Nature Works

Sometimes when you walk off the beaten path you discover that you are actually on the beaten path. A path once created by those who walked before. Such was the case today for ten of us from the Greater Lovell Land Trust.

We began our journey by carpooling from the main road, Route 5. One side road led to another, much curvier and bumpier. Eventually, that road became a dirt road. And finally, it ended at a gate where we parked.

There were several choices of paths to follow and we choose the one closest to the brook.

early fall day

As we crossed the brook, my eye was drawn to the changing color of the maple leaves. The days have been warm and sunny, but the nights are beginning to cool down and so sugar made in the leaves during the day gets trapped there. As the leaves begin to stop their food-making process, the yellow, red and orange carotenoids that are masked by the green pigment all summer slowly become visible.

downy woodpecker's feathers

One of our docents had a keen eye today. While the rest walked past, she spotted this dinner site. Downy woodpecker feathers and body parts. Good find, Ann.

got mail

Got mail? Though this mailbox wasn’t our intended destination, it’s on the way. We wondered about its purpose, knowing it was beside a former logging/hunter camp. But still . . . it struck us as odd.

bed frame 1

Nature slowly reclaims that which was left behind.

massive yellow birch

We turned right at this yellow birch. Though we didn’t hug it, I think it would have taken two or three of us to embrace this tree. There were others equally as big or bigger–mostly sugar maples, which led a few to surmise that they were left because of their importance for sap production.

country lane

At last we were in the old neighborhood, where the path existed between two single-wide stone walls. The farmland is bordered by numerous walls that stand stalwart, though some sections are more ragged that others.

chatting in the parlor

Standing in the parlor, my friends tried to make sense of an old foundation. Trees, roots, frost, weather, critters and humans have added to the foundation’s demise, but what remains left us in awe of those who had lived on this land. We suspect the neighborhood was abandoned post Civil War, when soldiers/farmers discovered that there was fertile ground elsewhere where stone potatoes were not the number one crop.

root cellar

Within the cellar of a neighboring foundation was a root cellar.

root cellar 2

Taking a closer look, we learned that someone else has made use of it. Or should I say something else–a porcupine. The back corner is filled with scat.

snapping turtle headshape

We explored the hillside and checked out some boulders taller than us. The ragged edges reminded us that this didn’t get rolled about by the glacier, but may have been part of a boulder field left behind. Sometimes our imagination turned from the historical nature to whimsy. I see a snapping turtle head; someone else saw a frog in this stone formation.

moose femur

Another great find by the woman in blue (Ann, you had eagle eyes today!) was the femur of a moose. It had some nibble marks–evidence that a rodent had been gnawing it to get the benefit of the calcium. The circle of life dictates that something will then eat the rodent, and the calcium will continue to make its way through the food web.

Sarah's stoneMary's stoneEphraim's stone

We bushwhacked to the site of a cemetery. It was interesting to note that the two stones on the left are slate. Hmmm . . . it would have cost more money for slate since it’s not a local stone.

barbed wire

On the way back, someone spotted barbed wire growing through a tree–or rather, a tree that grew around barbed wire, another indication of this land’s use once upon a time.

shrew 2

And a dead shrew–easy to identify by its elongated snout. It was killed but not consumed, probably because it has a musky gland that makes it smell unappetizing–but it’s not until the animal has died that the smell is evident. Why after death? One of my mentors, Kevin Harding, was with us today and so I posed this question to him. He and Naturalist David Brown theorize that one shrew takes a hit for the whole team. In other words, its predators might recognize the next shrew and decide to let it live. Maybe so.

Hobblebush

If you’ve been following my wanders, you know I can’t pass by a hobblebush without admiring it.

GB 3A

Three hours later we returned to the trailhead, thankful for a chance to spend time together on an autumn day and wonder how nature works.

Seeking Hope

My heart is heavy with thoughts of recent events both here in the US and abroad, especially in Baltimore and Nepal. It all makes me feel so insignificant as I head outside. And it makes me all the more thankful for the opportunity to head outside and wander freely along the path and through the woods.

red maple 1

My hope is that you’ll never pass by a Red Maple tree again and dismiss it as just another tree.

striped maple

The same is true for a Striped Maple.

pussy willows

and willow.

vp1

My hope is you’ll relish the life of a vernal pool

vp eggs

as it supports a variety of species for such a short time,

wb 2

including this predaceous diving beetle and wiggly mosquito larva.

vp 2

Visit soon, because they are already drying up.

porc tree

My hope is you’ll look around and notice the subtle signs

porc damage

of mammal activity.

porc den

And have the good fortune to see a den and scat up close.

stone wall

My hope is you’ll come upon stone walls

trash 3

and objects in the woods that will make you wonder about those who came before.

turkey tail

My hope is you’ll notice the abalone colors of turkey tails

stump

and see castles in tree stumps.

sinking feeling

My hope is you’ll sink in the mud

trail

as you travel along the trail.

May those who suffer find hope and wonder.

To Old City and Back

Leaving camp

From camp. To Old City. Bridgton to Sweden. Via Moose Pond.

Toward Black Mtn

The temp was about 40 degrees, but with the brilliant sunshine, it felt even warmer. We reminisced about kayaking and rowing as we headed north on the pond.

Mink 1

Beside one of the islands, a mink had made numerous trails and holes.

Mink 2

I love it when a critter behaves like it’s supposed to. In this case, the prints are on the slant that the weasel family is known for. A mink is a small mammal with a long body and short legs. It has partially-webbed feet, an adaptation to a near-aquatic habitat. A few years ago, an acquaintance and I were helping with the Moose Pond watershed survey. We were sitting on some rocks by the shore, with a dock in front of us, as we jotted down notes. Much to our surprise, a mink came up from under the rocks by the dock. We starred at it, it starred at us. We had cameras. Did we take a photo? Nope. Another one for the mind’s eye.

Mink3

Bound and slide. Like otters. I still want to be an otter in my next life, but minks do have fun too.

following tracks

Tracks tell the story about behavior, but it’s often a guessing game. I think I got this one right. Homo sapiens. Male. About 6 feet tall. Handsome. Puts up with a lot.

finding a seat

He borrowed a resting spot while I examined those mink tracks and holes. There were tons of holes.

on the trail

At the northernmost end of the pond, we followed the snowmobile trail toward Old City. Today it’s a wooded snowmobile trail around the base of Black Mountain in Sweden, Maine, but during the 19th century a road passed by at least six homesteads. All were reportedly occupied by young men who chose not to live at home–perhaps increasing their status as eligible bachelors. Their names included Cushman, Farrington and Eastman, among others–names long associated with Sweden and Lovell. (Sweden was originally part of Lovell)

foundation

The area was abandoned at some point after the Civil War, but foundations like this one remain. This may have belonged to P. Farrington or J. Edgecomb, but I’m thrown off because it occurs on the wrong side of the current “road.” That doesn’t mean the road was originally in the same spot.

stone walls

Stone walls, like this one near the I. Eastman property, formed boundaries to keep animals in or out. I suspect this guy was a major landowner.

stone wall 2

I’m fascinated by stone walls. Not only are they beautiful and functional, but they also represent a tremendous amount of labor. And the stones have their own story to tell about the lay of our land in New England.

color in the woods

I’d been looking at tracks, trees (always looking for bear claw marks on beech trees and quizzing myself on bark) and stones. On the way back, this touch of color caught my eye. Red Pine bark is among my favorites. Then again, I haven’t meet a tree I didn’t like. And the contrast with the hemlock needles, beech leaves and touch of blue sky gave me pause.

vine?

This also caught my eye. Last fall, a friend had sent me a photo of a beech tree with a similar case of strange scars. I didn’t know what it was, so I sent it on to a forester I know. He sent it on to someone in the invasive insect department at the state level. It all boiled down to what they thought was wounds from bittersweet vine being wrapped around the tree at one time.

vine 2

That made sense then. Today, I dunno. As I looked around, I noticed the same phenomenon on other beech trees. But I didn’t see any evidence of vines nearby. Of course, there’s still a lot of snow on the ground, as my guy can tell you since he chose not to wear snowshoes. The area had been logged at some point. But, I’m just not sure.

heading back to camp

Back on the pond and heading toward Bridgton and camp. Shawnee Peak and Pleasant Mountain provide the perfect backdrop. Yesterday, my guy took one of our grand-nephews for another ski lesson. The young’un skied straight over moguls on the Pine, slipped off the trail into the woods several times and fell a kazillion times. On the ride home this tired seven-year-old said that his younger brother probably spent the day playing Xbox. When asked if he wished he’d done the same, he remarked, “No, this was the most fun day I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE life.” I can hear my mother-in-law guffawing in heaven. 🙂

islands and mountain

Only another mile to go before we rest. Thanks for wondering along with us on today’s wander.