Last fall I climbed a local mountain named Mount Caesar, which was named for Caesar Freeman, a freed slave who farmed this land in the 1700s. Last Saturday I had the urge to climb it again so, in spite of several inches of snow, up I went.
You can read about last fall’s hike and learn more about the history of this mountain by clicking here. This time the trail was more like a stream-very wet in several places. But at least it wasn’t icy!
In several places along the trail the sun had melted the snow and lesser plait moss (Hypnum pallescens) grew on the stones in the weak, early spring sunshine. Like the brocade moss I showed in the last post, this moss looks like its leaves were braided along each stem. The light green, curling leaf tips help to identify this one.
The green shield lichens growing in the shape of a 3 are still on this tree, and I’m still not sure what it is they’re saying.
By far the worst part of this climb was the wind, which was bending the tops of the smaller trees and making the stoutest ones groan and creak. It was also stripping all of last year’s beech leaves from those trees, and I wouldn’t have taken this hike if the weatherman had warned of it. Instead he said that we would have a “breeze.’” At what point, I have to wonder, is a breeze considered a wind-anything more than 50 miles per hour?
But I had reached the point where the tree tops thin out and start to give way to blue sky. If I had made it this far without a tree falling on me I reasoned, I might as well go all the way.
This maple tree bleeding sap told me that a woodpecker had been here not too long ago. I didn’t hear his tapping over the crunch of the snow as I was climbing, so I don’t think he left because of me.
This log lying on its side along the path is huge and always reminds me of the giant redwoods I have read about in books like The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. I always wonder if this hole in it was made by a woodpecker 200 or so years ago.
I found this orange sidewalk fire dot lichen (Caloplaca feracissima) growing on a boulder where it would get afternoon sun. I should have taken a much closer look at the stone this was growing on because this lichen likes alkaline stones like limestone, which is rare in this area. It gets its common name from the way it grows on mortar and concrete, which of course have lime in them. This lichen is the reason why very old concrete walks sometimes look yellow.
One object of climbing mountains is of course the view from the summit, but so far every time I have climbed up here the sun has been shining directly at me when I look to the southwest. This makes for challenging photographic conditions, but what I saw is what I got. I’ll have to climb very early in the morning next time so the sun is at my back.
Off to the east, Mount Monadnock looms much higher still than where you stand. It is said that Native Americans controlled Mount Caesar when Swanzey, New Hampshire was just a handful of crude cabins, and I can understand why they wouldn’t want to give up such glorious views. Mount Monadnock is famous for being the second most climbed mountain on earth after Mount Fuji in Japan. It is also said to be the most written about, painted, and photographed mountain. I’ve taken many hundreds, and I have to say that I’m least pleased with those taken from this spot.
As you sit on the ledges looking out over the hill tops, directly behind you, just a few feet away, is a rocky outcrop with this common toad skin lichen growing (Lasallia papulosa) on it. Though at first glance it may look like rock tripe lichen, its warty projections identify this one as common toad skin lichen. They are called pustules and if you look at the back of this lichen there will be a corresponding pit for every pustule. When wet the greenish color of the algae that is present comes through. Each one of these large, flat bodies is attached to the rock at a single point.
This is what common toad skin lichen looks like when it is dry, and I’ve included this photo so you could see the dramatic color changes that many lichens go through when they dry out. Because of this it’s much easier to identify them after it has rained if they aren’t near a source of moisture. Touch is also a good way to tell if they have dried out; when dry this lichen is as crisp as a potato chip and when wet it is as pliable as a piece of cloth. The same is true with many lichens. The many black dots on this one are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) where its spores are produced.
This is only the second time I’ve gone mountain climbing in the snow, and it will probably be the last. It is much easier and safer on dry ground!
Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb. ~ Greg Child
Thanks for stopping in.