Isolation Adventures: Foster to Peabody Ponds

We thought about getting back out onto Loon Echo Land Trust trails today, before tomorrow’s rain, but when we got to trailhead of the Raymond Community Forest trails, the parking lot was filled to overflowing. After several agonizingly long moments of contemplation, we reluctantly decided that we didn’t trust our fellow humans to keep the appropriate social distance on the trails. (A few days earlier, Dad had heard from a Loon Echo friend that the trails at Pleasant Mountain Preserve had been mobbed last weekend, with little social distance observed, and a mess of EMTs called in and put at risk over an accident on the mountain.)

When we got home from Raymond, though, Mom had a nice alternative idea. Why didn’t we go over the Auntie Viv’s summer cottage on Foster Pond, and walk the road down to Peabody Pond? When I was six, this was a massive adventure (maybe a mile each way?) and I thought it would be a great walk to share with my partner.

We bumped maybe farther down the stoney dirt road than was strictly advisable, with ice crossing it in a few places, and parked in front of Auntie Viv’s “cottage.” She always insists on calling it that, even though everyone else seems to agree that it’s most definitely a lake house — three floors, four bedrooms, full kitchen, veranda, and the last house down her road to have electricity. As we were parking, we saw a few of her neighbors, self-confessed “Mass-holes” escaping the plague in their own summer home on Foster Pond, so we felt pretty safe outing ourselves as refugees from plague-ridden New Jersey.

After a brief chat and a tightening of our shoelaces, we started down the road along the lake.

It’s a very flat, broad road, with half a dozen more lake cottages (true cottages!) along the way. There were a few places where snow or ice spread across much of the road, but it wasn’t too muddy, with only a few spring streams crossing the way, and just one short section where the spring meltwater had pooled all the way across and we had to bushwhack into the saplings on either side of the road.

This time of year, the moss really stands out as strong spots of color amidst the fallen, mouldering leaves and bare trunks and branches of all but the pines and other evergreens, so I found myself stopping frequently to capture a mossy stump or embankment.

Much more quickly than I had anticipated, we started to see water through the trees on the other side of the road, our first glimpses of Peabody Pond. In memory, the walk to Peabody Pond is a miles-long trek of hours, with the plucky band of travelers turning back more often than not, too hungry and cranky to make it the whole way. Quite possibly I was only 6 or 8 the last time I made the full length of the walk, with three younger siblings even quicker to tire, and that’s why I remember it as so exhausting.

This is the kind of Lakes Region lake, with the pine-wooded island not quite discernible from the lake edge on its right side there, that I always imagined when we read Swallows and Amazons on the Chesapeake as children. We wandered a little around the stream feeding into this end of the lake before heading back towards the “cottage” and the car.

These boulders, up to and including the pair on the right that were several feet taller than me, reminded me on the way back of how glacial the Maine landscape is. One reason for its rockiness, and its ubiquitous rock walls on the verge of every field and property line, is grounded in how glaciers shaped this landscape, slowly bringing stones down from the north over centuries of creep, and then leaving them behind on their retreat to colder northern climes at the end of the Ice Age.

Of course, a trip to Foster Pond would not be complete without a tour of ye olde fairie village. While building fairy houses is a famous pastime in other parts of Maine, we learned it from our mother here, on Foster Pond, where she had spent hours and days at at time as a girl constructing fairy abodes around this lake, where her father had a cottage from before she was born until she had graduated college. Here on Foster Pond, between Auntie Viv’s cottage and her beach, is where my earliest fairy house memories were also made.

And if you asked me, while there were many trees in this small patch of woods suitable for constructing whimsical little homes of sticks, leaves and curling birch bark, there was one tree in particular that I preferred above all others, considering it the castle that reigned over the rest of the little fairy village.

Altogether, a solid choice for an afternoon walk.

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