August 17 – 23, 2018 Vol. 20, No. 11

Mushrooms and Flowers in the Hills

Todd and Nancy Hemphill with Baxter the family dog.

by Pete Kallin

The weather has continued to be variable — mostly hot and humid with a few thundershowers, but occasionally really nice for hiking in the shady woods. There have been a few wet days that haven't done much to raise the water levels in the lakes but at least have brought out a bunch of wild mushrooms for those of us who forage these delicious treats. I spent one afternoon hiking The Mountain with Laura Rose Day, the new CEO of the 7-Lakes Alliance, and we found quite a few black trumpets, which are among my favorites.

The next day I decided to hike into the Kennebec Highlands a bit and stopped at French Mountain on the way to Beaver Brook hoping to find a family with kids hiking the trail. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed a guy cutting the grass along the edge of the parking lot and along the drainage ditch by the side of the road. I am on the 7-LA Stewardship Committee and didn't remember anyone talking about cutting the grass. I introduced myself to him and discovered that Jon Wathen, who lives across the street from our trailhead, has been cutting our grass whenever he cuts his own and picking up the parking lot at least weekly "for years" because he felt, "it was the right thing to do." It made me realize how special our local community is.

Beautiful cardinal flowers along the stream.

As I was leaving a car with North Carolina plates and a BRCA sticker pulled into the lot. It was Todd and Nancy Hemphill, who have a camp on Flying Pond in Vienna. Nancy has been spending summers here since she was 5. Todd has only been coming for about 40 years, "since he met her."

I then went down Watson Pond Road and hiked into Beaver Pond roughly following the Beaver Brook. My plan was to collect a few mushrooms and do a little fishing in the pond and brook. I brought an ultralight spinning pole and my Tenkara flyrod, a 12-ft long, telescoping Japanese rod that only weighs a couple of ounces and has no reel or guides. The line attaches to end of the rod like the old cane poles many of us first fished with. Both the stream and the pond were as low as I have seen them in 10 years but I caught quite few small bass and fallfish that aggressively hit my fly. The Tenkara rod is fun to use with these small fish and is great for small streams because you don't need a backcast. Check out or stop at Patagonia or L.L.Bean in Freeport to check it out. I also found some amazingly beautiful stands of cardinal flowers in the stream.

Kaet Held reading the August 3–9 issue of Summertime on the French Mountain Trail.

On the way back, I stopped again at French Mountain looking for families with kids. As I walked towards an area where I had found mushrooms before, I glanced up the trail and saw something red about 100 yards up the trail. It looked like someone sitting beside the trail reading a newspaper. I walked up to introduce myself and discovered Kaet Held sitting in a folding chair reading Summertime in the Belgrades. I noticed her paper was open to my column, and I got excited. She then told me how much she was enjoying Rod Johnson's column about strolling through the village in 1959, which was roughly when her family bought a camp on Great Pond and she began coming here. She had started up the hill with her family but was recently recuperating from an illness and decided to just sit down in the shade to read her paper while the rest of them hiked to the top of the hill. She did tell me she also liked my column and was happy to appear in it.

Take advantage of the rest of the summer and get out on the lakes or hike or bike in the hills. And take a kid along. Or take a parent and turn them into a kid again. You will be creating memories that last. Check out the events at the 7-LA website and the sign in front of the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes Village.

Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.