A Rare and Exotic Mondate

When my guy and I began our journey this afternoon, he thought our mission was simple and two-fold. First, we’d double check road names and directions for a friend’s book that I’m editing. And then we’d hike the easy Ron’s Loop at the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham, Maine.

Y7-RON'S LOOP KIOSK

No sooner had I parked the truck and we hopped out, when I announced that we had a detour to make. Always one for adventure, he followed along. And when I told him our quest, he began to search the forest floor. I have to admit time and again that though he pretends not to care about so much that naturally distracts me, he has a keen eye. Or maybe its just that he likes a challenge. Perhaps, too, he just wanted to make the find and move on for the mosquitoes were robust and hungry.

y1-yellow lady's slipper

What mattered most was that he channeled his Prince Charming and was the first to find Cinderella’s golden slipper.

Y4-ALL THE PARTS

Members of the Orchid family, lady’s slippers feature the typical three petals in an atypical fashion. The pouch (or slipper or moccasin), called the labellum, is actually one petal–inflated and veined.

Y3-TENDRILS

With a purplish tint, the petals and sepals twisted and turned offering their own take on a ballroom dance. From every angle, they were simply elegant rising as they did from their stem with leaves forming a royal staircase.

lady's slipper

Though we didn’t see any pink lady’s slippers on today’s hike, it’s interesting to note their differences, with the sac of the pink dangling down like a high-heeled shoe, while the yellow is more ballet-like in its presentation. And the pink features two basal leaves, in contrast to the alternate steps of the yellow’s leaves.

Both, however, are in the genus Cypripedium in the Orchidaceae family. The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek words “Cypris,” an early reference in Greek myth to Aphrodite, and “pedilon” for sandal, so named for the fused petals that form the pouch and their resemblance to a slipper or shoe.

Y2--LOOKING WITHIN

All lines on this orchid led to . . . well, not exactly Rome, but certainly the labellum, or sac-like structure. With the rim turned inward, the pollinators found it easy to enter, but much more difficult to exit, the better to rub against the stigma and anthers, thus collecting pollen. Some bees find it difficult to simply fly away from the lady’s charm, but by chewing their way out, they are able to move on to the next and leave a message from the princess in the form of a pollen deposit.

Y7-BEECH COTYLEDON

We finally moved on with the not-so-sweet drone of those larger-than-life mosquitoes buzzing in our ears. And then we stumbled upon one American beech cotyledon after another and were reminded of last year’s mast crop of beech nuts.

Y8-BEECH COTYLEDON

I was again reminded that it’s my duty to bring attention to these structures, the seedling form of beech trees. The lower set of leathery embyronic leaves that remind me of a butterfly, appear before the tree’s true leaves make themselves known. Part of what intrigues me about these seed leaves that appear before the tree’s true leaves is that they contain stored food. Some of these food stores wither and fall off, but in the case of the many we saw today, the cotyledons had turned green and photosynthesized. I also love how the word cotyledon (cot·y·le·don \ ˌkä-tə-ˈlē-dᵊn \) flows off my tongue, much like marcescent, which describes the leaves of this same tree that cling, wither and rattle all winter long.

Y8A-BEECH GROVE TO COME

Though I’ve read that seeing beech cotyledons is a rare event and could attest to that fact  in the past, thrilling with each siting, today we noted their ubiquitous nature.

Y9-RED MAPLE COTYLEDON

Red maple cotyledons also decorated the trail. If the plant has two seed leaves, such as these, it is a dicot (dicotyledon), and if only one it is a monocot (monocotyledon).

Y10-MAGIC ALONG THE TRAIL

Onward we moved, stopping occasionally as my guy did some trail work because its part of his nature to make a path clear for those who follow. Being a one-armed bandit, my help was still limited, but it won’t be long and I’ll be able to offer two capable hands.

Y11-BUNCHBERRIES

Further along the trail, bunchberries were beginning to bloom. Normally, a bunchberry plant has two sets of opposite leaves. But . . . when one is mature enough to grow a third set, typically larger leaves (perhaps to capture more energy) than the first two sets, it produces four white bracts that we think of as petals. In reality, the bracts were modified leaves. The flowers were in the center–tiny as they were.

Y12-1ST BRIDGE CROSSING

In what seemed like no time, for we moved so quickly, we reached the first bridge. It was at this point that we began the loop back toward the trailhead. And smiles crossed my face as I recalled memories of explorations along the way with so many others.

Y8B-CANKERED BEECH

On the way back, we noted so many beech trees that dealt with nectria and we could only hope that within some of those cotyledons there might be some trees resistant to the beech scale insect that delivers such devastation to these trees.

Y13-SEATED TREE

One of my favorite trees along the way sat as it always does, taking a break upon a granite bench.

Y14-TINDER CONK

And a tinder conk showed off its form, which for me recalled a childhood spent along the Connecticut shoreline, for it surely resembled an oyster shell.

Y15-INDIAN CUCUMER ROOT

We were almost to the end of the loop when my heart and not my mouth sang with joy once again. While you might give thanks for small blessings like the fact that I’m a great lip sinker rather than the opera star my mind hears, I made my guy stop because the Indian Cucumber Root was in bloom.

Y16-INDIAN CUCUMBER ROOT

Like the bunchberries that need that third set of leaves in order to fruit, Indian Cucumber Root needs two levels to produce a flower. I’m of the belief that if the structure of this flower doesn’t make you wonder, nothing will. It strikes me as a northern version of a bird of paradise.

Y18-2ND BRIDGE

In what seemed like my shortest adventure along this trail because we didn’t want to overdo our offerings to the female mosquitoes who needed our blood in order to reproduce, we crossed the second bridge back toward the trailhead.

Y19-YELLOW LADY'S SLIPPER WITHOUT FLOWER

It was near that crossing that I checked on a couple of yellow lady’s slippers and as has been true since I first met them–they weren’t in flower. From what I’ve learned, it’s not so odd that the plants have yet to bloom. Apparently, it takes 10-17 years for a seed to mature into a plant capable of blooming. For this plant and the one beside it, perhaps the blossoms are on the horizon.

Y5-ALL PARTS 2

One day they’ll reach the status of their neighbor. For any lady’s slippers, the dance is rather intricate. The stage floor must be painted with an acidic soil and there needs to be a sashay with Rhizoctonia fungi. As the fungi digests the outer cells of the seeds, inner cells escape digestion and absorb some of the nutrients the fungus obtained from the soil–all in the name of a symbiotic dance.

Though our journey flew by on the wings of the world’s largest, loudest, and meanest mosquitoes, our finds on this Mondate afternoon extended from lady’s slippers to cotyledons, bunchberries and Indian Cucumber Root. All appeared rare and exotic.

 

 

Finding Our Way at Back Pond Reserve Mondate

One of my favorite winter hikes upon property owned by the Greater Lovell Land Trust is at Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham. And so this morning I convinced my guy that it was the perfect trail for us to explore.

b1-the mountain trailhead

We parked on the Five Kezar Ponds Road near the trailhead for Ron’s Loop and then walked back to The Mountain Trail to begin our ascent. The reserve is a 259-acre property, with all but ten acres located on the north side of the road. The other ten south of the road will remain forever wild. Those latter ten acres were purchased in 1980 by twelve families who owned properties on Back Pond. Eighteen years later, they deeded the land to the GLLT. And then the Five Kezar Ponds Watershed Association generously helped the GLLT acquire the 249-acre piece through two purchases made in 2006 and 2010.

b2-poles at kiosk

At The Mountain Trail kiosk, plenty of information is available, including trail maps and walking sticks. The latter brought a smile to my face for it spoke to the continued generosity of those who know and love this land best.

b3-oak and beech leaves

Given the recent rain that drained our snow pack significantly and was then followed by another blast of arctic air, the trail was well packed. We could tell that a few others had traveled this way either with snowshoes or without–such were the impressions left behind. And within some of those impressions, beech and oak leaves gathered–speaking to the forest we were passing through.

b5-big toothed aspen

Not to be left out was the occasional big-toothed aspen leaf.

b6-beech leaf and husk

But really, it was the beech that we saw most often.

b6a-beech husks litter

And scattered everywhere–beech husks empty of seeds indicating it had been a mast crop year for this species. How viable the seeds were will remain to be seen.

b11-beech sap

In old wounds on several of the beech trees, amber sap had flowed and reminded me that not all sap comes from maples.

b9-trail conditions varied

Where the sun had reached the trail, conditions varied.

b7-microspikes

As the lay of the land began to get steeper, my guy decided to don his micro-spikes. One of the thoughtful efforts found periodically along the way–benches provided in the name of Ron Gestwicki who had longed served as president of the Five Kezars Watershed Association. A perfect place to rest, take in the surrounding beauty, or slip on micro-spikes.

b8-microspikes

I wore mine from the get-go and have found them the easier way to travel the past two days. It’s kind of like adding chains to the tires of a plow truck. With the spikes digging in, though I had a pole attached to our backpack I didn’t need to use it.

b10-trail makrers

The Mountain Trail is blazed with blue dots and someone used ingenuity to attach a fallen sign to a twig.

b12-turn onto old jeep road

It didn’t take long to reach the old jeep road that led to the summit. We made the left hand turn, but had a mind to go off trail for a bit.

b13-bear tree

Our first turn was to the left for we knew that bear trees stood tall there–at least for now because some looked like they were in rough shape given the beech scale disease that affected them.

b14-sidetracked to right

And then we headed off to the right, bushwhacking our way to a bit of a ledge where we hoped to find signs of a bobcat. I’m forever hopeful, but once again we came up empty handed. Previously, we had seen tracks and scat crossing the trail in numerous places, so we probably weren’t too far off with our speculation.

b15-ledge view

What we did find, a first view of the ponds below . . .

b16-trailing arbutus

and a certain sign of spring recently exposed in the form of trailing arbutus.

b17-back on trail

Finally, we headed back to the main trail and continued to climb toward the summit.

b18-porky prints

Though in general, tracking conditions weren’t great, we did find one expected customer–porcupine. It seems any time we travel this trail we find porcupine evidence.

b20-5 Kezars 1

At last, we reached lunch rock, where the view stretched from a few of the ponds across to Shawnee Peak Ski Area at Pleasant Mountain.

b22-Kearsarge and beyond

The Presidentials came into sight.

b23-Mount Washington in mix

And, of course, Mount Washington, which also displayed less of a snowpack.

b25-orange trail

From the summit, rather than hike back down the same trail, we turned to the backside and followed the orange connecting trail.

b26-swampy area

It’s fun for the community switches from hemlocks, pines and spruces to a small boggy area that offered a challenging crossing and finally back to beech and oak.

b27-beech sap again

And among those beech trees, another that had fallen and leaked sap from its butt end, plus . . .

b28-bear trees

more bear trees.

b29-brook crossing

On the downslope, we heard water running and wondered what our first brook crossing would be like. In the past, we either used a rickety old bridge, or tried not to use it.

b31-old bridge

Today, my guy went across first, and found pieces of the old bridge buried in snow. We knew we were better off without it.

b30-ice and water

I, of course, needed to stop and admire the flowing water and ice.

b32-more ice

Again and again.

b33-orange lichen

Much to our surprise, we found one more cool feature of this trail–the rare orange paintitous (is that a word?) crustose lichen. 🙂

b35-turning onto Ron's Loop

Not far from the rare find, we turned left and then right as we crossed the bridge and found ourselves on Ron’s Loop.

b36-brook and wetland

Below the bridge, the wetland bespoke more of the melt down efforts. In the past, we’ve found plenty of otter prints and slides in this area. But today, it was difficult to distinguish anything.

b37-ruffed grouse scat

We did, however, find a pile of ruffed grouse scat!

b39-H is for Hemlock

And proof that H is for Hemlock. (And Hayes)

b40-new bridge

Finally, we reached the second bridge that took us back across the brook. The bridge was built this past summer by the GLLT interns and Back Pond Reserve stewards. We truly appreciated it for many a times during the winter, the crossing had been to wide and we’d gotten wet.

b41-which way should we go?

After completing the loop, we once again gave thanks for all those who had preserved the land and created the trails so that the mammals that call this place home and folks like us could journey there.

With ease we thoroughly enjoyed this Mondate as we found our way at Back Pond Reserve.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating First Day 2018 Lovell-Style

In the name of tradition, today the Greater Lovell Land Trust hosted a hike up Whiting Hill at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve to welcome the new year. Last year’s inaugural hike attracted eight of us and the temp was so comfortable that we began to shed layers as we climbed. This year, six of us made the trek and conditions were a bit on the cool side–um, that would be an understatement.

f-Heald Pond dam

But . . . the crisp air enhanced the beauty all around us and we began with a brief stop to appreciate the dam. What we didn’t realize until a minute later was that we’d also startled some wood ducks who immediately flew off.

f-snowshoe journey up Whiting Hill Trail

Though our group was small, old friendships were renewed and new ones formed as we shared the trail.

f-otter trough 2

Periodically, we stopped to admire others who had carved their own trails. We read the stories of many mouse journeys, a fisher chasing a red fox, red and gray squirrel adventures and these–an otter bounding through the landscape.

f-otter trough 1

Otter troughs are about 6-10 inches wide, this one being the larger size. And in what can seem like two by two format, their front feet touch down as back feet rise, coming forward to land where the front feet had been just moments ago for they are bounders. Occasionally, this fun-loving critter chose to slide down on its belly.

f-summit achievement

By the time we reached the summit sign and turned right, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be so cold that we’d take a quick peek at the view and retreat? Would we be able to toast Lovell as planned?

f-who said it was cold?

As it turned out, a few in our group found their hands getting too warm, so welcomed a chance for a mitten break.

f-sit a minute

Others sat for a moment on the bench and left behind impressions.

f-hot water carafe

One of our docents had made pumpkin bread to enhance our toast and we brought a carafe full of hot water for cocoa or tea.

f-Heinrich filling cup

The water was very hot indeed and warmed us right up.

f-enjoying the summit and each other

And so it was with big grins that we shared camaraderie at the summit, enjoyed the view and noted the fact that it wasn’t too windy and the cold air was tolerable.

f-red fox print and pee

When we did finally pack up to make our descent, we snowshoed first over to the bench on the Heald Pond side of the summit, where last year we found a sacrificial squirrel upon the altar. Prints left behind indicated a fox had dined there. Of course, a few of us got excited about the kill site and perhaps scared others away from joining us again this year. But . . . we just like to know what the mammals have eaten.

Today, an offering of another kind at the same bench. We found more fox prints all around it and as is typical on a raised object, a hint of pee–its skunky scent indicating it was a red fox. (Yes, I sniffed the pee. By the way, deer pee smells rather piney–just saying.)

f-deer trail

On the way down, more fox and mouse prints everywhere we looked, some old, others fresh. But also, deer tracks a few days old and filled with beech leaves that had recently blown down. It was much colder on our descent given that we were on the eastern side of the mountain and for the most part out of the sun.

f-John Fox Homestead

But that didn’t stop us from making a quick trip to Otter Rocks where two members of our party told us they had the great joy of watching a couple of otters frolic last summer.

f-dragonfly exuvia, lichen and ice:snow on otter rock

We stepped onto the ice and looked back at the large, erratic boulder that marks the point, and reveled in the sight of lichens, dragonfly exuviae and ice displayed.

f-dragonfly exuvia 2

We always check the area for dragonfly exoskeletons but now that the ice has frozen, we can visit the rock’s backside for a change. A few remain, and it was easy to see the hole from which the dragonfly had cast off its external covering during last spring/summer’s moult.

f-Toasting Lovell

The temperature dropped drastically by Heald Pond and wind picked up, so we soon made our departure and headed back to the parking lot.

We were, however, tickled with the knowledge that we’d taken the opportunity to hike on this First Day of 2018. And while at the summit of Whiting Hill, on the count of three, we’d shouted Happy New Year to  Lovell, Stoneham, Stow and Sweden. Did you hear us?

Through Younger Eyes

Zigzagging through the woods, my young friends find wonder in every moment. They embrace their discoveries–often with exclamations and excitement. Following the blazed trail is not in their blood, for they know that some of the coolest finds are off trail, where the fungi aren’t trampled and mammal signs not obliterated.

w-striped ledge

And so it was that this past week, I had the honor of spending lots of time exploring with them. First, on Tuesday, our Greater Lovell Land Trust docent tramp found us atop the “striped ledge” beside Keewaydin Lake in Stoneham, Maine. One of our docents, Mary, had obtained landowner permission for this grand adventure. From the Maine Geological Survey: “The dikes cutting the granite trend generally from southwest to northeast. They most likely intruded the host rock during the Jurassic period, when continental rifting caused extensive fracturing of New England’s bedrock (McHone 1992). Basaltic magma intruded these cracks, and cooled and solidified to form dikes such as those seen in Striped Ledge. Close examination of the ledge shows a complex intrusion history at this locality Some of the dikes have layering parallel to their walls, which may have resulted from several pulses of magma into the fractures and/or chilling of the dike margins in contact with cooler host rock . . . the dikes locally cross one another, with the older dikes being offset where they are torn apart by the younger ones.” How cool is that?

w-smiling for rosy quartz

Darn cool, especially when rose quartz was among the great finds.

w-rock hounds

And in that instant, a few rock hounds were initiated.

w-turning two twigs into a fish

When not looking at rocks, a couple of broken twigs on the ledge became a fish in one moment, and hotdog tongs in another–ever versatile were they.

w-eyeing a flower in rock tripe

But it wasn’t the ledge alone that drew their attention. When we stopped to admire rock tripe growing atop a boulder, it was the eye of the youth that discovered the green “flower” at the center.

w-Sucker Brook 2

And then the next morning, which dawned even colder than the previous, I joined the same family for a pre-hike at the GLLT’s Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve as we prepared for a public hike. The trail meanders beside Sucker Brook, and we, too, meandered.

w-dipping into the cold for a Pooh stick

Pooh sticks were launched periodically and sometimes had to be dislodged.

w-wondering about foam

There were bubbles to watch in the brook and the foam formed to hypothesize about.

w-stump art

Nature’s artistic designs were viewed with awe.

w-pointing to hobblebush

The intention was to find a few of their favorite things. They found a few hundred and  . . .

w-seesaw

had lots of fun along the way.

w-exploring the stream

All the way along, the water, moss-covered rocks and sticks became part of their playground. But really, they also noted a variety of fungi, including their favorite green stain, which was in fruit,  a tree that had brought distress this summer for it housed honeybees and they learned that the hard way, great sliding spots from which to practice being river otters, the sunlight glittering on Moose Pond Bog and Indian pipes in their capsule form. There were sapsucker holes, pileated woodpecker activity, birch polypores, and even a surprise. They couldn’t wait for the public hike to show off their discoveries.

l-measuring diameter 4

That same afternoon, District Forester Shane Duigan, joined our GLLT after-school program at New Suncook School in Lovell. The Trailblazers, as the group is known, first introduced Shane to their trees. And then he showed us some of the tools stored in his vest, such as the tape measure used to determine diameter.

w-learning how to age a tree

As the kids made guesses about a tree’s age, Shane demonstrated how foresters use an increment borer to extract a small core from a tree.

l-counting rings on tree core

They crowded in to watch him count its rings. The predicted age: 100. The actual age: 50. The fun: 100%.

w-Horseshoe Pond

And then this morning dawned, colder than our previous outings and the wind created white caps on Horseshoe Pond below the kiosk for the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve. It was time for our public walk to enjoy the wonders of Wilson Wing.

w-ice 1

One of the biggest surprises were the icicles that had formed on Sucker Brook since our last visit on Wednesday morning.

w-carrot-shaped icycle

And because they are kids, they couldn’t resist gathering such to admire up close. This one looked like a carrot, and actually appeared so as it reflected the blaze orange–our color of the season.

w-ice 2

The kids realized that the icicles formed upon all types of vegetation and created their own interesting shapes worth celebrating.

w-ice 3

One even looked like a flag blowing in the breeze when turned upright, and this guy showed it to his mom in honor of her service in the Army and the fact that today is Veterans Day. Turned on its side, it became a maze game and he really wanted to place a small ball in it and watch the ball move through. And as much as he wanted to take it home, it has to live on in his mind’s eye and this photograph.

w-wondering about the car

They showed us so many things of nature, and even the unnatural, though they imagined all the critters for which the old blue car might create a fine home–squirrels, weasels, porucpines, foxes, and coyotes were on their list. And then they turned into otters themselves and slide back down the hill over and over again.

w-polypody 1

They wanted to share some other great finds, including a few squirrel dining tables and a rock with bad hair day, but the crowd had gotten ahead of them. Despite that, they looked at the “bad hair day” fern, aka polypody, and realized that it had curled in since Wednesday’s visit. And then they figured out that the fern curls when it gets cold. Who knew you could use a fern to determine the temperature?

w1-artist conks

Though they didn’t get to share all of their finds this morning, they did make some new discoveries as they wandered off trail, like the artists conks that grew in abundance.

w1-dead man's fingers

And deadman fingers fungi that reminded one of them of scat standing upright. I’ve a feeling that description will stay with me each time I look at it going forward.

w-bear hair 1

In what seemed like no time, for we traveled the trail much faster than intended, we were back on Horseshoe Pond Road and one among us was particularly excited about a certain display upon pole 13. She ran ahead to be able to show all the participants as they passed by.

w-bear hair on pole 13

It was bear hair and scratch marks that she shared with enthusiasm. And the knowledge that we are not alone in these woods.

And just after that one of her brothers realized our walk was almost over and he was disappointed for so much fun had he had being a junior docent.

w-Sarah signing my book

A few hours later, my guy and I ventured to The Met Coffee House and Gallery in North Conway to meet up with another who encourages children and their adults to explore the outdoors. It was our great joy to join my dear friend, Sarah Frankel, for the first book signing event as she celebrated the publishing of Half Acre.

w-posing by an uprooted tree

And now it’s the end of the day and the end of the week, and I’m a better person because of the time I’ve spent with young friends as they’ve moved quickly at times and then stopped to wonder. They taught me the joy of looking with open minds.

If you don’t have kids to learn with and from, may you find time to channel your inner child and look at the world through younger eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BOF of Ron’s Loop

Huh? The BOF of Ron’s Loop? What in the world is that all about. Read on, if you dare.

r-kiosk

This morning dawned bright and chilly, just perfect for a tracking expedition with my friend, Joan, along Ron’s Loop at Back Pond Reserve in North Waterford/Stoneham. It’s a Greater Lovell Land Trust property that we love to visit. Then again, is there a GLLT property we don’t like? Uhuh.

r-bobcat

The snow was crusty and we were able to snowshoe atop it for most of the way. The same was true for many of the mammals that traveled about–including the bobcat whose print was difficult to see, but that’s because of the conditions. We went off trail and followed it for quite a ways, hoping to find other signs it left behind, but no such luck today.

r-otter-1

It did lead us to the stream that flows toward Five Kezar Ponds and we recognized the filled-in evidence that an otter had been this way. Based on the bobcat conditions, we assumed it had moved through recently, quite possibly last night or this morning. But the otter had visited after the last snowstorm, but before Tuesday’s ice storm, such were its offerings.

r-woolly-first

Eventually, we returned to the trail and continued on our merry way. But then we came upon a beech tree that begged noticing. In the reserve are a number of bear paw trees, though I have yet to find one along Ron’s Loop. And we didn’t today.

It was the fuzziness of a large clump of small white specks that drew our attention. Beech scale insect or more technically, Cryptococcus fagisuga, is a tiny insect that sucks sugar and other nutrients from beech trees only. In the summer, wingless larvae hatch and crawl (the only mobile stage of this insect) during their first instar stage of development. They search for suitable feeding spots such as cracks or crevices in the bark. What struck us today was the size of the colony.

r-woolly-1

A waxy substance secreted from its glands allows the insect to survive the winter months under a protective woolly-like coat.

r-frullania-liverwort-and-scale-insects

Even the frullania liverwort showed a contrast with the white filaments. By spring, the beech scale insect will molt into its second, legless nymph stage and emerge. Immediately, it will start sucking the sap through its tubular mouthpart or stylet. That instar stage doesn’t last long, and quickly it will become a mature female. For the rest of its life it will remain sedentary, but repeatedly remove and reinsert its piercing stylet, wounding the tree and providing entry points for fungi to enter. An interesting fact about beech scale insects–its a world of females who reproduce by parthenogenesis; there are no known males.

r-beech-hell

At Ron’s Loop a sign refers to what happens to the beech trees once the scale insect has set up housekeeping.

r-beech-bark-4

They feed on trees that are at least thirty years old. Beech bark is typically smooth from a tender age to the end of its long life. But the scale insects puncture holes and . . . when two or more gather and withdraw fluids from the vascular tissues in close proximity with each other, those vascular cells collapse and cease to function.

r-beech-bark-3

Fissures form in the bark’s surface.

r-beech-bark-2

The stage is set for one or two Nectria fungal pathogens to take advantage of the wound sites. Their spores, transported by wind or insects, germinate, enter the wounds and their hyphae colonize the vascular tissues, eventually killing patches of inner bark.

r-beech-bark-5

The bark develops cankers that can expand and join together. Photosynthetic activity decreases and limbs die and break off.

r-beech-snap

r-beech-snap-2

Some trees survive for a while, but others, possibly due to environmental stresses, die within five to ten years, their crowns and upper trunks snapping off. We call that beech snap.

The scale insect is non-native to Maine, having arrived here via Nova Scotia and before that Europe. Consequently, except for a species of lady bugs, there is no known predator to reduce its number. Fortunately, some trees are resistant and the current thinking it is to leave those trees intact and hope that they disperse seeds that produce more resistant trees.

r-hoar-frost1

Another fortunate thing is that there is so much more to see at Ron’s Loop. We spied some hoar frost surrounding a small hole and imagined a vole or some other little brown thing snuggled below the snow’s surface.

r-hoar-frost-and-feeding-area

In fact, we found other examples of the same; this particular mound featured not only the frost, but also served as the site of dining table–for a red squirrel.

r-otter-slide

All in all, the tracking was good. We found plenty of otter slides and knew where it bounded. We also saw evidence of snowshoe hare, deer, mice and possibly fisher, though that too was diluted by the ice storm.

r-otter-x-2

Did I say plenty of otter sign? In fact, let’s make that otters with an s.

r-running-water

The mammal activity was prime because the property offers a mountain, ledges, streams and is located by five ponds.

r-ice-on-flow

Most often when we’ve traveled this way during the winter months, we cross the streams with little hesitation.

r-ice-flow-2

Today, we admired the ice formations and the flow, which we hope bodes well for all forms of life and puts an end to the drought.

r-stream-crossing-at-end

Our finally crossing was the most difficult due to lack of ice. But the water is shallow in this spot for the most part and it’s not far from the end of the trail.

Truth be known, we didn’t actually cross here. Instead, we found some rocks a wee bit upstream and made our precarious way across,  one of us almost falling in and the other climbing up the steep bank on hands and knees–not easy when donning snowshoes. BOF could have stood for big old fools. But we survived and highly recommend sticking with the trail crossing, even if your shoes get a wee bit wet.

r-snow-level

Back in the parking area where we could not park, the trail sign provided an indication of the current snow depth.

As for Joan and me, we spent three hours examining the beech trees, exclaiming over the tracks we found, especially those of the bobcat and otter (we’d like to be reincarnated as otters–if we have a choice), and rejoicing in the flow of the water. The BOF of Ron’s Loop.

 

 

The Stars of Miles Notch

We only had to hike about a hundred feet along the Miles Notch Trail off Hut Road in Stoneham to discover that this was the perfect choice for a hot day in May. Well, sorta perfect. A little less heat and humidity would have cinched the deal. But, take a look:

m-moose

I heard something off to our left and tried to get my guy’s attention. He was looking down and didn’t see our trail partner at first. We found all kinds of evidence that this path was more well trodden by moose and deer, bear and coyote, than human beings. I think we both could have turned around at that point–happy for the sighting.

But . . . we continued our journey, not sure of our destination. Oh, we had a map. And actually met an acquaintance on the road who gave us an apt description as he used his hands to demonstrate the ups and downs of the trail. He was quite accurate in his description.

mph-lady's 3

There were other stars to encounter.

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Meet our lady friends.

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Each as beautiful as the next.

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They wear exotic slippers indeed.

m-rosy 3

Equally plentiful–rosy lampshades dangled below twisted stalks.

m-striped maple flowers

Another dangler beneath striped maple leaves–more umbrella-like in presentation.

mph yellow clintonia

Yellow rays of sunshine beamed up at us.

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And delicate splashes of color reminded us of paintings.

m-trill brown1

We even found a darker version of the red theme. I was extremely hot at this point and had visions of ice cream in my head–chocolate, of course.

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Not everything was beautiful, but still, the gargoyles were amazing.

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And, of course, we found some bear trees. Lots of bear trees.

m-stream

We crossed several streams–respites from the heat–where we dipped our hats and washed our faces.

m-trail sign

For a while we followed the trail toward Red Rock Mountain, but it was hot and we were tired and we had to pick our youngest up at the airport, so we turned around.

I should mention that we had passenger flies, blackflies and mosquitoes for the entire journey–not biting because we were well covered in bug stuff, but  certainly annoying.

That didn’t matter because eight miles later we’d seen plenty of stars, and it’s memories of them that will stay with us.

Oh, and the ice cream–I ate Denali Chocolate Moose Tracks and my guy feasted on Orange Blossom–at The Homestead in Lovell.

Another Day Mondate

We knew when we couldn’t find the trail we were looking for yesterday that we’d return today. What we didn’t know was how brisk it would be, but thankfully we were prepared. We both packed extra layers and I was thankful for a winter hat and gloves. Mid-May in Maine.

a-horses

We also didn’t expect to park across from a horse farm.

a-tree down

But wind gusts reaching 30 mph had toppled a tree, preventing us from driving to the trailhead. I questioned our intelligence as we approached the tree and downed wires. My guy was certain we’d be fine. I let him go first. No fireworks. So I followed and looked back to take a photo. Generators hummed in several yards. Apparently, this is normal procedure.

a-albany sign

Two weeks ago, we’d climbed Albany Mountain from Crocker Pond Road. Yesterday, we tried to climb from Birch Avenue in Stoneham, but found ourselves wandering and wondering along a snowmobile trail–we caught glimpses of the mountain, but it alluded us. So today, determination set in. We were going to conquer the mountain again.

a-crossing brook.jpg

Back across the brook we trudged. Actually, this was one of about five brook crossings. There’s something to be said for the snowmobile trail–usually there were bridges. Not to be this time around.

a-veery

We had company at the beginning of our journey. A veery kept pace with us and peered about as it foraged for food.

a-lunch rock

Within about ten minutes of finally getting onto the actual trail, we found lunch rock–as if on cue, for it was noon.

a-lunch rock 2

PB&J always tastes better in beautiful surroundings.

a-trill 1

The soil was rich and moist–we can attest to that as we slogged through mud following moose tracks much of the way. Trilliums thrive in such conditions and painted trilliums showed their bright faces. Three leaves, three leaf-like bracts and three petals–one triangle layered upon the next in elegant symmetry.

a-trill 6ph

Meanwhile, the regal bloom of a red trillium shared the continuation of the series of three–trilliums have a pistil with three parts surrounded by six stamens. My guy asked if I have a trillion pictures of trilliums. Maybe–but certainly not enough.

a-burl, ph

We paused to admire  a large burl.

a-beaver, ph

And passed through an old beaver bog into a hemlock grove.

a-mystery 1

Though it was much too cold for butterflies, I found one in the form of a plant. Actually, it rather reminded me of a luna moth.

a-striped maple

As we began to climb, we were in the land of the striped maple and hobblebush. I promised myself I wouldn’t photograph the hobblebush flowers. But this striped maple–ahhhhh.

a-snail, ph

My guy is fast, even after going for a run this morning. I, however, was happy to discover that I wasn’t the only one moving at a snail’s pace.

a-5 petals1

Continuing up, cherry and

a-shadbush, ph

shadbush displayed their dainty faces.

a-near summit

Up and down through the notch we continued until at last we approached the summit.

a-mtn view1, ph

Yesterday, we marched to the beat of a different drummer. Today, we took in the scene toward Kearsarge and the Baldface Mountains. Rock, lichens, mosses, shrubs, trees, mountains, valleys, lakes, clouds–all verged on the horizon. We knew we were blessed.

Thanks for wondering my way on another day and a Mondate to boot.