On a recent Saturday morning we attended a naturalist walk sponsored by the Coastal Mountain Land Trust. Like the previous guided walk I had joined, this one was also on Ragged Mountain albeit on the Camden Snow Bowl side of the mountain. The land trust had brought in a Master Naturalist for this walk to guide us in our explorations.
We met our fellow walkers in a small dirt parking area near Hosmer Pond before setting off in the direction of the pond. Our first stop was the field bordering the water. We found so many new discoveries here that it was surprising we found time to continue our explorations up the mountain. Different members of the groups were able to point out Purple Vetch, St. John’s Wort, a wild Primrose, Mustard plants, Elderberry, and Valerian (a plant that I had seen in abundance by the roadside but had been unable to identify).
Our guide spent a few minutes instructing us on how to use the key in the Newcomb’s Wildflower guide. Many people swear this is the bible of wildflower identification. Although I have gotten better at using it, I still find it difficult and typically will use the Newcomb’s along with Peterson’s to verify the accuracy of my identification. Newcomb’s works on generating a three digit code based on a plant’s characteristic; one digit for the number of petals or rays of the flower, another for whether the leaves are basal only, alternate, opposite or whorled and a third digit for whether the leaves are smooth, toothed or divided. This three digit number is then used to locate a page number in the guide. More power to the person who can successfully use this guide.
Before moving on from our lesson on using Newcomb’s, another member of the group identified different types of bumblebees that he had caught in a small vial. He was taking part in a bee survey for the area. Another gentleman was taking part in a toad survey. I was impressed that many of the people in this group were doing so many different things with nature.
Heading towards the pond, our guides also identified Boneset. A beautiful symmetry was created by the leaves curling over the flower-head. Looking out towards the water, we discovered Pickerelweed growing near the shore. At this point, I was torn as to where I should be. The group had two leaders, our naturalist guest and the leader from the land trust. The group seemed to split into two at this point with the different leaders explaining different things on opposite sides of the road. Both had interesting things to say and I wanted to hear them both. Fortunately, there were two of us so we split up between the two leaders.
Soon, everyone was back together as we made our way up the ski trail into the woods. There has been construction at the ski area over the last year to add additional trails, new ski lifts, etc. In the woods we discovered a tree with a fresh woodpecker hole. Although smaller than the holes left by pileated woodpeckers, we surmised that it probably was made by the pileated. Further down the trail, someone identified an American Toad. As we crossed a small stream, another member of our group turned over some stones and located a salamander.
Coming out of the woods, we crossed a field and soon found ourselves looking down at the ski lodge. I looked across the hill towards Bald Mountain while the rest of the group enjoyed the wild blueberries ripening across the slope. We finished our walk and headed home. It had been a very informative day.