I took a muddy walk up an old logging road through Warner forest to the High Blue trail head in Walpole, New Hampshire recently. It is a walk I’ve taken a few times.
Before you know it you’re through the mud and at the trail head. I came here not just to see the view but also in the hopes of seeing some coltsfoot in bloom, but the plants that grew here appear to have been destroyed by logging. It’s too bad because it was a beautiful display-the most coltsfoot plants I’ve seen in one place.
This photo is of the coltsfoot colonies from last year. They extended off to the right well out of the photo. I’m hoping some of them survived being plowed up by a logging skidder.
Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) line the roadside up to the trailhead, and their flower buds are just starting to unfold. Their common name comes from the way the stems grow so close to the ground. Unseen under the leaves they can tangle the feet of or “hobble” horses. I got firsthand experience in how they work last year when I was trying to examine a bush. My feet became entangled in the stems and I went down fast and hard. Ever since then I’ve been more careful around them. Soon theses bushes will be covered by large white flowers that are among the most beautiful in the forest.
I’ve always called this plant fan clubmoss (Lycopodium digitatum) but some call it southern ground cedar or running ground pine, even though it isn’t related to either pine or cedar. The name fan clubmoss comes from its distinctive shape. This plant was once harvested to near extinction for use in making Christmas wreaths and flash powder, and is still rarely seen. This is one of the few places I know of to find it. It can grow undisturbed here because the plants are off the trail in the woods, so anyone who goes looking for them has a good chance of ending up lost. Every now and then I receive emails from people saying they’ll buy all I can find or asking where they can find it. I’m usually pretty good about answering people’s questions, but those emails go unanswered.
The meadows are still quite brown but it won’t be long before they green up. There are three or four large meadows in the area, still used for hay cutting as they have been since the 1800s. Since there was no water power for mills in the town, Walpole was dependent on agriculture in its early history.
I saw a huge pile of wood chips at the base of a dead beech tree and that was my signal to look up.
This is the biggest pileated woodpecker excavation I’ve ever seen. It must have been 9 or 10 inches long and at least half as wide. It looked more like a nesting hole than a feeding station.
I always take a photo of the sign that tells you that you are at the overlook, just for the record.
The view across the Connecticut River valley was beautiful as usual, and also very blue. It is this “blueness” that gives this place its name. The winds were light and the air warm, so I sat for a while admiring the view and the puffy clouds.
They’re still skiing on Stratton Mountain over in Vermont, but if we have many more days as warm as this one was it won’t last long.
As I sit and admire the view from this place my mind always wanders to the people who used to live here. They left pieces of themselves behind in things like this old stone ruin. Some say it’s a chimney and others a foundation, but whatever it is it is clearly very old and is a sign that people once lived here. I was reading a town history a while back that described the many dangers of living in places like this in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Chief among them were mountain lions (catamounts), wolves, and bears, and women and children never went into these woods alone.
I’ve built a few stone walls in my time so I know how much work went into these walls. Add to that cutting all the trees with an axe and pulling stumps and plowing the forest floor with a team of horses and it just boggles the mind. I suppose, when your very existence depends on it, you can do just about anything.
There are elderberry bushes growing here and I wonder if they were planted, because this hill top is an odd place to find them. Maybe the farmer and his wife sat sipping a little elderberry wine at the end of the day, watching the sunset behind the Vermont hills.
As you re-enter the meadow after coming back down the hill, in spring, fall, and winter you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock, the largest mountain in the region. It won’t be long before this view is almost completely hidden by tree foliage, and it will stay that way until next fall.
There may be more to learn from climbing the same mountain a hundred times than by climbing a hundred different mountains. ~Richard Nelson
Thanks for stopping in.