Perley Pond Preserve Presents

I love to learn and today’s presence offered such as I explored Loon Echo Land Trust’s Perley Pond/Northwest River Preserve in Sebago. I’ll be leading a hike there this Saturday, so if you are so inclined, I hope you’ll come along. But if you can’t, then please read on. (Note: Jon Evans, Stewardship Manager for LELT will be with me on Saturday, and he’ll have so much more to offer about the lay of the land, which was acquired by the trust in 2014. Today marked my first visit to this property.)


There are three entry points along Folly Road and I began my reconnaissance mission at the first, where I didn’t get far due to a stream not quite frozen, but still found plenty to examine.


Evening Primrose stood at alert in the field just off the road. Tall in stature, its distinctive seed pods peeled back in four parts and small seeds looked like fresh ground pepper on the snow.


Black-eyed Susans also decorated this space, some leaning over to share their offerings. The hairy bracts and gumdrop shape made these easy to spot.


One of my favorite finds in the first section of the property–the hairy twig, catkin, leaf and bud of a Beaked Hazelnut. Just last week I saw the same, well, minus the catkins, in Lovell. And knowing that certain leaves are marcescent, e.g. remain attached to the stem throughout some or most of the winter like oak, witch hazel and especially beech, I was thrown off by this other type. It had me thinking birch and well it should have because Beaked Hazelnut is a member of the birch family. But #1, though a hairy twig like Yellow and Paper Birch, the leaf base wasn’t right for either, and #2, I didn’t recall ever seeing these leaves still dangling in later fall/early winter. The trees taught me a lesson today–the most perfect of gifts–a few Beaked Hazelnut leaves continued to dangle, though most were turning quite dark in hue and I suspected will fall soon, and, I found Gray Birch leaves also clinging. Just when I thought I knew everything, nature proved there’s more to learn. So the gift was a reminder to pay more attention.


I left that section and walked down the road to a spot where a chain prevents vehicles from entering the old log landing. It certainly didn’t stop the deer who had danced in the night.


As I moved through the landing, I paused to admire another dancer as witnessed in the fluid movement of Sweet-fern.


Like the Beaked Hazelnut, its catkins were wrapped gifts that spoke to the future.


Also in this space, a few willows with their own little packages.


The willow pine cone gall was created in the summer by a gall gnat midge. The larva stage secreted a substance on the stem that caused the willow to go into overdrive–resulting in a multi-layered chamber composed of hardened material that would have been leaves, but alas, the stem growth was arrested. Inside that hairy structure resides the wintering larva, nice and snug for the winter. It will metamorphose into a gnat when warm weather arrives.


As I walked along I noticed Christmas tree patterns among the firs.

p-fir Christmas Tree1.jpg

It was a simple case of an upside-down look. Once flipped, in my brain anyway, the seasonal symbol was obvious.


And the ornaments dangled–in the form of Big-toothed Aspen leaves and White Pine needles,


Northern Camouflage Lichen,


and shredded bark created by . . .


a Pileated Woodpecker in search of food.


I felt my good fortune to find a spot where a ruffed grouse had tunneled.


And then I was stopped by a burl. Like a gall, this was created by insects.


The tree of choice featured lower gnarly bark that resembled a Northern Red Oak.


But a peek toward its crown revealed a birch–the two-fer one gift: Big-toothed Aspen.


Its leaves, oh my, another  temporarily “marcescent” variety–showing off the big teeth for which it received its common name.


Speaking of leaves, there were numerous renditions of White Oak–another dancer that seemed to freeze in motion.


Here and there among the offerings, Red Pine. This particular one showed my love for it where a branch had broken off. Do you see the wee heart?


While mature Red Pines feature bark that reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle, I found some younger trees, their structure speaking to geometry.


Continuing on along the logging road, I wondered if perhaps I’d gone astray. Suddenly, I found myself in Piscataqua County–miles and miles from home. I knew I was in unknown territory, but was I really that far from home? More than my usual fake lost?  Or someone’s sense of humor?


Maybe so. Certainly I was in the land of owl feet.


And a tuckered coyote?


It was at this point that I headed off trail, made easy by underbrush.


Deer tracks led me to another wonder-filled gift.


The wetland and Northwest River, one of the namesakes for this place.


It was here that another lesson presented itself–the layered bark made me realize I was viewing Pitch Pine growing beside the bog. My understanding was that these grew on ledges or rocky outcrops. But here was one with wet feet. And so I later consulted Bogs and Fens by Ronald B. Davis (I highly encourage you to add this title to your Christmas wish list) and discovered that not only does it grow in dry woodlands, but also “in swamps and at the edges of fens and bogs.” (Additional note: Pitch Pine Bogs are listed as S2:  “Imperiled in Maine because of rarity (6-20 occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres) or because of other factors making it vulnerable to further decline”; thus another reason to give thanks to LELT for preserving this place)



Pitch Pine needles present themselves in bundles of three–perfect for this time of year–ahhhh, the Trinity.




and Leatherleaf added to the winter ornamentation.


In my attempts for “the perfect photo,” I broke through the ice several times. I’d been post-holing through about seven or eight inches of snow all afternoon sans snowshoes because it was quite easy to move about in the fluffy stuff, but when I reached the edge of the water, the snow had insulated the thin ice cover and . . .  crash, crackle, crunch, I sunk in to the top of my Boggs and even a wee bit over.


On my way back down the logging road, I realized how my own tracks were much more varied than that of the deer who’d passed before me.


And then I came to a boundary sign. Opps. Guess I went beyond the land trust’s property, though thankfully no signs deterred me from trespassing.


And a wee bit further down Folly Road, I stopped at Perley Pond, part of the namesake for this property–and part of the reason for my presence for the presents presented.

Barking Up A Bridge

On September 11, 2010, the Bob Dunning Memorial Bridge was constructed in true barn-raising fashion. The bridge is a key feature of Pondicherry Park in downtown Bridgton.

bridge, summer

Bob Dunning, who died suddenly, was a builder, an artist, and among other things, a teacher–sharing his craft with students young and old.

bridge 1bridge 2

bridge 3bridge 4

bridge 7bridge 5

bridge 6

To honor Bob, who treasured traditional building techniques, his friends and fellow craftsmen designed and built a covered bridge leading into the park.

bridge beams

“As the poet said, ‘Only God can make a tree’–probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.” ~Woody Allen

One of the unique things about the bridge is that each tie beam comes from a different tree species, with the bark left on. As I walk across the bridge, my eyes are always drawn to the beams.

Until I took the Maine Master Naturalist class, I recognized only a few species by their bark. But my eyes were opened to the fact that each species has its own presentation, which is true for everything in the natural world. I wanted to know all of them so I set out to teach myself, beginning with the species on the bridge. These became the focus of my capstone project for the class. I spent hours upon hours pouring over reference books such as BARK by Michael Wojtech, The Tree Identification Book by George Symonds, Manual of Trees of North America by Charles Sargent and Forest Trees of Maine by The Maine Forest Service.

I sat in front of trees and sketched them, trying to gain a better grasp of their nuances. I dragged foresters into the field and picked their brains. And I drove hiking companions crazy as I tried to point out clues.

The result was a brochure that you can pick up at the kiosk (let me know if you can’t find a copy) and a powerpoint presentation that breaks down the species by types of bark. Did you know that there are seven types of bark? I learned that from Wojtech’s book and it made it easier to note the differences.


Follow me now, as I take you across the bridge and give you a glimpse of each tree. We’ll begin on the east side (closest to Renys) and work our way west.

Beam 1, cherry, smooth bark breaks into scales that are curled outward on the edges. outer scales begin to flake off, revealing smaller, darker, irregularly shaped scales without prominent lenticels

beam 1 e, black cherry

Beam #1: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina): Scales; gray-brown to almost black; small, rough scales randomly placed; curled outward like burnt cornflakes or potato chips.

Beam 2, yellow birch

beam 2 e, yellow birch

Beam #2: Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis): Peeling/Curling; bronze to yellowish-gray; curls away horizontally into thin, papery strips; shaggy appearance.

Beam 3, red maple,smooth, light to dark gray, vertical cracks

red maple

Beam #3: Red Maple (Acer rubrum): Vertical Strips; light to dark gray; almost smooth or cracked vertical, plate-like strips; curls outward on either side; sometimes bull’s eye target caused by fungi.

BEam 4, American BAsswood, GRay to brown, Narrow furrows form long, flattened ridges with parallel edges, ridge surface broken horizontally by hairline cracks, often into squarish segments, ridges loosely intersect

Basswood bark

Beam #4: American Basswood (Tilia americana): Ridges; gray to brown; flattened, square-like ridges with parallel edges; may intersect like a woven basket every 6-12 inches.

Beam 5, red oak, rough, dark brown to blackish furrows, sepaprate smooth, light-colored, often lustrous ridges flush with circumference of trunk or slightly concave, ridges like ski tracks, loosely intersect

beam 5 e, red oak

Beam #5: Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra): Ridges and Furrows; light colored, with rusty red inner bark; wide, flat-topped ridges run vertically parallel like ski tracks; dark, shallow furrows separate ridges.

Beam 6


Beam #6: Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis): Scales; cinnamon-red to gray; rounded or irregularly-shaped scales; inner bark has purplish tint.

BEam 7, beech, light gray to bluish gray, smooth and unbroken

beam 7 e, beech

Beam #7: American Beech (Fagus grandifolia): Smooth/Unbroken; silver-gray or grayish-green; sometimes blotched with lichen; carved initials remain visible forever; often pockmarks caused by fungi.

Beam 8, Ash, gray to brownish-gray diamond-shaped furrows, resembles woven basket.


Beam #8: White Ash (Fraximus americana): Ridges and Furrows; ashy-gray to brown; intersecting ridges form obvious diamond-shaped furrows; look for letter “A” or pattern of cantaloupe rind.

BEam 9, white pine, dash-like lenticels, turns gray to reddish-brown, thick, irregular shaped scales, turn out, develops fine, horizontal lines/cracks consistently spaced like writing paper.

eastern white pine

Beam #9: Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobes): Scales; dark gray to reddish-brown; thick, irregularly-shaped scales; fine horizontal lines evenly spaced along scales like lines on a legal pad.

BEam 10, Red Pine (Norway), reddish brown to pinkish, irregular, thin, flaky scales like jigsaw puzzle, surface of blocks roughly aligns with circumference of tree

red pine

Beam #10: Red Pine (Pinus resinosa): Scales; mottled red and grayish-brown; flaky scales; jigsaw puzzle or sandstone appearance.

BEam 11, sugar maple

sugar maple

Beam #11: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum): Vertical Strips; gray to brown; finely cracked; looks like old paint; curls away from trunk on one side; look for horizontal scars indicating work of maple sugar borer.

BEam 12, poplar, Big-toothed aspen, deep furrows, rough and more rounded?

beam 12 e, big tooth aspen

Beam #12: Big-Tooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata): Ridges and Furrows; greenish-brown to dark gray; V-shaped furrows intersect every 6-12 inches; flattened ridges appear sanded down; gnarly look; periodic horizontal lines; on older trees resembles Northern Red Oak at bottom and Birch toward top.

BEam 13, white oak, light gray, can appear whitish with a reddish cast, furrows form flattened ridges, broken into somewhat rectangular-shaped blocks, furrows steep and narrow, with sides of blocks often parallel, old bark+irregular in shape, might look like shingles

beam 13 e, white oak

Beam #13: White Oak (Quercus albra): Ridges; light gray with reddish cast; rectangular-shaped blocks with flaky surfaces; ends of blocks curl outward; feather-like in mature trees.

Beam 14, elm

beam 14 e, American Elm

Beam #14: American Elm (Ulmus americana): Ridges and Furrows; ashy-gray; diamond-shaped furrows; flat-topped ridges; alternating light and dark layers like vanilla and chocolate wafer cookies.

BEam 14, black birch

beam 15 e, black birch

Beam #15: Black Birch (Betula lenta): Lenticels Visible (note: all trees have lenticels, but they are more obvious on some than others. Lenticels are tiny slits in the bark that allow for gas exchange, just like our pores); gray to brown-gray to black; may crack and form scales that curl away from trunk; long, thin horizontal lenticels.

Beam 15, paper birch, white birch

beam 16 e, paper birch

Beam #16: Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera): Peeling/Curling; white to creamy white; peeled bark reveals pink or orange tints; small, horizontal lenticels visible.

That’s it in a nutshell. Ah, but here’s the thing. Except for the American Beech, tree bark changes as a tree ages. And beech trees can be equally confusing because some are severely affected by beech scale disease. So, just when you think you know a species, you may come upon a younger or older version and get totally thrown off. The key is to take your time, walk all the way around the tree, and look at other clues like the twig and bud formation. Touch the bark. Smell it.

And take a walk across the bridge and into the park during any season. Chances are, I’ll be there doing the same.

bridge to park

Thanks for joining me for this lengthy wander. I hope you’ll find time to wonder about bark.

Extended Mondate

Sometimes Christmas gifts are delayed at our house, though not quite the way they were when I was growing up. Back then, months after the holiday, Mom would discover a forgotten gift she’d tucked away in the hallway closet for one of us. It was a fun surprise–for us and for her.

This weekend, my guy and I shared a present I’d given him last Christmas–a weekend away, with a search for roots tied in.

We began with my roots actually–and spent Friday night and Saturday morning with my sister and brother-in-law. That, in itself, is always a gift. Plus the conversation, laughter, a delicious breakfast and chocolate chip cookies for the road. (Many thanks to the MacBuds! You are the best.)

And then we were on the road again–headed to Onset Beach in Wareham, Mass. Until this weekend, Wareham had always been a place that we passed through on our way to or from the Cape. Oh, maybe we stopped for  saltwater taffy sometimes, but that was about it.

This weekend changed everything. We didn’t stay there, but we spent plenty of time there–including in the Ford dealership because the check battery light came on when we were about an hour away. The nice mechanic replaced the alternator and belt and in less than an hour and a half we were on the road again. And thankful.

Finally, Onset Beach.

onset 1

This is the view we think my guy’s great grandparents enjoyed daily. Back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, they owned the Onset Hotel. We weren’t exactly sure which building it was at first, but my guy isn’t shy (as some may think) and he talked to almost everyone in town. We were looking for one person in particular because we’d been told he might have information that would help us. I’m surprised the police didn’t come looking for us as we walked up and down streets, chatted with anyone we encountered and knocked on a few doors. We even visited the kind dispatcher at the local fire department. As I said, we talked to almost everyone.

onset 4

This person told us about that person, who suggested we visit yet another person. Finally, we had confirmation–the hotel became condominiums in the 1980s/90s. The photo above is of a page from a 1925 booklet that a woman who owns a property management business showed us. She also called several people in town trying to get more information, to no avail. But we were thrilled that we could look  from her business and see the building.  And walk by it and enjoy the view and smell the sea air, just as his great grandparents had done all those years ago. If they had time, that is, because apparently they also owned a bar in Boston.

onset 2

There’s a condo for sale. Maybe we should think about it. I don’t think so. We really aren’t beach people, even though we both grew up along the coast. We enjoy visiting the beach, but . . .

onset 3

We spent Saturday afternoon stalking the area and returned there this morning. Finally, we’d located the man we were looking for. He gave us two more names–of people who may have some information, but they weren’t home today. Never fear, this story isn’t over yet. We have phone numbers.

bike path 1

And so the present continued. We drove over the Bourne Bridge to Falmouth, where my guy had spent many summers before his parents purchased a hardware store in Maine back in 1965.

Our first Sunday morning adventure was along the bike path.

allen, bike path

While he headed down the trail for a run to Woods Hole and back, I moseyed along with camera in hand. You may want to stop reading now.


I was surprised by the overwhelming amount of invasive species. It makes our neck of the woods look practically invasive-free.

bamboo 2bamboo

I expected panda bears to come out of this swath of bamboo. Fortunately, it’s only in one spot–at the moment.

Invasive species do always give me pause. On this land, I too, am an invasive. Just like the plants and insects that are not native, nor were my ancestors or my guy’s ancestors. They say what makes an invasive such is that there isn’t anything native that will feed on it, thus it will take over and smother the native species. Hmmm . . .

salt pond

On to prettier sites, like this salt pond beside the path.


And the ubiquitous common reed, an invasive which I’ve always admired. There’s beauty in commonness.

willow bud

Willow buds.


And soaring osprey.

osprey nesting

Nests on platforms or cross bars of power lines. So maybe man invaded, but he’s making amends by placing pallets on high.

beach by bike path

This beach was my turn-around point.

critter on bike path

If you do use the bike path, be forewarned. Panda bears may not be munching on bamboo, but you never know what you might see.

We went in search of the childhood cottage my guy’s dad had built. They sold the small house fifty years ago, and even though we’d last driven by about twenty years ago, it took us a bit to relocate it. Again, he approached a woman who was working in a neighboring yard. There were more houses on the road than he remembered, but it seemed to still be there–with a few changes. He didn’t knock on the door.

We did visit the beach where he and his siblings used to swim and cross the narrow channel to explore an island. On Google, I found the following: “A WW II Army amphibious Training base located in East Falmouth MA (Cape Cod). More exactly it was located on a peninsula now called Seacoast Shores in the village of Waquoit. The base was connected to a nearby island called Washburn Island by a bridge. We have circa 1950’s aerial photos showing the road and ramp to a bridge on the Washburn Island side but the bridge is missing. Aerial photos from 1942 to 1945 should show the bridge. Seacoast Shores is now a thriving waterside Community and Washburn has been returned to its natural state as a wilderness preserve in Waquoit Bay. ~Paul R. Flebotte, COL US Army Retired

looking toward island, seacoast shores

On the left hand side of the island is the site of the bridge Col Flebotte mentions.

skipping stones

The afternoon found us skipping stones.


Talking to herring gulls.

jingle shell

Admiring jingle shells (I don’t know their actual name, but as kids, we used to collect several in our hands and then shake them together to make them jingle).

nature art

And other works of art.


We paused at Nobska Lighthouse.


Explored Woods Hole.

woods hole pier

Reminisced about dinghies of our youth.

wooden boat

Which sometimes looked like this.


And realized that things are still on the quiet side.

silver sands

Then we explored more beaches.


Discovered life on a rock–the same and yet different from what we find in the woods.


And wondered about the crustaceous barnacles that are secured head-first. Talk about living in a small house. (My sister and I had been talking about living in small houses)


In the same fashion that lichens and mosses grow on the rocks around our western Maine home, providing a home base for others, so do the barnacles, mussels and oysters adhere in their habitat.

snail trails

Lest you think I wasn’t tracking–snail trails.

gnarly trees

Then there were the trees. I knew I was out of my comfort zone when it came to identifying some of these–especially with the gnarly behavior. Despite that, just as my guy stalked the good people of Onset, I stalked the trees of Falmouth.

am elm sign

Thankfully, someone made it easy for me. Signs.

American elm

The  elm’s light gray bark has furrows with a V  or diamond shape, but they intersect at longer lengths than on an ash tree.

amelm buds

And the branches are wiry with alternate buds/branching.


I loved the camouflage look of this bark and only just realized that it is a sycamore. It wasn’t wearing a sign.

syc 2

But it did have its signature calling cards–dangling brown fruits that some call button balls.

horse chestnut

Thankfully, the horse chestnut identified itself. 🙂

hc buds

It also showed off its opposite bud pattern, making for an easy id.

Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Honeysuckle/Viburnum (aka Caprifoliaceae) and Horse Chestnut–trees with opposite buds. MADCap Horse is one way I was taught to remember that little tidbit.

home sign

And then it was time to head for the hills. We had a delightful stay and will go again, I’m sure–especially since we have more to learn about the family roots, but this sign on a shop near the inn where we stayed says it all.

Our feet may have left our home for a few days on this extended Mondate, but our hearts were always back here, well rooted in the Maine woods.

Thanks for wondering along on this lengthy wander.

Bark Eyes


Looks Like We Could Walk to Mount Washington

Though it was a blustery day, the wind wasn’t much of a bother in the woods beyond the power line. I crossed the snowmobile trail and slipped into my peace-filled mode.


Until a couple years ago when I was working on my capstone project for the Maine Master Naturalist Program, I didn’t know a lot about tree bark. Since then, I’ve been developing my bark eyes. Seriously, I have a difficult time driving down the road–my distraction isn’t a cell phone. It’s tree bark.

pine sketch

I like the pattern visible on the plates of Eastern White Pine–its numerous horizontal lines remind me of writing paper. Hmmmm . . .

What better way to get to know it than to sketch it. One thing I’ve learned over the years about sketching is that it doesn’t have to be exact. Only God is perfect–thank goodness I don’t have to aspire to that goal. So my sketches represent what I see.

red oak

red oak sketch

The red inner bark of Northern Red Oak is visible through the furrows. In older trees, the flattish furrows look like ski tracks coming down the tree.


Do you know this one? Can you see the diamond shape? Some people see a letter A. Others see the rind of a cantaloupe. I guess, whatever works for you is the best way to describe it.

white ash sketch

White Ash it is. I feel like we’re not only on a texture tour of trees, but also a color tour 🙂

Last one for today before I share a few other cool things that I discovered.

red maple

This one always catches my eye. No only is it known for the color of its twigs, flowers and fall foliage, but look at the bark. Do you see the bull’s eye pattern in the cracks? Bull’s Eye Target on Red Maples is caused by a fungi that only affects this species. Most Red Maples in our area display the target. It doesn’t appear to kill the tree–immediately.

red maple sketch

Though the snow is still deep, it’s getting more and more difficult to move–crusty on top and then, whoosh, suddenly I sink in–snowshoes and all.

porc tree

As I tromped along, my eyes were drawn to the area under a large hemlock that I’ve visited many times this winter. At first there was activity there, and then nothing, until today that is.

porc cut

The porcupine had nipped the branches and you can see the incisor marks on this one. The fallen branches become prime deer food.  Deer had been under the tree. I took a photo of their tracks and scat but, alas, the wrong camera setting and it was overexposed.

Also seen under this tree, a spot where a red a squirrel paused on a branch to strip a white pine cone–and let the scales and leftover cob fall to the ground. Another cafe in the woods.

  porc scat and cone

Porcupines scat as they eat. Under this tree, I found some of the largest porcupine scats I’ve ever seen. The one photographed here is normal size, but I wanted to show it beside a hemlock cone. They do look similar until you get up close and personal. While the scat is woody, the cone has scales.

large porc scat

I couldn’t resist sharing this one. One rather large porcupine scat.

hare gnawing

I hope you are still with me. A mystery that I think I’ve solved. Unfortunately, the tracks were diluted by the recent warm temps we’d had but I had a general idea of the movement this critter made.And there was no scat–I looked around as you can imagine.

hare 3

A closer look. Did you notice that the work is all toward the base of the saplings?

hare 4

Final clue–an angled cut. Rather clean cut, unlike those made by ungulates (deer and moose). This critter has sharp teeth. And we can thank it for our ability to move on the snow. What is it? Any guesses?

As you wander, take some time to wonder about the bark in front of you. I’ll keep sharing more as my bark eyes continue to develop.