Friday, September 6, 2013

Groton, Mass: "We Live and Breathe Letterboxing XV"

View from a beaver dam. A deer was on the dam just a moment before.
Every five years, a few hundred North American letterboxers make a pilgrimage to an event called, "We Live and Breathe Letterboxing." This year it was held in Groton, Massachusetts, northwest of Boston, just outside of the I-495 beltway.  People flew in from as far away as Alaska. I threw the tent in the car and drove three hours to Camp Grotonwood.  

There were a lot of festivities and socializing broken up by adventures out on the trail. I started out early the first morning looking for the series "A Little Bit of History" because the route crossed a beaver dam. I was not disappointed. I didn't see any beaver, but an osprey whistled from a tall snag in the middle of the pond before flying off, and a kingfisher chattered as it hunted the pond edges. Green Frogs did their embarrassingly awkward "SQUEAK" followed by a clumsy splash into the pond. There was even a fleeting glimpse of a deer standing on the beaver dam at one point when I doubled back thinking I'd missed a turn. It was all very still and moody. 
The beaver were showing their love for the letterboxers. 
 I honestly did not take many pictures.  I was too busy looking for letterboxes, or socializing, or swimming, or eating. Many of the pictures I did take were a disappointment because the lens had fogged up in the slug weather after I pulled my camera out of a cool backpack, and some of my settings were inadvertently adjusted as well.  

Bog Iron on Mark's Trail
A muddy crossings on Marks Trail had an impressive amount of reddish Bog Iron. I once collected some Bog Iron like this and heated it in an oven at the highest temperature because that's the sort of thing I do. It turned black and could be picked up with a magnet.  The Puritans got their first iron from swamps, bogs, and streams back in the 1600's.
Cardinal Flower
The search for Monty Python's Holy Grail took some of us past clumps of bright red Cardinal Flowers overlooking the marsh. A very nice counterpoint to the overcast day. Cardinal Flower always seems a bit out of place. I also saw the largest patch of Hepatica I've ever seen, but was too busy chatting to pull my camera out. 

Wood Frog
Springtime Bird Watching lead me to this Wood Frog, well camouflaged near the Yellow Birch log. These are the frogs that quack like a duck in the springtime vernal pools, so I guess this was the right frog for the series. 
Jack-in-the-Pulpit fruits
Jack-in-the-Pulpit berries were ripening next to a stream crossing, while a big fat toad was guarding one of the letterboxes nearby. I love toads. They make surprisingly tame and funny pets. One especially large pet toad was catching flies out of the air while my young son was holding it only days after the toad was captured. 
The tiny Partridgeberries (aka "Pahtridgeberry" in Massachusetts) were fruiting and will stay green and fruiting all winter, when they will be most appreciated by hikers. 
 Dye Maker's Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii).
There were lots of mushrooms growing. It's been a mushroom kind of year. This particular fungus had a very velvety finish. 
Whorled Wood Aster
This time of year, I'm used to seeing a lot of White Wood Aster in my neck of the woods, and that's what I assumed this was until I got closer and the leaves were different, sort of whorled around the stem. So I was utterly shocked to discover these are called Whorled Wood Aster :). 

Maple Leafed Viburnum
All in all, it was a great weekend, and I met a lot of boxers while out on the trails from all over the country: California, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, and Florida. Not to mention all the boxers I met at meals, the BBQ, and the masquerade ball. I would definitely do this again!