Wander in silence. Wonder along the way.
We’ve wandered there before, my friend and I, and we’ll wander there again. For as she said, “No matter how often we come here, there’s always something new to see.” And so it was that we found ourselves crawling over the crusty snowbank to get onto the trail of the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Reserve.
Virgin snow greeted us as we sauntered ever so slowly beside Sucker Brook, which drains out of Horseshoe Pond. All along, we were serenaded with water songs, but bereft of such from any birds, which seemed eerily odd.
We did, however, have plenty of sights to admire, including the beaded fertile fronds of sensitive fern standing stalwart in the cold water. And then it dawned on us. Yes, the fern was standing in water. We know it prefers the edges of wetlands, but today’s offerings were at least ankle deep. And then we remembered. During the summer, it would have sprouted at the margin for the brook barely trickled through the landscape prior to the rain and snow that have fallen since then.
As we stood there, we noted reminders of others, such as the basal leaves of the Cardinal flowers that grace the brook in late summer. Visions of their red heads danced through ours.
And within our crowns, we mentally gathered the fertile fronds of royal fern. Already the days are lengthening and in a flash we’ll wonder how winter passed so quickly (well, some of us will) and dried brown leaves gave way to lush green.
Then we let the brook gather our attention again. The late morning sun played with the water and snow-covered mounds, casting shadows to its liking–and ours.
Beside the brook grow hardwoods and soft, but none were as brilliant as the yellow birch. Perhaps it was the glow of a winter day that encouraged their golden sheen to stand out among the rest.
For a few moments we stood before one of my favorite yellow birches. I love how its spindly legs stand tall above the rocks in the middle of the brook. Today, all were but another memory as they stayed snug below the blanket of white.
The boulders were also skirted in a coating of white, and hemmed with an icy floral display.
Eventually, we moved on–but only a few steps at a time. In this wintry landscape one might think there is so little to see. And one might be wrong. The trees know, their bark displaying crustose lichens of various shades and shapes overlapped by frullania.
Frullania is a genus of leafy liverworts that you’ll see on many a tree as it splays across the bark in a spiderweb-like manner. Each leaf consists of two parts, giving it a three-dimension look. On this particular tree it could have been a work of art–a scene that included the branching arms of a tree against a blue sky, the blue being a trail blaze.
Given the conditions, the blazes were hidden by many works of nature. But staying on trail wasn’t always our focus.
Between the two of us we spied one sight after another that begged to be noticed, like the fruiting bodies of a lichen possibly called Snag Pin that topped small stems sticking out perpendicular to an old tree stump.
And then there was the fungi to note, like witch’s butter, this particular specimen reminding me of a duck posing in a frilly gown and crown.
Almost hidden by the snow, an old false tinder conk with its cracked black upper surface sporting a velvety margin below.
We also found tinder conks with their equally velvety spore surface, concave as opposed to the convex form of the false tinder conk. Both are known as a hoof fungus for their shape somewhat resembles that of a horse’s hoof. Somewhat. Perhaps this particular horse high stepped through the woods.
My friend’s affinity is more to the fungi, but she knew I was equally drawn to the hobblebush, their leaves tucked inside praying hands embracing the global flowerhead. Do you see the touch of green peeking out? Again, for those of you who would prefer to wish winter away, spring isn’t far off.
It took us a while to reach the viewing platform along this not so long trail and we chose not to climb up.
Instead we opted for the view beside the brook as it flowed forth into Moose Pond Bog.
Our main reason for such was that we were curious to know if any others had traveled beside the water as well. And we weren’t disappointed when we immediately spied mink tracks.
If you look closely, you’ll also note a slide, for why bound all the time when occasionally you can take advantage of the snowy landscape and save some energy. And have a little fun.
The Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve was born prior to the organization of the Greater Lovell Land Trust. Outside the White Mountain National Forest, it was the first parcel to be conserved in the area. Behind the scenes, retired Episcopal Bishop and outdoor enthusiast George Cadigan, who summered in Lovell, encouraged his Lower Bay of Kezar Lake neighbor Wilson Wing to purchase some acreage along Sucker Brook in the early 1970s and donate it to The Nature Conservancy since the GLLT didn’t yet exist. Additional acreage was added in the late ’70s, but because the nearest office of the conservancy was located closer to the coast and the GLLT was beginning to take shape, the land was deeded to the land trust with the request that it be named for Mr. Wing.
The 32 acres beside the brook is a preserve managed primarily in its natural state for preserves are deemed to be forever wild due to fragile ecological conditions. That means that when a tree falls at Wilson Wing, its voice will resonate in a variety of ways before it finally decomposes because it can’t be touched. It will serve as habitat to a variety of species whether on land or in water.
Across the street, the Bishop Cardinal Reserve is managed to protect water quality and provide recreation and habitat.
Today, I had the pleasure of meandering beside Sucker Brook with Jinny Mae in a fashion that I imagine Wilson Wing would approve–wandering the Wilson Wing way.
For three hours this morning I wandered across the crusty snow in the forest behind our home, all the while wondering what I might see. Occasionally, I sat on a stone wall or tree stump and let the sun’s warmth embrace me on this brisk day as I listened.
There were a few sights that gladdened my heart, including the woody capsules of pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys. Monotropa means once turned, while hypopitys refers to its habitat under pine or fir trees. This one had grown under white pines by a stone wall. And from the looks of it, the capsule had not yet split open from the tip to the base, thus the seeds hadn’t been released.
As I sat there, I looked across into an area of forest succession. About 15-20 years ago, one section had been almost clear cut and pine, beech, oak, and birch saplings now vie for air space. They aren’t the only ones, for wasps had apparently flown their own route among the branches as evidenced by the nest that was now in disarray.
I’m not sure if the wasp nest was from this past summer or a previous year, for some of the pulp had been threaded into a nearby bird nest. But then again, I’ve found other wasp nests in these woods in previous years.
Within minutes, I changed my focus from tree branches to the icy snow carpet. Where the forest was young, snowshoe hare scat was abundant. Oh, how I wanted to see one. But, my movements were too loud and quick.
Where the forest was a bit more mature, but still included coppiced trees (coppiced means a trees ability to make new stems from the roots or stump after its been cut down), moose tracks and scat were equally abundant. My favorite sight was of a moose print filled with scat–including the two dew claws a the back of the foot. Since this is a sideways photograph, the dew claws would be those two little scat-filled circles, one atop the other, just right of the center.
Oh, how I wanted to see a moose. But, I had to settle for the prints, scat, and possibly another sign. Many coppiced red maples’ terminal buds had been heartily consumed and so I studied the branches. An voilà, hair stuck behind one lateral bud. You many not be able to see it, but the fibers were tubular, as the winter coat of our northern mammals usually is–thus allowing the critter to trap air inside and remain warm(er). Moose and deer don super-insulated jackets of long, hollow hairs. They also sport a dense, soft undercoat that allows them to stay cozy and warm. I’m not certain, but some of the hair specimen may have included the wispier undercoat.
I was grateful for my findings, but all along I kept thinking about the fact that I really wasn’t seeing anything exceptional and perhaps my sense of wonder had disappeared. And so I decided to head home and along the way I recalled a few fun sights I’d made from behind the glass in our back door. Can you see the red squirrel’s tongue?
And do you spy the gray squirrel that tried to hide during a recent icy rain storm?
That same day a chickadee watched intently as an icicle dripped from the feeder’s overhang.
Then there were the red foxes. One or two pass through our yard almost every day. Sometimes we see them more than once in a day. During our most recent snowstorm (when all of one inch or so coated the snow we already had) the duo graced us with a lunch time visit (our lunch time, that is).
The bird feeding station is always one of their stops for it’s a gathering place day and night of birds and other mammals.
And then, on Christmas Eve morning, one of the foxes got down on all fours in anticipation, ready to pounce . . . on a gray squirrel that ran up a tree. Red foxes don’t climb trees, but had it been a gray fox, it could have outsmarted the squirrel for they do climb.
I was almost home, and indeed back in our woodlot, when I remembered first hearing and then watching a male pileated woodpecker the other day. How do I know it’s a male? Because it has a red “mustache” on its cheek, and the red crest on its head extends to its bill.
At last I was back behind the window in the back door and periodically I checked on the activity. A downy woodpecker didn’t let me down. Check out the red heart on the back of its head–thus it was a male.
The downy’s bill is about a third the size of its head and rather narrow when compared to other woodpeckers that frequent western Maine. What I find fascinating are the light brown rictal bristles as the base of its bill, which are thought to offer some sort of sensory mission.
And then as if on command, in flew a hairy woodpecker, so named apparently for the long, filamentous white feathers in the middle of its back. I find that a curious distinction because the downy seemed to have a similar feature. But the differences I do recognize are the red color–in the male you’ll see two bars on the back of the hairy’s head, not joined together as on the downy; and the bill again–for the hairy, the bill is thicker and almost as long as the bird’s head. And easy mnemonic: huge hairy for the huge bill.
It was a while before the hairy left the long-damaged quaking aspen in the yard. Have you ever watched one? It can stay in one position for a long time, all the while looking about. Was it listening for insects? Looking for something? I don’t know, but eventually it flew to the feeder and began to eat the suet. And if you look closely, you’ll see the rictal bristles that looked like a bushy mustache atop its upper mandible.
Squirrels too, attracted my awe. Earlier in the day I heard one chastising me and thought, “Oh, it’s just a red squirrel.” Then I reminded myself that I like squirrels. I’m fascinated by them. And am having fun watching them move across the landscape, which is bringing a new understanding to my mind and will possibly be the topic for another post.
You wanna know one cool fact about red squirrels? Of course you do. Do you see the tufts of hair on the tips of its ears? During early fall, the tufts grow like a crown on their heads. It seems apropos since despite their size, they think they are the kings of the forest.
One of the resident gray squirrels (possibly the one that survived the fox treeing episode) joined the feeding frenzy out the door. It showed an outline of white fur behind its ears, but no tufts at the top–more visible if you look at her left ear.
And then there was the titmouse–a tufted titmouse to be exact. Yes, it too has a tuft . . . all year round. And the largest eyes. But why the tuft? And isn’t a cardinal also tufted? Why isn’t it called a tufted cardinal?
At the end of the day, I know there’s more for me to see and notice and question and I realize that I’ve returned to wonder. Thankfully.
Some days are meant for staying close to home. Such was today–a perfect 10 kind of August day with cool temps at either end and a sunshine sandwiched between.
One of the starts to our day was receiving two signs that announced the fact that our camp property is award winning–at least for a LakeSmart Award (don’t check inside for any award winning style or cleaning habits because you won’t find either here). We tipped our hats to Roy Lambert, vice president of the Lakes Environmental Association Board of Directors, and secretary of the Maine Lakes Society Board of Directors. Roy coordinates the local LakeSmart program sponsored by LEA. He visited camp a few weeks ago and evaluated the surrounding land, then submitted a report. And we waited.
The final conclusion with only a couple of recommendations:
LakeSmart Award Status:
SECTION 1 Driveway and Parking Eligible
SECTION 2 Structures and Septic Eligible
SECTION 3 Yard, Recreation and Paths Eligible
SECTION 4 Buffer and Water Access Eligible
LAKESMART AWARD Award Granted
In his presence, we immediately posted the sign on the red pine by the water’s edge and then walked up the driveway to place one by the road as well.
After Roy left, we settled into the day and discovered others who had settled momentarily, making use of a red oak branch dangling over the water for their canoodling session.
It’s rare that I’ve lounged this summer, but a new-to-me book purchased yesterday at the Lovell Arts and Artisan Fair book sale drew my attention between mini naps.
When I wasn’t napping or reading, however, I spent time staring across the pond.
And to the south.
All about there were bass boats for today featured a club tournament. The thing about bass tournaments is that except when the fishermen are zooming to the next best spot, they are quiet as they troll. And I have to thank them for a few weeks ago I wrote to a club president and asked that they please be aware of the parking situation on Route 302. Their trucks and trailers have long blocked our view as we precariously try to pull out onto the busy road. In the past, I’ve asked for help from others, including Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff and local police, to no avail. But, this time was different. The club president immediately responded to my request and passed the word along to others as well. This morning, there were orange cones blocking cars from parking a certain distance from our road and as we drove to church, we were able to pull out without risking our lives. Thank you Steve and Wayne, and I hope you also had an award-winning day.
Because of there being more boats than normal on the lake, however, occasionally the waves rippled my way. And beside me, the dangling oarlocks in the S.S. Christmas clanged against the inside of the boat.
The bass fishermen weren’t the only ones seeking a catch and I watched a common loon that spent all afternoon nearby, sometimes looking for a meal, other times preening, and even merely floating.
Of course, bait fish swam abundantly below my locale–perhaps finding protection in the shadows offered.
Also on the hunt, but for insects rather than fish, were dragonflies and damselflies including this Slaty Blue Skimmer, its colors matching the sky reflection on the water.
A Lancet Clubtail I spied on the wood first,
and then on the shrubs in the vegetated buffer.
And a Swamp Spreadwing Damselfly found a spot to hang below the shrubs and just above the water’s edge.
Because I was looking, I also found the carcass of a crayfish, which surprised me for I rarely see one and had to wonder if a heron or another bird dropped the remains of a fine meal.
As the wave action continued, the leaf of a fragrant water lily floated by, torn from its base. In the shadow below, it transformed . . . into a shamrock.
Other transformations also took place as boulders under the water’s surface became works of mosaic art.
And waves reflected skylight in a more modern polka-dotted form.
Even that pattern was sometimes interrupted . . . by a passing oak leaf.
At day’s end, it was all about taking the time to be rather still. To read. To write. To swim. To watch. To notice. To think. To wonder. To admire. To be. Docked.
One day it’s -8˚ and a couple of days later the thermometer reads 50˚–our New England weather about as fickle as those of us who inhabit this space. Today was one of those high temp days and as I stepped outside, the air offered a weighty feel.
On a fluid roam with no apparent destination, but rather a strong inclination to be outside, my snowshoes sunk indicating that the snow pack is still significant despite recent rain.
I trekked out by the power line, where Lucas Tree Service had indeed completed an intended cut on neighboring land. Though I’m glad that the mighty hackers left the downed trees behind where they can decompose and replenish the earth, I’m still not certain why they needed to cut in this area. The trees were all healthy and even if wind toppled one, it wouldn’t fall toward the lines, which are due west–this is more of a north/south tunnel. I also don’t understand their need to drive all over the snow-covered vegetation located below the lines, though I do know that their mission is not to embrace what grows there. OK, enough of my rant.
While I’d saved some trees on our land from being hacked, there were others that no amount of hugging would protect. One of the most beautiful hemlocks, which had been checked upon repeatedly in the past few weeks, finally became the focus of Mr. Porcupine‘s works. He’s living under our barn at the moment and doesn’t have far to travel to reach this future Lorax tree.
Unlike Porky, I had no idea where I wanted to explore but decided a visit to the vernal pool would be a perfect place to begin. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought it was a March day, given the slushy surface of the frog pond.
Raindrops began to fall and rippled across puddles formed atop the ice. While I enjoyed the spiraling collisions, I failed to see a visitor on the beech leaf until I looked at the photo. Who it was shall forever remain a mystery.
There are lots of mysteries in these woods–thank goodness. Occasionally, as happened today, I come upon the shell of hickory nut which I presume was gnawed by a gray squirrel. Perhaps someday I’ll stumble upon the tree and know the source. I have an idea it may actually grow around the corner from us and maybe others have taken root–another mission for another day.
For today, I had no mission except to wonder as I wandered. I wondered where the snowshoe hare hid while I sloshed about for though I couldn’t quite see its tracks due to the current conditions, I knew it had been eating here, there and everywhere.
I wondered about the tenacity of the red oak that stood beside the stonewall as a youngster when this land was still farmed. And with that came a wonder about family and friends who are displaying equal tenacity to overcome barbs in their lives.
I wondered about the weevil that choose this particular pine among so many to attack. And again my thoughts wandered to my community of family and friends.
And finally, I wondered some more about the natural community that surrounded me and all that it has in store to teach me. It’s in varying stages of succession from the spirea, bulrushes and blackberries,
to young red maples and gray birches,
middle-age gray birches
and a variety of evergreens. What once was all farmland grew into a forest, which invited a variety of mammals to make this place their own, and in turn invited loggers to make the trees their own, and in turn invited the flora and fauna to return. I can’t control it all and that’s probably a good thing.
What I could control was my opportunity to wander. At the end of the day, I headed in, a bit damp, but happy for a foggy meander, hopeful for others, and grateful that I get to call this place home.
My guy and I were up for an adventure this morning as we headed off to a property recently acquired by Loon Echo Land Trust. I’d been there once before, but at that time there was no trail system and I certainly hadn’t climbed to the summit.
We were on a 356-acre property bisected by a paved road. First, we hiked the upper section, passing through a hardwood forest.
Immediately, I realized we were in the presence of one of my favorites–noted for the mitten-ish presentation of its leaves. One would have to be all thumbs to fit into this mitten, but still, my heart hums whenever I spy a white oak.
Or in this case, many white oaks, some exhibiting the wine color of their fall foliage.
And the bark–a blocky look that differs greatly . . .
from the ski trail ridges of red oak.
Hop Hornbeam also grows abundantly in this forest.
As we neared the summit, we noticed that the sky view had a yellowish tone reflected by the ground view. Most trees were of the same age due to past logging efforts, but the predominant species was sugar maple.
Another favorite tree also grew abundantly here. I think they are also favorites because I don’t see them as often. In this case, the bark, though furrowed and ridged like a northern red oak, featured an almost combed flattened ridge.
And its leaves–oh my! Notice the asymmetrical base? And the length–my boot is size 8. American basswood–an important timber tree that is known to share the community with sugar maples and hornbeams–all of which provided that yellow glow.
At last, we reached the vantage point.
Above us, a mix of colors and species.
Before us, a mix of white and red oak leaves.
And beyond us, the view of Crescent Lake
and Rattlesnake Mountain.
While we admired the view, ladybird beetles (aka ladybugs) swarmed us. Well, not exactly in swarm formation, but more than is the norm.
After admiring the view for a while and wondering about the ladybirds, we backtracked a bit and decided to explore the green trail, assuming that it looped about the summit.
The trail conditions changed constantly, and one thing we realized was that the leaves had dried out and we wished we could have bottled their scent along with our crispy footfall as we trudged through–the smells and sounds associated with autumn.
Eventually, we entered a beech commune and what to my wondering eyes should appear–bear claw marks? We ventured closer, circled the tree and looked at others in the neighborhood before determining that our eyes had perhaps played a trick on us.
That was OK because within seconds a twig moved at our feet.
We watched as its tongue darted in and out, red tipped with a black fork.
Finally, we moved back to what we’d named Ladybird Lookout and found lunch rock where we topped off sandwiches with Bailey’s Irish Cream fudge a la Megan and Becky Colby. Life is good. Life is very good. (And we know a town in western Maine that would benefit greatly from a bakery–just saying, Megan!)
After lunch, we climbed back down and crossed Conesca Road to check out trails on the other side. There is no trail map just yet, but we never got lost. And we appreciated the artwork nature created of manmade marks.
This space offered a different feel where hardwoods combined with softwoods. And more stonewalls crossed the property, speaking to past uses.
It’s here that we noticed an area demarked by pink flags and stopped to wonder why. Note to self–excavated hole and debris mean beware.
Upon closer examination, an old hive. So who dug it up? We had our suspicions.
We also noticed a fungi phenomena.
Fungi on fungi? Honey mushrooms attacked by something else?
The displays were large
and otherworldly. I don’t recall ever seeing this before.
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.'”
As we concluded our visit, we passed over one more stone wall decorated with red maple leaves.
And then we hopped into the truck and traveled a couple of miles south to conquer another small mountain–one visible to us from Ladybird Lookout. (I really think LELT should name it such.)
Here the milkweed plants grew abundantly.
In the field leading to the trail, the property owners planted white oak saplings in hopes of providing food for wildlife. Um, by the same token, they’d enclosed the saplings in plastic sleeves (reminding us of our findings in Ireland) to keep deer at bay.
The understory differed and ferns offered their own autumn hues.
In contrast were the many examples of evergreen wood ferns.
We soon realized that quite literate bears frequented this path and announced their presence.
At last, the view opened and we looked back at the opposite shore of Crescent Lake, though realizing that our earlier ascent was masked by the trees.
Turning about, Panther Pond came into view.
We’d spent the day embracing Raymond because everybody loves Raymond.
Raymond, Maine, that is. Loon Echo Land Trust is gearing up to celebrate the Raymond Community Forest that we explored this morning and the Bri-Mar Trail up Rattlesnake Mountain has long been traveled by many. In fact, when I used to write copy for the local chamber of commerce, I spent some time learning about Edgar Welch, who was the fastest man on foot and ran up Mount Washington at least once a year. He lived in Raymond and worked for David McLellan, who was partially blind from a Civil War injury. Because Mr. McLellan’s farm was at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain, the sun would set one hour earlier than elsewhere in town. According to legend, after work each day Edgar ran up the mountain and moved rocks. Finally, he’d moved enough to let the sun shine on the farm for an hour longer. Another story has it that one day a man bet Edgar that he could beat him in a race to Portland. The man would race with his horse and buggy, while Edgar ran. When the opponent pulled into the city, Edgar was waiting for him. I love local lore.
And everybody loves Raymond. Well, my guy and I certainly gained a better appreciation for this town today.
Thank you to my friend, Judy Lynne, who shared this word with me today. I know I do it, but I didn’t know there was a word for it. And I love that it’s an Old English word–takes me back to college days and my History of the English Language Class where we learned to read in Old and Middle English.
And so it was that today I wandered longingly through the forest in search of mystery with five other naturalists–all MMNP grads who will bring the Master Naturalist course to Bridgton in the spring of 2016.
After a tour of Lake Environmental Association’s Maine Lakes Science Center, we took care of some housekeeping items (coursework) before heading out the door. I made them practically run through Pondicherry Park–well, maybe run is an overstatement, but we moved quickly for us–not much time for werifesteriaing.
It was our afternoon tramp at Holt Pond when we allowed ourselves more time to pause and wonder.
As we started down the trail, Beth saw this snake hidden among the leaf litter. It’s the third garter snake I’ve seen this week. The day was overcast and we weren’t sure if he was coiled up because he was cold or if something had attacked him.
We stepped onto the boardwalk to view the Muddy River and it almost sank beneath our weight. The water is quite high and I suspect I know why.
Off to the side, we saw fresh evidence of beaver works.
And in the river, a lodge topped with new sticks. I think the dam down the river has probably been rebuilt.
Looking from this vantage point, the layers of communities are pronounced, with the wetland plants like leatherleaf, sheep laurel and sweet gale growing low by the river, topped by alders and small red maple trees, topped by tamaracks, topped by white pines, hemlocks and Northern red oaks.
Similar layers surrounded us with the bright red winterberries forming the creme between two wafers.
As happens each time I pass this way, I am forced to photograph the pitcher plants.
Have you ever noticed the pictures on the hairy inner lip? Do you see what I see? A woodland landscape–trees with extended branches, a layer of colorful foliage and a grassy edge leading to the lake (water in the cup)? I know the hairs and design are important for the attraction of insects, but I never really paid attention to the actual design before.
We also found more woolly alder aphids, which Joan and Ann held in their hands so everyone could get an unclose look at the squiggly insects. Rather disgusting, yet fascinating.
Even a single moment at Holt Pond translates into tranquility. (And I had to channel this moment for Judy Lynne.)
Gordon, Beth and Joan tried to keep their feet dry as we examined the plant life along the quaking bog boardwalk.
Karen spotted one cranberry and then another, and another, so everyone could sample the tart flavor. Pucker up.
Our next fun find–a raptor pellet comprised of hair and bones galore. For the naturalist course, this will come into play.
Every once in a while, I’d ask if it was raining. It was–beech and oak leaves.
While we stopped to admire several older hemlock varnish conks, something else caught our attention.
Do you know what it is?
And then Ann spotted this little tidbit–leftover from someone’s dinner. We still don’t know who ate whom. Or if it was related to our earlier find of the pellet.
What we do know is that we spent a delightful day werifesteriaing along.
As for the mystery photo–the inside of hemlock bark. This is the bark that I think of when trying to remember how trees decay–hardwoods rot from the inside out, softwoods rot from the outside in, but hemlock bark often remains. In the 19th century, hemlock bark was used in the tanning process because the tannins found in the bark preserved a hide and prevented natural decay while giving it a brown hue. At the same time, the tannin left the leather flexible and durable.
Here’s hoping you’ll have the opportunity to wander longingly in search of mystery.
There’s something about the Chip Stockford Reserve on Ladies Delight Road in Lovell that keeps pulling me back. I think it’s the history associated with this property that fascinates me. And the questions it raises.
About seven years ago, during a visit to the Lovell Historical Society, I learned that Eldridge Gerry Kimball had purchased 200 acres on January 31, 1880 from Abraham E. Gray.
Various journals from that time period include entries about driving cattle over to the Ladies Delight pasture, picking cranberries over by The Pond, as they called Kezar Lake, picking apples, driving sheep to pasture, picking pears, mowing oats and trimming pines.
Today, it’s the huge pasture pines, stonewalls and a couple of foundations that tell part of the story. I’ve also heard that this area was used as a cattle infirmary. According to local lore, diseased cattle were brought to Ladies Delight to roam and die, thus preventing disease from spreading to healthy cattle.
The big old pines provide investigation for others.
Who sometimes leave presents. Can you see the ant bodies?
Yup, that’s snow. I took this photo in December because I was impressed with the stock pile of cones a red squirrel had made.
It took me a few minutes to locate the tree today. I wanted to see what the midden looked like and wasn’t disappointed. In trying to find the tree, however, I developed an appreciation for the red and gray squirrels who cache their food and then return to it. Of course, if a gray squirrel doesn’t remember where it stored an acorn, then a turkey or deer may find a treat, or a tree may grow. No matter how you look at it, it’s all good. As for me, I need to learn how to use our GPS.
Another story about Ladies Delight hill is that this is the place where people would come to picnic in the 1800s. Did the women get dressed up to enjoy a day out, a break from their farming duties? I have visions of them wearing long dresses and bonnets and carrying picnic baskets. But could they really afford a day away from their chores?
The blue trail loops around the 155-acre reserve, and a spur trail (red) leads to the vantage point–a view of Lower Bay on Kezar Lake and the White Mountains.
A bench at the outlook was placed in memory of Chapman “Chip” Stockford, a founding officer of the GLLT who lived in the neighborhood.
Spring color–more subtle than fall foliage.
On the short spur between the red arrow and the outlook, the variety of trees offers a study in bark. Eastern White Pine–with horizontal lines on the scales.
Flaky, cinnamony-gray (is that a word?) scales of Eastern Hemlock.
Ash’s diamond-shaped furrows.
And the smooth, silvery-gray American Beech–with some blotches of lichen adding a dash of green and white.
Hop Hornbeam’s shaggy strips.
And the bull’s eye target on Red Maple.
Finally, the flattened ridges of ski tracks that run down a Northern Red Oak.
Back on the blue trail, the sun poked through the clouds, shining on pines that represent a variety of ages.
I’m not sure who lived in the house above this cellar hole, but it’s always fun to visit and wonder.
In her book, Blueberries and Pusley Weed: The Story of Lovell, Maine, Pauline W. Moore wrote that Ladies Delight, “was not named for the view. Nor because it made a delightful walk for ladies to take on a Sunday afternoon or because it was covered with wonderful blueberries . . . (It was) named in sarcasm because women who tried to live in two houses built there could not endure the loneliness and isolation.”
Was this one of the houses?
It’s been a long time since any vegetables were stored in this cellar.
As I was told at the historical society, the bridge across The Narrows wasn’t yet built when the ladies lived there, so the only way to get to the other side was walking across the ice.
No visit to Chip Stockford is complete without a visit to The Rock. Today, I startled two grouse that flew up from behind it.
Dust bath? Nest site?
A few more things to see as I headed out. Sweet fern, which is really a shrub.
Baubles on pine saplings.
Young Paper Birch bark.
Swollen Striped Maple buds.
And a phoebe nest under construction.
This lady was delighted to have time to wonder and wander. Thanks for taking a look.
I’m not the only one to cross boundary lines. You can see a deer run passing between the trees.
Acres and acres of land behind us are maintained under the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law that was enacted in 1972. This law allows landowners to create a productive woodland, while supporting the wood products industry. They must develop a management plan, which includes periodic harvests. For the last two years, a lone logger has been harvesting trees on much of the land which is owned by one person. While I complain about some timber projects, this one seems to be well executed. And the deer love the opportunity to find lots of browse as a result.
Red Maples that have been cut will stump sprout, thus providing lots of munching opportunities.
They don’t all get consumed in one day, fortunately. These Red Maple buds are beginning to swell. If the deer don’t eat them, it will be fun to watch the transition over the next two or three months.
While poking about looking at this, that, and the other thing, I found more evidence that this land once had an agricultural use before reverting back to forest. Barbed wire served as a boundary beginning in the late 1800s.
In parts of the woodland, the evergreens are now the most abundant trees. The needles on the balsam firs caught my eye today. Normally, they lay rather flat, but suddenly I noticed that some were standing upright, showing off the two white lines or stomata on their undersides.
Typically, balsam fir has dark green needles that are blunt-ended and about an inch long. Some of the ends feature a small divot or notch. The silvery whitish lines on the lower surface are the stomata (pores). In today’s sunlight, the needles had a bluish hue as they stood up. What’s up? Why are they standing on end?
Spruce, on the other hand, have shorter needles with pointed ends. They feel prickly to the touch. Everything seemed normal with them.
And then there’s the ever dainty hemlock with its half-inch long needles. Guess what? It also has two lines of stomata on its underside. So . . . don’t let that be the defining factor when you are trying to figure out what tree you’re looking at. Notice how the needles are attached, their length, their feel and the overall look (GISS) of the tree. Oh, there’s more, but save it for another day.
I was excited to find this Sugar Maple. The bark on a Sugar Maple tends to twist as you look up the tree. At least to my eyes.
And when I walked around, I found evidence of the sugar maple borer–the line that is left looks like a frowning mouth. I know I’d certainly frown if something named a borer attacked me.
Whenever I see a fresh pile of wood chips created by a pileated woodpecker. I have to investigate.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Pileated woodpecker scat! 🙂 It’s filled with insect exoskeletons, since that’s why the woodpecker excavates the tree. A few weeks ago I spent some time at Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton with a fourth grader who was working on a school project. We found some of this scat. She wasn’t particularly impressed but took it to school anyway. I hope she wowed her teacher and classmates. This morning, I met with a GLLT docent and the first thing I did was pull out my scat collection. After she guessed at each one, which I keep in separate petri dishes, she looked at me, grinned and said, “I don’t think anyone has ever shown me their scat collection before.” What can I say. My social skills are . . .
I’ll end with this photo. Life happened here. A deer bedded down under a hemlock tree. And sometime later, a red squirrel climbed the tree while holding an Eastern White Pine cone, which it proceeded to strip in order to eat the two little pine nuts at the base of each scale on the cone. And you thought I was showing you more scat, I bet.
Thanks for joining me today on this wonderful wander.