Lemonade By Shell Pond Mondate

As is the custom right now, today’s journey took us over bumpy roads and found us turning right directly across from Notch View Farm where I ventured with friends a few weeks ago. We couldn’t drive in too far, and so parked, donned our Micro-spikes for the walk in and grabbed snowshoes just in case.

I love the winter trek because it forces us to notice offerings beside the dirt road (hidden as it was beneath the snow) that we overlook when we drive in during other seasons. There’s a certain yellow house that has always intrigued us and today was no different because the snow and ice created an awning for the porch.

As I snapped photos of the overhang, my guy redirected my attention to the eaves where bald-faced hornets had created their own abode.

On more than one occasion.

That was all fine, but the real reason I love the journey is because of the telephone poles along the way. At the tip of each arrow I added is a nail. By the top one you should see a wee bit of metal, which once represented that pole’s number. Not any more.

When the metal numbers are a bit astray or downright missing, it can mean only one thing. Time to check for hair. Black bear hair.

Wads of hair greeted us today. Usually we only find a few strands. Bleached out by the sun, I had to wonder if it still told the message originally intended.

Down the entire length we saw more of it and envisioned the bear rubbing its back against the pole as a means of communication.

Sometimes they scratch and other times they turn their heads as they rub, and then bite the pole with their upper and lower incisors, thus leaving the dash and dot horizontal lines. My question remains: did the one for whom this message was intended receive it? We’ll never know, but we are always thrilled to know that Ursus americanus still roams these woods.

What woods exactly are they? We’d walked in from Route 113 to the Stone House Property, where the gate may be closed, but hikers are welcome.

Our plan was to circle around Shell Pond via the trails maintained by the US Forest Service and Chatham Trail Association.

Six hundred acres of the Stone House property is under conservation easement with the Greater Lovell Land Trust thanks to the foresight of the owners.

A few steps beyond the trailhead, we decided it was packed enough that we could stash our snowshoes and pray we’d made the right decision. While doing so, some artist’s conks showed off their beautiful display.

A few more steps and my guy did some trail work. If we can move downed trees and branches, we do. And we did several times. But all in all, the trail was in great shape.

Occasionally, seasonal streams offered mini-challenges.

We didn’t mind for they mostly required a hop or giant step. And provided us with the most pleasing of sounds–running water being such a life-giving force.

They also offered icy sculptures.

And given the fact that today’s temp eventually climbed into the 60˚s, we knew that we won’t get to enjoy them much longer.

As Shell Pond came into view, so did the cliffs where peregrine falcons will construct eyries and breed. This is perfect habitat for them, given the cliffs for nesting and perching and keeping them safe from predators, and open water below creating habitat for delicious morsels (think small birds) worth foraging.

And then a rare moment arrived, where I agreed to pose beside a bust of T-Rex, for so did my guy think the burl resembled.

And then another rare moment, when we discovered bear scat upon an icy spot in the trail. It was full of apple chunks and we knew eventually we’d reach the orchard where our friend had dined.

At long last, well, after a few miles anyway, we stopped at lunch bench, which was still rather buried. My guy cleared a spot as best he could and then he sat while I stood and we enjoyed our PB&J sandwiches. Oranges and Thin Mints rounded out the meal. (We did stop at the Stow Corner Store later in the day for an ice cream, but Moe told us she was all out for the rest of the season. We should have grabbed some other goodie but left with ice cream on our minds–a desire we never did fulfill.)

Our lunch view–the spectacular Shell Pond with the Bald Faces forming the background and a bluebird sky topped of with an almost lenticular cloud. Or was that a UFO?

Off to the right-hand side, we needed to check on the beaver lodge to see if anyone was in residence.

From our vantage point, it appeared that someone or two had come calling and there was a lot of activity between a hole in the ice and the upper part of the lodge. But, conditions didn’t allow for a closer look and as warm as it was, we didn’t feel like swimming. Well, we did. But . . .

A wee bit further and we reached Rattlesnake Brook, which feeds the pond.

It’s another of my favorite reasons for hiking the trails in the area, for I love pausing beside it to notice the many gifts it provides, which change with the seasons. Today, those gifts included the feathery winter form of an ostrich fern’s fertile fronds.

And squiggly shadows intercepted by linear reflections.

It was near there that we found rotten apples and the muted tracks of many visitors, one of whom we suspected we knew based on the scat we’d seen.

At last we reached the military airstrip built in the 1940s for training exercises during WWII. As always it was a moment when we were thrilled by the views, but also sad that our journey was coming to an end.

After remembering to snag our snowshoes from behind the tree where we’d stashed them (and gave thanks that we’d made the right decision on footwear), we followed the road back out.

Our only other wish would have been the opportunity to purchase some lemonade on this Mondate around Shell Pond that felt like a summer day. We might have even bought cookies and fish flies, given the opportunity.

Beautiful Maine Mondate

Some Monday’s we look for new places to explore or mountains to climb, but today found us visiting an old favorite that is gorgeous in any season.

s1-Stone House Road 1

Because it’s still winter (and she’s not letting go right away), we knew our hike would be extended by more than a mile on either end. We parked by the Leach Link Trail on Stone House Road and followed the telephone poles in.

s2-bear number

These are my favorite telephone poles in the world–well, for today that is, for they show the works of the clever bears that inhabit this place. The wood has been scratched and bitten, while the shiny pole number was mutilated. This was pole 5. I suppose it still is.

s3-bear hair

Hair sticks out from splinters. Bear hair.

s4-more bear hair

We found lots of it on several poles today. More than we’ve seen in the past.

s6-another pole

I’m thinking that the bears in the area have a fondness for 5. Or a dislike, for pole 15 also received rough treatment. There are more, but it was on 5 and 15 that we noticed the number destruction.

s8-bear dogs

Despite that, the bears in this area are most welcome. Because the signs are new, I asked my guy what he thought the bears will do when they emerge from their dens soon. In my mind, I saw a similar behavior to the other poles and imagined that when we return again we’ll see that the signs have also been destroyed because that’s what bears do. My guy’s response, “Clap.” Indeed, they should.

s9-gate

At last we reached the gate where we usually park to hike the Stone House property and Blueberry Mountain trails. The Stone House property encompasses about 890 acres surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. In 2011, the owners, David Cromwell and Sharon Landry, established a conservation easement held by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. The easement allows for traditional uses including commercial agriculture and forestry, but prohibits development and subdivision in perpetuity. Thus we have both this couple and the GLLT to thank for today’s adventure.

s10-black cherry bark

When we finally reached the Shell Pond trailhead, a black cherry immediately jumped out at me. The property was last logged in 1977 and features a mix of hard and softwoods. My bark eyes love the diversity.

s11a-birch and red maple

And my bark mind appreciates the kindred spirit of the trees that manage to support each other despite their differences–in this case a beech and red maple.

s14-pileated works

I’m not the only one who likes bark–the work of pileated woodpeckers,

s15-porcupine

porcupines,

s16-beaver works

beavers,

s13-yellow birch burl

and even insects was evident throughout our three-hour tour.

s17-Yale blue

As we hiked, my dad was also on my brain. I’d received a message this morning from his former boss at Yale University who fondly recalled Dad and his brother Bob. Though quiet men, he and his brother had a twinkle in their eyes, a love for music, especially opera, and always a good joke or prank up their sleeves.

When I saw this tree in the shape of a Y, I knew it was for Dad. Even the sky spoke of the university–though several shades lighter than Yale blue. And with that came the memory that any paint my father mixed had a touch of Yale blue in it–thus was his way. It was all meant to be for Mr. Cromwell, the property owner, is associated with Yale.

s18-my guy

I couldn’t help but think that Dad would have loved the idea of our Mondates. He also would have loved my guy, but sadly they never met. Dad died of a heart attack only days before he and Mom were to spend a weekend with me in Maine–thirty years ago.  But, my guy continues to wear a Yale sweatshirt when he runs, which he did this morning. In that way, he’s made his own connection. Yeah–that’s my guy!

s19-pond views

Now that I’m writing through tears, I’ll get back to the trail, which is delightful in winter because it offers more views of Shell Pond below.

s20-cliff views

And the icy ledges above. Later in our journey, I noted the trail to the ledges had been well used–probably by rock/ice climbers.

s22-water 1

Trail conditions were such that we walked on top of the hardened snow, though I did wear micro-spikes for the entire tour. Someone waited to put his on and did a little slipping and sliding along the way. Brook crossings required stepping low and high, so deep is the snow still.

s23-ice castle

While I marveled at a castle made of ice,

s24-Christmas tree

my guy spotted a Christmas tree.

s25-polypody

We even found a few hints of green. These polypody ferns were opened, indicating warmer temps and today we certainly noted the difference compared to the brisk weekend.

s26-polypody

Of course, on another rock, some were still curled in their cold formation. They were under a hemlock and more shaded.

s27-partridgeberry

Any bit of green is a welcome sight about now and I was surprised to see partridgeberry poking through the snow.

s28-lunch bench

At last we reached lunch bench, which my guy stood upon. Yup, that’s the granite bench under his feet.

s29-lunch

We sat on it to eat our PB&J (with butter for me, of course) sandwiches. And tried to keep from sliding right down to the pond.

s30-Shell Pond

Lunch view included Shell Pond and the Baldfaces in the background. All along, we’d noted mice, squirrel, mink, fisher, coyote, bobcat, ruffed grouse, turkey and moose tracks. But as we ate we listened to the whales groan–so moaned the ice in the afternoon sun.

s31-brook

A short time later we reached Rattlesnake Brook and the orchard, where the natural community transitioned and appeared almost bucolic.

s32-ostrich fern

One of my favorite finds along this section is the ostrich fern. The structure of its fertile frond makes me smile.

s33-airfield

From the orchard we moved on to the old airfield and wondered if the family ever flies to their summer home. Though I don’t think it’s used these days, the airstrip was apparently built in the 1940s by the military for practice landings and takeoffs during World War II.

Again, the views were breathtaking.

s34-stone house and Blueberry Mtn

As hikers, we’re reminded by signs to stay on the marked trails, thus protecting the land and giving the family some space. I’m in awe of their home. The Stone House was built in the early 1850s by Abel Andrews. He quarried the large, hand-hewn granite slabs from Rattlesnake Mountain and built the 40-foot by 25-foot house for his wife and thirteen children.

s35-another wetland

I did stay on the trail most of the time, but occasionally I heard the landscape calling my name and had to investigate. Fortunately, my guy stayed on the trail all the time and kept us honest.

s36-Beautiful Maine

We walked back out to the truck and then decided to take a quick detour before driving home. Being on Stone House Road, we were only a mile from the winter closure point for Route 113 in the White Mountain National Forest. The road forms the state line between Maine and New Hampshire for several miles. And then it passes into Maine at the gate by the Cold River Campground and The Basin. And it’s there that you’ll find this iconic sign.

Welcome to Beautiful Maine and another scenic Mondate.

 

 

 

 

Shell Pond Speed Date

While our thoughts were (and are) with our family and friends south of us along the Eastern Seaboard as you deal with a major winter storm, my guy and I drove over to Evans Notch for a hike around Shell Pond.

SP-September

Whether you’ve traveled this way before or not–a summer photo might be just the dose you need today.

road 1

We parked near the trailhead for the Leach Link Trail because Stone House Road is never plowed beyond that point. Others had skied, walked and snowmobiled before us, but no one seemed to be snowshoeing so we left ours behind. As it turns out, that decision was fine. We dug some post holes in a few drifts, but other than that, we really didn’t need them. I did, however, use micro-spikes–and am glad because it’s a rather wet trail and we encountered lots of ice, much of it just a few inches below the snow.

Stone House gate

Thanks to the owners of the Stone House for putting much of the land under conservation easement with the Greater Lovell Land Trust and for allowing all of us to travel the trails–whether around the pond or up Blueberry Mountain and beyond.

Shell pond loop sign

Before the airfield, we turned onto the Shell Pond Loop trail. It’s blazed in yellow and easy to follow. Some trees have come down, but we got over or around them. We took care of a few today and the rest will be cleared by summer.

beaver works

Of course, some trees were intentionally harvested. We found these beaver works near the beginning of the trail where the brook opens into a small wetland.

beaver lodge 2

beaver lodge 1

On top of the lodge, you might be able to see the lighter color of fresh additions to the structure. This was the first of three.

beaver lodge 3

Lodge number 2 is toward the far side of the pond.

beaver view

But it’s lodge number 3 that I’d stay at. It’s worth a payment of a few extra saplings to get a room with that view.

pileated work

The beavers aren’t the only one making changes in the landscape. Pileated woodpeckers in search of food do some amazingly shaggy work on old snags.

trail debris

Winter debris covers much of the trail. Strong winds have brought much of this down.

yellow and hem yellow birch & hemlock

And two of the most prominent trees make themselves known among the debris. A hemlock samara beside a yellow birch fleur de lis and a hemlock needle atop a more complete fleur de lis flower of the birch.

Shell Pond 1

Shell Pond takes on an entirely different look in the winter. We could hear the ice whales singing as we ate our PB&J sandwiches and sipped hot cocoa.

mink

mink tracks 1

While we ate, we noticed a mink had bounded through previously. I’m always thankful to have David Brown’s Trackards in my pack.

cliffs 2

cliff flow

Continuing on the trail found us taking in views of the cliffs, which we don’t normally see so well once the trees leaf out.

ostrich 3 ostrich 4 ostrich fern 1

Before continuing through the orchard, I wandered closer to the brook in search of this–the fertile fronds of the ostrich fern that give it its common name because they resemble plume-like ostrich feathers. Come spring they’ll release their spores.

 airfield 2

The sun tried to poke out as we crossed the wind-blown airfield.

stone house 2

From the field, we always admire the Stone House and its setting below Blueberry Mountain.

 snowshoe 2

Walking back on the road, we spotted a classic snowshoe hare print. Most of the tracks we saw were filled in by blowing snow, but these were textbook perfect.

pole 4

And then . . .

pole attack

And then . . .

pole numbers

And then . . .

bear hair 1

And then . . .
bear hair

And then . . . on our way back down the road, I introduced my guy to the wonders of telephone poles. We found several sporting chew marks, scratches and hair. Yup . . . bear hair. Black bear. Even the shiny numbers were destroyed on one of the poles. Of course, my guy was sure someone would come along and ask what we were doing as we inspected one pole after another. I was hoping someone would come along and ask what we were doing. Bear poles. Another thing to look for as you drive down the road–think tree bark eyes, winter weed eyes and now, bear pole eyes.

bear paw

I took this photo on the Shell Pond Loop trail a year and a half ago. Oh my.

Those of you who have traveled this way with me before will be amazed to know that we finished today’s trek in just over three hours, even with the added walk down Stone House Road. Yup, not an advertised three hour tour that turns into six. Hmmm . . . Apparently it can be done–I just need to get Mr. Destinationitis to join our treks for a Shell Pond Speed Date.

Savoring the Sanctity of the Mountains

“Savor the sanctity of the mountains in these incredibly discouraging times,” said a friend on Friday. And so we did.

MW morning

The mid-morning sun highlighted Mount Washington as we passed through Fryeburg Harbor–always a breath-taking view.

trail sign

Our destination: Speckled Mountain in Evans Notch–via Blueberry Mountain.

Bricket Place

Parking is at the Brickett Place, where the Brickett family farmed, logged and produced maple syrup in the mid-1800s. Their original home was log, but they later built this house with locally-fired bricks.

Bricket place signage

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Y

Hop Hornbeam trees are abundant in a section of the lower trail. My guy saw slingshots in the unusual growth of these two, but I saw Ys. Why? Why? Paris? Syria? Around the globe?

B slides upper

About .7 of a mile from the trailhead, we paused at Bickford Slides–one of the many places for contemplation along the way.

B slides 2

While the upper slides are calm at the trail crossing, the brook funneled below us into a narrow chute, where the water’s fast movement has carved a channel in time.

granite, glacier

Later, on the Blueberry Ridge trail, I saw this pattern in the granite and thought of how the glaciers that covered our northern states scoured the land as they receded.    The land tells the story–I just need to learn how to read it.

climbng up Blueberry

We usually hike down the Blueberry Ridge Trail because it offers magnificent mountain views, but I was thankful that we switched things up today. A different perspective was welcome.

rime ice

I found myself paying attention to each step upward, mindful of leaves and rocks and water and ice. Because of this, I spent a lot of time staring at the ground. There’s plenty to appreciate at this level, like the crystals of needle ice that form within the earth.

ice 1

We left our crampons at home, but in the future, we need to add them to the pack.

ice 4

As dangerous as it is to walk on, I’m fascinated by the dramatic formations that change with the moment–forever fluid.

wintergreen

Other things worth noting–wintergreen leaves taking on their winter hue;

sheep laurel 1

Sheep laurel leaves protecting its spherical fruit;

reindeer lichen

and a variety of reindeer lichens awaiting a visit from the red-nosed, sled-pulling residents of the North Pole.

MW from Blueberry Ridge

After pausing on Blueberry Mountain, we continued up the ridge, remembering to turn back frequently and take in the view,

Shell Pond and PM

including Shell Pond below and Pleasant Mountain in the background. My guy pointed out that Shell Pond really does look like a conch shell from here.

Kezar Lake

Our view also included the islands on the northern end of Kezar Lake in Lovell.

lunch rock

We chose the largest rock we could find for today’s lunch spot. Lunch? The usual–PB&J, followed by brownies,

looking back

and topped off with another spectacular view.

squirrel lunch rock 2

We weren’t the only ones choosing a rock for lunch. This squirrel prefers the top rock on the cairn.

spruce scales

Red Spruce scales and cobs line much of the trail.

squirrel cache

And we found a few caches–a sign of things to come.

nd 4

The higher we hiked, the more natural devastation we encountered. Gazing upon it brought me back to today’s reality. Blow downs, galls, fungi, animal interactions with the landscape–it’s constantly in flux. Then there’s the human factor–we leave our imprint in ways we can’t even imagine. But . . . across our nation and around the globe?

ice on Speckled Trail

We encountered more ice on the climb to the summit of Speckled Mountain.

summit wind

The wind was blowing when we reached the summit, where a fire tower once stood.

summit view miles of mountains

The stanchions are all that remain of this former lookout site.

summit, MW in clouds

It was getting late, so we didn’t stay long,

summit, MW,

just long enough to notice that Mount Washington was disappearing into the clouds.

sphagnum and snow 2

We followed the old jeep trail that is the Bickford Brook Trail, on the way down. Rather than ice, we found snowflakes among the sphagnum moss.

hidden rocks

Once we got below the spruce-fir forest, the beech and oak leaves obscured the rocks, making it almost more difficult than the upward climb.

beech sign

I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted scanning the beech trees for bear claw marks because I was paying attention to my foot placement, but I did pause by this tree that has served as a sign post for many years.

1976

1976–a very good year. I happen to be a member of the Bicentennial Class of North Branford Senior High School. Go Thunderbirds!

Eight plus miles and five and a half hours later, we’d completed the loop as the sun   lowered behind the mountains.

hobblebush, global prayer

My hope is that these hobblebush buds encircle the world in prayer so that all may savor the sanctity that we find in the mountains.