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CC’s Outdoor Journal; Nurturing nature
WELD- Setting out to hike the 1.3-mile trail to the summit of Blueberry Mountain, Sandra, Jennie and I were all excited to take in the fall view, the cooler temperatures and to see what the changing season was going to show us along the trail.
We were pleasantly surprised to have Shylee, the chocolate lab belonging to the Thompson family who owns the Blueberry Mountain Bible Camp, join us for our adventure as an excellent guide dog.
If we were hunting birds, we would surely have come home with our limit, as Shylee had a nose for fine feathered friends and flushed a couple out just ahead of us on the trail. Like any lab, with an instinct to hunt, her body stiffened at the scent of a bird, her focus became intent and then as we approached she would jump ever so slightly to scare the bird.
I have to admit, the first time she did this, we weren’t paying attention and she jumped us as much as she jumped the partridge that went flying through the limbs.
Not too far up the wide, steep trail, created by a logging operation, Jennie began picking up beech nuts and sharing the fruit of the forest with Sandra, who had never tried them before. Since the mountainside was filled with beech, birch, maple and oak trees, the landscape was covered with gorgeous orange, red and yellow leaves. There were plenty of acorns and beech nuts for the forest creatures to stock up on, as we could feel them underfoot.
Photographing everything in sight, it seemed, we came upon a beautiful green, leafy plant with red stick-looking foliage and at the ends were white berries. We marveled at the beauty and Jennie, our plant expert, promised she would look up the species.
Later, we found out that the plant was White Baneberry, very poisonous to humans if consumed. In fact, both the berries and the plant from root to tip, are dangerous to humans. The berries contain cardiogenic toxins which have an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle and tissue, and are the most poisonous part of the plant. Ingestion of the berries can lead to cardiac arrest and death. And, like most wild berries that are poisonous to humans, they are not harmful to birds, who prefer the white berries, otherwise known as doll’s eyes.
Thankful to have seen such a beautiful plant, we continued on to see what else nature had in store for us.
Trudging up through the leaf covered forest floor, climbing up the rocks, we came upon several old trees riddled with bracket fungus. But, we all know the real name for them are forest fairy houses. With their light and dark rings decorating their surface as they spread themselves like umbrellas out over the decaying tree, the forest fairies can find shelter in the coming storms.
As we continued to follow the blue blazes on the trees and rocks, the trail narrowed into a traditional hiking trail, away from the former logging operation, now on pretty steep, rocky ground. We climbed, took pictures of unique rock formations, looked out every now and then at the view of Webb Lake in the distance. It was an amazing day for hike.
As our voices quieted and we were one with our own thoughts, something struck me as funny. If you recall my story last year on our overnight hike on Bigelow, you’ll remember the demise of the bird who was thought to be eating a blueberry. Well, in my head, I was now calling Blueberry Mountain, eyeball mountain. If you didn’t follow, you’ll have to look up the story from September of 2012.
Oh, my gosh, the things you think when you’re quiet in the woods.
In what felt like no time at all, we were coming out to the summit. While it’s rocky summit is consistent with that of a lot of Maine mountains, it was still unique in its’ own way. With a rock pile near the elevation marker and a few scrub trees blocking a bit of a breeze, there was nothing in the way of our 360-degree view of the landscape.
The view was endless. Jennie pointed out the summit of Tumbledown, which I have never been up, but am hoping to soon. We saw the windmills of Spruce Mountain and Record Hill in the far off distance. Sugarloaf stood out like a giant in the sky and we could see the humps that made up part of the Bigelow range.
A beautiful day, but oh my gosh, there are so many more mountains out there for us to hike. Jennie stated, “We’re going to do our best at hiking as many as we can.”
After spending some time at the summit, we gathered our things and made our way back down the mountain.
Slowly, we descended, as the piles of leaves were deceiving and you didn’t know if you were stepping onto ground or if you were going into a hole. It made us acutely aware of all we were doing. There’s nothing like being fully aware. Aware of your surroundings, how the rocks and trees feel under your hands as you steady yourself, how the leaves feel as your feet sink into them and the sound they make. And the best part, for me, anyway, feeling my body work from the inside out to move me up and down the trail.
The next time you have a few minutes, try to pay attention to your breath, the movement your body is making and how easy or difficult it is. Become aware of your surroundings and just be. Guaranteed, you’ll slow down a little more and appreciate what your body is capable of and if physically able, you’ll attempt to push it a little further the next time.
If you would like to join us on one of our outings, or if you have a story idea for CC’s Outdoor Journal, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
Jennie Nisbet, Sandra Frisbie and I recently hiked Blueberry Mountain in Weld. We were accompanied by Shylee, the chocolate lab, belonging to the Thompson family, owners of the Blueberry Mountain Bible Camp, and enjoyed photographing nature along the way. (Times photos by Cherri Crockett)