Ever since a friend of mine and I tipped Tippin Rock back in August something has been nagging at me. I’ve lived long enough to know that ignoring something that is nagging at you isn’t going to make it go away, so I decided to confront it head on. To do that I had to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey, which is a huge mound of granite with a thin covering of soil. The above photo shows the start of the trail, which is bedrock. I’m not sure if shoe soles or the weather has removed what little soil there was there.
Mount Caesar has the biggest drifts of reindeer lichens (Cladonia rangiferina) of anyplace I’ve seen. I’ve read that they grow very slowly, so the colonies here are most likely hundreds of years old. It is said that Mount Caesar was used as a lookout by Native Americans when settlers began moving in, and both settlers and natives probably saw these very same lichens. If damaged they can take decades to restore themselves, so I hope they’ll be treated kindly.
A young white pine (Pinus strobus) grew itself into a corkscrew. Trees often grow into strange shapes when another tree falls on them and makes them lean or pins them to the ground. That would explain this tree’s strange shape, but where is the tree that fell on it? There wasn’t a fallen tree anywhere near it.
The trail goes steadily uphill and is bordered by stone walls for most of its length.
I’m seeing a lot of jelly fungi this year. This fallen tree was covered with them.
I’ve seen a lot of target canker on red maples but this tree was covered almost top to bottom with it, and it was very pronounced. Target canker doesn’t usually harm the tree but in this case I had to wonder if maybe the maple wasn’t losing the battle. Target canker is caused by a fungus which kills the healthy bark and the patterns of platy bark seen here are the tree’s response to the fungus; it grows new bark each year.
I’ve been waiting all summer to find some turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that had some colors other than shades of brown, and here they were the whole time. Hundreds of them crowded a fallen log.
These turkey tails grew on a nearby stump. I also saw many bracket fungi that looked like turkey tails but their gills gave them away as impostors. Turkey tails always have tiny round holes called pores on their undersides, never gills. If I find bracket fungi with gills I start looking up gilled polypores to try to identify them.
Though you walk on soil for much of its length the trail ends just as it began; on solid granite.
The views were what I would expect on a cloudy day, but at least the clouds were high enough to be able to see the surrounding hills.
And the miles and miles of forest; 4.8 million acres in New Hampshire alone. It is why many of us still carry maps and compasses.
To the east the clouds parted long enough for a good look at Mount Monadnock, which is the highest point in these parts; 2,203 feet higher than where I was standing on top of Mount Caesar.
It must have been very cold up there but I could still see people on the summit. Unfortunately none of the shots showing them up close came out good enough to show. When he climbed it in 1860 Henry David Thoreau complained about the number of people on the summit of Monadnock. Nothing has changed since, and that’s one reason that I don’t climb it. Thoreau also said ”Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it.” I feel the same way he did. It’s very beautiful when seen from a distance.
The glacial erratic called “the rocking stone” in a photo from 1895 was the object of this climb. I wanted to see if it rocked like Tippin Rock over on Hewe’s Hill did. I pushed on it from every side and watched the stone carefully to see any movement but I couldn’t get it to budge. You always have to wonder about these old stories, but the one about Tippin Rock proved true so this one probably is too. Maybe the next time my friend Dave flies in from California I’ll have him take a crack at it since he was able to rock Tippin Rock.
An old weathered stump is all that remains of a tree that once grew on the summit. I’m guessing it was an eastern hemlock since they’re the only tree that I know of with stumps that decay from the inside out.
Can you see the face? I’ll have to remember this when I do the next Halloween post.
The blueberry bushes were beautifully colored. Since we’ve had several freezes I was surprised to see leaves still on them, but the temperature in the valleys is not always the same as it is on the hilltops. Cold air will flow down hillsides and pool in the valleys, just like water.
Even more of a surprise than the blueberry leaves was this blooming goldenrod. It was only about as big as my thumb but any flowers blooming at the end of November are special and I was happy to see them.
Going down a mountain always seems harder than going up but this time it was tough. Oak leaves are slippery anyway, but this time they had thousands of acorns under them, so I had to pick my way down the steepest parts very carefully. My calf muscles reminded me of the climb for a few days after.
It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape. ~Ruskin Bond
Thanks for coming by.