Early last Sunday morning I set out to climb Hewes Hill is Swanzey, which takes you to Tippin Rock. I don’t know what I was thinking but I wore sneakers instead of my hiking boots and by the time I had crossed the field to get to the trail head my feet were soaked from the heavy dew. One unusual thing about this photo is that there is a cloud in it. That’s been a rare sight around here this summer.
Dew wasn’t the only thing in the field. The red clovers saw their first frost of the season.
Each leaf was covered in ice crystals, but it wasn’t enough to harm them. By the time I had come back down the lone cloud had disappeared and the sun was full on the field, but there wasn’t a sign that anything had been damaged by frost.
The trail was shaded and much cooler than I expected. The steady climbing kept me plenty warm enough though.
Mossy stumps tell the logging history of this place but it’s still very hard to picture these hills barren of trees as most of them were a hundred years ago. One very unusual thing about this particular piece of land is its lack of stone walls. I was looking for them but didn’t see a single one. I didn’t think it was possible.
You have to look closely at those mossy stumps because not all that is green is moss. I saw several stumps covered with greater whipwort liverworts (Bazzania trilobata.) The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the three tiny lobes at the bottom of each leaf. Though its common name includes the word greater this is a very small liverwort, but the fact that it grows in large colonies makes it easier to see.
This trail is well blazed but many aren’t. I’m not sure that those who maintain trails understand how important blazing is, especially at this time of year. Though well-worn trails might seem obvious to those of us who follow them regularly, when the leaves fall they cover them-often to the point where they can’t be seen. Without blazes on the trees it’s very easy to lose your way in the fall and I’ve had several people tell me that they won’t go to one place or another because the trails are so poorly marked. I think that people who are unfamiliar with a trail should help blaze it, or at least have a say in where the blazes appear.
Sometimes trail blazers get a little carried away, but not often.
This tree started down a crooked path but finally decided to straighten up. Much like a few humans I know, I thought as I continued on up the trail.
In the past when I’ve done a post about this place I’ve mentioned how “Captain Obvious” must have put this sign up, but I can’t get a good shot of both the sign and the rock it points to to prove it.
The sign is mere feet from this 40 ton glacial erratic boulder, which would be real hard to miss even in the dark. The boulder gets its name from the way it rocks (tips) back and forth if you push it in the right place. I’ve never been able to move it but I’ve talked with someone who saw a group of kids all stand on one end to make it move. If you look closely at the underside you can see that it comes down to a point like the keel of a boat. Someday I’ll meet a group of younger people up there who’ll be frantic to make it tip.
Meanwhile though, I think I’ve finally solved a mystery about this rock that has bugged me for quite a while. A photo from circa 1900 show this face of the boulder covered with lichens, but as you can clearly see in the above photo there is hardly a lichen on it.
Here is the photo that I’m speaking of. This is the same face of the boulder as that seen in the previous photo and it’s covered with rock tripe lichens (Lasallia pustulata.) The mystery was, how did they all disappear in 100 years? Lichens don’t do that; there should be more of them, not fewer.
I’m not sure who the lady in the photo is but she illustrates very well how big this stone really is. I’d guess that it’s about 8-9 feet high, 18-20 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.
Anyone who has worked in a park or a cemetery knows that the easiest way to remove lichens from stone without harming the stone is with a wire brush, and here is one tied to this tree just a few feet away from the boulder. Really, I wondered, someone has that much free time? I appreciate their efforts and I know their heart is in the right place but a naked rock looks a little out of place and unnatural when all the other rocks in the neighborhood are wearing lichens.
Rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) is a large green lichen that fades slightly and turns crisp like a potato chip when it dries out. It sticks itself to stone by way of a single, navel like attachment point. The rest of this lichen hangs from this central point and when wet enough feels like a cooked egg noodle. I can imagine that scrubbing them off stone with a wire brush would be challenging.
I came here early in the morning because last year I climbed in the afternoon to take photos of the fall foliage and I was disappointed that the bright sunlight didn’t let the colors come through very well. If you stand where I was standing when I took this photo the sun shines directly at you in the afternoon and the camera doesn’t seem to be able to cope with such blinding light, even if I underexpose. This morning light from the left is gentler on the eyes and colorful foliage should be much easier to see.
For now we’ll have to imagine the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. And if we’re real lucky a purple might appear here and there.
There are some amazing outcrops of stone up here, with cliff faces so high and sheer that rock climbers come here to climb. The one pictured was small compared to the one the rock climbers use, and it was as big as a 2 story building. That’s a full sized white pine tree standing there; I’d guess 50-75 years old.
The rocks have lichens like this scattered rock posy (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) all over them. I was surprised to see the orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia) considering how dry it has been here. This is a small lichen that looks completely white or grayish unless you look closely.
I couldn’t come up here without stopping to say hello to my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) They’re beautiful, interesting little lichens and I like to visit them when I can but they don’t make it easy; the only place I’ve ever seen one is on top of a hill. They are a cousin of the rocktripe lichens and the two often grow side by side. I think of them as rock tripe lichens with warts. They fasten themselves to the stone in the same way, and you can see the navel at the top center of this example. The tiny black dots are their spore producing structures (Apothecia) which they seem to have year round.
I don’t want to be the one who says life is beautiful. I want to be the one who feels it. ~Marty Rubin
Thanks for stopping in.