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Archive for January, 2015

 

1. Snow Depth

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about the blizzard of 2015. While it’s true that a small piece of New Hampshire coastline did see blizzard conditions, in my yard I had trouble finding snow that was 6 inches deep. That might not be entirely accurate though because the real story was the gale force wind that blew the powdery snow every which way and made you feel as if you were in a snow globe.

2. Sculpted Snow

So how do you tell the story of wind on a blog? Showing wind sculpted snow is one way.

3. Snow Curl

The wind can do some fantastic things with snow, including sculpting snow waves.

4. Snow Curl

Here is the snow wave in the previous photo, shot from a different angle. It seemed odd that a 4 foot deep snow drift would form in the middle of an open field, but that’s what happened here.

5. Ashuelot on 1-29-15

Another part of the story is the cold. For the last two winters January has seemed a very cold month indeed, but at least this year the Ashuelot River hasn’t frozen over at my favorite viewing spot in Swanzey. The only remarkable thing about this photo is what it doesn’t show; there have always been Canada geese in this spot but last year when the river froze from bank to bank they left and haven’t come back.

6. Stone in Ashuelot

The rocks in the river show a layer cake like history of winter’s ice and snow storms.

7. Ashuelot Ice Shelf

Ice shelves are forming along the river banks. I saw that people had been walking on them in a couple of places, which is a very dangerous thing to do. I know there are young people who read this blog so I’ll speak directly to them for a moment: Please stay off the ice on rivers and streams! I was walking down the middle of the frozen Ashuelot River one winter when I was about ten years old and all of the sudden the ice started cracking all around me. I’ll never forget the rifle shot sounds of the cracking ice echoing in my ears as I ran for my life to the river bank. As I clung to a tree I saw the dark cold water come bubbling up through the cracks where I had been walking just a moment before. I was more scared then than I’ve ever been and it took a while before I could stop shaking long enough to peel myself off that tree trunk and scramble up the river bank. You never know how thick the ice that has formed over moving water will be so it’s best to be safe and just stay off it.

8. Snow Cornice

Up in the mountains snow cornices can be dangerous but here they don’t seem to do any real harm. A snow cornice is “an overhanging edge of snow on a ridge or the crest of a mountain and along the sides of gullies. They form by wind blowing snow over sharp terrain breaks.”  People walk out on them, not realizing that there is just a thin layer of snow beneath them, and when the cornice suddenly crumbles away they find themselves trapped in an avalanche. A rabbit or squirrel might have trouble with the one in the photo but otherwise I think it’s pretty safe.

9. Pudding Hill Road

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation says that it cost 2 million dollars to clear the snow from this one storm, and that doesn’t include what the individual towns spent. The snowbanks along Pudding Hill Road in Winchester were about waist high. I’d say that was average for this time of year.

10. Window Frost

So what do you do when the night temperatures fall to ten below zero (F) and only rise to twenty above zero during the day with a gale force wind thrown in for good measure? You stay inside and take photos of the frost feathers growing on your windows, of course. They’re beautiful things to behold.

11. Frozen Puddle

All in all the blizzard of 2015 was a non-event here. Yes it was windy and cold but it could have been much worse and I’m thankful that it wasn’t an ice storm. Speaking of ice, the woods are full of it. A couple of weeks ago 2 inches of rain fell and puddled up in the low spots. It froze almost immediately and will be there until the ground thaws. Seeing these puddles slowly seep into the soil will be a good sign that spring is happening.

12. Winter Sky

Though there have been photos of blue skies and sunny days in this post most days throughout December and January have looked more like the above photo. Despite the cold, cloudy, snowy weather spring really is right around the corner. Maple sap usually starts flowing in February and the skunk cabbages will be poking up through the snow soon. Male black capped chickadees are already singing their sad fee bee mating calls, the sun is rising higher in the sky, and daylight lasts a little longer each day. Before we know it the Boston Red Sox will start spring training, tree buds will begin to swell, alder catkins will be heavy with golden pollen and winter will be fading into memory. Any time now that itch called spring fever is sure to come upon us.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. ~ Anne Bradstreet

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1. Trail

Last weekend we had a beautiful (and rare) sunny day so I thought I’d hit the trail in Walpole and climb High Blue. Finding places to climb in the winter can be difficult because snowbanks block access to the normal parking spots, but High Blue has one of those few parking areas that are kept plowed.

2. Meadow View

You don’t have to walk too far before you come to a large open meadow. Deer love to come here and browse the shrubs along the edges of the meadow so there are game trails everywhere up here.

3. Deer Print

This track was about as fresh as it could be. I took the photo of it on the way back because it wasn’t there on the way in. I know that because I was thinking how strange it was that I wasn’t seeing any deer tracks. As usual the deer were seeing me but I wasn’t seeing them.

4. Deer Browse

I knew they were there though, even if I didn’t see them or their tracks because they had been browsing the tips of the oaks along the meadow edge. They often tear rather than bite cleanly through a branch and that’s because they have incisors on only their bottom jaw that meets a cartilage pad on the front of the upper jaw. This causes them to pull rather than shear and for this reason they eat mostly tender shoots. Theoretically anyhow; the oak shoot in the photo doesn’t look like it was very tender to me. They might have gotten their back top and bottom molars around it to tear it like that.

5. Orange Crust Fungus

Usually when I see a bright orange crust fungus it has an easily identifiable margin which is usually white as in steccherinum ochraceum, and on closer inspection reveals itself to actually be a toothed crust fungus. The example in this photo has no white margin or teeth but it does have bracket fungus like fruiting bodies, so I’m baffled. I haven’t seen anything like it on line or in books and I’m wondering if it might be an alga like Trentepohlia aurea growing over both the log and the bracket fungi on it. Those algae can be orange and many other colors and do grow on logs.

6. Gray Lichen

Naturalist John Burroughs said “To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday,” and I couldn’t think of better advice to give a nature lover. I’ve walked by this lichen too many times to count and never saw it, but this time I got a little closer to the tree it grew on and there it was. From a distance I thought it might be a common button lichen (Buellia stillingiana) but it isn’t.

7. Gray Lichen Apothecia

I’ve never seen another lichen like this one and I’m having trouble identifying it. It had interesting cup shaped apothecia (fruiting bodies) but unfortunately there are many lichens that have them and they all look a lot alike. I think this one might be Tephromela atra but I can’t be certain.

8. Natural Graft

These young maple trees showed a fine example of natural grafting. The wind made these two trees rub together enough to wear away the outer bark down to the cambium layer. The cambium layer lies between the inner bark and the wood and is where cells divide and grow. When the cambium layer of one tree meets the cambium layer of another tree of the same species (or of another closely related species), if the conditions are right they can grow together. It is thought that man learned the art of grafting by observing natural grafting.

9. Lichens on Maple

There was a large colony of shield lichens growing on the self-grafted trees. They were slightly darker colored than the tree bark and had prominent black rhizines, which are root like structures that some lichens use to hang onto whatever they grow on. I haven’t been able to identify it but I think it might be one of the Parmelia lichens, of which there are 34 or more species.

10. Sign

It looked like someone had repainted the lettering on the sign.

11. View

I didn’t realize it at the time but every photo that I took while zooming in on the distant hills was hazy and looked out of focus. I’m not sure what happened but it left me with one useable shot of the view and this is it. You can just barely make out Stratton Mountain in Vermont off in the clouds, just to the left of center. At least this photo shows how blue the hills are from up here. The view is always very blue and that’s what gives this place its name.

12. Pond

The small pond on the summit was frozen solid and I wondered how the animals and birds were finding any water to drink.

13. Pileated Woodpecker Chips

I see signs of pileated woodpeckers every time I come here and this day was no different. A large pile of wood chips at the base of a dead tree means only one thing–you should look up.

14. Pileated Woodpecker Hole

Sure enough, there was the woodpecker’s hole about fifteen feet off the ground. Pileated woodpeckers excavate a new nest hole each year and this looked more like a nesting hole than a feeding hole. Abandoned holes are also used by owls, wood ducks and many other birds, and even bats and pine martens. This tree looked to be hollow.

15. Stream Ice

I was glad to see that a small stream was covered only by paper thin ice. The ice had been broken in several places, so the birds and animals would be able to get a drink after all.

You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush. ~John Burroughs.

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1. Trail

Last weekend I was itching to see a frozen waterfall so I went up to 40 foot falls in Surry. Unfortunately all the hemlock trees made it so dark that photography was out of the question, so instead I ended up at Porcupine falls in Gilsum. It was a very cold day with a breeze blowing, so it was a brisk hike up the old road.

 2. Stone Wall

A break in the stone wall beside the road reminded me of a Chinese dragon so I had to get a photo of it.

3. Sulfur Dust Lichen

Further down the wall I saw some sulfur dust lichen (Chrysothrix chlorina) growing on the underside of a stone. I don’t know if it is sunlight or rain that this lichen dislikes but I always find it growing under some type of overhang where neither can fall directly on it, as if it were too shy to be seen.

4. Tracks

Somebody crossed and re-crossed the trail many times. I’m guessing it was a field mouse.

 5. White Fungus

I’m also guessing that the same little critter that left all of the tracks in the snow had been eating this mushroom, but I don’t know that for sure. I took this photo because what struck me most was how the mushroom was whiter than the snow.

6. Indian Tobacco Seed Heads

I saw some Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) seed heads poking up out of the snow and they made me wish that I could see the small blue flowers that preceded them. It’ll be a while yet before I see them or any other flowers though. This little lobelia gets its common name from the way its seed pods look like the tobacco pouches that were carried by Native Americans.

7. Frozen Stream

One of the strangest things about this hike was the silence. I wish I could somehow show how very different a walk like this can be between summer and winter. Last fall on my first trip to see this waterfall it was simple; I just followed the roar of the stream, but on this day there was no roar or any other sound except my own huffing and puffing and the squeak of the snow. I had to watch carefully for the turnoff that I knew was somewhere up ahead.

8. Bridge

This bridge crossing the stream marks the place but it’s out in the woods a few yards away from the old road and I passed it even though I was watching for it.  I had to backtrack to find it.

 9. Frozen Falls

The view of the frozen falls from the bridge was a bit anti-climactic, and I decided as I stood here that frozen waterfalls in general aren’t that exciting; at least, from what I’ve seen of them.

 10. Frozen Falls

A side view wasn’t much more spectacular, but the photos don’t really convey the bigness of the thing. I’m guessing the height of the ice is maybe 35-40 feet from top to bottom.

11. Bench

Nobody was sitting on the bench and I wasn’t surprised. It was very cold and I was starting to shiver, so I thought I better get walking.

 12. Yellow Something

I stopped to see what I thought was a yellow slime mold growing on a log the last time I was here but now I see that it is hairy, much like the filamentous Trentepohlia aurea algae I find growing on the rock faces in the deep rail trail cut in Westmoreland. I’ve read that it can be yellow, among other colors, and that it can grow on logs. In China there is a red variant that has carpeted an entire river valley and is so beautiful and unusual that it has become a tourist attraction. The valley has been renamed “Red Stone Valley.”

 13. Mushroom on Birch

I saw a reddish brown mushroom on a birch tree that was frozen as solid as a brick. When I think of mushrooms that grow on birch trees I think of birch polypores (Piptoporus betulinus), but this wasn’t one of those because it had gills instead of pores. I have a feeling that this might have been a late fall oyster mushroom (Panellus serotinus.) We have seven different varieties of oyster mushroom here in New England and they can be found on a variety of trees in spring through late fall.

14. Mushroom Underside

The mushroom grew on the birch tree at about knee high but I wanted a shot of its gills so I took off my gloves and knelt in the snow, taking and rejecting shot after shot. Occasionally I get so engrossed in the object at hand that I lose myself in it and often have no idea how long I’ve been studying it. That happened on this day and as usual ended with the realization that once again I had been outside of myself. Not only had I lost track of time but I hadn’t felt the cold, and that isn’t wise in January in New Hampshire. Feeling the cold is what helps us keep Jack Frost from stealing our fingers and toes.

15. Orange Soil

There are certain towns, or areas inside of towns, in Cheshire County that have a very strangely colored soil that has always looked orange to me. Since I’m colorblind I’ve always told myself that it was really brown but no, my color finding software sees orange as well. In my last post I found out that oak leaves really can be pink and now we have orange soil.

I should mention that seeing this soil on your property is a bad sign because it is pure silty sand and few plants will grow well in it. If you have this kind of poor soil you should immediately start adding all of the compost and manure that you can get your hands on before trying to grow a garden.

16. Ice Covered Moss

I wanted to take a photo of some moss covered in ice to show how tough mosses really are, but when I saw this photo I was more interested in the ice than the moss because of the strange light that seems to be inside it. It’s as if the light of creation itself was in there, shining out of this tiny drop.  It reminded me of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and of William Blake holding infinity in the palm of his hand in his poem Auguries of Innocence.

Lose yourself in nature and find peace. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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1. Hoar Frost

I thought the colors of the wet leaves and tiny feathers of hoar frost in this puddle were very beautiful. Hoar frost forms when twigs or other things coated in warm water vapor meet cold air. I’ve been to this place before and the water here never seems to freeze. It seeps in a small rivulet all year round and sometimes even feels warm to the touch. That could be an illusion though, because when the air temperature hovers just above zero many things feel warm.

 2. Goldenrod Seed Head

Goldenrod lived up to its name when a ray of golden sunshine fell on it. There seem to be plenty of seeds left for the birds but berries and other fruits are going fast. I’ve read that in cold like we’re having now they look for what has the highest fat content first.

3. Burning Bush Berries

There are still berries on the invasive burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) near the river. Birds seem to wait until spring to eat these. Even though they don’t seem to be a first choice birds sure do spread the seeds around and there are large swaths along the riverbank where almost nothing but burning bush grows. They have shaded out and overcome almost all the native plants in that area.

4. Blue Ashuelot

The Ashuelot River taught me that if I took a photo of it with the sun over my shoulder it would be very blue and on this day it didn’t disappoint. I was standing on a bridge when I took this and the river on the other side of the bridge, just a few feet away but with the sun in front of me, was gunmetal gray and looked completely different.

5. Mallard Pecking a Stone

Even though she had to have seen me standing on the bridge a female mallard came floating downstream, quacking loudly. I watched her dive several times and then she swam over to a rock and started pecking it, like a woodpecker pecks at a tree. It was a loud enough tapping to echo through the woods and I couldn’t figure out what the attraction was until I saw that she held an acorn in her beak and was trying to crack it open on the rock. I’ve read that ducks eat acorns but I’ve never heard of them cracking them open on rocks. Maybe this one was smarter than your average duck.

 6. Liverwort on Maple

When it gets cold dark, almost black spots appear on the bark of trees. They are really there all the time but are kind of a reddish color and not quite so noticable at other times of year when there are so many other things to see. Those who think they’ve never seen a liverwort might want to stop and take a closer look at these dark blotches because they are Frullania liverworts, one of the few liverworts that can thrive in dry places.

7. Liverwort on Maple

There are about 800 species of Frullania liverworts and many grow as epiphytes on the bark of trees and shrubs where the humidity is high. Epiphytic plants take nothing from the host plants they grow on, so this liverwort does no harm to trees. Tree cutters on the other hand might find that they itch a bit after handling logs covered with this liverwort because it can cause something called woodcutter’s eczema. This eczema, called phytodermatitis (basically an itchy rash,) haa been seen in loggers and others who regularly handle logs or cord wood with this liverwort on them. It doesn’t sound like anything serious and usually disappears in two or three weeks once the person stops handling logs, but how do you get a logger to stop handling logs? It sound like they’d better wear gloves and long sleeves.

8. Vole Tracks-2

Vole tracks in my yard made it look as if the snow had been zipped up. Look closely and you’ll see that this pattern echos that found in the frullania liverworts in the previous photo.Nature seems to use many of the same patterns over and over, but in very different ways.

9. Lichen Garden

A pine tree fell and as I looked it’s branches over I was astounded by the number of different mosses and lichens that had been growing way up in the topmost part of it. In the book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about a field expiriment involving chipmunks and sticky paper. When the chipmunks ran across the sticky paper whatever was on their  paws stuck to the paper, and she found that many mosses travel by way of chipmunk paws. It’s one explanation for how mosses can grow so high up in trees, and I wonder if it applies to lichens as well. Of course both lichens and mosses release spores that are borne on the wind, so that’s another way that they must use to find their way into the tree tops.

10. Pixie Cup Lichen

Pixie cup lichens are squamulose lichens with fruticose fruiting structures called podetia. Squamulose means they have scale like lobes that often overlap like shingles and the green leafy bits in the above photo are the squamules. The parts that look like tiny golf tees are called podetia. Podetia means a stalk like growth which bears the apothecia, or fruiting bodies. Finally, frucitose means a lichen with bushy, vertical growth. Since this example has squamules even growing inside the tiny cups it must be a pebbled pixie cup lichen (Cladonia pyxidata). Pixie cups grow on the ground and rotting logs and stumps. Some also grow in stone. No, I don’t carry all of this information around in my head; it all comes from the book Lichens of North America.

11. Oak Tree

I think most of you who read this blog know that I’m colorblind. That’s why I didn’t trust my own eyes when I drove by this oak tree and saw that it was full of pink leaves.  Pink leaves? It can’t be, they have to be brown, I thought.

12. Oak Leaves

Imagine my surprise when my color finding software looked at these leaves and saw salmon pink in both dark and light shades. Maybe I can trust my own eyes after all. Of corse, the color finding software doesn’t say that every leaf is pink-it just sees pink here and there. It also sees orange, several shades of brown including tan and chocolate, green, gray and Navaho white. What if I were to take up a paintbrush and paint an oak tree with all of those colors in its leaves-would you all think I had been out in the sun too long?

13. Shadows on Snow

The oak tree with pink leaves reminds me of the time my art teacher in high school, a wonderful woman named Norma Safford, told me that snow shadows should be blue. I argued that they should be gray because that’s what I saw. It was photography that finally showed me that Mrs. Safford had been right all along. Somehow my vision has been corrected in that area at least, because I now see blue snow shadows in person as well as in photos.

 14. Ashuelot Falls

The setting sun tried to turn the Ashuelot River falls to molten gold one afternoon but old man winter wasn’t having any of that and he won the battle.

15. River Ice

It always pays to slow down and take a closer look at nature, even when all you see is ice. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve thought Huh, would you look at that.

Outdoors is where the great mystery lies, so going into nature should be a searching and humbling experience, like going to church. ~Skip Whitcomb

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1. Long Shot

Last weekend I went to one of my favorite places, a “deep cut” along a rail trail where the icicles grow as big as tree trunks. Since little or no sun shines down into this man made canyon once it gets cold it stays cold. It can also be quite dark so I waited for a rare (this winter) bright sunny day, hoping there would be enough light to be able to take some photos.

2. Ice Formations

There is ice everywhere you look here. The odd thing about it is how in the summer you barely notice the groundwater that constantly seeps from the rock faces. Winter really reveals just how much water there is here, and it’s a lot.

3. Ice Climbers

The ice climbers were here. They call this place the “ice box” and come here to train and get used to ice climbing before they go out and tackle the really big ice falls. The New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here too, but I don’t know if that was what was going on here on this day. I try to never bother them because I imagine that ice climbing takes intense concentration and I’m always afraid that if I distract someone they could fall. I certainly don’t want to be the cause of that.

If you’d like to see someone actually climbing this ice you can watch a video of it by clicking here. The video also shows just how high these ledges are toward the end of it.

4. Cracked Ice

I’m thinking that they probably have enough on their minds without answering questions from me, like that horizontal crack that runs completely through this ice column.  Just taking a photo of it made me nervous. I’ve seen massive pieces of ice lying in the trail after they’ve fallen and I know that I don’t want to be anywhere near one when it comes down. When you’re the only one here and it’s quiet if you stop and listen you can hear the ice creaking and cracking, letting you know that what you thought was static and unmoving is actually moving all of the time, expanding and contracting and growing larger.

5. Laep (Leading Edge Anchor Point) Anchor

Last summer I noticed several of these rock climbing anchors, called “LEAPs” screwed into the rock face, so ice isn’t the only thing climbed here. LEAP stands for Leading Edge Anchor Point and is what ropes get tied to. This photo also shows that part of the rock face was wet. It’s hard to believe that what looks like such a small amount of moisture can grow into such massive ice formations.

 6. Drainage Ditch

All this water has to go somewhere so when the railroad engineers blasted this canyon through the rock they also dug drainage ditches along each side of the rail bed. After over 150 years they still work fine. They hadn’t yet completely frozen over yet when I was there and considering how cold it was that was a real surprise.

7. Liverworts

There are thousands of plants, mosses, ferns and liverworts growing on the rock faces and I usually wear my rubber boots so I can wade through the drainage ditches to get an up close look at them. I wore my boots this day but the ice was making some really strange sounds and I didn’t think that it was a good idea to be standing under it, so this shot of some liverworts was taken from a few feet away. After being here in such cold it amazes me how anything can survive these conditions. It was 20 °F when I left my house and I’d guess it was probably half that here in the canyon. Add the breeze that always seems to blow through here and it was probably close to zero with the wind chill.

8. Steam Drill Tool Mark

I just finished reading the book Sermons in Stone, which is about New England stone walls, and in it author Susan Allport says that long, round tool marks like that in the above photo were made by steam powered drills and since steam powered drills weren’t invented until 1861, the particular stone that bears these tool marks couldn’t have been worked before then. I can’t argue with that but there is plenty of evidence that the granite here was hand cut using star drills and feathers and wedges, so I think what might have happened was the railroad came back once the steam drill was available and widened the rail bed. If it was originally all done by hand then it was probably only as wide as it absolutely had to be. They could also have been making sure that there was no loose rock that might fall on the tracks.

9. Hand Cut Granite

The tool marks from the old method of drilling and splitting by hand can’t be confused with anything else.

10. Colored Ice

I’ve never seen ice come in so many colors as it does here. This place is beautiful at all times of year but the ice adds a bit of magic. The first time I saw it I walked this trail stunned into silence and awestruck by the sight of it. It’s hard to tell by these photos but these ledges soar upwards 50 feet or more in places and you feel as if you’re in an ice cathedral. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.

11. Orange Ice

This was the first time I saw orange ice here. I’ve read that orange icicles on a rock face are caused by iron minerals in the soil and water. I can’t find any reference to what might cause green or blue ice.

12. Algae on Rock Face

I wondered if the orange ice was caused by this algae growth which, even though it is bright orange, is called “green algae” (Trentepohlia aurea.) A carotenoid pigment in the alga cells called hematochrome or beta- carotene, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color, hides the green chlorophyll in the algae.

13. Mineral Stains

Mineral stains of various colors are also visible on the rock faces.

14. Blue Ice

My favorite is the blue ice but all of the different colors are beautiful and part of what makes this such an amazing place.

 15. Bridge

Just as the sun started to go down I saw that someone had been clearing a new trail off of the rail trail that I was on. It looks like the new trail is meant to cross this old bridge, which didn’t look to be more than 4 feet wide. It crosses a small stream and looks like something the stone masons would have used to get cut granite out of the woods. I wanted to explore it but it was getting even colder as the sun dropped, so it’ll have to wait for another day.

Beauty waits until the patience and depth of a gaze are refined enough to engage and discover it. In this sense, beauty is not a quality externally present in something. It emerges at that threshold where reverence of mind engages the subtle presence of the other person, place or object. ~ John O’ Donohue

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1. Storefronts

In 2003 bulldozers and dump trucks moved onto a local wetland and began tearing it up. After two years had passed what was left was a sprawling 70 acre suburban eyesore, and any trace of what was once a natural wetland was gone. Or so I thought. I’ve been keeping an eye on this place since it was built just to see what kind of an impact it would have on the natural surroundings and I’ve been surprised again and again.

2. Pond

When they built the shopping center they also built a retention basin to manage runoff and hopefully improve the quality of the water that makes it into the Ashuelot River and from there ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean. Retention basins are described as “artificial lakes with vegetation around the perimeter which include a permanent pool of water in their design.”  This is more of a pond than a lake but it is able to hold the runoff from drainage ditches that were dug around the entire perimeter. The pond did come very close to flooding one summer but that was because beavers moved in and immediately dammed the outflow channel. The beavers also began cutting down and feeding on the very expensive ornamental trees that the landscape architects ordered, but they didn’t get far. After they dropped the first thousand dollar Bradford pear they “disappeared” and I haven’t seen a beaver here since.

3. Juniper Berries

For some unknown reason, possibly to keep people from driving into it, they built long mounds of earth called berms all along the edges of the parking lots and roadways near the retention pond. The berms are about 5-6 feet high but apparently that wasn’t enough so they planted evergreens on top of them. They used spruce, balsam fir, white pine and juniper and they do a great job of completely hiding any hint of of water. The junipers here fruit heavier than any I’ve seen and I wanted to get a photo of the beautiful blue berries (actually modified cones). So there I was with my Panasonic Lumix point and shoot that I use for macro photos all warmed up and ready to go when a blackish colored head popped up out of the snow not three feet from where I stood. It saw me and immediately dropped back down into the snow, but just a few seconds later popped up again and stared at me. I felt like I was playing one of those Whack a Mole games. “Well hello there,” I said, “what are you doing here?” A stupid question if there ever was one I know, but it was all I could think of with such short notice.

4. Mink on the Run-3

And then after a few seconds of trying to figure out what I was off it went, bounding over the snow, so I just pointed the Panasonic in its general direction and without even looking through the view finder clicked the shutter as fast as my finger could go. The very poor photo above is the result, but it along with a lot of detective work tells me that this sleek blackish brown animal with white under his chin and a tail that tapers to a point is very probably an American Mink. He was about 2 feet long and his round hairy tail made up about a third of his length.

5. Burrow

This explained how he could pop up out of the snow without having snow all over his face and head. Minks are burrowing animals but they usually take over the burrows of muskrats and other animals in embankments along rivers and ponds instead of digging them themselves. They are carnivores and eat just about anything including frogs, mice and voles, fish, and birds. They also kill and eat muskrats and will go right into their burrows to do so. I haven’t been able to find any information on whether or not they bother beavers but I wondered if minks could be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the beavers from this pond.

6. MinkTracks

If I understand what I’ve read correctly, one way to tell a mink from other members of the weasel family is by its bounding gait. This one was a real bounder and moved surprisingly fast. Rough measurements with my monopod tell me that there are about 14 inches between these prints. Minks can also climb trees and this one headed right for the evergreens along the top of the berm.

7. Paw Prints

I went back the next day to see if I could get photos of the mink’s tracks but because of the powdery snow he bounded through the tracks were barely visible. The ones in this photo were the best and they aren’t great, but one of them does show claw marks.  I’ve read that minks have paws that are slightly webbed, but nothing like the webbing that otters have. The State Fish and Game website says that minks and other members of the weasel family are very rarely seen, so I feel lucky to have gotten these photos even if they aren’t great.

8. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

After the excitement of seeing the mink died down I decided to visit one of my favorite lichens, the poplar sunburst (Xanthoria hasseana.) These lichens grow on the Bradford pear trees that grow alongside the pond and this is the only place that I’ve ever seen them. I’ve been visiting them for several years and each year they get more beautiful. The parts that look like suction cups are their fruiting bodies (apothecia) where their spores are produced.

 9. Hawthorn Fruit

For the most part the landscaping here seems uninspired and unimaginative, but there are bright spots like the two or three hawthorn (Crataegus) trees planted off in a corner where few ever see them.  They usually fruit quite heavily and the birds snap up the berry-like haws quickly. The haws, botanically speaking, are pomes, like apples and pears.  One odd fact about hawthorns is how their young leaves and flower buds are edible and can be used in salads.

10. Hawthorn Thorn

If the haws and the roundish, bright red buds don’t convince you that you’re looking at a hawthorn then the sharp, inch long thorns probably will.

 11.Spruce

I thought I’d use some of the evergreens that they planted on the berms to show you an easy way to tell a spruce from a fir. One way is by their cones. Spruce cones hang down from the branches.

12. Balsam Fir

And fir cones stand up on the branches like candles. This isn’t a great example but it’s the best I could find. Fir cones break apart as they ripen and the thing that looks like a skinny mushroom over on the upper right is what is left behind. Just a stalk and a few scales at the top. Since cones usually appear high up in the tree and are often only produced in 3-5 year cycles it’s wise to learn how to tell conifers apart by other means. Needle shape, length and color, bark appearance, overall growth habits and fragrance can all be used to identify conifers. Since spruce needles are sharp, stiff and square and fir needles are soft, flexible and flat I would have known these trees even if they hadn’t had cones, but the differences would have been much harder to illustrate here.

13. Meadow

The strip of unbroken snow in the foreground of the above photo is one of the drainage ditches and I come here in summer to take photos of arrowhead, nodding burr marigold and other wetland wildflowers that grow in great abundance here. This is a good spot to photograph them because I can get closer to them than I can when they grow in pond water. In the mini meadow in the background goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, boneset, purple loosestrife and other taller wildflowers create scenes worthy of a Monet painting in late summer.

14. Alder Tounge Gall

Native shrubs in the area include various willows, sumacs, and common alder (Alnus glutinosa). The long strap shaped growths coming out of the female alder cones (strobiles) in the above photo are tongue galls caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The fungus causes a chemical reaction that deforms the alder strobiles and produces the tongue like galls. Early in the season when the galls are fresh they’re green but as they age they can become yellow, pink, red, purple or orange. Once they mature they turn brown or black and often stay on the strobiles until the next season. I always seem to miss their younger, more colorful stages.

Note: Julie has correctly pointed out that common Alder is a native of Europe. It also goes by the name of black or European alder and was introduced by the earliest settlers. It has taken well to its new home and is seen everywhere here in New Hampshire along with our native gray or speckled alder (Alnus incana.) It is so common that I think of it as a native, even though I know better. Thanks Julie!

15. Hawk

I happened to glance up and saw this hawk sitting on a light pole. I think it’s the same red tailed hawk that I’ve seen in the general area several times before, but I’m not positive about that identification. It’s a big bird; bigger than a crow-and always sits on the highest point available, watching open fields. I’m sorry again about the poor quality of these photos but I’m pretty sure if I could get a look into this bird’s nest I’d find a Canon Powershot SX40 manual that it reads when it isn’t out hunting, because every time I see him / her it makes sure that it is just beyond what the zoom on my camera can comfortably handle. These shots were taken at what would be the equivalent of about 840mm with a DSLR and I still had to crop them.

16. Hawk

When I’m around this bird never sits still long enough to even think about getting the camera on a monopod or tripod. As soon as it sees me with a camera it flies off. I wonder what the mink’s chances are now that it has moved into the neighborhood. If I were him I think I’d be just a bit worried.

Surprisingly, as this walk around this strip mall shows, nature seems to be thriving here. In fact if you include the mink and the hawk, I’ve actually seen a greater cross section of nature here than I usually do in the woods. While I was taking these photos and thinking about what I was seeing I had a strong feeling that nature couldn’t wait to reclaim this land.

Nature is what you see plus what you think about it. ~John Sloan

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1. Dim Sun

The old saying says that you should make lemonade when life gives you lemons, so when life gives me cold I take photos of the ice. The one above shows what a little glimpse of sun on a cold, cloudy winter day looks like. There seems to be little real heat coming from it but I suppose if it wasn’t there we’d know what cold was really all about. We’ve seen the temperature fall to as low as -12 °F (-24 °C) so far, and there’s a lot of January left.

2. Window Frost

In the old house I grew up in the curtains would blow in the breeze even when the windows were closed and frost grew on the windows all winter long, so I grew up admiring all of the different shapes that can be seen in ice. They can be very beautiful and I still admire them.

3. Window Frost

Ferns, flowers, trees; window frost can take on almost any shape and I’ve always wondered what made them grow in the shapes that they do. I finally found the answer at Snow Crystals.com: “Window frost forms when a pane of glass is exposed to below-freezing temperatures on the outside and moist air on the inside.  Water vapor from the air condenses as frost on the inside surface of the window. Scratches, residual soap streaks, etc., can all change the way the crystals nucleate and grow.”

4. Streamside Ice

Fingers of ice suspended above the water of a stream revealed how much the water level had dropped since they formed.

5. Riverside Ice

The same drop in water level can be seen along the river, but the ice here shows it in a different way. In rivers and streams ice always seems to start forming on the banks before working its way toward the middle but on lakes and ponds it is just the opposite; it starts forming in the middle and works its way towards shore. I’m sure that the movement of the water in rivers and streams has a lot to do with it, but there must be more to it than that.

Last winter the river rose higher than I’ve ever seen it in this spot due to down river ice jams blocking the flow, and thick ice covered everything that can be seen in this photo. It was like an ice covered wasteland and you couldn’t tell where the land stopped and the water started. Best to stay off that kind of ice.

6. Ice on Rocks

I thought it was strange that all of the larger stones along the river were coated with ice but the smaller stones weren’t. I would have guessed that it would be the reverse, because it seems like the larger stones would absorb and hold more heat from the sun and keep the water from freezing. Could it be that the larger stones take longer than the smaller ones to absorb that heat?  Just another of nature’s mysteries to add to an ever growing list.

 7. Ice Needles on Stream Bank

Along another small stream I saw more ice needles than I’ve ever seen in one place. There were many millions of them growing out of the gravel, all along its banks. Usually I see ice needles that are coated with the soil that they grow out of but these were surprisingly clean because of the gravel.

8. Ice Needles on Stream Bank

They were also the longest ice needles that I’ve seen. Many were 6-8 inches long. When the air temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit right at the soil surface and the soil and groundwater remain thawed, hydrostatic pressure can force the groundwater, sometimes super cooled, out of the soil where it freezes instantly into a “needle.” As more water is forced out of the soil the process is repeated over and over, and each needle grows in length because of more water freezing at its base. From what I’ve seen the needles almost always freeze together and form ribbons like those seen in the above photo.

9. Ice Needles on Leaf

Ice needles are very fragile, as you can imagine. I wanted to move a leaf so I could get a better shot of some needles but when I moved it the needles went with it. You can see how they’ve attached to the underside of the leaf along with some hoar frost that has grown there. I was surprised to find that ice ribbons weigh next to nothing-little more than the dry leaf they were hanging from, so it must take very little water to make them.

 10. Ice Patterns

The whiter the ice, the more air bubbles were trapped in it when it froze. That explains the color, but what explains the long, needle like crystals and the strange pinging noise it makes when it breaks? There might be answers to those questions out there, but I haven’t been able to find them.

 11. Frosted Fern Leaf

Hoarfrost grows whenever it’s cold and there is a source of water vapor nearby. When it is below freezing the water vapor from unfrozen rivers and streams often condenses on the plants all along their banks and covers them in hoarfrost, as this fern leaf shows.

12. Frost on a Leaf

More examples of hoarfrost.  It looks so very delicate that I often have to remind myself to breathe while I’m taking its photo.  One touch of a warm finger, a ray of sunshine, or a warm breath and they’re gone.

13. Ice Patterns

Ice can be very abstract. This streamside example had a lot of large bubbles frozen in place and it showed a surprising amount of depth as well as abstraction and it reminded me of the old black and white Twilight Zone TV episodes from the 60s. I can see an eye and a set of teeth and a flying bird and a fish skeleton and several other things in it so you see, ice can even give us the imagination of a child again, at least for a little while. I can’t think of many gifts greater than that one.

14. Icy Rocks

Ice can also reveal the hidden groundwater that seems to seep out of the soil year round but is nearly impossible to detect until it freezes. Once winter shows us where it is if we can remember to return to the spot in the summer we might find some interesting plants there. Some orchids, certain liverworts, and other fascinating plants like to grow where water constantly seeps. In this spot the liverwort known as greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata) grows in abundance.

15. Frozen Waterfall

In this photo the ice seems to be letting us see into the future. I can see a couple of large boulders and even a tree or two being toppled by this stream before too long.  Of course because of the way ice expands it might set things to tumbling before it even has a chance to melt.

Ice burns, and it is hard for the warm-skinned to distinguish one sensation, fire, from the other, frost. ~A.S. Byatt,

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Note to those new to this blog: Quite often I have photos of a lot of different things which for whatever reason didn’t make it into other blog posts. I save them all up and when I have enough I use them in a “things I’ve seen” post. They are by far the toughest posts of all because of the research involved but they seem to be popular, so I keep putting them together when I have the time. I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

1. Glossy Buckthorn Leaf

I liked the color of this leaf but didn’t pay much attention to what it was attached to until I looked at the photo, which shows vertical lenticels (pores) on the branch it was on. I couldn’t think of any tree or shrub that had vertical lenticels; cherry, birch, alder and other common trees and shrubs that grow in this area have horizontal lenticels. A little Googling told me that it must be glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus,) a very invasive shrub that I’ve never noticed in this spot. If you’ve seen anything similar I’d like to hear about it.

2. Feather on a Branch

I’m always finding feathers blowing around out there and this one was blowing even as I snapped the shutter. It has a dreamy kind of look. Or maybe it’s just out of focus.

 3. Black Jelly Fungus

It looks like someone must have smeared black paint or tar on this limb but I’ve been fooled by this before. It is really a black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa,) which shrivels down to a flake when it dries out. As you look at the following photo try to remember how flat it is here.

4. Black Jelly Fungus 2

This is the same black jelly fungus in the previous photo after some rain fell. It swelled up to 10 times the size and became clusters of shiny black, pillow shaped fruit bodies. They aren’t shiny everywhere though; if you take a close look at most jelly fungi you’ll find areas that are shiny and areas that have a matte like finish. Most jelly fungi have these two different surfaces and some, like amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa,) produce their spores on the shiny areas. Why they wait until winter to produce them is a mystery to me. Black jellies are quite large and can be seen from a distance, and I almost always find them on alder branches.

5. Mole Hill

The moles are telling me that the soil hasn’t frozen yet. People seem to get very upset when they see evidence of moles in their gardens but though their tunnels might be unsightly they really don’t do any damage to plants. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat more than an occasional bite or two of vegetation. They don’t eat grass or tree roots, bulbs, tree bark or the roots of annuals, perennials or vegetables. They aren’t rodents but are members of the order Insectivora and are primarily carnivores with a diet of beetle grubs, earthworms, beetles, and insect larvae. Among the small amount of plant material they do eat are fungi, and this can help clean up infected tree roots. One study of the stomach contents of 100 moles showed that only one had eaten vegetation, so if trails and burrows along with plant damage are seen then it is most likely caused by voles. Unlike moles, they can do a lot of damage to both trees and garden plants.

6. Black Raspberry

Though November was cold here December was mild. Mild enough apparently to fool this black raspberry into thinking it was spring. How do I know it’s a black raspberry? Because of the blue “bloom” on the stem. First year canes of black raspberry (and many other plants, fruits, and even lichens) use this waxy coating as a form of protection against harsh sunlight among other things, but raspberries and blackberries do not. There are several other ways to identify a black raspberry but this is the easiest way for those too lazy to use them.

7. Red Elderberry Buds

The chubby buds of red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) might have been fooled by the warmth too. They don’t usually show their beautiful purple color until they begin to swell in spring. The streaks of green down the middle show that the bud scales have started separating, and that isn’t good at this time of year because the bud scales protect the tiny new leaves and flowers within. Spring might reveal some deformed and / or burned leaves and flowers this year and that would be too bad, because red elderberry is one of the most beautiful plants in the forest in spring when its buds break to reveal its deep purple leaves.  Once the leaves begin to green up and photosynthesize the plant will produce white flowers that will be followed by bright red berries. The berries are a favorite of many birds and animals but they, along with all other parts of this plant, can make us quite sick.

8. Fungal Growth on Beech bark

Before I started nature blogging I sometimes said “Gee that’s interesting” and never went much further in trying to identify what I had seen, but when you start trying to explain to others what you have seen and what makes it so interesting you find that you have to be part scientist and part detective.  A good example of the detective work involved is the 3 years it has taken to identify these tiny fungi which I’m now fairly certain are called Annulohypoxylon cohaerens. Sorry but they have no common name, apparently. Every other time I’ve seen them they have been growing on American Beech logs (Fagus grandifolia,) but this time grew on a standing tree. They are hard, blackish lumps which are described as “perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma.” Come to think of it you also have to be a translator, which I’ll try to be after the next photo.

9. Fungal Growth on Beech bark

“Perithecia with ostiole papillate stroma” means (I think) that the fruiting bodies of the fungus are round or flask-shaped (Perithecia). Ostiole means the fruiting body has small pores which the spores are discharged through and papillate means that they are nipple or pustule shaped.  A stroma is a cushion like mass of fungal tissue. So all of that means that we have a round, cushion like mass of fungal tissue with tiny, nipple shaped pores, and if you look closely at the above photo you’ll see that they are exactly that. They are also often very small –less than half the diameter of an average pea. I’m very glad that I don’t have to wonder what they are anymore.

 10. Unknown Yellow Fungi in Log

But I’m not entirely through wondering, because no one who studies nature ever is.  I saw a flash of yellow in the crack in a log as I walked by and, though it was too small to see very well the camera revealed something that looks like a bunch of lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) all squashed together. They usually grow as tiny yellow disks on the surfaces of logs, so I’m not real sure what is going on here. I’ve never seen anything else like it.

11. Red Tailed hawk

We have many cornfields here in Keene and recently I’ve been watching what I’m fairly certain is a red tailed hawk hunting them. I haven’t been able to get a decent phot of this bird but several times I’ve watched him fly from the tallest tree in one area to the tallest tree in another, always in sight of the corn stubbled, open fields. For this shot I had my lens maxed out as far as its zoom capabilities, which would be the equivalent of about 8oo mm on a DSLR, but he still saw me and flew even further away.

 12. Boreal Oakmoss Lichen

When I hear the word “boreal” I think of tundra and the cold north woods of Canada, but it turns out that we have at least a bit of boreal right here in New Hampshire in the form of boreal oakmoss lichen. If that is, I have identified it correctly. With the help of my new lichen book Lichens of North America, I think I have.  I find this lichen on both hardwoods and softwoods, usually on the branches of birch or white pine and it’s very easy to spot at this time of year.

13. Dark Green Lichen

This lichen has had me confused for a few years now and still does, even with the new lichen book. I’m fairly certain it is one of the beard or horse hair lichens (Bryoria,) but I can’t figure out which species. Every time I’ve seen it, it has been growing on the branches or trunks of white pines (Pinus strobus), often very near the boreal oakmoss lichens in the previous photo. If you know what it might be I’d love to hear from you.

14. Pine sap

White pines seem to bleed their resin all summer long, especially where they have been damaged. The resin is amber colored and very sticky but in the winter it hardens and turns a whitish color. Usually, that is-in this instance it turned blue. I’m not sure what caused the damage on this tree but I’m guessing that parts of it might have been caused by a porcupine. They will eat the inner bark of white pines and can kill a tree if they girdle it.

15. Pine Sap

Here’s a closer look at the bluest part of the frozen pine resin. In the past I’ve been fooled by pine sap that has dripped on stones and turned blue. They looked just like some kind of blue crustose lichen, so if you find “blue lichens” on a horizontal face of a stone that is near a white pine I’d be wary of them. If it is on a vertical face of the stone where pine resin couldn’t possibly have dripped then it could really be a blue lichen. They’re rare, but I have seen them.

All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil. ~Benjamin Disraeli

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1. Path on Bedrock

Since I couldn’t remember the last time I had climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey I thought it was probably time that I did. I had two objectives in mind: I wanted to see the toadskin lichens that grow on its summit, and I wanted to see the arrow that is carved into the granite on the summit, supposedly by Native Americans. It is said that it points the way to Mount Monadnock. In fact it is said that every hill in this area has an arrow on its summit which points to Monadnock. As you can see in the above photo, the trail starts out as granite bedrock covered by a thin layer of pine needles.

2. Blowdown

What soil there is here is a very thin layer on top of bedrock, as this blown down white pine shows. When it fell it took the soil in its root mass with it, revealing the granite underneath. It’s hard to believe that such a big tree would have a root system no more than 6 or 8 inches thick but this one did.

3. Fern Christmas Tree

A fellow hiker pointed out these small ferns growing on the underside of the blowdown’s rootball. “Christmas ferns in the shape of a Christmas tree,” he said. And so they were.

4. Fallen Tree

Yet another fallen tree had a tangle of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) vine in its topmost branches. This invasive vine climbs trees, strangling them on the way, to get to the most sunshine. Between their strangling habit and shading out a tree’s crown, the vines weaken the tree and it eventually falls, just like this cherry did.

5. Blue Gray Lichen

Blue is a tough color to find in nature especially in the world of fungi and lichens, so I was surprised when I saw several of these blue gray crustose examples on a stone beside the trail. Crustose lichens grow like a crust and usually can’t be removed without damage to the substrate. I haven’t been able to identify this one.

6. Running Club Moss

I don’t remember ever seeing running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) on Mt. Caesar but here was a large colony of it. This plant gets its name from the part that isn’t seen in this photo; a long, running stem (rhizome) under the leaves from which the upright parts that are seen here grow. Though this example had no fruiting members (called strobili), the spores that they produce were one collected, dried and used in photography as flash powder before flash bulbs were invented.

7. Teaberry

Teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) grew right alongside the running clubmoss. If I had to go back as far as my memory could take me and search for the first plant that I ever got to know well, this one would have to be it. My grandmother called them checkerberries and loved the minty taste of the berries. She used to take me into the woods to find the plants when I was just a very young boy. While searching for the plants I would see other plants and ask her what they were, and that’s how my woodland education began. I’ve wanted to know the name of every plant that I see ever since. Teaberry is one of our native wintergreens and is also called American wintergreen.

 8. Bark Patterns on Red Maple

I wondered for a long time what caused these circular patterns in the bark of red maples until I finally found out that they are natural markings that the tree eventually outgrows.  I don’t see them often but every now and then a single tree will be marked in this way. Now I wonder why a certain tree will have them when all of the others around it don’t. If you know anything about it I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Thanks very much to Kathy Schillemat, Josh Fecteau and Al Stoops for identifying this unusual bark pattern as target canker that affects only red maples. The bark pattern is actually caused by the tree defending itself against the canker. Al also sent me an excellent article about how and why Michael Wojtech wrote the book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. It’s very much worth a read and can be found by clicking on the word HERE.

 9. Branch Collar

There is a huge old log lying parallel to the trail that always tells me three things:
1. I am very close to the summit.
2. I’m not as young as I used to be.
3. It’s time to stop and pretend that I’ve seen something fascinating while catching my breath.

Only this time I really did see something fascinating; a perfect example of a branch collar. If you do any tree pruning you would do well to read all you can find about branch collars, because if you prune off a branch while ignoring the branch collar you could be slowing down the healing process and inviting any number of diseases to come and visit your trees.

10. View

It wasn’t a great day for looking at the views but it didn’t bother me because that wasn’t what I came here for. It seemed very hazy on this day but it was warm and spring like, so I couldn’t complain. I chose this photo because it shows one of the cliff edges found here. Since I fell out of a tree and shattered my spine in my early teen years heights and I haven’t been the best of friends, but I got close enough to this edge to make the fluttering butterflies in my stomach become soaring eagles. Doing so isn’t something I make a habit of.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

This is what I came to see; my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) I’ve only found them in two places and both are on mountain tops. I was surprised to see their grayish color because that meant they were drying out, even after all the rain we’ve had. When wet they are pea green and very pliable, but apparently it doesn’t take them long to dry out and become crisp like a potato chip. I took many photos of them but I chose this one to show you because the lighter gray area shows how they attach their undersides to the stone at a central point, much like a belly button. That is why they are classified as umbilicate lichens. I like their warty-ness.

 12. Carving on Summit

I paced back and forth over every inch of exposed bedrock on the summit but I couldn’t find the arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock. Instead I found this, which I I’m not fond of seeing. Defacing mountain tops has been going on for a very long time but that doesn’t make it right. Even Henry David Thoreau complained about it when he climbed Mount Monadnock back in 1858 and found a name that had been chiseled into the granite in 1801. The date of this example looks like either 1936 or 1986.

I think the very bright sunshine might have had something to do with my not being able to see the arrow, but I know it exists because I’ve seen photos of it online. It really looks more like a “V” than an arrow. It wasn’t a total loss though because I found toadskin lichens growing in 2 more locations that I didn’t know about.

 13. Split Granite

I also found this while I was looking for the arrow. One of the ways stone was split in colonial New England was by drilling a row of holes in it and filling them with water in the winter. When the water froze and expanded it would split the stone along the path made by the holes. Such is the power of ice, and though man had nothing to do with it I’d guess that ice is why this large piece of granite originally split in two. Over the eons-how many is anyone’s guess-the part on the left has been sliding down the mountainside and one day, most likely with an earth shaking roar, it will probably go over the edge.

14. Sign

Well, in the end I did find an arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had to laugh though, because I’ll bet that I’ve walked by this 50 times without seeing it. So much for my great powers of observation. It’s good to be humbled once in a while when we get too big for our britches but that doesn’t stop me from hoping someone will write in and say that they just tacked it to that pine tree last week.

 15. Monadnock

In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what the hubbub over Mount Monadnock is all about, here is a photo of it. At 3,165 feet it’s the highest point in southern New Hampshire and is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ It’s hard to get a good feel for its elevation from this photo but it is 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I clicked the shutter.

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. ~Ansel Adams

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