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.

k-summit tower 3 (1)

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.

k-summit view 1 (1)

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.

k-blueberry.jpg

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.

k-sheep laurel fruit.jpg

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.

 

Halting Beside Holt Pond

Halting–prone to pauses or breaks. I didn’t break, but I certainly was prone to pauses as I moved along the trails and boardwalks at the Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton this afternoon.

h-pitcher flower2

One of my first stops–to admire the pitcher plant flowers in their August form.

h-pitcher  flower up close

When I took a closer look, I realized that the seeds were developing–certainly a WOW moment in the world of wonder.

h-buttonbush.jpg

The global seed heads of buttonbush also demanded to be noticed. Upon each head are at least two hundred flowers that produce small nutlets. What strikes me as strange is the fact that this plant is a member of the coffee family. Maine coffee–local brew; who knew?

h-Muddy across

At the Muddy River, the water level reflected what is happening throughout the region–another case of “Honey, I shrunk the kids.” It’s downright scary.

h-speckled bug and speckles

Both by the river and on the way to the quaking bog, this wetland features a variety of shrubs, including one of my many favorites, speckled alder. Check out the speckles–those warty bumps (aka lenticels or pores) that allow for gas exchange. And the new bud covered in hair.

h-speckled alder catkins

This shrub is so ready for next year–as evidenced by the slender, cylindrical catkins that are already forming. This is the male feature of the shrub.

h-speckled cones new

It also bears females–or fruiting cones filled with winged seeds.

h-speckled old cones

It’s not unusual for last year’s woody cones or female catkins to remain on the shrub for another year.

h-cranberries

Whenever I visit, it seems there’s something to celebrate–including ripening cranberries.

h-cotton grass

Common Cotton-grass dotted the sphagnum bog and looked as if someone had tossed a few cotton balls about. Today, they blew in the breeze and added life to the scene. Note to self–cotton-grass is actually a sedge. And sedges have edges.

h-holt pond left

Just like the Muddy River, Holt Pond was also obviously low. Perhaps the lowest I’ve ever seen. At this spot, I spent a long time watching dragonflies. They flew in constant defense of their territories.

h-slaty skimmer, male

Male slaty skimmers were one of the few that posed for photo opps.

h-canoe on pond

As I watched the dragonflies flit about along the shoreline and watched and watched some more, I noticed a couple of fishermen making use of the LEA canoe. I don’t know if they caught any fish, but I heard and saw plenty jumping and swimming. Well, a few anyway. And something even skimmed across the surface of the water–fish, snake, frog?

h-rose hips.jpg

Rose hips by the pond’s edge reminded me of my father. He couldn’t pass by a rose bush without sampling the hips–especially along the shoreline in Clinton, Connecticut.

h-pond toward 5 Fields

The view toward Five Fields Farm was equally appealing.

h-pickerel frog

And then I moved down tire alley, which always provides frequent sightings of pickerel frogs. I’m never disappointed.

h-golden spindle

At the transition from a red maple swamp to a hemlock grove, golden spindles embraced a white pine sapling as if offering a bright light on any and all issues.

h-hairy woodpecker

In this same transitional zone, a female hairy woodpecker announced her presence.

h-green frog

When I crossed Sawyer Brook, green frogs did what they do best–hopped into the water and then remained still. Do they really think that I don’t see them?

h-hobblebush berries

At last, I walked out to Grist Mill Road and made my way back. One of my favorite surprises was the amount of hobblebush berries on display.

h-meadowhawk

Walking on the dirt road gave me the opportunity for additional sights–a meadowhawk posed upon a steeplebush;

h-chicken

chicken of the woods fungi grew on a tree trunk;

h-chipmunk

and a chipmunk paused on alert.

h-American Woodcock

But the best find of the day–one that caused me to halt on the road as I drove out of LEA’s Holt Pond Preserve–an American Woodcock.

Worth a wonder! And a pause. Certainly a reason to halt frequently at Holt Pond.

 

 

 

Sightings Along the Snowmobile Trail

bone mystery

Today’s walk began with a mystery. I actually first saw this about a week ago and wondered about it, but then it slipped my mind–a bone found at the base of a pine tree along one of the trails in our woodlot. A vertebrae? Deer? Or something from the meat market? Our neighbors’ dogs have surprised us before, but I didn’t see any sign of their tracks near this. Maybe it had been under the snow for a while and they left it months ago?

chew marks

Whatever it is and however it got there, it’s providing calcium to little brown things.

tipsy pole

We decided to head north along the snowmobile trail. It follows the power line and is a major thoroughfare in this section. Some of the poles are a bit tipsy. Too much to drink? We know from experience that they have wet feet.

alder

Speckled Alder love the wet soil and are prolific along this section of the power line. Today, their burgundy brown catkins were aglow in the late afternoon sun. The longer male catkins form in the fall. The females, which are much smaller and closer to the trunk, develop into dark brown cones. Alders are pioneers, meaning they’re usually the first species in the transition of cleared land back to forest. I’m trying to learn the differences of catkins among tree species so please hang in there with me (pun intended).

gray birch catkins

I couldn’t reach to get a better look even though the trees were arched over the trail, but these are the male catkins of Gray Birch  (Betula populifolia), dangling near the tips of the twigs. While the males can grow to about three inches long, the erect female catkins will be found among the new leaves and are only about 1/3-inch long.

paper birch catkins

Like the Gray Birch, the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), develops catkins in the fall, which remain dormant over the winter. As the leaves develop, they’ll mature. The male catkins seen here are in the typical arrangement of groups of three that droop from the tip of the twigs.

deer stand

There were other things to see along the way, like this deer stand that has been beside the trail for as long as we’ve lived here. I assume it’s still used because it’s in good shape.

To me, it looks like a lifeguard chair. That reminds me–today was definitely not a beach day. Sunny, but still blustery and cold. Nothing some hot cocoa with Peppermint Schnapps couldn’t cure after our walk.

teaberry

As the snow melts along the trail, more and more wintergreen appears. For the most part, the leaves are still showing their fall foliage red, but some greening is taking place. And I saw very few berries so I have to assume that they provided sustenance to the grouse, squirrels and deer that share this space.

flower pot

One of my favorite finds today was nature’s flower pot.

And I’ve been looking for signs of moose in the area all winter. I usually find their tracks, scat and beds somewhere around here. We’ve had the joy of seeing them from our kitchen window during different seasons. But it’s been a while. Finally, today . . .

moosr

atop a barn where the trail intersects a road.

Thanks for wondering my way once again.