Frank Bolles.

At the north of Bearcamp Water; online

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l I <&

Frank Bolles

Class _J i?

Book. i6

Copyright N°_


t&igitor^ €bition




Chronicles of a Stroller

in New England
from July to December







«t)f RtoetiiHe pre** Cambri&g*




-4 1317

"Vi G I



A Thunderstorm in the Forest .... 1

The Heart of the Mountain 10

A Lonely Lake 27

Following a Lost Trail 43

A Night Alone on Chocorua 62

Bringing Home the Bear 82

The Dead Tree's Day 96

Migration H8

Trapping Gnomes 132

Old Shag 146

My Heart's in the Highlands 157

The Vintage of the Leaves 168

Chocorua in November 194

Among the Wind-Swept Lakes .... 211

'Lection Day, '92 219

A Wintry Wilderness 230

Climbing Bear Mountain in the Snow . . . 243

In the Paugus Woods 252

At the Foot of Passaconaway 264

Christmas at Sabba Day Falls . 273

Down the Torrent's Pathway 285

Index 295


To drink the wine of mountain air
Beside the Bearcamp Water.

Whittier, Among the Hills,


Mount Chocorua in Winter . . . Frontispiece
Water-Lilies in Chocorua Lake . . . . 16 '

Chocorua from Heron Pond 28*'

Canoe Birches of the Bearcamp Valley . .40"
The Peak of Chocorua from the Hammond Trail . 64*^

"The Cow" 68 v

The Peak from the Southeast 72*

The Peak from the North 76 l

View from " the Cow," showing Moat Mountain

and Mount Pequawket Beyond . . . 80'

The Dead Tree 98'

Mount Chocorua and Chocorua Lake in Summer . 118
Two Kinds of Gnomes — Hesperomys and Zapus . 138
Pauqus from Wonalancet Road .... 146
Chocorua seen from the Side of Paugus . . 150
Whiteface and Passaconaway from Paugus . . 154*
Crowlands, formerly the Old Doe Farm . . 158'

Twilight on the Lake 174

Chocorua and Dr. Chadwick's Pines . . . 184'
The Peak of Chocorua from Bald Mountain . 206
Mount Chocorua from Whitton Pond . . . 216
" Moat, like a breaking wave " 232
Mount Chocorua and the Lake in Winter . . 250
Frost-covered Spruce near the Summit of Passa-
conaway 262

Moat Mountain and the Swift River . . . 290



During nearly the whole of the forenoon of
July 3, 1892, a soft rain had been falling. It
had begun in the night to the discomfiture of
the whippoorwills, but not to the extinguish-
ment of their voices. It continued until nearly
noon, when the wind shifted from east to west,
patches of blue sky appeared, and ever and
anon gleams of sunlight fell upon the distant
forest across the lake, or slid slowly over the
tree-tops on the side of Chocorua. Bird voices
grew stronger with the promise of fair weather.
Hermit thrushes, veeries, red-eyed vireos, and
Maryland yellow-throats sang four invitations
from as many points of the compass, and I said
Yes to the veeries and sought the swamp. A
New Hampshire swamp is full of attractions at
all seasons. In winter the great northern hares
make innumerable paths across its soft snow,


and tempt the gunner into the chilly gloom in
search of a shot at their phantom forms. In
spring a host of migrating warblers makes
merry in its tree-tops, and the song of the win-
ter wren is sent from heaven to give joy to its
shadows. Summer brings to it many a shy
orchid blooming among the ferns, and the fish-
erman finds the trout in its brook's placid pools
long after they have ceased to bite well in the
upper reaches of the stream. There are no
venomous serpents hanging from its moss-grown
trees, no tigers concealed in its brakes, and no
ague lingering in its stagnant pools. It is a
safe swamp and kind, yet none the less a swamp.
When I reached its borders, after crossing
the meadow, I found wild roses in bloom. It
was of these, doubtless, that the veery was sing-
ing so bewitchingly. Certainly nothing less
fair coidd have prompted such magic music.
Moreover, the veery's nest, framed in nodding
osmundas, is near these beautiful blossoms,
with many a pool and thicket between it and
hard ground. Passing into the darkness of the
swamp, I glanced back at the sky. The north
and west were filled with black clouds which
were stirred by passionate winds in their midst.
A low growl of thunder came through the heavy
air. I felt as though forbidden to enter the
mysteries of the swamp, as though warned that


danger lay within those aisles of twilight. The
veery ceased its song. No bird voice broke the
stillness of the gloom, and a hush of expectation
held every leaf motionless. The branches closed
behind me and I stole on between lofty trees
with mossy trunks, over fallen logs, and through
the dripping jungle of ferns. Upland woods
are cleaner, stronger, more symmetrical than
swamp growth, but they have not the effect of
tropical luxuriance which the swamp forest pos-
sesses. The mosses, lichens, ferns of many
species, climbing vines, and such large-leaved
plants as the veratrum and skunk cabbage, give
to the moist land an air of wealth of leaf -growth
which is distinctive.

Two species of orchid were conspicuous, ris-
ing just above the ferns. They were the pur-
ple-fringed, just coming into bloom, and the
white, which was abundant. Splashing back
and forth through the shallow pools, gathering
the spikes of the white orchis, I did not at first
notice a distant sound which grew in volume
until its sullen vibration could not be ignored.
The tree-tops above me gave a sudden, vicious
swish. Crows to the westward were cawinr
wildly. The roar of the storm became unmis^
takable; the swamp grew darker; a few bio-
drops of rain fell, and then, as though a train
were plunging down noisy rails upon the forest,


the rain and wind leaped upon the trees, filling
the air with deafening sounds, and twisting the
branches until it seemed as though the whole
structure of the woods was about to collapse in
one vast ruin. Then through the tormented
tree-tops the floods fell. They were white like
snow, and seemed to be a fallen part of a white
sky which showed now and then as the forest
swayed back and forth in the wind's arms.
"Wet as the swamp had been before, its colors
became more vivid under this deluge. Every
leaf grew greener, and each lichen gave out new
tints as it drank in rain. The trunks of the
trees assumed more distinctive shades ; that of
the ash became brown, of the yellow birch
almost like saffron, and of the canoe birch glis-
tening white. The rain pelting into my eyes
bade me look less at the sky and more at the
beauties at my feet. Beauties there surely were
at my feet, both of color and form. There were
no flowers, but the leaves were enough to satisfy
both eye and mind, — large leaves and small,
coarse and delicate, strong and feeble, stiff and
drooping. Some were long and slender, others
deeply cleft, some round, or smoothly oval,
others shaped like arrow-heads. Some received
the rain submissively and bowed more and more
before it, others responded buoyantly as each
drop struck them and was tossed off. In some


the up-and-down motion communicated by the
falling drop was by the formation of the leaf-
stalk transformed at once into an odd vibration
from side to side, which was like an indignant
shaking of the head.

Looking at the marvelous variety in the out-
lines of these gleaming leaves, I suddenly found
my memory tugging me back to the schoolroom
where I was first taught botany. I recalled one
melancholy morning when my teacher, who
knew neither the derivation of botanical terms
nor the true beauties of botanical science, or-
dered me to commit to memory the list of adjec-
tives applied to the various shapes of leaves.
The dose prejudiced me against botany for full
ten years of my life, yet here in this glistening
carpet of the swamp I saw "lanceolate," "auric-
ulate," "cordate," "pinnate," written, not in
letters of gold, but in something equally impres-
sive to the memory, and much more easy for a
dull teacher to obtain.

When one is in the deep woods and a flash of
lightning comes, the eye seems to see a narrow
horizontal belt of light play swiftly across the
foliage immediately in the line of vision. If I
looked at the ground I caught it there; if my
eyes were fixed on the low branches at a dis-
tance, the flash was there. Each flash was
promptly followed by the glorious mountain


thunder which is so much more impressive than
that in level regions. At first heaven was rent
by the sound; then mountain after mountain
seemed to fall in noisy ruin, the great ledges
tumbling in upon each other with deafening
shocks ; then the sound rolled away through the
sky, striking here and there upon some cloudy
promontory and giving out a softened boom or
waning rumble.

For full twenty minutes the trees writhed in
the wind, the rain fell, the leaves nodded and
shivered under the drops, and the rhythmic roar
of the rain was broken irregularly by the thun-
der. As time passed, the shower slackened, the
thunder followed the lightning at longer and
longer intervals, the wind seemed to take deeper
and less nervous breaths, and I listened to dis-
cover what creature of the swamp would first
raise its voice above the subsiding storm. A
mosquito hovered before me, dodging the drops
in its vibratory flight. If it was buzzing I
could not hear it. Suddenly a single call from
a blue jay came, in a lull of the wind, from a
thicket of spruces. "Yoly-'oly," it said, and
was silent again. I took a few steps forward,
and the shrill alarm-note of a chipmunk sounded
through the gloom. I strolled slowly through
the drenched and dripping woods fragrant with
the perfume of moss and mould. It was more


like wading than walking, for every leaf had
a drop of cold water ready to give away to
whatever first touched it. A ray of sunlight
dodged through the lifting clouds and fell into
the swamp. The song of a parula warbler,
distilled by it, floated back skyward. As the
west grew golden and blue, bird-songs sounded
from every quarter. The merry chickadees,
conversational vireos, and querulous wood pe-
wees vied with each other and the tree-toads in
replacing the orchestral passion of the storm by
the simple music of their solos.

Leaving the swamp, I climbed the terrace
marking the ancient border of the lake, which
once included the swamp in its area, and passed
through a grove of slender birches and poplars.
Their stems, streaming with rain, were as
bright as polished marble, and their foliage,
illuminated by the clear sunlight, was marvel-
ously green against the deep blue of the sky.
Presently a vista opened northward, and at its
end rose the dark peak of Chocorua. After a
rain this towering rock presents a noticeably
different appearance from its normal coloring.
Most of its surface is covered by lichens, one
species of which, when dry, resembles burnt
paper. When rain falls upon these lichens they
alter their tints, and the burnt paper species in
particular becomes so green that a wonderful


change takes place in the whole coloring of the
mountain. Looked upon through the birch
vista, the air being clear and clean, and the
colors of the mountain uncommonly bright, the
peak seemed near at hand, and even grander
than usual. There are few things in New Eng-
land as truly picturesque as this horn of Cho-
corua. Three thousand feet above its lake and
the level of the Saco, the great rock lifts itself
with bold and naked outline into the midst of
the sky. No foot seems able to creep up its
precipitous slopes to its dizzy tip, and even the
sturdy spruce can cling only to the deep clefts
in its storm-swept ledges. There was a time
when the forest reached to its crest, and when
the cold rocks, now naked, were covered deep
in soil and mosses. Passaconaway, close by,
shows how this could have been, and how Cho-
corua must have looked draped in evergreens.
Fire and hurricane destroyed the trees; the
parched soil was washed away from the rocks ;
and now the only trace of the old forest growth
is an occasional bleached stump or log hidden
in a cleft in the ledges.

As I strolled homewards I passed a spot
where the linnaea has covered several square
yards of ground in a birch wood. The tiny
bells had rung out their elfin music for the year.
By dint of laborious search on hands and knees


I found eight of the flowers, still wonderfully
fragrant though somewhat faded. All the rest
of the chime had fallen. Not far away a growth
of dogbane fringed the path. I picked some of
its blossoms and held the two sets of bells side
by side in my hand. The comparison made
me feel sorry for the dogbane.


Floating upon the clear waters of Chocorua
Lake in the latter part of a warm July afternoon,
and looking northward, I see the coolness of
night beginning to grow in the heart of the
mountain. At first there is but a slender dark
line marking a deep ravine, through which a
brook flows; then the shadow widens until a
o-reat hollow in the mountain's side is filled with
shade. As the sun sinks the shadow reaches
higher and higher upon the wooded flanks of
the two spurs which hold the hollow between
them, until at last only the vast rock of the
peak, resting upon its forest-clad shoulders, is
left warm in the sun's rays. The point where
the shadow begins to form is more than a thou-
sand feet above the level of the lake. From it,
reaching upwards, two folds in the forest dra-
pery extend towards the foot of the peak. One
marks a brook coming from the upper part of
the right-hand ridge, the other a brook which
rises at the very head of the left-hand, or west
ridge. The heart of the mountain is the wild
ravine where these two streams mingle in per-


petual coolness and shadow. No path leads to
it and few are the feet which have found a way
to its beauties. There is a peculiar charm in a
spot unknown to the many. Its loneliness en-
dears it to the mind, and gives its associations
a rarer flavor. If besides being unfrequented
it is singularly beautiful in itself, it becomes a
shrine, a place sacred to one's best thoughts.
To me the heart of Chocorua is a shrine, all
the more valued because of the weariness of
flesh required to attain to it.

Early on the morning of July 10, I set out
across the pastures for the foot of the mountain.
The sun was hot, the air hazy, and not a breath
of a breeze made the aspens quiver. In the
shaded hollows something of the night's chill
still lingered, and from them floated the psalm
of the hermit and the gypsy music of the veery.
Now and then the clear, cool phoebe-note of the
chickadee reached the ear, in contrast to the
trill of the field sparrows which came from the
warmest parts of the grass-land. On the hill
to the westward young crows with high-pitched
voices clamored for food, and quarreled with
each other on their shady perch in the beeches.

The flowers which bloomed by the path were
children of heat, types of midsummer. Buds
were large on the goldenrod, the St. John's-wort
was in full bloom, and so, too, were the diurnal


evening-primrose, the fleabane and dogbane,
both worthy of sweeter names; the yarrow, as
disagreeable among flowers as a cynic is among
men ; the tall potentilla, yellow clover, and, rep-
resenting the purple flowers, the brunella. In
many places thick beds of checkerberry, decked
with brilliant berries, were made gayer by many
heads of the brunella growing through them.
The brunella is shaped somewhat like the con-
ventional chess castle, but the castle is never
quite complete while blossoming, owing to the
lack of harmony among the many little flowers
which unite to form its head. Low, running
blackberry dotted the banks with uninteresting
white blossoms, and the stiff spikes of the spiraea
were abundant. The daisy, stigmatized as white-
weed by the indignant farmers, still displayed
a few battered blossoms, which kept company
with heads of red and of white clover. After
passing these flowers of summer, it seemed
strange, on descending into a deep cup-shaped
basin where a small pond fed by springs is
shaded by lofty oaks and birches, to find the
houstonia still in full glory, and the dwarf cor-
nel blooming in dark and mossy nooks. Ani-
mate nature takes solid comfort in a hot day.
As I stole softly downward to the shore of the
little pond, scores of tadpoles shot away from
the edge of the water into its green depths.


Painted tortoises, which had been baking on
logs and stones in the full glare of the sun,
dropped off unwillingly into the water. Count-
less dragonflies skimmed the surface of the
pond, devouring smaller insects, and from a
dead limb overlooking the shore, a crow, whose
plumage gleamed with iridescent lights, flapped
sluggishly out of sight among the trees. Snakes
love to lie coiled in the hottest sunlight; squir-
rels stretch themselves contentedly on horizon-
tal limbs and bask by the hour; the fox, wood-
chuck, and weasel, and even toads and newts,
and those so-called birds of darkness the barred
owls, seek the broadest glare of the midsummer
sun and absorb comfort from its scorching rays.
Taking tribute from the pond-basin by a deep
drink of ice-cold water at a spring in its bank,
I crossed another strip of open pasture — where
the tinkle-tankle of the cow -bells sounded with
each bite the cows took of the grass — and
gained the edge of the forest and the foot of the
mountain. There was something akin to cool-
ness in the shade of the birches, poplars, and
beeches. New flowers bloomed here and new
birds called. The dependent bells of the white
pyrola, of the small green pyrola, and of the
quaint pipsissewa were found beneath the brakes.
Here, too, was the Indian pipe, looking as
though formed from sheets of colorless wax,


and its tawny sister the pine sap (Monotropa
hypopitys). The wintergreens are strong, posi-
tive herbs with rich pungent flavor, but the pale
parasitic plants are mere negations. They are
the "poor relations" among flowers, content to
draw their sustenance from others, while show-
ing no color, giving out no perfume, attracting
no butterflies, and not even daring to face the
blue sky until they are dead.

The oven-bird stepped primly about upon her
neat carpet of dry leaves, the red-eyed vireo
preached his perpetual homily from the tree-
tops, a young Cooper's hawk screamed shrilly
in the distance, and two inquisitive red-capped
sapsuckers hitched up and down tree-trunks near
me, while I hooted at them after the manner
of my barred owls. A grouse had been wallow-
ing among the leaves, and had left a round hol-
low in the dust with five discarded feathers and
the prints of her feet to show that she had been
there. It ana sylvatica, the wood-frog, betrayed
himself by leaping over the dry beech leaves. I
followed him quickly as he sought to elude me.
Not only were his leaps long, but his skill in
doubling was something marvelous. His second
jump was generally at right angles with the
first, and thrice he no sooner struck the ground
than he turned and rebounded upon his tracks,
so that he passed over or between my feet.


When he was weary I caught hiin and, laying
him on my knee, stroked the nape of his neck,
his back and sides. He soon ceased to struggle
and sat motionless. I laid him gently on his
back and stroked him beneath. His throat
throbbed and his eyes blinked, but he made no
effort to escape. Then I restored him to his
proper position, and extended one leg after an-
other. He was as pliable and nerveless as a
rubber frog. Finally I let him alone, wonder-
ing how soon he would hop away ; but he showed
a willingness to spend the day on my knee, and
not until I placed him on the leaves did he seem
to awaken to life and the advantages of free-

A few rods beyond, a toad hopped from me
and I followed him to see what method of escape
he would adopt. As soon as he saw that he was
pursued he increased his speed and by a series
of rapid hops reached a cavern under the arched
root of a stump and plunged out of sight in its
depths. Our toads, although of but a single
species, vary in color from black to the paleness
of a dry beech leaf. This one, living in the
midst of pale browns and yellows, was nearly
as light in tone as the light-footed Rana sylva-

The color of the dry beech leaves as they lie
upon the ground is sometimes curiously be-


witched by the spots of sunlight which dapple
the woodland carpet. Walking with the sun
behind me, the sunlight, especially where it fell
in small round spots on the beech leaves before
me, was of an unmistakably amethystine hue.
Several years ago when I first noticed this, I
supposed it to be due to temporary causes, but
I am now convinced that the color will always
be distinguishable when the conditions named
are favorable.

The loveliest July flower in the woods fring-
ing Chocorua is the mitchella, named by Lin-
naeus for Dr. John Mitchell of Virginia. In
their small round leaves of dark glossy green,
their creeping stems, their modest, delicate-
tinted and highly -perfumed blossoms, the flower
of Linnaeus and the flower of Mitchell are much
alike. The partridge-berry, as the mitchella
is commonly called, begins to bloom just as the
linnaea bells cease to swing. It is an ever-
green, and all through the winter its bright
green leaves and red berries are one of the
pledges of returning life after snow and ice have
vanished. The flower is small and faces the
sky. It is white with a delicate rosy blush
tinging its corolla, chiefly on its outer side.
The four pointed petals open wide and curve
back, exposing the whole interior of the flower
to view. Each petal is covered on its inner


surface with a thick velvety nap which is the
distinguishing characteristic of the blossom.
The perfume of this flower is both powerful and
pleasant. When freshly picked it suggests the
scent of the water-lily, coupled with something
as spicy and enduring as the heavier perfume of

Fifteen or twenty minutes' walking over the
beech leaves brought me within hearing of the
torrent which flows from the heart of the moun-
tain. Presently I came to the edge of its cut-
ting and saw far below me, through the trees
which filled the gorge, the flash of its waters
and the vivid green of mosses. Walking up-
stream along the face of the bank, yet neither
climbing nor descending, I struck the level of
the water at a point not many rods distant. I
had not gone down to the brook ; it had come
up to me. The whole ravine was filled with its
music, and following down with its eager flow
was a current of cold air. Above, in the woods,
quiet and heat had prevailed. Here noise and
coolness ruled with absolute sway. The sound
came in waves as did the water and the breeze,
but no human senses could measure the inter-
vals between the beats. The sound seemed
threefold, — a splash, a murmur, and a deeper
roar. The roar reached me even if I pressed
my hands tightly over my ears ; while, if I made


ear-trumpets of my hands, the splashing thus
intensified drowned the heavier sounds. The
rhythm of the water was most prettily shown
on a boulder faced with thick moss. When
the high water came it poured over the top of
the rock, and the moss was filled with white
shining drops coursing downward through it;
but, on the reaction, it instantly became vivid
green. The same pulsation showed in each
cascade, which was greater then less, greater
then less, in each second of time. As I bent
over a pool, taking now and then a sip of the
icy water, a small trout suddenly jumped near
the foot of the fall below. He was intensely
busy working about in the edge of the falling
water, where rising bubbles and whirling foam
half concealed him. In color he looked not un-

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Online LibraryFrank BollesAt the north of Bearcamp Water; → online text (page 1 of 16)