Outing on the Outlet

This morning dawned clear and chilly, with the temperature at 50˚ when I headed toward Lovell at 7:15. After placing some “Land Trust Walk Today” signs in pre-planned positions, I headed to the dam on Harbor Road in Fryeburg to wait for a ride.

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Water flowed over the tiered dam, which was built in the early to mid 1900s at the request of the Pepperell Manufacturing Company in Biddeford. The townspeople contested its existence for it would raise the water level on Kezar Lake, but the textile mill located many miles away on the Saco River won the rights to construct such at the site of an 1800s saw & gristmill. Thankfully, though it did raise the level of the lake water, not all of the predicted problems came to pass.

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The dam was our intended take-out for today’s paddle co-sponsored by the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. Though it’s located off Harbor Road in Fryeburg, it’s owned by the Town of Lovell. No longer used, it still serves to provide a historic reference. And a great place to either portage and continue on to the Old Course of the Saco River and then the “new” course, or take out as we intended to do.

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While I waited, I poked around, and rejoiced in the sight of trees that like wet feet. High above the dam, the leaves of a silver maple shown brilliantly in the morning light.

u3-green ash leaves

Other leaves also caught my attention for their coloration–with veins of red interrupting their olive greenness. Green ash, another tree that likes wet feet but isn’t as abundant as its siblings, white and black ash, also stood tall beside the dam.

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My dam-side exploration ended a few minutes later when Jesse Wright of Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and her friend, Shareen, pulled into the landing. We hoisted my kayak onto her already laden truck and found our way over the bumpy road to our intended put-in at a private residence–thanks to the generosity of its owners. Slowly the number of boats increased by the water’s edge as twenty-plus folks joined us.

u6-map by Will from USVLT

Once all had gathered, Jesse showed off the map of our intended paddle, the red dots indicating our path from beginning to end, and I shared a bit of information about the fen, a GLLT property purchased in 2005. Today, the symbolic boundary between the two land trusts disappeared as we ventured off together.

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It takes good neighbors and lake stewards to pull off such an event, and the Wurms are such. They helped us arrange the put-in, gathered a couple of canoes for several paddlers and took photos at the start.

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Linda’s view included Jesse heading off as our lead,

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and the rainbow of colors once we hit the water.

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It took us a wee bit of time to get all the boats onto the lake, but it wasn’t a day made for rushing. And once in the sun, we began to warm up.

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Before we headed off, we gave thanks to Linda (and Remy).

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We also thanked Heinrich, who drew our attention skyward . . .

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as he flew a drone above us.

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Our first destination was to paddle north for the view.

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The drone spied the mountains before we did.

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And spotted our intended course . . .

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into the fen.

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A quick turn-around from the water gave us bearings as we noted the Baldfaces to the west.

u19-heading toward the fen

We circled an island that serves as an environmental study plot for the US Forest Service and then paddled southward.

u20-Jesse in the lead

Jesse led the way through the pickerelweed.

u21-more mountain views

As we followed, the view got better and better.

u22-slowly we followed

Acting as sweep, I took up the rear while the group snaked along.

u25-early fall color

We followed the twists and turns of the water trail, where red maples showed off their autumn display from the canopy.

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Occasional leaves fluttered down, begging to be noticed in their singularity.

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Though we didn’t get out of our boats and actually walk into the fen, we did stop to chat about what it had to offer. The GLLT owns 260 acres of the 500-acre fen, an acidic ecosystem with a deep layer of organic material including peat moss atop a sandy substrate. Several bird species of concern breed or hunt in the fen, including American bitterns and Sandhill cranes, the latter of which we had the good fortune to hear but not see. Long’s bullrush, a globally rare sedge, also grows here. But the crème de la crème for many are the cranberries. Folks on today’s paddle weren’t familiar with the plant and I couldn’t show them at the time, but I shared with them the experience of picking in the past with students from Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg.

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On a fall day each year, about thirty students in the school’s MESA program (Maine Environmental Science Academy–an experiential place-based curriculum for 6-8 grades) visit the fen with the GLLT’s Executive Director, Tom Henderson.

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They learn about the hydrology of this place, but one of their highlights is to pick cranberries, and to that end, they become very possessive. As one student approaches another, a common statement is shared: “Don’t come over here. There aren’t any cranberries here.”

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Over the course of several hours, they fill their bags and sometimes even show off their creative talents in other ways–all in celebration of the cranberries.

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Continuing along the river this morning, we noted beaver activity and talked about scent mounds and their usefulness within the beaver community. And then we reached the fish screen.  Jesse had paddled the course last Sunday and made it under the screen without any issues.

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Since then, the beavers had been busy damming it up. One of our members worked to adjust some of the branches so we could all get through.

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Of course, sometimes a helping paddle was needed to push a boat forward.

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While we took turns, our efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

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On the other side, a ruler indicated depth.

u36-approaching the bridge on Harbor Road

And then, and then, in what seemed like only minutes but was actually a couple of hours filled with camaraderie between familiar friends and new, plus a touch of natural history thrown into the discussion, we found ourselves at the bridge and the end of the journey for some. Others chose to paddle back rather than hitch a ride. We had come full circle.

As we pulled boats out, we were surprised at how warm it was since we were out of the shade, the temp having reached into the 80˚s.

Our outing on the Kezar Lake Outlet would not have been doable without Jesse Wright, who did the yeoman’s work of pulling it together, William Abbott, USVLT’s executive director who created the map, the Wurms and their neighbors who contributed land, boats, photographs and time, and all who ventured with us on this most lovely first full day of autumn.  Thank you all.

 

 

 

The Second Anniversary of Wondermyway

Milestones are always important as they mark significant events in our lives. And for me, such an event occurs today as I celebrate the second anniversary of the day wondermyway.com was born.

Since I was in elementary school and made few and far between entries into a chunky journal bound in a green cover (which I still own), to the first empty book journal my sister gave me when I graduated from high school, to a variety of travelogues and other journals I’ve filled from cover to cover,  I’ve recorded my life’s journey from time to time.

The most satisfying for me has been this very blog, to which I’ve added numerous events and discoveries, both natural and historical, over the last two years. As personal as it all is, I’ve taken a leap of faith by sharing it with you. And you have been gracious enough to read it, and comment on it, and “like” it, and sometimes “love” it, and offer me suggestions, corrections and gentle nudges.

Thank  you for following along on the journey. It’s been scary to put myself out there, but I have.

And now, I thought I’d review some favorite finds I noted in posts over the past year. My learnings have been many and it’s been fun to review all that I’ve seen and thought and admired and wondered about. I hope you’ll feel the same and will continue to follow along and comment and share those that you enjoy with your family and friends.

Here’s my countdown , or maybe I should say my count up of favorite moments in time over the past year:

Feb 21, 2016: Celebrating a Year of Wonder-filled Wanders

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I made time one year ago to sit and sketch–one of my favorite activities. To be still and embrace life around me. To notice. And commemorate.

February 28 2016: Gallivanting Around Great Brook

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Usually, we drive the forest road in to the gate on Hut Road in Stoneham, but in winter it isn’t passable, and thus one must walk–which means paying attention to things you might not normally notice, such as this: a special relationship between a yellow birch and a white pine. Rooted in place, they embrace and share nutrients. Forever conjoined, they’ll dance through life together.

March 18, 2016: On the Verge of Change

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While exploring the Greater Lovell Land Trust‘s  Back Pond Reserve in Stoneham with my friend, Parker,  who is a master mycologist, he found Panellus stipticus, a bioluminescent species. Check out those gills on the underside. According to Lawrence Millman in his book Fascinating Fungi of New England, ” . . . specimens in the Northeast glow more obviously than specimens in other parts of North America.” So if you are ever in these woods late at night, don’t be freaked out by a light greenish glow. It just might be nature’s night light.

March 22 2016: Wet Feet at Brownfield Bog

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When I first spied this lump of gray I assumed it was a dead mouse. I know, I know–I should never assume because I risk “making an ass out of u and me.” And so I took a closer look. And noticed tons of bones and those orange teeth. An owl pellet filled with the remains of dinner. Owl pellets are extra cool and dissecting one is even cooler. I collected this one but haven’t dissected it because I think it makes for a great teaching tool as is. If you want to see it, just ask.

April 13, 2016: So Many Quacks

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At the vernal pool, or frog pond as we’ve always fondly referred to it, just steps from our property, I kept a keen eye on the situation last spring. In general, each mass laid by  female wood frogs was attached to a twig or branch. They tend to take advantage of the same site for attachment and usually in a warm, sunny spot.

A couple of masses were positioned independent of the rest, like this one–embraced in oak and maple leaves. Eventually, they’ll gain a greenish tinge from algae, which actually helps to camouflage them. One of the many wonders is that any given mass may contain up to 1,000 eggs–from a two-to-three-inch frog.

April 28, 2016: The Big, The Little and Everything in Between

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The phone rang as I stepped out of the shower and a male voice yammered away about something in the snow and it had come last night and I had to get there quickly. My friend, Dick,  was standing in a friend’s yard about a half mile from here and looking at bear tracks in the snow.

As he knew he would, he had me on the word “bear.” His voice was urgent as he insisted I stop everything and get to his friend’s house. “I just need to dry my hair and then I’ll be right there,” I said. Deadlines loomed before me but bear tracks won my internal war. Dick suggested I just wrap a towel around my head. Really, that’s what I should have done because my hair has no sense of style whether wet or dry, so after a few minutes I said the heck with it and popped into my truck, camera and trackards in hand.

May 21, 2016: Wallowing in Wonder

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Along Perky’s Path at the GLLT’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Preserve, a bunch of us had the honor to watch a dragonfly split open its exoskeleton and emerge from the nymph stage. Of course, we were standing by a beaver pond, and so it seemed only appropriate that it would use the top of a sapling cut by a beaver. As it inflated the wings with blood pressure, they began to extend.

May 31, 2016: Slippers Fit for a Princess–Including Cinderella

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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. With a purplish tint, the petals and sepals twist and turn offering their own take on a ballroom dance. From every angle, it’s simply elegant.

June 10, 2016: The Main(e) Exotics

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At Lakes Environmental Association‘s Holt Pond Preserve, a friend and I had moved from the swamp to the first hemlock hummock and chatted about natural communities when suddenly we realize we were being hissed at. Its coloration threw us off and beautiful though it was, the hairs on the back of our necks stood on end. Apparently we made it feel likewise. And so we retreated. It was a common garter, but really, there didn’t seem anything common about it in the moment.

June 18, 2016: Paying Attention

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In May, trailing arbutus wowed us by its gentle white and pale pink flowers. In June,  they faded to a rusty tone. And some transformed into swollen round seed pods–a first for me to see.

The sepals curled away to reveal the white fleshy fruit speckled with tiny brown seeds. It was well worth getting down on knees to look through a hand lens–especially since ants, chipmunks and mice find these to be a delicacy so they wouldn’t last long.

July 9, 2016: Wondering About Nature’s Complexity

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I posed a question this day: So dear reader, I enjoy teaching you, but now need you to teach me. I found this under another leaf on a shrub. And I often see the same thing stuck to our house. It reminds me of a caddisfly case. What is it?

And fellow Master Naturalist Pam Davis responded: Check out bagworm moths to see if it might be an answer to the stick thing on the leaf and your house. Here’s a discussion: http://nature.gardenweb.com/discussions/2237505/not-a-bug-maybe-a-gall and a Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagworm_moth

Indeed.

July 27, 2016: Searching for the Source of Sweetness

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It was no mistake the this fritillary butterfly chose the beebalm on which to land. Check out its mouth. A butterfly feeds through a coiled mouth part called a proboscis. When not in use, the proboscis recoils and is tucked into position against the butterfly’s head.

August 21, 2016: Sundae School

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My lessons began immediately. What to my wondering eye should appear, but a bee pollinating an Indian Pipe. And in the middle of the afternoon. Huh? I’ve always heard that they are pollinated by moths or flies at night. Of course, upon further research, I learned that bees and skipper butterflies have been known to pay a visit to the translucent flowers. Add that to the memory bank.

August 27, 2016: Halting Beside Holt Pond

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Halting–prone to pauses or breaks. I didn’t break, but I certainly was prone to pauses as I moved along the trails and boardwalks at the Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton. One of my first stops–to admire the pitcher plant flowers in their August form. When I took a closer look, I realized that the seeds were developing–certainly a WOW moment in the world of wonder.

September 9, 2016: Golden Rulers

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What first caught my eye was a bee that dangled upside down. And then I spied the green legs of an assassin bug. What? Yup, an assassin bug. I believe this one is a nymph. Regardless of age, here’s the scoop: Assassin bugs are proficient at capturing and feeding on a wide variety of prey. Though they are good for the garden, they also sometimes choose the wrong species like this bee. The unsuspecting prey is captured with a quick stab of the bug’s curved proboscis or straw-like mouthpart. Once I saw this, I continued to return for a couple of hours, so stay tuned.

September 15, 2016: The Wonders of Kezar River Reserve

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My favorite wonder of the day . . . moments spent up close with a meadowhawk.

October 17, 2016: Everybody Loves Raymond? Mondate

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My guy and I discovered several of these examples of fungi on fungi at Loon Echo Land Trust‘s Raymond Community Forest and had no idea what they were–so I sent the photos to Parker and Jimmie Veitch, of White Mountain Mushrooms, and Jimmie responded with this explanation:

“That’s what mycologists call “rosecomb” mutation, where a mushroom’s gills start forming on the cap in a really mutated fashion. It’s been reported in many mushroom species but I haven’t seen it in this one (Armillaria AKA honey mushrooms). As far as I know, no secondary fungus is involved.

The suspected cause (not so nice) is ‘hydrocarbons, phenols and other compounds contaminating the casing or contacting the mushroom surface. Diesel oil, exhaust from engines, and petroleum-based pesticides are thought to be the principal source.'”

October 22, 2016: Cloaked By the Morning Mist

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On a rainy day adventure with the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust in nearby New Hampshire, we paused to admire candy lichen, a crustose (think–flattish or crust-like) lichen with green to bluish-green coloration. Its fruiting bodies, however, are candy-pinkish berets atop stalks, even reflected in the raindrops.

November 6, 2016: Focus on the Forest Foliage

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And then . . . and then . . . and then just as our eyes trained on the red caps before us, something else made itself known. We spied another lichen that I’ve only seen once before: Cladonia cervicornis ssp. verticillate.

Its growth formation is rather unique. In one sense, it reminded me of a sombrero, but in another sense, I saw fountains stacked one atop another, each giving forth life in their own unique fashion. But rather than being called Fountain Lichen, its common name is Ladder Lichen–perhaps referring to the fact that the pixies can easily climb up and up and up again.

November 20, 2016: Forever a Student

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A sight I was hoping for presented itself when I returned to our woodlot–froth at the base of a pine tree. It’s not unusual and occurs following a rain event such as we’d had all night and morning. So what causes the tree to froth? Well, like all lessons, there are several possibilities. Maine Master Naturalist Science Advisor Fred Cichocki recently had this to say about it: “I’ve noticed this phenomenon often, and in every case I’ve seen it’s associated with white pine, and always after a dry spell followed by heavy rain. Now, conifers, especially, produce hydrocarbons called terpenes (it’s what gives them their lovely pine, balsam and fir scent). These hydrocarbons are hydrophobic by nature and form immiscible films on water. During a heavy rain, water running down the trunk of a white pine picks up terpenes on the way. Air (having accumulated in bark spaces, channels, etc. perhaps under slight pressure) then “bubbles” through terpene-water films producing a froth. Recall the cleaning products PineSol, and the like. They are made from terpenes, and produce copious bubbles when shaken. One could get the same result directly by shaking terpentine in water, or by bubbling air through a terpentine-water mixture with a straw . . . Of course, it may be that other substances (salts, etc.) enhance the frothing.”

No matter how much I have learned on this life-long course, there’s always more. I certainly don’t have all the answers and for that I am thankful. I’m forever a student.

December 4, 2016: The Art of Nature

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Some cut stumps reminded me of the circular movement leading toward the center of a labyrinth–appearing quick and easy, and yet providing a time to slow down while following the path.

December 23, 2016: Won’t You Be My Neighbor

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I followed the porcupine trail along his regular route and over the stonewall only to discover prints I’ve never met before. My first impression was raccoon, but the shape of the prints and the trail didn’t match up in my brain. More and more people have mentioned opossum sightings in the past few years, but I’ve only seen one or two–flattened on the road. Today, in our very woods, opossum prints.

January 19, 2017: Keep an Open Mind

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While I always head out with expectations of what my forest wanderings will offer, I’m happily surprised time and time again with the gifts received.

And so it was the other day when a friend and I happened upon this trophy in an area I’ve only visited a few times. We’d been noting the abundant amount of deer tracks and realized we were between their bedding and feeding areas and then voila–this sweet sight sitting atop the snow. It now adorns a bookcase in my office, a wonder-filled addition to my mini natural history museum. (I’m trying to give Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny of the Boxcar Children series a run for their money in creating such a museum.)

January 25, 2017: On the Prowl at Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve

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Notice how these pine needles are clumped together? What I learned from Mary Holland, author of Naturally Curious,  is that these are tubes or tunnels created by the Pine Tube Moth. Last summer, larvae hatched from eggs deposited on the needles. They used silk to bind the needles together, thus forming a hollow tube. Notice the browned tips–that’s due to the larvae feeding on them. Eventually the overwintering larvae will pupate within the tube and in April when I come back to check on the vernal pool, I need to remember to pay attention, for that’s when they’ll emerge. Two generations occur each year and those that overwinter are the second generation. The good news, says Holland, is that “Pine Tube Moths are not considered a significant pest.” I only found the tubes on two young trees, but suspect there are more to be seen.

February 8, 2017: Embracing the Calm

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A bull moose, like a buck deer, thrashes bushes and small saplings when the velvet on its antlers dries. It could be that the velvet itches. But it could also be a response to increasing testosterone and the need to scent mark.

February 16, 2017: When Life Gives You Flakes

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When life gives you flakes . . . make a snow angel in the middle of the trail.

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

And to wondermyway.com–Happy Second Anniversary!

 

 

 

 

 

Cloaked By The Morning Mist

You remember the nursery rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day, we want to go outside and play”? Well, it finally rained yesterday and today, and many of us have greeted it with open arms. And we certainly didn’t let it stop us from going out to play.

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This morning, I joined a group from the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust for  a hike in South Eaton, New Hampshire. Had I not been racing for time, I would have stopped every twenty feet to snap a photo, but I did pause beside Crystal Lake.

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After getting lost for a few minutes because I didn’t pay attention to the directions, I found the property. Eleven of us headed down Paul Hill Road, led by Jesse Wright of USVLT, and Nancy Ritger, senior naturalist with the AMC.

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We paused to examine a variety of offerings, including the flat stems of the quaking aspens. It was the raindrops on the big tooth aspen, however, that drew my focus. One of the things Nancy spoke about as she had everyone feel a flat aspen stem, is how that very stem aids in photosynthesis.

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The leaves tremble or quake, giving each more time in the sunshine–individual leaves, no matter where they are attached to the tree, share in unshaded glory for split seconds as those above them flutter. And, in the case of aspens, both sides of the leaf work to make sugar and release oxygen.

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We spent a long time beside a beaver pond and pondered various aspects of it. We could see the lodge and beaver sticks in the water–that made sense.

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But why a significant wall on at least two sides?

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And a split stone by the water’s edge? What else had happened here? Jesse told us that there are numerous foundations that we didn’t have time to locate today, so we knew that though it seemed as if we’d traveled to the middle of nowhere, this place was once somewhere.

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And to the local moose, it still is as evidenced by the prints we found in mud.

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Our attention also turned upward as we admired raindrops dangling from fruticose lichen (think fruit-like branching).

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Suddenly, the rain increased so Jesse asked if anyone wanted to turn around and received an overwhelming vote to continue on.

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One of my favorite discoveries was a couple of larch trees. Larch or tamarack is our only deciduous conifer. Huh?

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Like deciduous trees, the larch needles turn yellow each autumn and fall to the ground. Another cool fact: needles grow on stout pegs that look like wooden barrels.

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We paused beside ash trees and tree stumps, and enjoyed the view of this pileated woodpecker excavation of carpenter ant tunnels–their favorite prey.

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In the log landing that did become our turn-around point, we noted the early succession growth of Eastern white pines and sweet fern (not a fern). But again, we looked to our feet for the best views.

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Candy lichen is a crustose (think–flattish or crust-like) lichen with green to bluish-green coloration.

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Its fruiting bodies, however, are candy-pinkish disks atop stalks, even reflected in the raindrops.

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Our journey back to parked vehicles passed quickly, indicating we’d not traveled all that far in two and a half hours. That’s normal when you take time to notice. Before departing, Jesse showed me a cemetery on the abutting property.

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Small, unmarked stones made me think of a Civil War-era cemetery in Sweden, Maine–perhaps a sudden illness of young children called for quick burials.

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One section was portioned off by split granite.

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The Currier plot. A side road we’d passed by was named for the family.

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The crustose lichens were intriguing on Rhoda Lodolska Currier’s stone. Rhoda died at age 26.

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Her sister, Octavia, lived to be 53.

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Most impressive was the age of Nancy Leavitt, her stone located just outside the Currier plot. Nancy died at age 90.

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As we walked out, Jesse spied a cup-shaped vireo nest built in the fork of a beaked hazelnut. Life continued to circle in these woods.

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And the autumn color undulated, mimicking the land. The sun tried to peak out for a few minutes when we arrived at our vehicles, but we were all appreciative of the rainy day wonders we’d found along the way.

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And back in Eaton, a quaint New England village located beside Madison and Conway, New Hampshire, and the Maine border–beauty cloaked by the mist.

Thanks to Jesse, Nancy and the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust for a fine morning spent wandering and wondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Need To Get A Life

About two weeks ago a friend and I exchanged e-mails about mammal tracks we’d spotted that day. His big find was plenty of bobcat tracks at Bald Pate Preserve, while mine was mink tracks by Sucker Brook in Lovell. And that’s when he commented, “We need to get a life.” 😉

Yup. So today I did just that. With a friend in tow, I revisited the Red Tail Trail off Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway. Our mission was to move slowly through the landscape in search of signs of nature in winter.

Oh my. Such a boring task. What could there possibly be to see? Everything is brown and gray and ever so drab.

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From the start, mouse tracks show the suicide mission these little guys make each night as they scramble this way and that in search of food . . . and cover. Mice are nocturnal bounders who travel above ground for long  distances–risky behavior since they are tasty treats for most predators. White-footed and deer mice have similar-sized feet and bodies, so their prints are difficult to distinguish from each other. Their print pattern reminds me of that made by squirrels, only in miniature and their long tails often leave drag marks in the center.

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Here’s another favorite meal for many predators–evidence that a vole lives nearby. We were in an old logging area when we found this. While a vole is similar in size to the white-footed and deer mice, its tail doesn’t show in the track. Plus, two other things stood out to us. The tunnel in the first photo is typical vole behavior. While we received 6 inches of snow in western Maine on Tuesday, North Conway only has about two inches on top of ice. Voles are shy of sky space, so tunneling is one of their behaviors. With ice below the snow, this tunnel was exposed and reminded us of spring when vole tunnels become visible in melting snow. The other behavior of this little brown thing (LBT) that is different from its cousins, the other LBTs like mice and shrews, is the zig zag or alternating pattern when it walks. Voles vary their walking pattern, but they don’t bound like the others. The pattern is visible for a few steps above the ruler.

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And who might those predators be? We found the diagonal pattern typical to the weasel family. We thought that this one was a mink, but now that I’m in my cozy den, I’m questioning our ID. It may have been a short or long-tailed weasel. (1/15/16: Changed my mind back to mink. My ruler kept sliding, but the measurements we took, and we took several, clearly indicated mink, so that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.)

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Further up the trail, we were more certain that this one was a weasel, though, again, short or long-tailed is the question. Suffice it to say–weasel.

Fisher 1  Fisher pattern

And still another family member–only a bit larger in size. Notice the tear-drop shaped toes. And the loping pattern. A fisher had recently crossed the trail. We followed its tracks for a bit and then bushwhacked back. On our return we came across a second set of fisher tracks. And then, as we backtracked beside our own snowshoe prints, we realized they’d traveled together and then split apart–perhaps hoping to find some good chow.

Kearsarge River

As we moved beside and away from the river, we also saw deer, snowshoe hare, coyote and fox tracks.

Winding our way up through the switchbacks, one other critter left a calling card.

wing

Based on the behavior, I want to say it’s a ruffed grouse. I must admit that we didn’t follow the tracks, but grouse are also tunnelers and there’s a bit of a tunnel here. Usually I find their scat.  By now, you are probably thinking that I really do need to get a life.

ground litter

hemlock seed and scale

yellow birch

We laughed about how we used to not even notice everything on the ground–dismissing it as  tree litter. Ah, litter it is. But more specifically, we were in the land of hemlocks and birch trees. Hemlock cones, cone scales and winged seeds (samaras) are part of the array. And the yellow birch catkins have released their fleurs-de-lis scales and seeds as well.

beech scale 3

One of the things we weren’t thrilled to discover–the white, wooly and waxy coating that the beech scale insects secrete to cover themselves. Oy vey. This beech tree doesn’t stand a chance.

polypody frozen

So back to happier thoughts, including the polypody that let us know it was time to head home and curl up by a warm fire–the temp was in the low teens.

ice skirt

Even the river rocks wore several layers.

artist 3

artist conk

Just before we arrived at my truck, we stopped to admire this mighty fine artist conk. It will still be there on Saturday–join me and the wonderful folks from the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust for a walk on the trail–weather permitting. I’m not so sure it will actually happen this week given the forecast.

No matter. These were only a few of our finds. There’s so much to see and wonder about and every time I visit, I’m in awe of this special place. And thankful for the life I’ve got.

Going With The Flow Mondate

Our first Mondate of 2016 had us swerving this way and that and never quite reaching the summit. Such is the way of life–and our best choice is to go with the flow.

We drove to Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway to begin our trek up the obscure Red Tail Trail. Well, it’s not really obscure. Mountain bikers know it well. And at least a half mile of the trail is part of the Cranmore Conservation Easement held by the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. I’m going to lead a hike for them in a couple of weeks, so I dragged my guy along for a reconnaissance mission.

And we got lost. Fake lost once again. This time, the wrong trail–the Kettle Ridge trail, which isn’t signed. That was my first clue. The second was that we were immediately climbing and I couldn’t hear water. I’ve only explored part of the Red Tail Trail once before with Jesse from Upper Saco Valley LT so I knew it followed the brook beside Hurricane Mtn Road from the start. After about fifteen minutes of climbing and not feeling like it was right, we retraced our steps and I found the trail sign I’d been looking for–hidden behind some trees. Lesson to those who follow me–you never know if I’m leading you astray 😉

trail sign

land trust sign

Two signs actually within a matter of minutes and we were golden. brook 1

For about a half mile the trail follows a nameless brook. It must have a name, but I can’t find it anywhere so I’m calling it Red Tail Brook. I was looking for interesting things to share with people and as usual, nature didn’t let me down.

brook 2

brook 5 ice

4 legged ice

Water created icy legs as it cascaded over the rocks.

boulder 1

Speaking of rocks, I can’t begin to imagine the moment that this boulder landed beside the brook. It must have created quite a roar and thud. If a boulder rolls in the woods and no one is around to hear it . . .

 boulder 3

My guy begrudgingly posed beside it.

boulder 2

And Red Tail Brook flowed behind.

polypody 1

Atop the boulder, polypody ferns let us know that the temperature was in the teens. Fortunately, we were out of the wind as we were on the backside of Mount Cranmore.

boulder life

Life on a rock! Life rocks. And this rock is full of life.

boulder birch seed

One itty bitty piece of life clung precariously with hopes of taking hold on a permanent basis. I’m not sure this boulder is the right choice, but a yellow birch scale clings tentatively.

Yellow birches need moist conditions to germinate and grow. Moss-covered conifer logs and stumps, along with rocks offer the best chance for survival.

hemlock cone hemlock scale and seed

We were in Eastern hemlock territory so hemlock cones, seeds and scales were also abundant.

red squirrel midden 1

As were red squirrel middens.

 turkey prints

turkey print

It may be a single track bicycle trail, but it’s not a single turkey trail. Their oversize prints covered the lower part of the range.

deer prints 2 deer prints

From top to bottom, deer prints crisscrossed the trail.

sshare tracks

We also saw plenty of snowshoe hare tracks. Though my guy claims he saw an actual hare, I can at least say that I knew by the signs left behind that they’d been active.

sshare cut snowshoe hare scat

Prints below a 45% cut on a shrub and plenty of milk duds–aka snowshoe hare scat–were evident everywhere we turned.

btaspen bark bigtooth aspen leaf

My bark addiction is not to be denied. A wee bit of light brown between furrows makes me think I’m looking at Northern red oak, until I recognize the flattened ridges and gnarly furrows and realize I’m starring at a big tooth aspen tree. Of course, its leaves with those well-cut teeth and flattened stems serve as a banner.

 false tinder conk, Phellinus ignarius

artist's conk 2

False tinder conks and artist conks decorate the trees.

s-turns

After lunch (PB&J, some yummy chocolate raspberry bars my sister made and hot cocoa), we left the brook behind and began to ascend the mountain via a number of switchbacks. My guy, of course, was always ahead as he appears here–disappearing into the trees.

paper birch, white birch and cherry

The community kept changing–sometimes we were in a recently logged area where paper birch, gray birch and cherry trees dominated the landscape.

red pine and white pine

Other times it was a mix of evergreens, including white and red pine, hemlocks, firs and spruce trees.
Mount Washington ValleyMount Wash & Kearsarge

And then the S-turns got serious–one curve after another. The higher we climbed, the more we realized that there were a lot of false summits before us, but a glorious view behind us.

Mounts Wash & Kearsarge 2

Mount Washington and Kearsarge North provided a brilliant display.

Mount Washington ObservatoryKearsarge firetower

With my telephoto lens, I pulled in the  Mount Washington Observatory and fire tower atop Kearsarge.
MVW

The Mount Washington Valley spread out below us. We felt like we were so close to the connecting trail between Mount Cranmore and Black Cap Mountain, but the sun lowered and we’d left our headlamps behind. Every time we thought surely the next turn would be the summit, we were wrong. So . . . rather than worrying about reaching that destination, we decided to turn around and head back down the trail. At first, we bushwhacked together and then it became a game. We took turns as one of us bushwhacked while the other followed the trail, curious to see where we would meet. Competition took over, and we were soon running to beat the other to our meeting spot–wherever that may be. Somehow, what took us a while to climb up turned into only an hour’s journey down.

last shortcut

I, of course, got off track a couple of times and had to yell to my guy to figure out his location. He had the last chuckle when I chose a wet spot for my final shortcut-turned-longcut.

brook at end

At last we reached the trailhead, tired but exhilerated. On this Mondate we went with the flow and loved the opportunity to learn and play together along the way.


 

Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Every weekend in Maine should be named the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. Especially when the weather cooperates.

morning fog 1

This morning’s fog didn’t daunt the crowd of 20+ that gathered for the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust’s paddle to celebrate being outdoors in Maine.

morning fog 2

When we arrived at the boat launch on Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg, we could barely see the trees that line the access route to the Saco River.

fog lifting2

Ever so slowly, the sun burned through.

fog lifting 2

It was a tad bit chilly–think 29˚.

from the beach

But the sun felt heavenly.

baby garter

I think this guy felt the same. We were about to shove off when a member of the group found this baby garter snake in his canoe. I let it go on the shore and it quickly slithered away.

Lovewell Pond

By the time we paddled onto the pond, the mountains were in full view, bookmarked by Kearsarge and Washington on the left and the Baldfaces on the right.

heading to the access channel

The water was shallow on the access route so twice we got out and walked. As you would expect, the water was warmer than the air, though the air temp continued to rise.

immature bald

A few fun finds along the way included four bald eagles. This was one of three immatures that we spotted. Our bird count included a great blue heron, cormorant, ravens, blue jays and cat birds.

network of roots

We were in the silver maple floodplain where these magnificent trees hang low over the river. Their network of roots are equally beautiful.

peeking into brownfield bog

For the better part of our trip, the river bisects Brownfield Bog (Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area), so we decided to jump ship, climb up the muddy bank and take a peek. Even the poison ivy didn’t deter us.

royal fern

A common herbal feature of a silver maple floodplain community is royal fern. At the point where we stood to admire the bog, the fern grew abundantly in front of us. Its spore stalks are now dried up.

royal fern 2royal fern 3

In early June, they would have stood tall, looking like the royal crown for which this fern was named.

touch of color

It is fall. The days are obviously getting shorter and we are just beginning to experience cool nights when the temperature is below 45˚. Any sugar made in the leaves during the day can no longer move to the trees. When the sugar becomes trapped in the leaves, the red pigment called anthocyanin forms and the green pigment (chlorophyll) disappears. The leaves are beginning to turn along the river, but this one was especially colorful.

Fall splendor on the Saco River. Another Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.

Questions To Be Asked

A friend and I drove to Evans Notch today with the mission of exploring a trail that was new to us. The Leach Link Trail connects Stone House Road to the Deer Hill trail system.

IMG_1338

We started at Stone House Road and turned back at the Cold River Dam. Not a long trail, certainly. And rather flat for the most part. Despite that . . . it took us four hours to cover 2.4 miles. You might say we stopped frequently.

There was a lot to see along this enchanted path. And questions to be asked.

CB 2

We walked beside the Cold River as we passed through hemlock groves and mixed hardwoods covered with a myriad of mosses and liverworts.

lungwort

Because it had rained last night, Lungwort, an indicator of rich, unpolluted areas, stood out among the tree necklaces. Why does it turn green when wet?

water strider

The shadow of the water strider tells its story. To our eyes, it looks like their actual feet are tiny and insignificant. What we can’t see is the  fuzzy little hairs that both repel water and trap tiny air bubbles, thus allowing them to float or skate along the water’s surface. But still, why is the foot shadow so big while the body shadow is more relative to the strider’s size? Is it the movement of the foot against the water that creates the shadow?

bobcat

While the river was to our right on the way to the dam, we noted ledges on the left. Prime habitat for the maker of this print: bobcat. You might be able to see nail marks in front of the toes. We always say that cats retract their nails, but in mud like this, traction helps.

bobcat & coyote

A little further along we discovered the bobcat was still traveling in the same direction and a coyote was headed the opposite way. What were they seeking? What was the difference in time of their passing?

CR4

Periodically, we slipped off the trail to explore beside the river.

WH 3

Ribbony witchhazel blossoms brightened our day–not that it was dark.

grasshopper 1

We weren’t the only ones taking a closer look at hobblebush.

hobblebush berries

As its leaves begin to change from green to plum, the berries mature and transform from red to dark blue. Will they get eaten before they all shrivel? We think they’ll be consumed by birds and mammals.

doll's eye

Most of the “doll’s eye” fruit is missing from this white baneberry. The archaic definition of “bane” is something, typically poison, that causes death. I’ve read that  ingesting the berries can bring on symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, delirium and circulatory failure. Think: respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. YIKES. So what may have eaten these little white eyeballs? Wildlife may browse it, but it’s said to be quite unpalatable and low in nutrition. Interestingly, birds are unaffected by its toxic qualities.

Indian Cucumber root

Berry season is important to migrating birds. The purplish black berries of Indian Cucumber-root are only consumed by birds. Other animals, however, prefer the stem and cucumberish-flavored root of this double decker plant. Why does the center of the upper whorl of leaves turn red? Is this an advertisement for birds?

state line

Soon, well, not all that soon, we arrived at the state line and passed onto Upper Saco Valley Land Trust property.

dam 3

And then we came upon the dam.

dam 2

It was the perfect day to sit on the rocks and eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich–with butter.

 tree face

As we walked back toward Stone House Road, we realized we were being watched. Perhaps this tree muse has all the answers.

Thanks to P.K. for a delightful wander and a chance to wonder together.