Black Friday Shopping Extravaganza

I somehow slept in and totally missed the early bird specials today, but still by midmorning I found my way to the store of my choice.

b1-trail sign-cross the threshold

It had been two years since I’d stepped over the threshold into the MDT shop and I’d forgotten what great selections it had to offer. While the last time I approached from the Fryeburg Information Center near the Maine/NH border, today I decided to use the back door and entered by the Eastern Slopes Airport.

b8-the main aisle

Beginning along the main aisle, I was delighted with the display before me. And lack of customers. Oh, I passed several groups, some in a hurry as they ran, others chatting amiably with friends or relatives, but all quite friendly and courteous. Even dogs were well behaved and therefore welcome.

b2-choice of colors--sweetfern 1

Immediately I had decisions to make. Which shade did I want?

b3-shapes,

And would I prefer a different style or shape?

b12-red oak 1

Had I thought about brown and bristly?

b13a-white oaks

Or did I like salmon and rounded?

b13-red oak on line

Though I preferred the salmon color of the white oak, I did like how the red oak leaves dangled in hopes of being plucked by a customer. And if not a customer, then perhaps the wind.

b11-cattails

In aisle five I found some cattails ready to explode into the future.

b11-cattail sparkles

Their tiny, parachuted seeds reminded me of sparklers on the Fourth of July, but because today is the day after Thanksgiving, I suspected these fireworks were intended for New Year’s Eve.

b6-autumn thistle

It seemed that everywhere I looked, the store was decked out with hues of silver and . . .

b4-aster display

gold.

b5-brown lacewing

And while admiring the golden decorations, I discovered I wasn’t the only one looking. A brown lacewing had heard there were deep discounts to be had.

b12-birch beer

As one should when one is spending an exorbitant amount of time (and perhaps money, though in this case no cash or credit was part of the deal), rehydrating is a good thing and the birch had been tapped for just that purpose. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed the unique taste of a birch beer, but thanks to a sapsucker it was on the menu at the snack bar.

b7-bench

And what better place to sit and sip, than on a bench in aisle 6.

b3a-winterberries

Refreshed, I was again ready to shop till I dropped. Everywhere I looked, the Christmas decorations impressed me.

b14-red oak Christmas decorations

The season’s colors enhanced the merchandise.

b19-Sumac decorations

And all ornaments were handsome in their own way.

b9-tamarack gold

As is always part of my shopping adventure, I didn’t know what I was looking for when I entered the store. But as soon as I saw this display, I knew I had to have it.

b10-tamarack 2

Its label was lengthy–tamarack, larch, hackmatack. Call it what you want, it’s our only deciduous conifer for it looses its needles in the winter. But first, the needles turn from green to gold and announce their presence.

b15-pitch pine trunk

Also in abundance as this shop–pitch pines. It’s so easy to confuse a pitch pine with a red pine, but a few identifying tips help. The unique thing about this tree is that not only do the stiff, dark yellow-green needles grow on the branches, but they also grow on the trunk. If you spy a tree that you think may be a red pine, scan upward and if you see green needles along the trunk, then you’ve discovered a pitch pine.

The name, pitch, refers to the high amount of resin within this tree.

b16-pitch pine cones

It’s the needles of pitch pine that also add to its identification for they grow in bundles of three, like a pitchfork’s tines.

As for their cones, you can barely see the stalk because they tend to be clustered together, but their key feature is the rigid prickle atop each scale tip.

b20-Northern White Cedar

I was nearly at my turn-around point of three miles when I realized I was standing beside a row of doorbuster deals.

b21-northern white cedar leaves and cones

I couldn’t resist feeling the scale-like leaves of the northern white cedar. I had to have this item.

b17-black locust bark

I did find one thing I decided to leave on the shelf–for the spines of the black locust would have pricked my fingers, I’m sure.

b18-black locust seed pod

Apparently, others did purchase this, for only one fruit pod remained.

b25-heading back

At last, I was on my way back up the main aisle with hopes to make a bee-line out, but had a feeling something around the bend would stop me in my tracks.

b23-pokeberry geometric display

Sure enough–the pokeberry display was both geometric . . .

b23-pokeberry artistic display

and artistic in a dramatic sort of way.

b27-bird nest

As I continued on, I saw and heard birds flitting about and thought about the fact that I need to visit this shop more often, particularly in the spring and summer for the various habitats made me think that birding would be spectacular. And then I spied a nest attached to some raspberry bushes. I knew not the species that made it, but hoped some small brown critter might use it as a winter home and so it remained on the shelf.

b26-heading back 2

At last, I’d raided enough aisles. My cart was full to the brim and my brain overwhelmed. I guess I’m not really a “shop-til-you drop” kind of gal. It was time to wind along the trail and end my Black Friday shopping extravaganza.

 

Samplings of Wonder

The day began with a journal hike along Perky’s Path, a trail in the Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve. It was a first for us–a journal walk that is, and we had no idea how it would turn out. But our fearless docents, Ann and Pam, did a wonderful job of listening to the voices of those gathered and knew when it was time to stop and when it was time to move on again.

h-LMH

Each of us got lost in the world around us as we sat. We looked. We listened. We contemplated. We wrote. We sketched. We photographed. I know that I was so intent on sketching that I never realized Pam took this photo until she sent it to me. Thank you, Pam.

h sampling

Ever since I’ve started looking at the natural world through my macro lens, I haven’t taken as much time to sketch, so today was a welcome excuse to do so. And to color. Since my Aunt Ruth gave me colored pencils at least 50 years ago, those have been a favorite medium. I no longer have the gift from her, but my guy replenishes my supply when necessary.

IMG_2706 (1)

Our group was small, seven in total. We all admitted that small is good for this sort of activity.  And we came away thankful for the experience of making time to notice.

h beetle

And then I walked to the summit of Hawk Mountain with Jinny Mae–on a trail that may seem rather sparse in offerings, but actually proved to be quite rich. This banded longhorn beetle didn’t really like being the center of attention. His focus was on steeplebush pollen and I kept getting in his face. So–he did what flying insects do–and flew off.

h fern indusium

We were excited to discover several clumps of marginal wood ferns and some even with the indusium still intact. The indusium is a membranous covering that protects the sporangia inside the spore cases until they are ready to leave home on a dry day. In this case, the indusium is kidney shaped. As the sporangia ripen, they push the covering off and dust-like spores fly off in a wee cloud, breaking free to set down their own roots.

h white oak

Here, both Northern red and white oak grow side by side. It was the white oak’s fruiting structure that called our names. The immature acorns growing in pairs are both warty and hairy, but their structure is more reminiscent of a miniature pine cone at this stage. They should mature by fall.

h stag stalk

And then we celebrated the one who is all hair and color . . .

h stag leaves

and distinct shapes and

h stag leaf

a combination of all three.

h stag flower

Staghorn sumac. The king of the mountain.

h berries 2

Little things excited us and the twin fruits of the Hairy Solomon’s Seal that tried to hide beneath the leaves didn’t escape our focus. Or our cameras. Sometimes we are sure that we share all the same photos.

h indian pipe

One of our final stops as we headed down the trail–to worship the heads-up version of a fertilized Indian pipe. While most flowers nod when fertilized, Indian pipe chooses to be different. It wins in my wonder department.

I’ve only shared a few finds from today’s wanders. Just a smattering or a sampling. All worth a wonder.

 

 

From Bare to Bear on Burnt Meadow Mountain

Back in October 1947, catastrophic wildfires erupted throughout Maine during what became known as “The Week Maine Burned.”

It hadn’t rained for 108 days and the dry woods were like tinder. Here in western Maine, Fryeburg, Brownfield and Denmark thought they had a fire under control, but overnight a strong wind blew and gave it new life. About 2,000 acres burned by the next night as the fire spread to the edge of Brownfield.

With the winds continuously shifting, town folks began to panic. Farmers either turned their livestock loose or herded them to neighboring towns. Others packed as many belongings as they could and evacuated.

By morning, most homes and public buildings in Brownfield were mere piles of ash. Stately places including the Farnsworth Place where Dr. Philo Farnsworth, a pioneer in the field of television, spent his summers, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange hall, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed, including a mountain trail.

Today, Marita and I ventured to Burnt Meadow Mountain for a loop hike. It used to be that one had to hike up and back on the same trail, now known as the North Peak. Though that’s the shortest way up and back (about an hour each way), I for one, am thankful to the Friends of Burnt Meadow Mountain, who sought landowner permission to create a loop and spur–Twin Brook Trail and Stone Mountain Trail.

trail sign

From the parking lot and kiosk, it’s a bit of a climb to reach the trail split. We followed the blue blazes of the North Peak trail, which though it is shorter, is also the more difficult of the two.

white pine 1

Immediately we noticed that the white oaks that grow at the bottom of the mountain play host to numerous leaf miners and other insects.

white oak gall

Some are decorated with pronounced galls. I always think about how a bud protects the whisp of a leaf all winter long, and how hairy it is as it slowly unfolds and then–kaboom–the insects have to survive too. And they do. Until something eats them. And their energy passes up through the web, where it’s enhanced at each level by sun and air and rain and . . . even when life doesn’t look so good, it is.

Blueberries

As we climbed, the blueberries became more prolific. And bluer.

spreading dogbane

Spreading dogbane showed forth its tiny pink bells.

ph rocky ascent (1)

And the trail became a scramble. If I said we scampered up the ledge quickly, I’d be telling a fib. (Do people still tell fibs?) Near the summit is a section of hand-over-hand climbing. It doesn’t really last long, but in the moment it seems like forever.

ph view on way 2 (1)

And so it invites a pause to take in the view to the south and east.

ph summit view 5 (1)

The relatively flat summit is rather barren–in memory of those 1947 wildfires.

ph summit view3 (1)

We were glad it was cloudy as there are no shade trees at the top.

ph summit view 2 (1)

Our view included Stone Mountain and the saddle between it and Burnt Meadow Mtn.

ph red pine 3 (1)

Normally in the landscape, red pines stand tall and proud. At the summit, however, their scrubby form presents their features at eye level–bundles of two needles, pollen cones and older seed cones. Young red pines typically germinate and grow only after forest fires or some other event that causes tree loss.

Eastern Towhee 2

Eastern Towhee

While we took a break, an Eastern Towhee sang its metallic yet musical “drink your tea” song.

ph view on way down 4 (1)

Descending via the much longer, but a wee bit easier Twin Brook trail, we were treated to mountain views to the west.

driftwood

And driftwood. Oops. Wrong setting. But still, mountain wood can be as beautiful as ocean wood.

ph bear 5

One of our pleasant surprises was the discovery of bear claw marks on rather small beech trees. Perhaps made by even smaller bear cubs who scampered up and down a year or two ago, leaving their marks much the way we left our own today without knowing it.

ph bear 2

Further along, the hole in this older beech stopped Marita in her tracks. We noticed saw dust on the ground below. And numerous bear claw marks on the bark above.

bear 3

Another oft visited tree.

From bare to bear, Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield is worth the trek. (You probably thought we saw a bear today. No such luck, but my guys and I encountered a bear on the North Peak trail on a summer day years ago. It seemed content to lumber along about fifteen feet from us–probably full of blueberries.)

 

Hawk-eye Mondate

Some Mondates are shorter than others and such was the case today. But . . . we made the most of it as we walked up the trail to Hawk Mountain in Waterford.

hm-sign

It’s a half mile trek up a dirt and gravel road–just right when you want a great view and time is short. Of course, you could spend hours at the summit, but we weren’t there long.

hm-interrupted1

On the way up, I noticed interrupted fern in its interrupted form. Fertile leaves toward the middle are densely covered with sporangia (spore-bearing structures). I’m fascinated by their contorted, yet beautiful structures.

hm-lady1

Another favorite–lady’s slippers. Again, its structure is beyond my understanding.

hm-cyrstal and long2, ph

At the summit, we paused briefly and gazed toward Crystal and Long Lakes.

hm-white oak 4, ph

While my guy moved on to the better vantage point, I stopped several times. First, it was the color of these leaves that slowed me down. Have you noticed how spring foliage provides a subtle play on fall foliage? A few friends and I have been thinking about this lately, and this morning I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Dr. Rick Van de Poll, a well-known mycologist/naturalist/educator.

hm-red maple 1

He reminded me that the various hues of color in leaves is caused by the presence of pigments called anthocyanins or carbohydrates that are dissolved in the cell sap and mask the chlorophyll. As our spring temperatures rise and light intensity increases, red pigment forms on a leaf and acts as a sunscreen to protect the plant from an increase in ultraviolet rays.

hm-white oak1

It wasn’t only the color that caught my eye. Take a look at the lobe shape of the reddish leaves and that of the green in the background. In my continuing personal citizen science project to informally connect the dots of where white oaks meet red oaks, I added another pin on the map. Rounded lobes=white oak in the foreground. Pointed lobes=Northern red oak in the background.

hm-bee1

As I headed toward my guy, I noted that the cherry trees were abuzz.

hm-wild columbine1, ph

And hiding among the rocks at the base of a tree–another treat for the eyes. Wild columbine. Splendid indeed.

hm, cyrstal and long, ph

Equally splendid–the view from the ledges. Crystal and Long Lakes again.

hm-bear river

Bear River below. I always expect to see a moose here. Or maybe a bear. One of these days.

hm-pm1, ph

Pleasant Mountain and my guy.

hm-dragon5

As we walked back down the trail and concluded our Mondate, we celebrated the fact that dragonfly season has begun. With their hawk eyes, may they capture and consume a kazillion black flies and mosquitoes.

 

 

Ten Fun Finds in the Last 24 Hours

jw2

  1. Orange jewelweed, aka Spotted Touch-Me-Not. I found these lining the path during a quick walk through Pondicherry Park yesterday afternoon. The flower will form a capsule that bursts open and flings seeds when touched.

jewelweed 1

One of the cool things about jewelweed’s structure is its spurred sac that extends backwards.

jw3 on the wall

Though it likes the moist woodland paths in the park, I also found it in bloom atop a stonewall.

turtlehead

2. I’d never seen turtlehead until I moved to Maine. As a kid, I collected turtles–think stuffed, ceramic, wooden, glass. A neighbor even gave me a shell, which I still have. So, when we moved into our old farmhouse, I was excited to discover pink turtlehead growing in the garden. And on several occasions this past week, including yesterday’s walk in the park, white turtlehead was in bloom. It’s so named for the two-lipped appearance, with the upper lip arching downward and strongly suggesting a turtle’s head.

equisetum

3. Woodland horsetail grows among the white pine saplings. It’s easy to confuse the two since they both have whorled branches, but the horsetail branches have a lacier appearance. Its “leaves” are reduced to a toothed sheath that surrounds the stem.

fogged inmorning dew

4. Morning fog on Moose Pond was almost the pea-soup variety until it began to burn off around 7:30 this morning. I was mesmerized by the patterns created by the moisture on the porch screens.

spider works

spider works 2

5. I was equally mesmerized by the spider works I found both on the porch and outside. Industrious architects are these. Mind you, I’m not a spider fan. I used to make family members destroy them. And I remember some mighty large and hairy ones that shared our flat in England back in ’79. That’s when I learned that the eensy weensy spider really does climb up the water spout. But, these webs are to be admired.

white oak leaves

6. As my guy and I climbed Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield today (after the fog burned off), I realized for the first time that white oaks grow there. It’s the little things that excite me and seeing those rounded leaves made my heart flutter. I’ve now noted that white oak grows beside red oak in Casco, Denmark and Brownfield. I’m connecting the dots that form its northern line.

trailsignalmost to the summitsummit 1mount washington

7. We followed the North Peak trail to the top. It’s always a joy (think: relief) to walk onto the large, flat summit after scrambling over the rocks to get there. Because we like a round trip, we descended via the Twin Brooks Trail, which offers some great mountain views, including Mount Washington.

summit grasshopper

8. Grasshoppers are abundant at the summit. They’re known to feed on blueberries, and the crop is quite abundant, especially just off the summit on the Twin Brook Trail.

oak gall

9. Oak Gall. I think this is an oak apple gall growing on the red oak, but I’ve never actually seen one on the tree before. Usually, I find the dried shell of such a gall on the ground. My other guess would be the acorn plum gall. If you know, please inform me.

bear claws 1bear claws 2bear claw 3

10. I was looking for these and we found them. 🙂 Yes, more bear claw marks. It only made sense. Lots of beech trees. Lots of blueberries. And . . . a few years ago, we encountered a bear on the North Peak trail.

tree roots

11. OK, so here’s my eleventh cool thing. Kinda like getting a baker’s dozen–11 for 10, such a deal. Anyway, I’m always fascinated by the manner of tree roots growing over and around each other and other things. Embracing. Supporting.  Layering. Call it what you want. The thing is, they find a way to grow together. Oh, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes it’s a smothering relationship. I’d like to think that these two trees, an oak and a birch, have intertwined in support of each other.

Thanks for joining me to take a look at the past 24 hours. I hope you had time to wonder as well.

Window on the World

Friends and I explored a property that the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust is trying to purchase. Though in many ways it is similar to the natural communities of western Maine, there are some noted differences. And now that I’m home and can reflect upon it and check my reference books for more information, it’s all beginning to make sense. With every walk in the woods, the vision before me becomes clearer.

white oak leaf

I’m always happy to encounter these round-lobed leaves because I don’t see them often. White Oak abounds at the 215-acre Knights Pond & Blueberry Hill property in Cumberland and North Yarmouth.

white oak crown

The crown of a parent White Oak presents itself with joy.

shag leaf

Another species I don’t get to see every day–Shagbark Hickory with its compound leaves. Actually, they are pinnately compound. Hmmm, you say. Compound in that the blade consists of 5 leaflets  and pinnately because the leaflets form in a row on either side of the common axis–think feather-like formation.

shagbark hickory leaf and galls

Interestingly, some hickory leaflets were covered with galls, giving them a warty appearance–in a miniature candy-apple kind of way. I was thinking they might be caused by a mite, but turns out it may be either a midge or fly that makes these little balls.

shagbark hickory

Shagbark Hickory certainly is a shaggy looking tree, with gray-brown bark that curls away from the trunk in long, thin strips.

hop hornbeam

Near the hickory trees are numerous Hop Hornbeams with their flaky bark.

shag and hop

In the grassy glade, they grow together. I love it when trees stand together, making it easy to compare and contrast their features.

In Natural Landscapes of Maine: A Guide to Natural Communities and Ecosystems, authors Gawler and Cutko rank the Oak-Hickory Forest as S1–the rarest of communities.

“This dry forest type, characteristic of the Central Appalachian Mountains, occurs in small patches or as inclusions within broader expanses of oak-pine forest.”  Yikes, I think the authors may have been walking with us today.

“It is dominated by a mixture of shagbark hickory and oaks (white, black, red or chestnut) over park-like sedge lawn. Sugar maple, white pine or white ash may be canopy associates, and hop-hornbeam is a characteristic sub-canopy species.” Bingo.

Other associated species that we saw included Witch Hazel, Maple-Leaf Viburnum and Striped Maple, Low-bush Blueberry, Asters, Canada Mayflowers, Sarsaparilla, Wild Oats and probably more that we didn’t note.

trail

As usual, it took us forever, but occasionally we continued down the trail.

Indian Cucumber Root

Our frequent pauses included stops at Indian Cucumber Root,

maple leaf vibur2

Maple-Leaf Viburnum,

New York fern

New York Fern,

lady fern

Lady Fern

hairy solomon's seal

and Hairy Solomon’s Seal.

stone wall

Stonewalls crossed in a couple of places, making us reflect on their construction and purpose.

snake

And a snake paused for a photo shoot.

bog 1

Suddenly, the trail opened to Knight’s Pond, a 45-acre, dammed pond. According to the brochure, “The pond is a significant breeding ground for waterfowl and wading birds and is an important refueling spot during migration.”

sundews

Among the life at the pond, a zillion carnivorous Sundews, with their nectar-tipped tentacles waiting to trap insects.

dragonfly

Dragonflies and damselflies were also on the hunt for prey.

 window on the world

We had stopped frequently along the way to key out species or share our stories related to them. By the end of our wander, I was in awe of the beauty and thankful for the opportunity to glance through this window on the natural world.

Thanks be to The Trust for Public Land, Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, the Royal River Conservation Trust, all of those individuals who have contributed to the purchase, and my friend, K.H., for sharing it with us today. May you receive the Land for Maine’s Future funding soon.

Naturally Wavy

The roads were coated in black ice when I drove toward Jefferson, Maine, early this morning to meet up with the Maine Master Naturalist class. The morning sun, brilliant blue sky with scattered cumulous clouds, and mist rising from open waterways, made me want to pause along the highway and take some photos, but I wasn’t sure how I’d explain to a state policeman that indeed it was an emergency. Instead, I continued on to Gardiner, got off the highway and followed backroads over rolling hills and through farm country to my destination–Hidden Valley Nature Center. 

Aptly named, the 1,000-acre natural education center consists of contiguous forest dotted with vernal pools, a kettle bog, ponds and 30 miles of trails.

Bambi

Bambi Jones, a Master Naturalist and co-founder of HVNC, spent the morning with us, showing us the vernal pools and sharing her knowledge. Things aren’t exactly hopping at the pools yet, but . . . the weather is supposed to warm up this week and once the snow melts–look out!

vp1

When I first looked at this vernal pool photo, I thought it was upside down–such is the reflection.

vpsign

A wee bit of info and a reason why we should pay attention.

fen2

This is a kettle hole bog apparently, caused by glacial action. I was looking up the difference between a bog and a fen and found this on The International Carnivorous Plant Society’s Web site: “People commonly describe wetlands with words like pond, bog, marsh, fen, and swamp, thinking these are mostly interchangeable. Actually, there are careful definitions for each of these names. The only problem is that a hydrologist may use one set of definitions, while a botanist may use another, and an ecologist may use yet another.”

While we stood looking across, someone in the group spotted what they thought was a bobcat across the way and coming down a hill. I never saw it, but I did note lots of ledges in the area and on the way out saw some potential bobcat tracks.

fen1

Another view. Lots of black spruce, sheep laurel and pitcher plant seed pods visible.

pitcher plant flower

The seed pod of a  pitcher plant, one of our carnivorous plants.

beaver lodge:fen

And a beaver lodge along the edge.

2nd beaver lodge

There were so many things to see, including a second beaver lodge that may have more action. Do you see it in the center of the photo?

beaver dam

This dam is nearby and had seen lots of activity. Due to yesterday’s rain, it’s a bit hard to decipher the tracks.

Cheryl , spring tails

Remember when I mentioned snow fleas or spring tails in my post entitled, The Small Stuff? Well, this is one of our students enjoying a circus performance.

cat

You never know what you might see when you take the time to look.

looking for life

So they did–look that is. And almost fell in.

what's in your dannon?

More observations–whatcha got in your Dannon container?

white oak1

One of my joys was meeting two new trees. I was excited to make the acquaintance of White Oak (Quercus alba) today. Rather than the ski trails and redness of Northern Red Oak, this species features bark that looks like irregular blocks.

white oak 2

And sometimes it looks shaggier, with long, vertical plates. Like its red brethren, the leaves are marcescent, meaning they stay on the tree through the winter months.

white oak leaf

What I love about the White Oak leaf is its rounded lobes.

red oak

Here’s a middle-aged (just like me!) Northern Red Oak for comparison. The flat-ridged ski trails are forming and the red is clearly visible between them.

red oak leaf

Then there’s the bristle-tipped leaf.

amer hornbeam

My second new encounter was with the American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroloiniana). Again, a thrilling experience. OK, it doesn’t take much. Now I understand why it’s called musclewood. It could easily be mistaken for a beech tree because the bark of a young  tree is smooth, but there is a sinewy beauty to it. My bark eyes are now cued into this one.

Hop Hornbeam

The fun part was that not far away stood this old friend. Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginians) has thin, flaky vertical strips. Both species, members of the birch family, are known as ironwood.

stream

As the day went on, though our focus was on vernal pools and communities, we often got distracted by other things–which I’ve dubbed Nature Distraction Disorder.

What I began to notice was a natural waviness. I saw it in the snow along the edge of this stream.

folds

In the folds of the rocks.

more folds

And more folds.

beech 2

In the scar on this beech tree.

red oak growth

And the growth on this red oak.

 sculpture

But probably my favorite, this naturally wavy sculpture on display by the barn where we convened a few times. It invites reflection.

Thanks for joining me for today’s wonder-filled wander.