Secret Brook Mondate

After a delightful morning following friends in New Hampshire as we traversed their trail adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest, they told us of a different route to try before we headed off for our afternoon adventure. From the parking area at the trailhead, they said, begin hiking in a certain clock-face orientation and you’ll reach the falls that only the locals know about.

Bingo. We did as they further suggested and listened for the water, crossed a dry stream bed, and then made our way carefully down a steep embankment to the very spot they’d described. After pausing and enjoying the sight and sound for a little bit, we both came to the same conclusion. Rather than head back up to the trail, why not follow the stream to its source.

That meant walking beside moss-covered rocks as the water flowed forth.

At first it was on the easy side as we followed its course.

Our route became more challenging when we crossed slash at various times. (Can you see my guy?)

And ducked under and crawled backwards to get past some downed trees.

Hobblebush and Witch Hazel slowed us down. Well, maybe it only slowed me down. Again, can you spy him?

And then there were boulder fields to work our way around and through. Despite the sometimes challenging terrain . . .

as we continued to follow the water flowing south to its northern source . . .

the bushwhack provided us with delightful moments, such as the sight of a few Wood-sorrel flowers still in bloom.

The same was true of a Mountain Maple, its flowers splashing forth like a display of fireworks.

Occasionally damselflies known as Emerald Jewelwings landed nearby, he of the darker colors and she with a white dot at the tip of each wing.

At last we arrived at the pond that is the source of the brook. Whenever we are there we scan the landscape in hopes of spying a moose. A few tracks along the brook reminded us of their presence, but no actual sighting on this day.

We did spy more than a dozen Chalk-fronted Corporal dragonflies sunning on a rock.

And what I think was a Frosted Whiteface stuck in a spider web. Of course I had to free it.

Before setting it upon a Steeplebush, I did try to unfold its wing for the mosquitoes were thicker than thick and we’d been the source of their lunch. We only hoped this female could fly again and gobble up the pesky insects.

We could only imagine that the man in the buff we encountered as we hiked beside the brook must have provided the mosquitoes with an appetizer and dessert. We don’t know for sure because as he walked toward us, we quickly diverted for a short distance before returning to the brook, all in the name of social distancing, of course.

For our return trip, we stuck to the public trail, but gave great thanks to our morning hosts for telling us about the secret brook.

P.S. Happy Birthday Dr. Bubby! Thanks for letting us be a part of your birthday celebration.

Romancing the Stone Mondate

Visiting a site in winter that is so popular in the summer we actually avoid it unless hiking past offers an entirely different appreciation.

And so between errands in North Conway, New Hampshire, this afternoon, my guy and I donned our micro-spikes to traverse the hard-packed snowy ice trail into Diana’s Bath in neighboring Bartlett.

Upon reaching Lucy Brook, the history of the area was briefly documented on an interpretive panel that provided information about George Lucy who built a sawmill in the 1860s powered by an undershot wheel on the brook and a home not far from its banks.

About 1890, when tourists began making regular visits to the brook, Mr. Lucy added a boarding house and barn, but business never took off the way he’d intended.

By the 1920s the water wheel was replaced by a turbine fed from a penstock pipe, the remnants of which remained for us to gain a better understanding of the passage of power.

Above the turbine we could see another piece of the penstock pipe burrowed within the ledge upstream.

Before climbing up to it, I walked below the turbine site while my guy stood over and thought about the Lucy family’s history, which in a professional way is connected to his own for the sawmill idea was eventually abandoned as the Lucys realized they could use a portable mill to harvest wood and later descendants owned a lumber yard and then one of them opened a hardware store and he and my guy periodically touch base to share ideas or stock and both could be known as Mr. Hardware.

Upon the interpretive panel, we appreciated a photograph of the sawmill for it aided our comprehension of the view before us.

To our best understanding, the cement located above the penstock was part of the mill and dam created by Chester Lucy in the 1930s. Today, water swirled through and flowed over.

Below, the natural formation of rocks obscured was reflected in the shape of icy indentations.

Above, water hugged rocks in mid-cascade and created designs and colors that changed with each moment frozen in time.

We finally moved upward where more baths were plentiful but on this frigid day the thought of a dip was quickly suppressed by reality.

Still, we were intrigued by the power of it all as water gushed between curtains of ice.

As for the name, Diana’s Bath, I’ve heard several renditions including this from Robert and Mary Julyan’s Place Names of the White Mountains (a great bathroom read):

These curious circular stone cavities on Lucy Brook originally were known as the Home of the Water Fairies; tradition says evil water sprites inhabited the ledges, tormenting the Sokokis Indians until a mountain god answered the Indians’ prayers and swept the sprites away in a flood. But sometime before 1859 a Miss Hubbard of Boston, a guest at the old Mount Washington House in North Conway, rechristened them Diana’s Baths, presumably to evoke images of the Roman nature goddess. The pools are also called Lucy’s Baths.”

In the midst of wondering, I noticed a rare sight that added to the mystique of this place. Do you see four circular discs in the water? All spun at the same rate despite their varied sizes.

They were ice discs spinning counterclockwise much to my delight. This rare phenomenon was caused by the cold, dense air formed within the eddy at the base of the fall.

After that sight, we continued to climb until the brook leveled out. And then we pause before the spirit of one made from the same crystals that flowed beyond; one who wore a smile indicating he knew the ways and whys and wonders of the brook even if we didn’t.

As it turned out, he wasn’t the only one.

The woods were full of those who listened like old sages,

and smiled with a secret knowledge tucked within their grins.

Through it all, we felt the love of the universe as we tried to interpret the romance of the stones–icy though they were. And on this first Mondate of 2019, we were grateful for our “dip” into Diana’s Bath. It’s so much better in the winter than summer, especially on a weekday, for there are far fewer people about. But the sprites and fairies. They are there. Some you might even find among the rocks and boulders; I know. I saw a few. And others, might be upon the tree trunks. Or in the midst of the water.

If you decide to Romance the Stones, do know that unless you have a White Mountain National Forest Pass, you will need to pay the $3 fee to park. For some reason, the sprites don’t take care of that. Hmmm . . . one would think.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode five

I’m not sure how it happened, but when we arrived at Route 113 in Fryeburg to pick up our clue we realized we were the first contestants for this episode of The Amazing Race–Our Style.

Consequently, we had a quick decision to make–the main clue referred to the Baldfaces and we recognized the fact that that entailed a challenging climb. Though my cast has morphed into a smelly splint [envision sliced cast up one side and then add two wide strips of velcro], I was relieved that we could take advantage of the Fast Forward clue that mentioned shingles in a white forest.

s1-trail sign

We checked the map and located a trailhead for Shingle Pond only a few miles away. BINGO.

s2-heading into the woods

The trail begins along Forest Road 317, but a few curves later heads into the nitty gritty of the White Mountain National Forest.

s8-locating the trail

Toward the beginning we could hear the buzz of logging machinery in the distance, but it wasn’t all that loud and certainly didn’t drown out the not-so-sweet buzzing of the local mosquitoes. Our first real challenge, for one can hardly count those flying buzzers and stingers as an obstacle, but more a way of life, came in the form of staying on the trail. It was blazed yellow, but occasionally we had to slow ourselves and our minds, and look around for some clues. There was only one cairn, which was fine with us, but after that spot we spent several minutes of valuable time looking for yellow in every direction . . . to no avail. Finally, however, my eyes cued in on what appeared to be a worn path between some trees to our right and my guy passed through some muck and logging slash to discover that indeed we had found it. That happened more than once, but each time we paused, scouted and eventually made the right decision. They didn’t promise us easy when we signed on for our own version of the reality show.

s11-crossing Weeks Brook

The path took us across Weeks Brook for which the trail had been named and it was there that we noted a trillion trilliums–all past their prime.

s9-patch cut

Through hemlock groves and mixed forests we hiked, occasionally passing by patches of clearcuts. Our next challenge was to determine the benefits of such habitat. The answer seemed obvious for so much was the bird song–from those I recognized like Ovenbirds, Veerys, and Hermit Thrushes to warblers that we could hear but not see. If we hadn’t been racing against the clock it would have been fun to try to figure out some of the song makers.

s10-browse

We also noted plenty of signs, such as browsed tree buds, that told us moose and deer had foraged in those areas.

s5-wood sorrel

Challenge number 3 required that we locate a few plants and note whether they were edible or not. Wood Sorrel was easy–and most welcome on this sultry day for its a thirst quencher.

s6--Indian Cucumber Root

Indian Cucumber Root was another enticing edible and it grew abundantly in the forest. As pleasing as the flower is above its second tier, it’s not their fruits that appealed to us, but rather the small white rhizomes buried in the ground which offered a cool and crisp cucumbery taste. Even my guy can attest to that.

s7-wild calla

The one herb we didn’t taste test was the Wild Calla or Bog Arum. It’s known to cause severe irritation of the mouth and throat if consumed. We left it be.

s12-lady's slippers

We did find one other plant that we wouldn’t think of eating, but always revere–Pink Lady’s Slippers, in this case a matching pair.

s13-prince charming

And not far beyond–Prince Charming himself. Even his eyes were surrounded by a ring of gold.

s14-Shingle Pond

At last we reached the two-acre Shingle Pond. Though we wanted to be greeted by a moose in the water, we were pleased with all that we saw and heard, including bull, green and tree frogs.

s15-Kearsarge Fire Tower

Though we were two miles and lots of ledges below the summit of Kearsarge North, as we ate our PB&J sandwiches created by my guy, the sight of the historic fire tower evoked lots of memories and got us dreaming about our next opportunity to sign the guest notebook.

s17-crimson-ringed whiteface dragonfly

Our task at the pond was to bushwhack around its perimeter and note some of the species who called this mountain pond home. Probably my favorite discovery was the Crimson-ringed Whiteface Dragonfly.

s17b-crimson-ringed whiteface

Over and over again we saw it, that bright red body standing out in contrast to its dark abdomen. There were a zillion dragonflies, many of them darners and clubtails zooming about, but this skimmer had the decency to perch frequently and reveal its finer details.

s17a-bushwhack

As we moved around the pond, we met trees to climb over, under and around.

s18-beaver works

Many were felled by the resident beavers, so we had another who made its home there to add to the list.

s19-beaver lodge

In fact, we found the most recently built beaver abode.

s19a-beaver dam

And the dam that made it all possible.

s20-bear scat

One special sign of wildlife may gross you out, but we were delighted for this pile of scat indicated a bear had passed by earlier this spring. I’d wanted to look for bear trees on the hike up, but these days my eyes are mighty focused on trail conditions. And scat is just as good, if not better than a tree with old claw marks. Well–both are wonderful . . . really.

s21-chicakdee

One other resident was insistent that we take notice and I think we may have paused near a nest tree. When I asked my guy if he could hear the Conway Scenic Train whistle emanating from the other side of the mountains, he said that all he could hear was the chickadee’s chatter.

s22a-Atlantis Fritillary

The return hike down was via the same trail, but when we reached the log landing and later the logging road we had one final challenge to complete–the flutter-by challenge. Who were those beauties that flitted about, gracing the landscape with their presence? For starters, we discovered several Atlantis Fritillaries seeking nectar from eggs and bacon flowers, aka Bird’s-foot-trefoil.

s24-atlantis 2

Once over easy, it was equally beautiful.

s25-white admiral

And the learning continued for we watched numerous White Admirals flit from spot to spot. But notice the coloration–including orange spots below its white bars.

s25a-white admiral

This blue version was also a White Admiral. Needless to say, we admired it no matter its variation.

And with that we had successfully completed the fifth episode of The Amazing Race–Our Style. All day we didn’t know our status in comparison to the other contestants, but six miles and four hours later we had nothing to fear. We definitely won this leg for we stood upon the mat at the Pit Stop much earlier than any of the other contestants.

As much as we would have liked to climb the Baldface Circle, it wasn’t in the cards for us today.  And as a final note to today’s journey–I added a few more mosquitoes to the natural history museum forming on the velcro of my splint. It’s a museum, however, that I hope will close soon, for it stinks–literally and figuratively.

 

 

Beautiful Maine Mondate

Some Monday’s we look for new places to explore or mountains to climb, but today found us visiting an old favorite that is gorgeous in any season.

s1-Stone House Road 1

Because it’s still winter (and she’s not letting go right away), we knew our hike would be extended by more than a mile on either end. We parked by the Leach Link Trail on Stone House Road and followed the telephone poles in.

s2-bear number

These are my favorite telephone poles in the world–well, for today that is, for they show the works of the clever bears that inhabit this place. The wood has been scratched and bitten, while the shiny pole number was mutilated. This was pole 5. I suppose it still is.

s3-bear hair

Hair sticks out from splinters. Bear hair.

s4-more bear hair

We found lots of it on several poles today. More than we’ve seen in the past.

s6-another pole

I’m thinking that the bears in the area have a fondness for 5. Or a dislike, for pole 15 also received rough treatment. There are more, but it was on 5 and 15 that we noticed the number destruction.

s8-bear dogs

Despite that, the bears in this area are most welcome. Because the signs are new, I asked my guy what he thought the bears will do when they emerge from their dens soon. In my mind, I saw a similar behavior to the other poles and imagined that when we return again we’ll see that the signs have also been destroyed because that’s what bears do. My guy’s response, “Clap.” Indeed, they should.

s9-gate

At last we reached the gate where we usually park to hike the Stone House property and Blueberry Mountain trails. The Stone House property encompasses about 890 acres surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. In 2011, the owners, David Cromwell and Sharon Landry, established a conservation easement held by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. The easement allows for traditional uses including commercial agriculture and forestry, but prohibits development and subdivision in perpetuity. Thus we have both this couple and the GLLT to thank for today’s adventure.

s10-black cherry bark

When we finally reached the Shell Pond trailhead, a black cherry immediately jumped out at me. The property was last logged in 1977 and features a mix of hard and softwoods. My bark eyes love the diversity.

s11a-birch and red maple

And my bark mind appreciates the kindred spirit of the trees that manage to support each other despite their differences–in this case a beech and red maple.

s14-pileated works

I’m not the only one who likes bark–the work of pileated woodpeckers,

s15-porcupine

porcupines,

s16-beaver works

beavers,

s13-yellow birch burl

and even insects was evident throughout our three-hour tour.

s17-Yale blue

As we hiked, my dad was also on my brain. I’d received a message this morning from his former boss at Yale University who fondly recalled Dad and his brother Bob. Though quiet men, he and his brother had a twinkle in their eyes, a love for music, especially opera, and always a good joke or prank up their sleeves.

When I saw this tree in the shape of a Y, I knew it was for Dad. Even the sky spoke of the university–though several shades lighter than Yale blue. And with that came the memory that any paint my father mixed had a touch of Yale blue in it–thus was his way. It was all meant to be for Mr. Cromwell, the property owner, is associated with Yale.

s18-my guy

I couldn’t help but think that Dad would have loved the idea of our Mondates. He also would have loved my guy, but sadly they never met. Dad died of a heart attack only days before he and Mom were to spend a weekend with me in Maine–thirty years ago.  But, my guy continues to wear a Yale sweatshirt when he runs, which he did this morning. In that way, he’s made his own connection. Yeah–that’s my guy!

s19-pond views

Now that I’m writing through tears, I’ll get back to the trail, which is delightful in winter because it offers more views of Shell Pond below.

s20-cliff views

And the icy ledges above. Later in our journey, I noted the trail to the ledges had been well used–probably by rock/ice climbers.

s22-water 1

Trail conditions were such that we walked on top of the hardened snow, though I did wear micro-spikes for the entire tour. Someone waited to put his on and did a little slipping and sliding along the way. Brook crossings required stepping low and high, so deep is the snow still.

s23-ice castle

While I marveled at a castle made of ice,

s24-Christmas tree

my guy spotted a Christmas tree.

s25-polypody

We even found a few hints of green. These polypody ferns were opened, indicating warmer temps and today we certainly noted the difference compared to the brisk weekend.

s26-polypody

Of course, on another rock, some were still curled in their cold formation. They were under a hemlock and more shaded.

s27-partridgeberry

Any bit of green is a welcome sight about now and I was surprised to see partridgeberry poking through the snow.

s28-lunch bench

At last we reached lunch bench, which my guy stood upon. Yup, that’s the granite bench under his feet.

s29-lunch

We sat on it to eat our PB&J (with butter for me, of course) sandwiches. And tried to keep from sliding right down to the pond.

s30-Shell Pond

Lunch view included Shell Pond and the Baldfaces in the background. All along, we’d noted mice, squirrel, mink, fisher, coyote, bobcat, ruffed grouse, turkey and moose tracks. But as we ate we listened to the whales groan–so moaned the ice in the afternoon sun.

s31-brook

A short time later we reached Rattlesnake Brook and the orchard, where the natural community transitioned and appeared almost bucolic.

s32-ostrich fern

One of my favorite finds along this section is the ostrich fern. The structure of its fertile frond makes me smile.

s33-airfield

From the orchard we moved on to the old airfield and wondered if the family ever flies to their summer home. Though I don’t think it’s used these days, the airstrip was apparently built in the 1940s by the military for practice landings and takeoffs during World War II.

Again, the views were breathtaking.

s34-stone house and Blueberry Mtn

As hikers, we’re reminded by signs to stay on the marked trails, thus protecting the land and giving the family some space. I’m in awe of their home. The Stone House was built in the early 1850s by Abel Andrews. He quarried the large, hand-hewn granite slabs from Rattlesnake Mountain and built the 40-foot by 25-foot house for his wife and thirteen children.

s35-another wetland

I did stay on the trail most of the time, but occasionally I heard the landscape calling my name and had to investigate. Fortunately, my guy stayed on the trail all the time and kept us honest.

s36-Beautiful Maine

We walked back out to the truck and then decided to take a quick detour before driving home. Being on Stone House Road, we were only a mile from the winter closure point for Route 113 in the White Mountain National Forest. The road forms the state line between Maine and New Hampshire for several miles. And then it passes into Maine at the gate by the Cold River Campground and The Basin. And it’s there that you’ll find this iconic sign.

Welcome to Beautiful Maine and another scenic Mondate.