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.

Tramping with Teresa

It was a sad week. It was a happy week. Both, of course, are understatements. But that’s how life is. And so today, four days after Tom Henderson, the executive director of the Greater Lovell Land Trust, passed from his human form to that of an otter, his partner Teresa and I escaped to the woods.

Like Tom, I want to be reincarnated as an otter, for they seem to have the most fun.

s1-peering in

And fun it was as Teresa and I parked near the Leach Link Trail and walked down Stone House Road for I was afraid we’d get stuck in the mud and snow. OK, so I like to have fun, but getting stuck wasn’t high on my list of “this is a blast” must dos. Maybe it’s my advanced age. 😉

Actually though, I was glad for the opportunity to walk the road, because I knew what I wanted to show Teresa. But, she discovered a few other things worth looking at first. Curiosity was the name of our game and nothing would go unexamined–much like an otter would move through the landscape.  And so, at the old camp that rarely seems to see much use, we peered through the windows.

s2-peering up

And up to the eaves where another home showed its facade.

s3-pole 1

As we continued on, we played telephone. Remember that game where you sat or stood in a line and passed a message along and by the time it reached the last person, the message was totally changed and somehow quite humorous? Well, the rules were a wee bit changed today and our telephone was more like tag. In black bear tradition. All along the road, we stopped to check the poles for signs left behind like the upside down 1.

s5-pole 17

Scratches and bite marks marred the poles in a way that made our hearts beat with wonder.

s6-pole

And that hair, oh my! Who needs lions and tigers?

s7-gate

At last we reached the gate . . . and walked around it. 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 and guidance of Tom.

s9-airfield looking back toward the mtns

Onto the airfield we walked and then turned around for the view was as commanding as usual. To our right, the Stone House, built over a hundred years ago with granite quarried on the grounds. In front of us, the mountains of Evans Notch, including the Bald Faces and the Basin Rim. And immediately before us, the military airstrip built in the 1940s for training exercises during WWII.

s11-Rattlesnake Brook

Onward we continued until we reached Rattlesnake Brook and the old orchard.

s12-rattlesnake brook

The water soothed our souls.

s13-Colts Foot

And then a spot of color caught Teresa’s eye. Coltsfoot, a perennial that resembles dandelions, and is the first flower to appear in spring.

s14-colts foot

Tom would have known this, but I never trust my own information about foraging–Coltsfoot can be tossed in a salad to add an aromatic flavor, blended with honey to remedy a cough, or dried and chopped up, then mixed into pancake batter. But . . . don’t take my word for it. Tom was the chef. My best culinary creation–popcorn.

s15-false hellebore

False Hellebore or Indian Poke was our next spring ephemeral. I’ve always been drawn to its ribbed leaves, but today noticed something different–the stiff-haired growth that embraced it. Rhizomes? I’m not sure.

s15-wider open

As we walked, we paid constant attention to our foot placement for the young plants were everywhere and we knew other plants were also just emerging. And so we tiptoed.

s20-ostrich fern fertile frond

The feather-like fertile fronds of last year’s ostrich fern also drew our attention.

s16-beaver works

And beaver works that suggested a visitor in the fall of 2017.

s17-rattlesnake brook

As drawn as our eyes were to the plants at our feet, reflections in the water and life in general graced our afternoon.

s14-cliffs

We noted the cliffs above where Peregrine Falcons nest.

s22-stream

Continuing on, another stream spoke to us–its water murmuring our thoughts . . .

s23-water fall

and mirroring our memories.

s23-Shell Pond

A wee bit further, we stepped down toward Shell Pond and enjoyed the view offered.

s24-beaver lodge

Including a lodge inhabited by local residents.

s25-cherry bark

On the way back we were stopped in our tracks by a cherry tree almost totally debarked by a bark beetle.

s26-cherry bark

We both knew beaver and porcupine trees and had seen the hieroglyphics left by bark beetles before, but never had we seen such fresh work. Black cherry bark is often described as burnt potato chips and as Teresa noted, all had spilled out of the bag and lay on the ground.

s27-fork in the road

Our adventure ended at the fork in the road. When you come upon it, don’t take it 😉 But do pause.

Pausing was the name of our game today as we traversed five miles together and shared Tom moments while channeling our inner otter. Thank you, Teresa, for tramping with me. I can’t wait to do so again.

P.S. And with that, I’m proud to say, “It’s a boy!” I’m a great aunt again–to Baby Gormley who was born yesterday morning. May he develop a sense of wonder about the natural world and follow his inner otter.

Wondermyway Celebrates Third Anniversary

Three years ago this journey began as a quiet entry into the world of blogging, of sharing my finds and questions found along the trail. And ever so slowly, you joined me to wander and wonder.

So really, today is a celebration of you, for I give thanks that you’ve continued to follow and comment and wander and wonder along, whether literally or virtually.

I absolutely love to travel the trail alone and do so often. But I also love hiking with my guy and others because my eyes are always opened to other things that I may have missed while hiking on my own.

I’m blessed with the community of naturalists with whom I’m surrounded–and this includes all of you for if you’re following along and taking the time to actually read my entries, then you share my interest and awe. And you may send me photos or I may send you photos and together we learn.

t6-cecropia cocoon

Just yesterday, while tramping in Lovell, Maine, with fellow trackers, I spotted a cocoon  dangling from a beech tree. My first thought–Cecropia moth, but I contacted Anthony Underwood, a Maine Master Naturalist who has great knowledge about insects, and learned that I was wrong. He said it looked more like the cocoon of a Promethea moth. “They hang down whereas Cecropia are usually attached longitudinally,” wrote Anthony. And there you have it.

Now I just have to remember it, which is part of the reason I value my post entries. The information has been recorded and I can always plug a key word, e.g. Promethea, into the search bar and today’s blog will come up–jogging my memory.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my favorites of the past year. It’s a baker’s dozen of choices. Some months, I had difficulty narrowing the choice to one and other months there was that one that absolutely stood out. I hope you’ll agree with my selection. I also hope that you’ll continue to follow me. And if you like what you read here, that you’ll share it with your families and friends and encourage others to follow along.

February 23, 2017:  Knowing Our Place

h-muddy-river-from-lodge

Holt Pond is one of my favorite hangouts in western Maine on any day, but on that particular day–it added some new notches to the layers of appreciation and understanding.

March 5, 2017: Tickling the Feet

CE 3

I don’t often write about indoor events, but while the rest of the world was out playing in the brisk wind of this late winter day, a few of us gathered inside to meet some feet.

April 22, 2017: Honoring the Earth

h-spotted sallie 2 (1)

It would have been so easy to stay home that night, curled up on the couch beside my guy while watching the Bruins play hockey. After all, it was raining, 38˚, and downright raw. But . . . the email alert went out earlier in the day and the evening block party was scheduled to begin at 7:30.

May 21, 2017: On the Rocks at Pemaquid Point

p16-fold looking toward lighthouse

Denise oriented us northeastward and helped us understand that we were standing on what is known as the Bucksport formation, a deposit of sandstone and mudstone metamorphosed into a flaky shist. And then she took us through geological history, providing a refresher on plate tectonics and the story of Maine’s creation–beginning 550 million years ago when our state was just a twinkle in the eyes of creation.

June 9, 2017: Fawning with Wonder

p-fawn 2

Though fawning is most oft used to describe someone who is over the top in the flattery department (think old school brown nose), the term is derived from the Old English fægnian, meaning “rejoice, exult, be glad.”

July 3, 2017: Book of July: Flying on the Wild Wind of Western Maine

d-skimmer, yellow legged meadowhawk, wings

My intention was good. As I sat on the porch on July 1st, I began to download dragonfly and damselfly photographs. And then the sky darkened and I moved indoors. Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, the wind came up. Torrential rain followed. And thunder and lightening. Wind circled around and first I was making sure all screens and doors were closed on one side of the wee house and then it was coming from a different direction and I had to check the other side. Trees creaked and cracked. Limbs broke. And the lightening hit close by.

August 6, 2017: B is for . . .

b-bye

Our original plan was to hike to the summit of Blueberry Mountain in Evans Notch today,  following the White Cairn trail up and Stone House Trail down. But . . . so many were the cars on Stone House Road, that we decided to go with Plan B.

September 15, 2017: Poking Along Beside Stevens Brook

s22-cardinal flower

Raincoat? √

Notecards? √

Camera? √

Alanna Doughty? √

This morning I donned my raincoat, slipped my camera strap over my head, and met up with LEA’s Education Director Alanna Doughty for our reconnaissance mission along Stevens Brook in downtown Bridgton. Our plan was to refresh our memories about the mill sites long ago identified and used beside the brook.

October 5, 2017: Continued Wandering Into the World of Wonder

i-baskettail, common baskettail 1

May the answers slowly reveal themselves, while the questions never end.

November 24, 2017: Black Friday Shopping Extravaganza

b8-the main aisle

At last, I’d raided enough aisles. My cart was full to the brim and my brain overwhelmed. I guess I’m not really a “shop-til-you drop” kind of gal. It was time to wind along the trail and end my Black Friday shopping extravaganza.

December 29, 2017: Oh Baby!

s-screech owl 2

We shared about ten minutes together and it was definitely an “Oh baby!” occasion. But there was more . . .

January 21, 2018: Sunday’s Point of View

p17-Needle's Eye

We arrived home with ten minutes to spare until kickoff.

February 8, 2018: Hardly Monochromatic

p18-Stevens Brook

My world always takes on a different look following a storm and today was no different.

To all who have read thus far, thanks again for taking a trip down memory lane today and sticking with me these past three years. I sincerely hope you’ll continue to share the trail as I wander and wonder–my way.

And to wondermyway.com–Happy Third Anniversary!

 

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.

Ladies’ Weekend 2015

While it was Ladies’ Day Out here in western Maine, I drove west to Vermont, to celebrate with friends in a different manner.

Brownington, Vermont, was the destination–as three of us drove north and west to converge at a friend’s farmhouse. And then the Talk Fest began.

Yes, instead of a Shop Fest, we enjoyed a Talk Fest. Of course, unless you want to buy eggs, there’s not much shopping to be done in Brownington. That’s the beauty of it. Plus, we aren’t shoppers.

What we did do, which is also a little unusual for a ladies’ weekend, was go on a quest for my ancestral roots. (Thanks B.M.D., P.S. and B.C. for humoring me)

And at the South Cemetery in South Barton, we found what I was seeking.

Folsom 2

My greatX3 grandparents and other ancestors are buried here in a small valley below Crystal Lake (once known as Belle Pond). According to various census reports, they were farmers and I have to wonder if one of the small homes in the area belonged to them, or if there is a foundation somewhere nearby. A future hunt?

QA 10

Wildflowers growing on the hill between the cemetery and road feature an abundance of Queen Anne’s Lace. Like a spray of fireworks, the fruiting structure extends in various directions.

andrew f

Dana A F

Alonzo Dana

Finding physical evidence of those who came before made my heart sing. They were here. They worked this land. They breathed this air. They were born, grew up and carved out a living here. They were farmers who sowed their own seeds. And some of them died here.

QA 2

Queen Anne’s Lace is prolific in spreading its seeds by the wind.

Dana Folsom

They served their country and some didn’t return, like my great-great grandfather. And while my great grandmother was born here, she and my great grandfather moved to Massachusetts and then New Hampshire–I have to wonder why.

QA 8

Some seeds land nearby; others float away in the wind. I must have inherited some of g.g.’s genes.

Willoughby Cemetery

We’d spent enough time reading the headstones and appreciating the lives they represented.

WL, Haystack, Pisgah, Hor

It was time to continue our Talk Fest and take a peek at the peak’s our hostess knows so well. Haystack, Pisgah and Hor create the backdrop of Willoughby Lake.

deer print

We stumbled upon deer prints and . . .

beaver chew

beaver works. The latter forced us to look further, but we couldn’t find any evidence of a lodge or dam, just more beaver chews along the beach–perhaps they floated in from another locale.

Prospect Hill Observatory

We climbed the Prospect Hill Observatory and took in the 360˚ views. Rolling hills, farms, villages, mountains and . . .

Oh Canada

Canada. My great grandfather came from Canada–perhaps right over there. I’m not sure–I’m still trying to figure out his lineage.

horseshoe print

This print is one in a series of tracks that lead up and around the observatory. A couple of Amish families have moved into the neighborhood in the past year–a horseshoe print.

Sisters & Brenna

We left our own prints at the geographic survey mark when we posed for a selfie–photobombed by another lady–Brenna.

Brownington

The Orleans Historical Society has protected this land and the buildings you see here. Brownington is a picturesque village located along the former stage coach route that led from Canada to Boston.

stone house 2

Thirty-five years ago, when our hostess moved here for a teaching job, she earned her keep by keeping an eye on this building. Stone House sign

Local lore has it that Twilight quarried the granite blocks and erected the building on his own. He used a single ox–on a treadmill on staging–to raise the blocks and when the last stone was placed, he couldn’t figure out how to lower the beast, so he roasted it.

QA 12

It was time to go. We embraced each other and gave thanks to our hostess and host, and for our lasting friendship–as we looked ahead to next year’s gathering. Ancestors below Belle Pond, Queen Anne’s Lace, Brenna and us–a perfect combination for a Ladies’ Weekend.