. Though the low bush blueberry plants were plentiful, the fruits were sparse. In fact, I only spotted this one.

k-mountain cranberries

More prolific were the mountain cranberries, aka lingonberries.

k-summit speckled alder (1)

What surprised me was the presence of speckled alder in the mix because I think of this as a species with wet feet, but really, this mountain top is much moister than most of our lowlands, so in the end I guess it made sense. Always something to wonder about.

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It wasn’t just speckled alder that made me wonder. Sheep laurel also grew there. I know it well in bogs and even along the power line behind our house. And yet, it loved the habitat on the summit.

k-summit huckleberries (1)

The same was true for huckleberries–which I look at beside Moose Pond all summer. How can they like wet feet and a bald mountain landscape. But again, I think perhaps it’s the moisture for these mountains are often lost in the clouds.

K-mountain holly

Mountain holly also liked this habitat. Again, I’ve seen this at camp where the fruits have already been consumed. Songbirds love these berries and the supply on Kearsarge will disappear soon as migration begins. Here today, gone tomorrow.

k-wild raisins 2

Wild raisins were equally plentiful and worth admiring.

k-wild raisins 3

The berries are edible, at least for birds. But . . . if not consumed, the fruits shrivel up–thus the name of wild raisin.

k-trail sign 2

At last, my guy awakened and we picked our way among the rocks and roots on our descent.

K-oak plum gall (1)

At least one more fruit showed its face on the downward route. Or was it a fruit? Actually not–it was an oak plum gall created by a wasp.

We talked about Labor Day as we climbed down. Labor Day is a tribute to the contribution of those who work and contribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. We gave thanks to our parents and the work ethic they taught us. And we noted the fruits of labor we saw in the natural world.

Finally, we toasted all with a beer at Delany’s Hole in the Wall in North Conway–a Shock Top for him and Tuckerman’s Pale Ale for me. On this Mondate, we felt rewarded with the fruits of all labor.

 

The Main(e) Exotics

If you’ve traveled with me before, you know that I often frequent the same trails. And so it was today. Oh, there was a change-up in the early morning hours when I joined a couple of members of the Lakes Environmental staff to oversee a volunteer project by the Rotary Club. Rotary members from around the state and beyond (think Argentina) spent four hours clearing a new trail we’d laid out at LEA’s Maine Lake Science Center. They provided humor and hardwork hand-in-hand.

And then a friend and I drove to LEA’s Holt Pond Preserve where everything was in exotic mode.

oak g 3

One of our first finds was an apple oak gall about the size of a golf ball. So, the apple oak gall female wasp (yes, there is such a species) crawled up the tree trunk of a Northern red oak in early spring and injected an egg into the center vein of a newly emerged leaf. As the larvae grew, it caused a chemical reaction and mutated the leaf to form a gall around it that provided sustenance.

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Recently, the wasp drilled its way out and probably found a mate.

oak gall 1

All that remained–wispy fibers.

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Along the first boardwalk in the red maple swamp we found Northern blue flag iris in bloom. Flag irises are wild irises that tend to grow in boggy areas. Unlike the irises that grow in our gardens, they don’t have beards. The venation of the gracefully downturned sepals was intense–the better to attract pollinators.

snake2

We moved from the swamp to the first hemlock hummock and chatted about natural communities when suddenly we realize we were being hissed at.

snake 10

Its coloration threw us off and beautiful though it was, the hairs on the back of our necks stood on end. Apparently we made it feel likewise. And so we retreated. We retraced our steps and decided to complete the same loop in the opposite direction. When I got home, I looked it up and realized that it was a common garter, but really, there didn’t seem anything common about it in the moment.

hemlock v

Because we backtracked, we were treated to fresh and older hemlock varnish shelf fungi that  we may not have seen otherwise.

hemlock v 6

We know where they’re located. F0r big $$ we might (MIGHT) show you.

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Later on, as we left, we recognized a friend’s vehicle in the parking lot. Our question–did he see what we saw?

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Throughout the preserve we found one of our favorite plants that in my book is the most exotic of them all.

pitcher 3

The carnivorous pitcher plant obtains nitrogen and phosphorus by eating insects. Its oddly shaped leaf forms a unique pitcher partly filled with water and digestive enzymes. The spout is a hairy landing platform for insects attracted by its red venation and nectar glands. Imagine this: An insect crawls to the edge of the leaf, aka pitcher, slips on the downward-sloping hairs and plunges into the liquid below where enzymes and bacteria break it down. Any chance for escape are zapped by those stiff hairs. Oh my.

pitcher & sundew1

The pitcher plant isn’t the only carnivorous plant that thrives here. Check out the glistening tentacles of the sundew intended to capture small insects like a mosquito. Should one land on the tiny leaf, its feet become ensnared in the sticky secretion and the end is eminent. YES! Within mere minutes the tentacles curl around the victim and suck the nutrients out of it. Go sundews. Go pitcher plants.

sheep 4

Only beginning to bloom was sheep laurel with its deep crimson-pink flowers. Located below the newly emerged leaves, each flower has five sepals, with a corolla of five fused petals and ten stamens fused to the corolla. Beauty and danger are also encompassed here–it contains a chemical that is poisonous to wild animals, thus one of its common names is lamb kill.

exo 1

Because we were beside the pond, we thought to look for dragonfly exoskeletons and weren’t disappointed.

broad-tailed shadow dragonfly

And the dragonflies themselves were worth our attention. I’m not sure my ID is correct, so help me out if you know better, but I think this is a broad-tailed shadowdragon and if that’s true it is one that Maine is paying attention to because it only occurs in one or two states.

beaverpond clubtail dragonfly

Another that I name without certainty–beaverpond club tail.

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I’m much more confident about my ID of this ebony jewelwing damselfly.

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We found a double-decker Indian cucumber root that displayed flowers in varying stages. The yellow or green-yellow flowers drooped below the upper leaf whorl and as is their custom, were slightly hidden. Each flower had three long, brown styles in the center that curved outward and the stamens were magenta.

LEA boats

Among the unnatural offerings, a few boats to explore the river and pond. Though we noted a couple of paddles and one pfd, we highly recommend you bring your own.

LEA 2

Some extra duck tape is also a good choice just in case. 😉

HP view1

Like the ever-changing reflection, life changes constantly at Holt Pond. The more I look, the more I realize how exotic life is in Maine. Who knew?

Not All Who Wander Are Lost :-)

path 2

Today, I wandered along the boardwalks at  Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton with Adam Perron, education director of Lakes Environmental Association, and Amy Kireta, a PhD student from UMaine. Amy plans to help Adam develop climate change curriculum for LEA. Exciting stuff.

We chatted as we walked, but frequently stopped to look and listen. Check out our finds.

blue flag iris

Blue Flag Iris is beardless (no hairs on its petals), unlike the irises that grow in my garden.

sheep laurel

The Sheep Laurel beginning to bloom. This is an interesting and beautiful plant, with its flowers blooming below the new leaves. I love how the leaves droop.

water lily

Another new bloom–the ball-shaped flower of Spatterdock.

blatterwort

Though our eyes were immediately drawn to the leaves of Fragrant Water Lilies with their pie-shaped notch, we could see a submerged blatterwort–one of the carnivorous plants of the preserve. They feature small blatters that act as vacuums and suck up tiny aquatic animals in order to take advantage of their nutrients.

pitcher plant

Speaking of carnivorous plants . . . the Pitcher Plants are flowering.

pitcher plant flowering

The colors are enough to suck me in.

ppf

 ppflower

While the Pitcher Plants make themselves known in any season, another carnivorous plant barely announces its presence on the quaking bog.

sundew

The Round-leaf Sundew. Preferring the acidity of the spaghnum moss, the hairlike tentacles  on each leaf are tipped with glistening droplets that shout a welcome message to passing insects. Those droplets are actually quite sticky and when the tendrils of hair detect that a prey has stopped by, they curl inward and wrap around the insect–then digest its nutrients.

There aren’t many nutrients in a spaghnum bog, so these plants have figured out how to meet their own needs–another reason to be in awe.

It’s stuff like this that makes me think J.R.R. Tolkien could have found inspiration right here.

Though we didn’t stray off the beaten path today, that is one of my favorite things to do. But I’m glad we backtracked rather than taking Amy back to the parking area via a different route because . . . we encountered another hiker who stopped to ask us some questions. As she talked, some things she said made me wonder if she was someone who recently commented on one of my blog posts. A friend in Connecticut has said since high school that I can be blunt (that’s you, C.W.N.) and I probably was today when I blurted out this woman’s name. I’m so glad I did. I was right–it was her. And I hope we can make a connection to wander together some time because it sounds like we have walked in each other’s tracks more than once.

Not all who wander are lost

I knew your car when I saw this, E.

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Years ago, I paraphrased it. Wander and wonder. You never know what or who you might stumble upon.