Resting on Bog Laurels at Lonesome Lake Hut

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 is especially remarkable. Bog laurels 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