Beth and I spent the holiday weekend on a backpacking trip along a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The original plan was for us to leave the house Friday morning and start the hike. Then turn around early Saturday afternoon and head back, arriving back where we started on Sunday. Unfortunately, Hurricane Arthur had some input on that plan (it poured all day Friday), so we shortened the hike and left on Saturday morning instead.

This was a trail Beth chose, as she hiked it last fall during Outdoor School. Only then, it poured the whole time. Her teacher said it was the worst he had ever seen it during a backpacking trip, and he has many, many of those under his belt. She was miserable during that entire trip, and wanted to give it another shot during better weather.

Well, the weather was better, and according to Beth, the trail was in much better condition. But it was, I think, the muddiest trail I have ever hiked on.

The trail was a tad damp.

The trail was a tad damp.


When Beth did this last fall, very little of the trail was above water, which was mostly “six inches deep” (according to her). Maybe it was!

Parts of the trail were pretty steep:

And steep in places

And steep in places

This was about the only place there was a “view” (though all of the trail was beautiful). It never came above the treeline.

It never emerged from the treeline

It never emerged from the treeline

There was a huge colony of some kind of liverwort growing on this pine tree.

Liverwort!

Liverwort!


Nice!

At one point, she thought she recognized the Little Swift River Pond campground, and we diverged from the trail. Only it was not the Little Swift. It was South Pond. Beth remembered these boats:

At South Pond

At South Pond


Only it wasn’t “these” boats, it was some other boats. Then, since we had unknowingly taken a side trail, we had difficulty finding the trail again. Beth consulted the map (as did I), until we concluded that we were at South Pond, not at Little Swift. We backtracked until we found blaze markings again, and continued on. This shows the importance of not pressing on when you’ve lost the trail. It’s better to go back until you find the markings!

I just have to show more photos of muddy trail. An awful lot of the trail looked like this.

The mud was deep

The mud was deep

And a lot of the parts that didn’t, looked more like this:

And so was the water

And so was the water

In spite of the slogging, there were rewards. I saw some “Common” wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), which is not nearly as common as “regular” wood sorrel (O. stricta).

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)


I think the only time I ever see this purple-veined sorrel is on backpacking trips! I suppose the “montana” part of its binomial name suggests a reason.

It was pretty common to see moose scat on the trail in the places that were not too muddy (or under water), so we were hoping to see a moose or two. This bog was an excellent place to find one, but we didn’t.

A nice bog

A nice bog


They probably saw us though.

Here’s one that grows on my property, but which rarely blooms there:

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)


You can Kalmia angustifolia, just don’t call me late for dinner!

This one was perhaps the highlight of the trip for me:

A white "pink" lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)

A white “pink” lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)


This is a pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba), even though it’s white. I had never seen one. There are white lady’s slippers that are pretty rare, and belonging to a different species, and I have never seen any of those either. But this one can be identified as a member of the “pink” species, because it has a slit running down the front of the flower. The other species in the genus have little round openings at the top of the flower – more like a slipper vs a shoe without its laces.

Here’s a shot of the pair where I tried to get the entire plant(s) in the shot:

The whole plant

The whole plant


Nice!

We stopped for “lunch” around 3:00pm, or maybe later. It was chilly outside, and once we quit moving, Beth was getting chilly. I had my sleeping bag stuffed (very snugly) into my backpack, making it nearly impossible to get anything else out of it without removing the bag. So I tossed it to her while I prepared some pasta.

It was chilly!

It was chilly!

Neither one of us remembered to bring a spoon or a fork, which made eating the pasta something of a challenge. Not as hard as eating the soup would be later that evening! So as the sun was setting, I started carving a make-shift spoon out of a small sapling someone had cut (and conveniently for me, left 12″ or so sticking up out of the ground). It soon grew too dark for knife work though, so I laid it aside until morning. But once the sun came up, I made quick work of it, and we were able to eat our oatmeal with relative ease.

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

I think the most abundant plant along the trail was bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). When we started the hike I noticed that most of them had already dropped their sepals (which most people understandably mistake for petals). I suggested to Beth that if we had been there two weeks earlier, we would have been treated to a carpet of bunchberry blooms. But later in the hike, we transitioned into an area where they still held onto their sepals:

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

We stopped at “the view” again on the way back and rested up a bit. There was only a little more than a mile to go by then. I was admiring the mud stains on my pant legs:

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!


Luckily, those pant legs zip off, so I was sure to do that before going into the tent.

One plant I was looking for was the Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispudula), which belongs to the often-featured-on-this-blog, Wintergreen (G. procumbens).

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)


I first saw this on a backpacking trip a couple of years ago, but didn’t know what it was then (I identified it from the photos I took when I got back). So this was the first time I was able to look at it and know what I was seeing.

As we descended the trail towards the car for that last mile, I decided to try my hand at dead reckoning. I would look ahead for a land mark, estimate the distance to it, and add that to the distance covered already as we approached it. Then find the next landmark and do the same. Eventually, I switched to estimating where the next 100-feet would be, because I was pretty tired, and that made the arithmetic easier. I was pleased that by the time I figured we had another 500 feet, we could hear the stream near the parking lot, and we could also hear the occasional car. I stopped dead reckoning at T-minus 200 feet, and we were pretty close to 200 feet from the parking lot then. This was my first attempt at that, and I rather liked the results!

We got to the car around 1:00pm and drove south to Dixfield. We stopped at a diner and had lunch, and then drove home (about three more hours).

I have to say I’m pretty sore now, but I think I’ll know a lot more about that tomorrow!

This morning I took a lap around the property with camera in hand. Here’s what I found.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)


The “regular” milkweed is in bloom now. I have a lot of this stuff on our land now. When we first moved here, there were only three or four plants, but I let it grow. This year there are about a hundred of them. I’ve been eating them too, and like them very much!

But not as much as these:

Blueberries! (Vaccinium angustifoilium)

Blueberries! (Vaccinium angustifoilium)


There are a lot of lowbush blueberry plants here, mostly in the woods (as were these). They do not produce a lot of fruit though, probably because they are in the woods where they don’t get a lot of sun.

The dewdrops are still blooming:

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

And the sarsaparilla’s are producing fruit:

Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) fruit

Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) fruit


The roots of sarsaparilla can be used to make a root beer, but the fruits are not edible.

The berries on the wintergreen plants that still have them are huge. They are about the size of a pencil eraser most of the year, but these two were the size of dimes.

Huge wintergreen berries

Huge wintergreen berries

The wintergreen is getting ready to bloom. This one was the farthest along of any I saw today. I expect that by the end of the holiday weekend, they will open.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) ready to bloom

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) ready to bloom

I installed Miss Nancy’s thwart yesterday.

Thwarted!

Thwarted!


It did not go as smoothly as I would have wished, and thus, the title of today’s post.

When we reglassed her hull last summer (!) she was not on a mold. A canoe mold (for this type of canoe) is a series of plywood cross sections mounted to a T-beam made from 2×10 lumber. I do not have a mold for Miss Nancy though, so when I was ready to put the glass on, I just propped her up on a pair of sawhorses and went at it. Unfortunately, the weight of the glass & epoxy on the unsupported hull caused her gunwales to turn inwards, giving her an exaggerated “tumblehome” (meaning, her widest point is not from gunwale to gunwale, but rather, it is below that point – the gunwales come in towards the center). A little tumblehome is good, because you can heel the canoe over pretty far before the gunwales dip below the surface, at which point the river/lake rushes in, and the canoe capsizes in seconds. The downside to tumblehome is that the gunwales are not as good at turning the waves away. They just come in over the gunwales. I would rather take on water that way than by the other way, but this was just way too much tumblehome.

I decided to address this by cutting the thwart a bit wider than her “resting” position suggests, so before I cut it, I placed a spreader clamp between the gunwales and carefully started cranking on it. Crank, crank, crank. OK, one more. Pop! I split her stern deck:

Stern deck... oops

Stern deck… oops


Though disheartening, this too is fixable. Since the deck is already split, I might was well keep the gunwales spread apart as I intended. I plan to make a maple wedge whose width equals the width of the crack, and which tapers to a point. Then slather it with epoxy and insert it into the crack. I just need to be sure that the wedge is slightly higher than the rest of the deck so I can sand that down until it is at the same level. I do not wish to have to plane down the whole deck, which is a mistake I made on her bow.

When I put the bow deck in place, the starboard side just would not stay in position. It wanted to slip above the level of the gunwale. I even had a board clamped over it to stop that, and though somewhat effective, it was insufficiently effective. To fix that, I started planing the deck down to match the gunwales. Unfortunately (there’s that word again!) I ended up reducing the thickness of the deck by more than the thickness of the inlay.

Bow deck problem

Bow deck problem


So I’ll need to redo the starboard side of the inlay. I guess I’ll route it out (by hand) and cut a new piece of zebra wood to match, glue it in, clamp it down, and wait for the epoxy to set. Then I can sand the zebrawood inlay to match the level of the deck. I will do the expoxy work on both decks on the same day, because neither one of those jobs will require a full shot of epoxy, and that stuff is expensive. Like $130 per gallon. I guess it’s not that expensive – a shot of epoxy is about one fluid ounce, so that’s a whole dollar. But combined, the two deck repairs should use most of one shot. Why waste it?

Repairing my mistakes is not work that I enjoy so much, and because of that, I will have difficulty mustering the requisite ambition to actually do it! Especially when it’s hot & humid outside. But I will.

Other than the deck repair, all she needs is to have her seats mounted.

She’s so close!

After church today, Beth invited me to walk to Sandogardy Pond with her. I can’t resist an invitation like that, so I got my hat, boots, and camera, and put the leash on Penny.

While I was doing all that Beth popped outside. She came in with a report of a purple lady bug.

Gray-dy bug

Gray-dy bug


I thought it was more gray than purple. I haven’t tried to identify it, but for now, I will call this a “gray-dy bug”.

On the way to the pond, I spotted a tall flowering plant along the side of the road. I have never seen this species before, but I knew it was a milkweed of some sort.

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)


I’m not 100% sure, but I think this one is a poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata). I had been thinking that it’s cool to find new-to-me species in bloom, but when I went to tag this one, I see that I have already tagged that species. So it is one I have seen before, but forgot about!

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)


None of these photos are that great, but hey – sometimes they aren’t.

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Poke milkweed? (Asclepias exaltata)

Further along, I saw some wintergreen with absolutely huge berries.

Huge wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens)

Huge wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens)


I have notices that just before they bloom again, wintergreen berries swell. They are normally a quarter inch in diameter, but these were half an inch. Remember, volume increases with the cube of the diameter, so these have about 8 times the volume of an unswollen berry (though I expect they have roughly the same mass, as the density seems to decrease).

My theory is that the plant is making a last ditch effort to entice something to eat the berries and thus, spread the seeds. If that’s the strategy, it worked for this plant, because I ate these as soon as I snapped the photo.

When we got to Cross Brook (or as I call it, Little Kohas Creek) which drains Sandogardy Pond, Penny was in full throw-me-a-stick mode. She brought us one and dropped it on the bridge.

Penny brings a stick

Penny brings a stick

Except it fell between the planks and into the creek. She couldn’t figure out where it had gone, but it was floating downstream by then.

It drops between the boards and into the creek

It drops between the boards and into the creek


I pointed it out to her, and she went in after it.
She fetches it

She fetches it


She did this twice. The second time it had floated farther downstream than she could have imagined, so she didn’t find it. She did know that it had gone between the planks though, because she was looking through them into the creek trying to find it. But that wouldn’t help in this case, because there’s no way she could get it back between the planks.

Thank you Penny for entertaining me today! And thank you Beth for the walk!

I guess I post a photo of this flower every year:

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)


because it is one of my favorites. Every year I post this, I say the same thing – that this is the flower that taught me how to use a camera.

I used to have a Canon A85, which was a nice point-and-shoot, but it absolutely could not capture a decent image of this flower when left to its own automatic devices. Also, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I learned a few things right away: don’t use flash for macro shots. Also, use the macro setting when taking a macro shot. Also, “macro” means “close to the subject.” I also learned not to use the zoom in a macro shot.

These days, I put the camera about an inch from any macro subject – or how ever close I can get and fill the frame.

Those were the easy lessons. The harder ones were to set the exposure time manually, what the ISO setting does (I set mine as low as I can), and what the f-stop does (I try to max that out, even though a lot of people like low f-stops for macros – I’m not one of those people!)

With the f-stop maxed and the ISO minimized, that means the exposure time has to be long, and long exposures blur unless the camera is held perfectly still. So I use a tiny tripod. But when I press the button, the camera shakes, and that can blur the image too. So I make it wait two seconds after I release the button before it takes the picture.

Lastly (for now), if the camera won’t autofocus on the subject because it’s too small, I place my finger in the frame as near the subject as I can, and then let the AF do its thing by pressing the “take the picture” button halfway down. Then I move my finger out of the way. If I bumped the subject, I wait for it to stop moving. Then I press the button the rest of the way down.

But it was this plant that taught me all of that.

I slept in a little bit this morning, but these days, that means “past seven.” Va made breakfast, and then Beth asked me if I wanted to go for a walk somewhere. I asked “Where to?” and she answered “How about the Union Church?”

That sounded pretty OK to me, so off we went.

Northfield Union Church

Northfield Union Church


It’s just under a mile from our house to this church which is owned by the town of Northfield. It was built back in the late 1800’s for the use of any denomination that wanted to use it, and they could use it free of charge. I don’t know if that’s the way it is still, but if it is, no denomination apparently wants to use it.

Penny was pretty thirsty when we started back again, so we detoured to Sandogardy Pond. She went in to cool off and get a drink, and then the three of us walked home again. By then it was nearly 10:00, so I drove to Tilton to visit the hardware store. I needed to get some new handles for my wheelbarrow, as mine broke neatly in half last week when I tried to move some rocks with it. Bill didn’t have any on hand, but he ordered some for me, and I will get them next week. No hurry there.

When I got home from the hardware store, I dug up the spar varnish I bought for the canoe project(s). Miss Nancy was ready for her first coat, so I laid some down on her gunwales.

Then it was time for Beth and me to head over to Laconia, as the Pathfinders had been hired to sweep our sister church’s parking lot (we share our pastor with Laconia). That didn’t take very long at all, and we were back home again by 3:30.

As soon as I thought Miss Nancy’s gunwales were dry enough, I moved her onto a pair of sawhorse, flipped her over, and varnished the outside of her hull. Here’s the starboard side:

Miss Nancy's starboard side

Miss Nancy’s starboard side

And here’s the port.

Miss Nancy's port side

Miss Nancy’s port side

She is in much better shape now than when I got hold of her. I will still need to sand the inside hull before I varnish that, but I don’t plan to spend a lot of time there. Just something to knock down the high spots in the fiberglass, wipe her down, and slather on a quick coat.

I also picked up a piece of maple today and cut out a new thwart. I shaped it with a 4-in-hand, but only on one side – then I petered out. Maybe I’ll finish that off tomorrow.

The whorled loosestrife has bloomed.

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Penny woke me up from a nap this afternoon, so I went outside (it was beautiful). I was tooling around the backyard when I noticed the loosestrife in bloom. As I was taking the picture, Beth was sneaking up on me. She’s been trying to do this for some time, but I usually detect her when she’s quite a way off. Not today. She was right there when she announced her presence. I think she was pleased with herself (I know I would have been).

Then she asked if I wanted to go to Sandogardy Pond, and of course I did, so we stopped in the house for Penny’s leash and then set out.

The bugs weren’t bad, and the temperature was right around 70, or maybe even below (it’s 66 now). She talked pretty much the whole trip, which I enjoyed. We picked up trash, and she couldn’t figure out why people would just throw it on the ground like they do. I have to admit that it boggles my mind as well.

When we got to the pond I walked along the edge of the water looking for pipewort, but found none. Instead, I found a plant that I did not know:

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)


These flowers are tiny. I don’t think they’re even an eight of an inch across, and that made them pretty difficult to photograph. Autofocus couldn’t find them, so I had to whip out the tripod, put my finger next to the bloom, let it focus on that, move my finger, and then press the button (with a two-second delay since the exposure time was longish). This one came out semi-respectably. I found another clump of it further down the beach, and since it had a denser cluster of blooms, I took a shot of it as well.

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

Stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium)

Then I looked it up in Newcombs (3 for 3 petals, 4 for whorled leaves, and 2 for smooth leaf margins, or 342). That’s the same index number as trilliums, but the index number is really just to get you close. Bedstraw was on the next page.

This is an unusual plant in that it’s a 3-petaled dicot. Most plants with three or (six petals) are monocots (i.e., narrow leaves, with parallel veins in them, like corn and lilies). The dicots have broader leaves (in general) and have branched veins.

I can’t think of another 3-petaled dicot. I may have to open the books again!

In other news, I have finally gotten around to working on restoring those canoes again. Miss Nancy is ready to varnish. Once that’s done, I can make her a new thwart, attach it, and mount the two seats, and she will be ready to paddle. Miss Emma will need gunwales attached (I milled them last fall), re-varnished, and then she can get trimmed out with the thwart-seat combo I made last year, plus her two original seats. Miss Sally only needs a section of gunwale repaired, and then have her thwart reattached. That’ s pretty much all that’s left.

We might get to paddle them by September.

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