Summer in New Hampshire can be described in many different
ways. The main reason is because the weather changes by the minute, no two
summers are the same, and all in all we never really know what to expect. The Mount
Washington Observatory has predicted long bouts of rain, humidity, pop up
thunderstorms, with a chance of afternoon drenched hiking boots and
disappointing views…unless you wanted to see the inside of a cloud. Alas, we
will take the weather as our gardens grow with each rain, as does our tolerance.
Or at least our expectations for a dry hike diminishes and has us calling even
the worst soggy weather a victory because we managed to evade the sheets of
rain singling out Franconia Notch.
Storm clouds rolling in over Franconia Ridge Photo: Eric Pedersen
On the afternoon of July 8th
I walked into the
Lonesome Lake Hut to find the smell of ginger chicken and pumpkin soup hovering
in the fog. The giggles and songs from a group of ten and eleven year old
campers from Eaton Center’s Waukeela Camp for Girls collided with each other in
the still evening air. This was my first time to Lonesome Lake since the fall
and I hardly recognized the trails without slippery leaves and a trace of snow.
Now in the middle of July, Lonesome Lake has some impressive flowers displays.
After a glorious dinner-- courtesy of three smiley women of the Lonesome Lake
Croo--the naturalist, Hannah, took to the boardwalk followed by a long line of chattering
campers sporting their post-hike pjs.
Camp Waukeela sitting on the Lonesome Lake Bridge Photo: Emily Holzman
We could barely see across the lake as the clouds hovered at
about 2,500 feet through the notch. However in this gray evening, surprising bursts
of pink lined the bog bridges around the lake. Lonesome Lake not only makes a
great destination for an afternoon swim and lounge on the dock, but also for a
stroll through the bog on the northwest side of the lake. Sun dews stretch
their sticky palms upwards, tamaracks hint at the acidic sphagnum-laden ground
below, and leather leaf creeps in on the board walk. This midsummer evergreen shrub
known as the Bog Laurel Kalmia polifolia
sport small deep pink umbels and are spectacular during a time when the other
early summer plants have lost their blossoms and moving into the fruiting
phase. Bog laurel belongs to the Ericaceae or heath family and is native to
northeastern North America. As with other heaths, the petals are fused in a
shallow five-lobed bowl or umbel. Within the umbel are ten small indentations
that will eventually host anthers, bearing pollen heads. A spring-like tension
holds the anthers until an insect lands and triggers the pollen to be sprayed.
Bog Laurel in bloom. Photo: CT Botanical Society
We decided to linger past the bog and continue ambling
around the lake occasionally stopping to listen to the trickle of springs or
watch a frog blaze his way through the uneven ground. The dwindling light that had
squeezed through the clouds at the beginning of the walk was now fading. Lights
of headlamps from the girls meandering around the lake helped us rock hop
around the pools of mud and back to the hut, all while spotting signs of moose,
beavers, and trout as the distinctive song of the white throated sparrow sang
above the firs. Lonesome is the place to be during the swampy summer days! With
changes abound as the season turns, visit bog laurel now or come later as the
forest changes, showcasing new surprises.
-Leah Hart, Backcountry Education Assistant