Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2013

In 1991 Keene, New Hampshire had a harvest festival that attracted a few local people who brought about 600 jack o lanterns. By 2003 the harvest festival had become a pumpkin festival and the number of lit jack o lanterns had risen to 28,952. The Guinness World Record people became interested that year and gave Keene the record for the most lit jack o lanterns assembled in one place. Boston took the record from Keene in 2006 with 30,128 jack o lanterns. This year on October 19th Keene took back the world record with 30,581 lit jack o lanterns and I was there taking photos. I thought I’d show you a few of the better ones. These were all taken in the dark without a tripod, so I’ll warn you that they aren’t the sharpest photos you’ve seen. Even so, I’d guess that most of you have never seen anything quite like 30,581 lit jack o lanterns.

1. PF 15

There were mischievous jack o lanterns.

2. PF 24

There were wise jack o lanterns.

3. PF 19

There were cute jack o lanterns.

4. PF 7

And there were some that I really didn’t get. Maybe this was someone’s initials.

5. PF 11

I’m not sure who this one was supposed to represent, but it must have been windy where they were.

 6. PF 18

There were row upon row of jack o lanterns everywhere you looked. Volunteers lit the candle in each one and then more volunteers came along behind them to count them all. This works best when there is no wind!

7. PF 31

There were towering jack o lanterns exhibits. There used to be several of these pumpkin towers along the main street but organizes worried about them tipping over onto the crowd, so now there is just this one. It is quite tall.

8. PF 27

The biggest jack o lantern always gets the highest perch.

9. PF 13-2

There was live music in the gazebo, which was surrounded by jack o lanterns. I tried to get a photo of the crowd but it didn’t work out. If you picture a crowd of people packed together so tightly that you couldn’t fall down if you wanted to, you’ll have a good idea of what it was like. The population of Keene-around 23,000-can swell to 80,000 during a pumpkin festival. It took me nearly 2 hours to walk up and down the length of Main Street. Doing so might take 15 minutes on an average day.

10. October Full Moon

There was even a full moon that night.

11. PF 35

Some of the gourds were quite warty.

12. PF 33

I’m still not sure who this is supposed to be, but someone with talent carved it.

13. PF 34

This gourd was eating a fish. I’m not sure why.

13. PF 30

These two were the most elaborate, with doors that opened and even dolls and furniture inside.

 15. PF 29

This one was odd. I don’t know if it was a giant zucchini or something else, but it had a whale on it.

16. PF 2

Some jack o lanterns were just evil, no matter if you took a photo in bright light….

17. PF 3

or darkness.

18. PF 16

This one must have represented Swiss cheese.

19. PF 14

There were lots of cats.

20. PF 8

There were pirate ships. I saw 3 or 4 of these.

21. PF 23

There were several ghosts.

22. PF 25

A few haunted houses.

23. PF 22

There were flaming faces.

24. PF 21

And of course, there were skeletons. Or at least skulls.

After snapping about a hundred photos I was off into the night, hoping I’d be able to find my vehicle in a sea of them. This is the first pumpkin festival I’ve been to since 1993, and it might be another 20 years before I see another one.

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near Halloween ~Anonymous

Have a happy Halloween. Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Brickyard Brook

Recently, after seeing a great example of a liverwort on the Plants Amaze Me blog I wondered why I never saw such things. After thinking about it I realized that, just like anything else in nature, if I wasn’t seeing liverworts it was because I wasn’t looking in the right places. Since they like to grow where they never dry out completely I headed for a local brook to see if there were any there. Leafy liverworts look kind of like seaweed, so I didn’t think I’d have too much trouble finding at least one example.

2. Foliose Lichen

One of the first things I spotted was this foliose lichen, which I think might be called rag bag lichen (Platismatia glauca). It was growing on a tree limb and was very beautiful. It is one that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

3. Foliose Lichen

I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful growth patterns in the center of the foliose lichen shown in the previous photo, so this is a cropped version. This could also be crumpled rag lichen (Platismatia tuckermannii).

 4. Lemon Drops

I saw several examples of lemon drops here and there along the brook. Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) are sac fungi that are very small and very hard to photograph. They are disc shaped when small and eventually become saucer shaped. Sometimes they fruit in the hundreds on fallen hardwood logs. They are one of the easiest fungi to see in the woods, but because they are so hard to photograph I usually take many from several different angles.

 5. Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) grew on a rotting hardwood stump. These white mushrooms are also easily seen. Their caps overlap like shingles and it always looks like they are crowding each other, trying to grow as close as possible. They have a very short stem that is sometimes absent. Tiny worms called nematodes live on plant and fungal tissue but not on oyster mushrooms. Scientists discovered in 1986 that oyster mushrooms “exude extracellular toxins that stun the worm, whereupon the mycelium invades its body through its orifices.” What this means is that oyster mushrooms are actually carnivorous. They also consume bacteria (Pseudomonas and Agrobacterium) in order to get nitrogen and protein. It’s like something out of a science fiction novel.

 6. Pool in Brickyard Brook

There are several large pools along this stretch of brook. These are the kinds of places where I love to just sit for a while, listening to the woods. On this day there was a large bird circling overhead and making a very strange sound that sounded like a cross between the croak of a great blue heron and the caw of a crow. It’s a sound I don’t remember ever hearing and though I’ve listened to many bird calls online, I can’t find the exact sound that the bird made.Though there aren’t many leaves on the trees in this photo there were still enough in the canopy to prevent me from seeing what kind of bird it was.

 7. Moss Mnium punctatum

I thought that this might be a liverwort but it turned out to be a moss called Mnium punctatum. Though some mosses like this one can resemble vascular plants, mosses have no xylem and phloem, or vascular tissue. This is why mosses are classified as Bryophytes-plants that have no roots, leaves, or stem. They also have no flowers or seeds and reproduce through spores. Since mosses have no roots they need to grow in areas with adequate moisture. This one was growing in soil that was dripping wet.

 8. Rock Covered With Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

Something about the moss on this stone didn’t look quite right.

 9. Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

That’s because it wasn’t moss at all-it was a liverwort that looked like a mass of centipedes. Though not the one I was looking for this liverwort, called greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata), was interesting and had a beauty all its own. It is quite small-each “leaf” is only about 1/8 inch (3mm) wide. The way the leaves hang down gives the shoots rounded backs and make them appear insect like. They almost look as if they’ve been braided.

 10. Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

The “trilobata” part of the scientific name comes from the way each leaf ends in 3 lobes or notches. This characteristic tells you that you have the correct liverwort when trying to identify it. Like mosses liverworts are bryophytes and have no roots. Unlike mosses liverworts won’t stand anything but pure, clean water. Even chlorinated water can harm them, so if you see liverworts growing in your area you know the water is good and clean.

 11. Ledge Face

Since I didn’t have any luck finding the liverwort that I was after at the stream I decided to try another place where stone ledges stay wet from dripping groundwater. They are also covered with colorful lichens, as the photo shows. These looked like orange sulfur fire dot lichens (Caloplaca flavovirescens) but this was liverwort day, so the lichens will have to wait for another time.

 12. Liverwort Conocephalum conicum 2

I hadn’t walked very far when I saw this mass of plants growing on the ledges. It was obviously not moss, but was it what I was looking for?

13. Liverwort Conocephalum conicum

Yes it was-the very reptilian liverwort called great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum), also called snakeskin liverwort, for obvious reasons. I didn’t know it at the time but if you crush this liverwort it is supposed to have a very unique, spicy scent. The reason it looks so snake like is because of the way its pores and air chambers are outlined on its surfaces. It is the only liverwort with this feature, so it is very easy to identify. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting and beautiful things found in nature, and it was well worth searching for.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~ Eleanora Duse

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Here are a few more of those things I’ve seen on the trail that didn’t make it into other posts.

1. Chubby Chipmunk

This chipmunk saw me but just sat on his rock, not making a sound. After I got home and saw the photo I wondered if maybe he was too chubby to be able to run away.

2. Acorn

It’s been a good year for all kinds of fruits and nuts, including acorns. Maybe that’s why the chipmunk is so chubby.

 3. Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar aka Sphinx kalmiae

This caterpillar was happily eating all the leaves from my lilac. The helpful folks over at bugguide.net  tell me that it is a laurel sphinx caterpillar (Sphinx kalmiae). It was as big as my index finger and had a wild looking horn. In this stage the caterpillar is nearly ready to stop feeding and start looking for soil to pupate in. The laurel sphinx moth is gray brown with brownish yellow wings-not nearly as colorful as the caterpillar.

4. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing many more turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) this year than I did last. They are very colorful this year. Polysaccharide-K, a compound found in these fungi, has shown to be beneficial in the treatment of gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

 5. Toothed Fungus

Lion’s mane, bear’s head, monkey head, icicle mushroom-call it what you will, Hericium americanum is a toothed fungus that is always fun to find in the woods. This mushroom is edible but unless you can be 100% sure of your identification you should never eat a wild mushroom. Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education for New Jersey Poison Control at Rutgers, says it better than I: “Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause severe illness. Unless you are a mycologist, it is difficult to tell the difference between a toxic and non-toxic mushroom”

6. Pigskin Puffball

Speaking of toxic mushrooms, here’s one now. This is the toxic pigskin puffball (Scleroderma citrinum), which isn’t really a puffball at all but an earth ball. Earth balls are always hard to the touch and never “squishy” like puffballs. If you eat them they won’t kill you, but they can make you quite sick. In the book A Northwoods Companion author John Bates says that “a single large puffball contains so many spores that if every spore germinated to an adult for two generations, the resultant mass would be 800 times the volume of the earth.” But what is considered large? The largest puffball ever found was nearly 5 feet across.

 7. Forked Blue Curl Seeds

Forked bluecurl seeds (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that the only way I can see them is in a photo. This plant has beautiful blue flowers with long, curving, blue stamens. It is an annual, so it has to grow new from seed each year. Two or three seeds nestle in a basket shaped, open pod and sometimes I take a few seed pods home, hoping that I can get the plant to grow in my yard. So far I have had limited success, even though I’ve provided the same growing conditions.

8. New York  Fern Sori

Many of the woodland ferns have lost their chlorophyll and have gone pale now. I recently turned one of these pale fronds over and found all these tiny sori. These are clusters of even tinier sporangia which are the spore masses where the fern’s spores are produced. I think this one might be a New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), but to be honest I didn’t pay close enough attention to its identifying characteristics to be certain.

9. Poison Ivy

Even poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) has to get in on the fall show. Poison ivy can grow in the form of a shrub or a vine and in this case it had twined its way up a birch tree. Beautiful to look at but you don’t want to touch it. The oils in the plant form a complex with skin proteins and interrupt the chemical signals that the skin sends to the rest of the body. The area of exposed skin is then viewed as foreign and the body attacks it, which results in a very itchy rash that can becomes sore and bleed. And if that isn’t bad enough it is also systemic, meaning you can touch the plant with your hand and end up with a rash on your leg or any other part of your body. Some internal cases of poison ivy- that can come from eating the leaves –have been fatal.

10. Poison Ivy Berries

I found another poison ivy on another tree that had lost all its leaves and had just its berries showing. Over sixty species of birds have been documented as eating these berries.  Apparently birds are immune to its toxic effects.

 11. Cranberry

The native cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) have ripened, but you’ll sure get your feet wet harvesting them. I find them growing in a bog in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The pilgrims named this fruit “crane berry” because they thought the flowers looked like sandhill cranes. They were taught how to use the berries by Native Americans, who used them as a food, as a medicine, and as a dye.

12. Bumblebee on Purple Stemmed Aster

One cool day I found this bumblebee curled into a ball in an aster blossom and I thought it had died there but, as I watched I could see it moving very slowly. I’ve read that bumblebee queens hibernate in winter, but I can’t find out what happens to the rest of the hive.

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. ~Aristotle

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

Read Full Post »

I just finished reading Monadnock, More than a Mountain by Craig Brandon. In it he tells of how, throughout history different artists have painted the mountain from different sides, and how a few had traveled around the mountain painting it from all sides. That sounded like a fine idea to me and, since I have never seen it done before, over the last few weeks I’ve traveled to several towns that surround the mountain to take photos from each one.

The unusual thing about 3,165 ft high Mount Monadnock is that it can be seen from each town in the area, which collectively make up what is known as the Monadnock Region. The purpose of this post is to show how much the mountain changes from town to town-sometimes after driving just a few miles down the road. I’ve lived here nearly my entire life and even I was surprised by how much it changed.

1. Monadnock From Jaffrey

Much of Mount Monadnock lies in Jaffrey, New Hampshire so I thought I’d start off this post with a view from there. This is the south eastern face of Monadnock.

 2. Monadnock From Jaffrey

At this spot in Jaffrey you are just about as close to the mountain’s south eastern flank as you can get without actually being on it. This is where you get a real sense of how massive Monadnock really is.

 3. Monadnock from Gilmore Pond in Jaffrey

This view of Monadnock’s eastern face from Jaffrey can make you wonder if you’re looking at the same mountain that you saw from other directions, so different is its outline.

 4. Monadnock from Perkin's Pond in Troy

Perkin’s pond in Troy, on Monadnock’s western side, is the place someone with a new camera goes to try landscape photography. I can’t imagine how many photos have been taken of Monadnock from this spot, but the number must easily be in the millions. On a weekend at this time of year you almost have to wait in line for your turn. On this day there was an artist here painting the mountain and she had the best viewing spot. 5. Monadnock from Troy There are other fine views to be had in Troy. I was surprised by the even separation of foliage colors here, as if someone planted a row of maples, then a row of oaks, then a row of pines, etc. all the way up the mountain. I’m not sure what would have caused this.

 6. Monadnock from Fitzwilliam

Just down the road from Troy is Fitzwilliam, with a few good views of its own. This was taken at Rockwood Pond. Mount Monadnock is so loved by the public that, each time over the years that it has been threatened by loggers, developers, radio stations and others, money has poured in from all over the world to buy the threatened acreage and protect it. Though never 100% safe, the mountain will be well protected in the future. Most of it is now owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

 7. Monadnock from Rindge

The view from Rindge is a very pretty one of Monadnock’s southern flank. I just discovered this view while taking photos for this post.

 8. Monadnock from Mount Caesar in Swanzey

Sometimes you have to climb a mountain to see a mountain as I did one morning just as the sun broke through the dense fog on top of Mount Caesar in Swanzey. Swanzey lies to the northwest of Monadnock.

 9. Monadnock from Harrisville

Harrisville has some beautiful views of Monadnock from the north. This one is from a place called Child’s Bog, known for its great fishing.

 10. Monadnock From Sucker Brook in Nelson

I had heard stories of a great view of Monadnock to be had at a place called Sucker Brook Cove Sanctuary in Nelson, New Hampshire so I went there and found that it was indeed an excellent view, with Silver Lake in the foreground. The light would have been much better if I had gone there in the morning though, rather than in the afternoon. This view is from the north.

 11. Monadnock from Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard

This view of Monadnock is from the top of Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard, which is the northernmost point in my travels around the mountain. The weatherman said we would have wall to wall sunshine on the day this was taken, and I believed him. When I started this trip I saw sunshine but once I had climbed to the top of Pitcher Mountain there wasn’t a sunbeam to be seen.

 12. Monadnock from Marlborough

One of my favorite views of Monadnock is from this spot in Marlborough, New Hampshire. The sun breaking through the clouds made a patchwork of colors on the western face of the mountain on the afternoon that this was taken.

 13. Monadnock from Dublin

This is a view from Dublin. This is another good place to see the mountain’s great mass. This is the first photo taken with my new cell phone to appear on this blog. The phone camera has a much wider angle than either of my other cameras and it does a pretty good job. Speaking of cell phone photos, if you’d like to see some amazing ones you should pop over to Marie’s blog. You can get there by clicking here. You won’t believe her photos were taken with a cell phone camera, but they were.

 14. Monadnock from Dublin

This view of Monadnock from Dublin is a favorite of photographers. I took this photo with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7, which is the camera that I usually use for macros.

 15. Monadnock from Dublin

Some days you just have to wait for Monadnock to peek out from its blanket of clouds, as this view from Dublin shows.

 16. Monadnock Summit

When he climbed it in 1860 Henry David Thoreau complained about the number of people on the summit of Monadnock. Nothing has changed since. On a typical Columbus Day weekend in October it is not unusual to find that it is standing room only on the summit. It is estimated that 100,000 people per year climb the mountain, making it the most climbed mountain in the United States and the second most climbed in the world after Mount Fiji in Japan. On the afternoon that this photo was taken you could see climbers on the summit, just as you can on most days.

 17. Monadnock from Keene

My favorite view of the mountain is of course the one I grew up with and have seen each day for the better part of a lifetime. I’ve lived in other places but you don’t miss the mountain until you can no longer see it, and I’ve always come back. To me this view from Keene is the best one, but anyone in any town in the region would probably say the same about their view.

 18. Monadnock Region Map

This map of the Monadnock Region might help you see how the towns that the above photos were taken in are related to each other, and to Monadnock itself. The town names are underlined and Mount Monadnock has a black triangle beside it. It is about 19 miles (30.6 Km) from Keene to the mountain.

If you’d like to learn more about the towns mentioned in this post you should take a look at Laura Mahoney’s blog Touring New Hampshire. I think you’ll find excellent photos and descriptions of every town here. You can get there by clicking here.

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. The view of the pinnacle itself from the plateau below surpasses any view which you get from the summit. ~Henry David Thoreau.

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

 

1. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Recently over the course of a week or so I had 3 or 4 people ask me if I had ever explored the woods in Nelson, which is a small town that lies northeast of Keene. I hadn’t, but I took the sudden interest in my exploring the woods around the town as a good sign that I should. This waterfall on Bailey brook was one of the first things I saw.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

These falls can be seen quite easily from road, so you don’t even need to get out of your car. Here I had been bushwhacking my way through the woods looking for waterfalls and there was one right here beside a road the whole time.

 3. Bailey Brook

Bailey brook isn’t very large but it has upper and lower waterfalls that are about a mile apart. Following the brook upstream is an easy, gentle hike with plenty to see.

4. Winter Berry

After a season with almost no berries last year, this year the winterberries (Ilex verticillata) are covered with them. This native holly holds its berries through the winter and they look great against the white snow. These berries have a very low fat content and birds won’t eat them until other fruits with higher fat contents have been eaten. Other plants that fruit in the fall like maple leaf viburnum, high bush cranberry, and stag horn sumac also produce fruit that is low in fat content. That’s why you often see these plants with the previous season’s berries still on them in the spring.

 5. Pale New York Fern

Some ferns, like this New York Fern (Parathelypteris noveboracensis) turn ghostly pale in the fall. If you like the look of this fern, plant breeders have developed a fern called “Athyrium Ghost” that is a cross between our native lady fern and the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium filix-femina). It’s a kind of silvery white color.

 6. Stone Wall

Stone walls line the path. These are great places to look for lichens and mosses. Chipmunks and other things live in stone walls, so you don’t want to go poking your fingers in any of the crevices between the stones. We have timber rattlesnakes here in New Hampshire, but they are rarely seen. Even so, they love rocky places that get plenty of sun so I leave old walls alone.

 7. Wolf's Milk Slime Mold

Each pea sized, orangey brown fruiting body (aethalia) of wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum), holds a protoplastic liquid called plasmodium when they are immature. As they age the plasmodium will turn into a mass of gray, dust like spores.

 8. Blue Bead Lily

I was surprised to see uneaten berries on this blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis ) . Deer, chipmunks and many other animals and birds love these berries. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to treat burns and infections, and bears are said to be attracted to its root.

 9. Bailey Brook Upper Falls 2

Before too long you get a glimpse of the upper falls that you’ve been able to hear for a while.

 10.. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

Though there was quite a bit of water flowing, I’d like to see them during spring runoff.

11.  Bailey Brook Mill Foundation

Stephen Osborn built a sawmill on Bailey Brook just above the upper falls sometime around 1815. The mill had reciprocating saws and used a 15 foot diameter overshot water wheel to power them. The stone piers that held the water wheel still stand, and are seen in the above photo.

12. Looking Down on Upper Bailey Brook Falls

This view is looking downstream from above the upper falls.

 13. Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) soaks up water like a sponge and will only grow in soil that has a high moisture content, so I knew my knees would be wet after taking this photo.

 14. Bracket Fungus on Birch

Good examples of timber bracket fungus (Fomes fomentarius) grew on a fallen birch. This is also called hoof fungus and tinder fungus. The 5000 year old “ice man” found frozen in the alps carried 4 pieces of this mushroom to use for starting fires.

 15. Beaver Pond

Now why would a farmer build a stone wall in the middle of a pond? The answer of course is that there wasn’t a pond here when he built it-beavers have enlarged the original mill pond. People who know about such things say that the original mill pond was too small to power the mill year ‘round and probably would have dried up in high summer. This means that the sawmill was most likely seasonal.

 16. Beaver Tree

There was plenty of evidence of beavers, but none recent. It looked like they had moved on.

 17. Indian Cucumber Root

I think, of all the great things that I saw on this short hike, this Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) losing its chlorophyll was my favorite.

I didn’t know this at the time but you can follow a trail from the mill ruins to the site of the house, shed, barn, and stone cattle path. There are stone walls, cellar holes, and old wells to see there.

It’s amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing. ~ Scott Westerfeld

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

Each year millions of people come here from all over the world to see the fall colors. This post is for those of you who can’t make it.

 1. Fall Forest in Surry

Slowly, the colors of fall creep from the forest floor to the understory and finally to the trees. The trees in the lowlands near rivers and streams seem to change first and then the colors move slowly uphill.

 2. Rail Trail

It doesn’t matter what road or trail you choose to travel at this time of year because they are all lined with colorful trees, and this year they seem even more colorful than they usually do.

3. Fall Ferns

Late one afternoon I was following the river and came upon this grove of orange ferns. Our apple crop ripened three weeks early this year and the fall colors seem to be early as well.

 4. Along the Ashuelot River

Along the Ashuelot River the late afternoon sun made the trees look like they were on fire.

 5. Reindeer Lichen

A drift of reindeer lichens almost looks like a stream through the woods. Though these lichens look white in the photo they are actually a light, silvery gray.

 6. Fall at the Pond

If you have the same kind of colorblindness that I have then you probably can’t see the large red tree on the right. I know it’s there because I could see it in person, but for some reason I can’t see it in this photo.

 7. Pond Color

Another view of another pond ringed by colorful trees.

8. Blue Hills

This view doesn’t have much fall color but I like it because it is one of the few almost treeless views that I know of.

 9. Maple Tree 5-2

Sometimes a ray of sunlight falls on a single tree and you just have to get a picture of it, even when you’ve seen it happen a thousand times before.

10. Along the Ashuelot River

The setting sun shining through maples along the river turned everything pumpkin orange.

11. Branch River

The Otter and Minnewawa brooks join together to form the Branch River in Marlborogh, New Hampshire. There is some nice color along its short length.

12. Maples

Deep shadows made this rock face look bluish gray, which I thought was the perfect contrast for these orange leaves.

13. Fall Color

This is another view of the Branch River in Marlborough, New Hampshire.

14. Sunset Over the Brook

One evening the setting sun was doing some amazing things to the clouds over the wetlands.

Autumn … painted the countryside in vivid shades of scarlet, saffron and russet, and the days were clear and crisp under harvest skies. ~Sharon Kay Penman

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

Here are a few more of those things that never seem to make it into regular posts.

 1. Alberta Wild Rose Hips aka  Rosa acicularis or prickly rose

Color is everywhere you look right now and nothing represents the color red better than rose hips. I’ve never seen such prickly ones before, but I think these are the fruits of the Alberta wild rose (Rosa acicularis), which is also called prickly rose.

 2. Baby Spider Nest

Some friends told me about a large spider nest on one of their plants, so I tried to get some photos of it. It wasn’t easy.

 3. Baby Spiders

A closer look at the nest shows that it was full of hundreds of baby spiders. These were near water and I’m wondering if they were fishing spiders.

 4. Black Chanterelle

Earlier this year I found some rarely seen black chanterelle mushrooms (Craterellus cornucopioides.) This mushroom is also called the deep purple horn of plenty and I really didn’t expect to ever find them again but here they are.

5. Dead Man's Finger

Another mushroom I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see was dead man’s fingers (Xylaria longipes) but I saw two examples recently. This black “finger” was about two inches long and was hard to see. Scientists recently discovered that this fungus will affect spruce wood used for violin making in such a way as to make instruments made from it virtually identical in tone to s Stradivarius violin.  Stradivarius cut his wood during the cold winter months and the wood had a very low density. Dead man’s finger fungus works on wood at the cellular level to make it denser and at a recent test event an audience of 180 people couldn’t tell the difference between the tone of a Stradivarius and a new violin played with wood treated with this fungus. I assume that the audience was well versed in violin music and would know about such things.

 6. Orange Mycena Mushrooms

I found more orange mycena mushrooms (Mycena leaiana) growing on a log. I like to get a view of the gills on these little mushrooms if I can. Scientists have found that the compound that makes this mushroom orange has antibiotic properties.

 7. Burning Bush Foliage

The leaves of burning bush (Euonymus alatus) go from green to crimson to purplish pink and, before they fall, will fade to a light, pastel pink. In the fall drifts of this shrub in the forest are truly a beautiful sight. Unfortunately the red berries make it one of the most invasive shrubs known. So invasive in fact, that buying or selling this shrub is against the law in New Hampshire. Unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle and I think that it is here to stay. This shrub is also called winged euonymus and is originally from northern Asia.

 8. Hobblebush Leaves

Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) leaves change color slowly, with the veins last to go. Viburnums have been used by man in many ways since before recorded history. The Neolithic “Iceman” found frozen in the Alps was carrying arrow shafts made from a European Vibunum wood.

 9. Maple Leaf Viburnum Foliage

Maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) leaves become light, pastel pink before they fall, much like the burning bush. These examples were kind of splotchy, with green still showing. This is the smallest of our native viburnums, usually only 3-4 feet tall and its berries are dark blue-black. It grows mainly at the edge of the forest.

10. Indian Pipes

Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are still poking up out of the ground despite the cooler nights.

11. Indian Pipe Seed Capsule

Most Indian pipes look like this at this time of year. When its flower has been pollinated Indian pipe raises its nodding head and begins to turn brown and woody. Over time its dust like seeds will be released. Next year’s flower buds form in the fall, but don’t break ground until it is warm enough.

 12. Toadskin Lichen

Common toad skin lichen (Lasallia papulosa) has a pit on its underside for every wart on its face. These warty bumps are called pustules. Like many lichens this one changes color, becoming greener as it gets wetter. I kind of like the blue-gray color this one was when I found it.

13. Crown Vetch

Crown vetch (Securigera varia) still blooms in the tall grass on roadsides. This plant has been used extensively on the sides of larger roads and highways to prevent erosion. We haven’t had a hard frost or freeze yet, so it might bloom for a while yet.

14. Lowbush Blueberry Blossoms

One foggy morning I met a very confused lowbush blueberry blooming about 6 months later than usual. The fog explained the water droplets, but I don’t know what would have caused the bubble. If it is a bubble-maybe it was just another water droplet that was an over achiever.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

This is the second part of a two part post about an old abandoned road here in Keene, New Hampshire. To read part one just scroll down or click here.

 1. Bluestem Goldenrod

As I said in part one, there are many wildflowers that grow along this old road and this one, blue stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia), is rare in this area. This road is one of only two places that I know of to find this plant. With its little tufts of flowers spread out along its stem it is one of the easiest goldenrods to identify. The “blue stem” comes from the waxy coating on the stem that protects it from sunlight and helps hold in moisture. It is very similar to the whitish “bloom” seen on blueberries.

 2. Bluestem Goldenrod

A closer look at the flowers of blue stemmed goldenrod.

 3. Poison Ivy

Wildflowers aren’t the only plants found here. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) runs rampant on both sides of the road. This isn’t the place to be hiking with shorts on.

 4. Ledges

On the side of the road opposite Beaver Brook ledges soar quite high in places. These ledges were cut out of the bedrock by hand, long before there were power tools to do the job.They are great places to find mosses and lichens.

 5. Common Powderhorn Lichen

I found these common powderhorn lichens growing on one of the ledges. There are very similar to British soldier lichens, but without the red tips.

 6. Star Drilled Stone

You can still see evidence of the star drills that were used to drill into the stone, which happens to be feldspar in this example. Star drills were long pieces of steel with a star shaped tip that were held by one man while two others hit the end with sledge hammers. After each hammer blow the drill would be rotated 1/8 turn and eventually a hole would be cut into the stone. A good team could do about 12 holes per day. Once enough holes were drilled small tools called feathers and wedges were tapped into each one to split the stone away from the ledge face. Then all of the fallen stone would have had to have been put into ox carts and hauled away. This was very labor intensive and it took a long time to cut a road through solid rock. This is why old roads were so full of curves-they followed the path of least resistance.

 7. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver Brook cascades over ledges into a small, shaded pool that was once a popular swimming hole. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about how high the falls are. I’ve heard everything from 10 feet to 100 feet, but I’d guess that they are closer to 30 to 40 feet and maybe 50 if you include the part that isn’t visible in this photo. They are certainly high enough to allow me to say with certainty that you wouldn’t catch me jumping off those ledges.

If you’d like to see a very short video from above the falls taken by someone with absolutely no fear of heights, just click here. You’ll also be able to hear the great roar of the falls.

NOTE: What the person who shot this video did was extremely dangerous because of the crumbling cliff faces and I would strongly urge others to not try it. I hope he at least had a rope around his waist!

 8. Beaver Brook Falls

A lot of people come here to see the falls, but to get a clear view of them like that in the photo you have to climb/ slide / fall down a very steep embankment and then climb over large boulders. I did all of that 6 or 7 times trying to get photos for this post and I’m glad I don’t have to do it again right away. This photo shows a hint of the large stone in the center of the lower part of the falls that splits them in two in dry weather. Beaver Brook’s headwaters are in Gilsum, New Hampshire, north of Keene, and when the falls are split in half, you know that it has been very dry there.

 9. Historic Beaver Brook Photo

This old hand colored postcard shows the falls split in two due to dry weather. This photo was taken sometime around 1910 and if you look very closely above and to the right of the falls you can see a woman sitting on a ledge with her feet hanging over. There is a bare tree branch hanging down just behind her on her right. (Our left) She is wearing a long, rose colored dress and a big, wide brimmed hat. Most of these old photos and postcards have people in them somewhere, but I’m not sure why. It’s possible that it was done to give an idea of scale, which this lady does very well. Maybe she had been diving into the pool from the ledges and was resting.

 10. Path to Road from Falls

I know why the lady in the rose colored dress needed a rest! If you think getting down to the brook to get photos of the falls was difficult, just wait until you have to climb back up carrying cameras and a tripod! It’s close to vertical but with just enough slant to make it possible.

11. Old Postcard

Here is a view of the falls circa 1900 that you can’t see today because trees and brush block the view. It seems amazing to me that this land was once so clear, with hardly a bush or tree on the hillsides. If it wasn’t for their roar you could walk right past the falls today while hardly getting a glimpse of them.

If you’re wondering if there is a person in this postcard the answer is yes. He or she is standing on the road beside the white fence just about even with the falls. It’s either a woman wearing a long black dress with a white collar or a man with a long white beard wearing a long black coat. This postcard was made from a hand colored black and white photograph.

12. New Highway

If you were to follow the road in the postcard view today you would run smack into one of the biggest piles of dirt you had ever seen. All of the fill that the “new” Route 9 North sits on had to be trucked in from elsewhere when the highway was built in the late 70s. It’s amazing to think that what was once a footpath beside a brook, used by Native Americans to hunt and fish from, is now a multi-lane highway. This was and is an important route north out of Keene and now leads to Concord, the state capital.

13. Old Road Extension

If you stand on the highway and look down you can still see part of the original old road. This view is on the opposite side of the highway from the falls that we were just visiting and the old road isn’t as overgrown. The highway was built directly across the road, cutting it off from motorized travel forever.

The old road was originally built to access a sawmill which was built on Beaver Brook in 1736. In 1735 100 acres of “middling good land” and 25 pounds cash was offered to anyone who could build a sawmill capable of furnishing lumber to the settlement of Upper Ashuelot, which is now called Keene. Without a sawmill you lived in a log cabin, so they were often built before anything else in early New England settlements.

14. Beaver Brook Dam

If you follow Beaver Brook upstream from the falls and across the new highway you will eventually come to this dam, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1986. The dam has saved Keene from devastating floods several times, but it does not completely eliminate all flooding in the city. At capacity Beaver Brook Dam can hold back 106 acres of floodwaters.

15. Beaver Dam

Beavers are still here doing their part in finding flood control solutions too.

 16. Above the Dam

When flooding doesn’t occur the area behind the dam is essentially the same wetland, called “three mile swamp,” that it has always been. This is a great place to spot wildlife. As I was gathering photos for this post I saw ducks, geese, and a great blue heron who sat on a dead tree branch just out of camera range.

Well, now you folks know as much about this old rad and the surrounding area as I do. I hope it was an enjoyable excursion and I thank you for coming along.

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~ Jawaharial Nehru

 

Read Full Post »

A while ago I did a post about how I had been chasing a particular angle of perspective (angle of view of the capture) and in it I showed a photo of yellow lines on an abandoned road. For me the shot was a total failure but I thought I’d show it as a good example of what I didn’t want to do. Of course, almost everyone who read the blog loved the photo, so I thought I’d do a post about the road itself and give you some background information. I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks and ended up with so many photos that I’ve had to do the post in two installments. What follows is part one.

1. Abandoned Road Start

This is where we start-just inside the gate that keeps people from driving on the road. The trees are just starting to take on some color, so this is a great time to be hiking here. It’s hard to believe that such a secluded area could be less than a half hour’s walk from the city center. Deer, bobcats, mink, otters, black bear, and many other animals and birds roam this place.

 2. Abandoned Road

This road was one of the first to be laid out in Keene, New Hampshire in the 1700s and was abandoned in the mid to late 60s when a new highway was built-literally right across the existing road. Nature has been taking back what is hers ever since and the road slowly gets narrower as the plants and trees grow in toward its middle where the sunlight is. It is kept open to the public as a nature trail and follows Beaver Brook, so named because of the beavers that once thrived here. The canopy closes in quickly as the road climbs and follows the brook and on cloudy days it gets so dark in places that it’s almost impossible to get a decent photo without using a tripod.

 3. Brookside

In places the brook is placid and free of most stones and other obstacles. A dam upstream, which we will visit later on, regulates the water flow but in times of heavy rain this brook can become a raging beast. There have been times when heavy flooding pushed it up and over the road and the parts of Keene that it runs through still often flood in spring.

 4. Beaver Brook

In some places it is full of stones and gravel bars on which fallen trees and other debris gets hung up. An occasional flood will release the debris and wash it downstream, so flooding can serve a useful purpose.

 5. Abandoned Road Lines

The yellow no passing lines still show here and there where vegetation hasn’t covered them.

 6. Guard Rails

In other places the old guard posts and cables survive. These posts used to have to be hand painted black and white, one by one, all the way along this and every other road in the county. Of course, it was a lot more open then when the forest wasn’t allowed to grow so close to the rod.

 7. Guard Post

 Many of these posts are the “newer” triangular concrete kind…

 8. Wooden Guard Post

But there are still many of the even older wooden posts. There was no such thing as pressure treated wood when these posts were put here so most of them have rotted completely through where they meet the soil.

 9. Beaver Brook Postcard

There was a time that there were no guard posts at all along this road. Instead trees were laid alongside the road and smaller diameter trees were used for rails. This old postcard from the early 1900s shows the area with many fewer trees than are seen today. These postcards were printed from black and white photos that had been hand colored.

 10. Guard Rail

There are many guard posts that have washed into the brook over the years and some are dangling from their wires. These posts are about six feet long and half their length was buried in the stony ground. Slowly, Beaver Brook is eating away at the sides of the road and since there is no maintenance here it’s conceivable that one day there will no longer be a road.

 11. Abandoned Road Storm Drain

This concrete storm drain has been undercut by the brook and is slowly sliding into it. This must have been put in at a later date than the guard posts and wires.

 12. NE Aster

Many wildflowers grow along the roadside and many actually grow in the thin soil that has built up on the pavement over the years. New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are the stars of the show right now.

 13. White Baneberry Berries

White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda ) fruits, called “doll’s eyes” can be seen as well. This plant is very toxic, which is why the berries don’t get eaten.

 14. Hillside Waterfall

History and wildflowers aren’t the only reason I and many others keep coming here-scenes like this can appear and disappear in a very short amount of time. When we get heavy rain water will gather and cascade down the steep 200 foot hillside on the far side of the brook, creating a temporary waterfall. Two days after this photo was taken there was no sign of this one.

One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind. ~Charles Dickens

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »