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Archive for December, 2015

1. Trail Start

Since the forecast called for snow this week I decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard last Saturday, the day after Christmas. It was a beautiful sunny, spring like day and the temperature was just right for climbing. The trail up starts as a dirt road that fire wardens use to reach the tower on the summit. The road doesn’t go all the way to the top but it gets them more than half way there.

2. Leaf

So many times I’ve heard that there is nothing to see in winter. The complaint is usually that the landscape is “all brown.” But it isn’t, and what browns there are can be deep and rich like the leaf in the above photo.

3. Fuzz Cone Slime Mold

Yellow-fuzz cone slime mold (Hemitrichia clavata) grew on a log. This slime mold taught me that slime molds can and do live in winter. Before finding it I always thought slime molds needed the warm, wet weather of summer. This was the first time I’d seen a slime mold of any kind on Pitcher Mountain.

4. Moss

The mosses were so green. They seemed to just throb with life.

5. Pasture

If you had lived in a box for years and were suddenly released from it the world would seem like a very big place indeed, and that’s what seeing a view like this after living in a forest is like. It’s so expansive that I feel a great rushing release, as if a window into infinity has been thrown open and I have been sucked through it. Forest dwellers can lose themselves in the vast openness of such a place, and that’s one of the reasons I climb here.

6. Trail

The road gets rocky after a while so you need to concentrate on the climb.

7. Monadnock

If you take a rest stop and turn to look behind you during this rocky stretch you’ll see a fairly good view of Mount Monadnock over in Jaffrey.

8. Fire Tower

The sun was blinding as it reflected off the tower windows in this, the first glimpse of it.

9. Ranger Cabin

Before you reach the tower you come to the ranger cabin. It was once manned in the summer when fire danger was high, but now it seems abandoned.

10. Ranger Cabin

Some of the cabin’s underpinnings aren’t providing much support.

11. Privy

Someone tore the door off the privy. Take it from someone who has used one of these many times long ago: indoor plumbing is one of the best things mankind ever invented.

12. Tower

Before you know it you’ve reached the tower on the summit. Though I’ve been told it is manned at certain times of year I’ve never seen anyone in it. This metal tower was built after a forest fire in April of 1940 destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the original 1915 wooden fire tower and all of the trees on the summit. It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history.

13. View

The views weren’t great on this day but since I don’t climb for the views I wasn’t disappointed.

14. Windmills

The wind turbines over on Bear Mountain in Lempster, NH were visible and could even be seen turning quite quickly, it seemed. It’s often so hazy that they can’t be seen at all.

15. View

This view was very blue. The sunshine and shadows were playing tag on this day and the views changed quickly.

16. Tie Down

Steel tie-downs tell stories of the strong winds that sometimes blow up here.

17. Golden Moonglow Lichen

In the past I’ve only seen golden moon glow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) growing on polished granite but here was one growing on this rough, exposed stone. I’ve looked at the lichens that grow up here many times, but this is the first time I’ve seen it.

18. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Since the golden moon glow lichen was fruiting I’m guessing it was happy here. The things that look like tiny cups are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) that produce its spores. Spores released to the wind up here are liable to be blown to just about anywhere.

19. Puddles

Puddles on the stones captured the blue of the sky and made natural bird baths. I’ve looked this way many times but have never seen them before.

20. Christmas Tree

Something else I’ve never seen before is this small spruce, even though I’ve looked off to the nearest hill in the background many times. I’ve even taken several photos of this view but the tree doesn’t appear in any of them, and that illustrates perfectly why I climb the same hills and follow the same trails again and again; there is always something new to see that I’ve missed. In this post alone there are 4 or 5 things that I’ve never seen in this place, even though I’ve climbed here countless times.  So if you’ve been to a place and think you’ve seen all there is to see, even if it’s the woods in your own back yard, you’re fooling yourself. If you return to that place I can guarantee that you’ll see things that you didn’t see before. That’s just the way nature works.

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday. ~John Burroughs

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!

 

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1. Crossing Sign

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time most likely knows that railroad tracks and rivers played a strong part in my boyhood. The Ashuelot River was just a few yards away from our house to the south and the Boston and Maine Railroad another few yards to the north. When they tore up the Boston and Maine tracks it felt like they tore part of me up with them, so when I noticed some railroad tracks in Bennington, New Hampshire near where I work I knew that I had to explore them.

2. Tracks

After years of walking rail trails with no rails it was a pleasure to see some again.  So many memories came flooding back that I might just as well have been in a time machine. One of the strongest of those was of my grandmother telling me stories about all the terrible things that happened to little boys who dared to try and hop on a moving train. She must have been psychic because that’s exactly the thing that I always wanted to do, and it was only the pictures that she painted in my mind of disfigured little boys that kept me from doing so. It was probably for the best.

3. Spike

It was clear right away that something wasn’t right about these tracks. For one thing the rails were rusty, and rails that see train traffic are always shiny and smooth and look almost polished.  There were also many spikes that had worked their way up out of the ties and no responsible railroad would let that happen. Once I got home I did some research and found that these tracks were once owned by the Milford-Bennington Railroad and originally serviced the Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, but the 18 mile line was abandoned in 1986 and has been owned by the state since 1988.

The Milford-Bennington Railroad still carries stone in Wilton, New Hampshire and if you’d like to see it you can watch a short video of it by clicking on the word here.

4. Tie Plate

Some of the tie plates were dated 1932, but since these tracks were laid in the late 1800s they had to be replacements.

5. Track

A splice bar is bolted to the ends of two rails to join them together in a track. It is also called a fish plate or joint bar. Spending time on the tracks taught me that by puzzling my mind and pricking my curiosity enough to pick up a book and find out what I could. The tracks also taught me about the thermal expansion of steel and why expansion joints are needed, and why trains go clickety clack when they roll. If you want your child to learn about this world just let him or her walk the tracks for a while. They’ll drive you crazy with all their questions, but it will be the start of a learning process that will most likely stay with them throughout their lives.

6. River View

In places the tracks run very near the Contoocook river, one of just a handful in the state that flow from south to north rather than southward. In this spot the river widens dramatically and is called Powder Mill Pond. The name Contoocook comes from the Native American Pennacook tribe and is said to mean “place of the river near pines.” There are plenty of pines along this river’s 71 mile course.

7. High Water

If you want to know how high a river gets when it floods just look at the trees and bushes along its length.  I was astonished to see that this bit of river stuff was hanging high enough in a tree to be over my head, which meant the river would have probably flooded both the tracks and the road that is just off camera to the right in this photo. I’ve read that the Contoocook is considered a high risk river due to regular flooding.

8. Ice on Log

The ice on this pine log shows how cold it was on this day, one of the very few cold days in the month of December. Even so the temperature was still above average.

9. Crossing

I haven’t seen a tractor crossing like this one in a very long time.  It didn’t look that old but it was nice to see it.

10. Reindeer Lichen

Reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) decorated the sides of the railroad bed. This lichen seems to like to grow in poor, gravelly soil. At least that’s where I find it most often.

11. Moss

In the shade the only real snow we’ve seen this season hung on, refusing to melt.

12. Path

A well-worn path led into the woods and I decided to follow it.

13. Fishing Hole View

As I suspected the path led to a fishing spot on the banks of the Contoocook. The view was fine enough to make it one of those places where you could sit for hours, not caring if you ever caught a fish. I have a sneaking suspicion that my father used to visit such places when he fished.

14. Knothole

I found a beautiful old hollow tree along the path and peeked into the knothole, but there was nobody home. I loved its color and grain patterns, and its oldness.

15. Trestle

The tracks eventually lead to a trestle that crosses a very rocky part of the river to a siding at the paper mill. Since trains no longer run here the tracks are blocked by high fencing, so there was no way onto the trestle, I was sorry to see. The stone piers that hold up this trestle were laid dry with no mortar and it doesn’t look like a stone has moved in nearly 150 years. The stone is granite that was most likely cut very nearby from ledge, bedrock or boulders, as the railroads used to do.

16. Trestle

Many of the secondary piers are made of heavy 12 X 12 inch wooden beams, which are common on railroad bridges in this area. The wooden deflectors tell me that this spot must see some serious ice in winter. I’ll have to come back and see in February.

17. Tracks

You can’t go home again they say, but if you pay attention you can find little pieces of home tucked here and there; maybe in a meal, an aroma, a song, or a place. I was able to easily walk back into boyhood on this day and that’s always a welcome experience. Everyone should have that chance at least once.

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision; that true instinct for what is beautiful, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. ~Rachel Carson

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

 

 

 

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1. Old Road

Last Saturday, December 19th, we woke to snow covered ground. It was the first snow of the season but it didn’t come from a normal snowstorm. This was lake effect snow that came all the way from Buffalo, New York. Buffalo sits on the shores of Lake Erie and is famous for getting unbelievable amounts of lake effect snow. Luckily this storm gave them and parts of New Hampshire just a dusting this time.

2. Snowy Turkey Tails

Turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) are tough and don’t mind a little snow or cold. These examples were nice and colorful.

3. Christmas Fern

It would take a lot more snow than this to flatten an evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) but eventually they will flatten. This year’s fronds will turn brown and wither in the spring when the new ones begin growing.

4. Ashuelot

From my favorite river watching perch on the old Thompson covered bridge, the Ashuelot River looked moody and had just a little snow on its right hand bank.

5. Ashuelot Bank

This view is of the sharp snow melt line between where the sunshine was and the bridge’s shadow. By the time I got there the sun was quickly disappearing.

6. Monadnock

From Perkin’s Pond in Troy Mount Monadnock had a dusting of snow that only showed when the sun was full on the summit, which wasn’t often on this day. The strong wind made the pond surface choppy.

7. Monadnock Summit

Here you can see the snow on Mount Monadnock a little better. You can also see a solitary climber, standing in almost the same spot as the lone climber I saw the last time I was here. It must have been very, very cold up there.

8. Woods

Back in the forest the snow was staying put where the sun didn’t shine.

9.. Indian Pipe

A large clump of Indian pipe seed pods (Monotropa uniflora) stood beside the trail. Each one looked as if it had been carved from a wooden block.

10. Snowy Fern

Some evergreen ferns still had a good coating of snow, but the sun was just reaching them.

11. Black Jelly Fugus

Black jelly fungus (Exidia glandulosa) grew on an alder limb, but was frozen solid. I’ve never been able to find out how fruiting in winter benefits jelly fungi but it must, because that’s when most of them appear.

12. Ice

Ice had covered dead grass stems and made sharply pointed patterns.

13. Puddle Reflections

A large puddle in the woods reflected the promise of better weather to come. Meteorologists say we’ll see sixty plus degrees again on Christmas Eve day, and I can’t think of a better gift after our last two extreme winters.

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?  ~Bob Hope

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe, joyous and blessed Christmas.

 

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1. Mosses

One of the things that I like about this time of year is how the all the mosses are suddenly so easy to see, so this is when I go visiting them. Mosses call to me and make me want to know more about what I’m seeing, so I’ve been studying them for a few years. If a scene like the one in the above photo gets your blood pumping, this post is for you. I’ve been both wanting to do it and dreading it for a while now. If you’ve ever tried to identify mosses I’m sure you understand.

2. Delicate Fern Moss

Delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum) changes from deep green to lime green when it gets cold and then eventually becomes one of the more visible mosses. It grows in soil in shaded spots and I find it in my lawn each fall. It will also grow on the base of trees and on logs and boulders. It forms quite dense mats as can be seen in the above photo. Orchid growers use this moss in orchid cultivation.

3. Rambling Tail Moss

This moss growing on the base of a tree almost had me fooled into thinking that it was tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates) but a closer look has me believing that it must be rambling tail moss (Anomodon viticulosus) instead. This moss is too long to be tree skirt moss, I think, and its habit of growing out away from the trunk isn’t right for that moss either. The main stems of rambling tail-moss are said to be creeping with blunt ends like a paintbrush, and they arch upward when dry like a hook. That and their yellow green color are what lead me to choose Anomodon viticulosus, but I could be wrong.

4. Common Haircap Moss

Common haircap moss (Polytrichum commune) is one of the most common and also one of the largest mosses in this area, and that makes them easy to identify and study. I find them growing in soil just about everywhere I go.

5. Haircap Moss Spore Capsule

Last year I found a blue haircap moss spore capsule but this year the best I could do was salmon pink. These capsules are rectangular in shape with corners and often sunken sides as the photo shows. The light colored ring on its end is called a peristome and has 64 tiny teeth around its inside diameter, which is measured in micrometers. The teeth can’t be seen in this photo and neither can the cap, called a calyptra, which protects the spores and in this instance is hairy, and which is what gives this moss its common name. When the spores are ready to be released the calyptra falls off and the spores are borne on the wind.

6. Mnium punctatum

Red penny moss (Rhizomnium punctatum) is a very small but leafy moss that was renamed from Mnium punctatum. I find it growing in deep shade in the soaking wet soil of seeps. It is a forest moss but only in very wet areas that don’t easily allow kneeling for a photo.

7. Mnium punctatum Closeup

On male red penny moss plants in the center of the leaf rosettes are what look like tiny blackberries. These are actually the antheridia, which are where the sperm is produced. When mature the sperm will wait for a rainy day and then will swim to a female plant. Once fertilized the female plant will produce spores and send them off on the wind.

8. Apple Moss

It looks like apple mosses (Bartramia pomiformis) are growing white whiskers for winter. Do they always do this, I wonder? Maybe I’ve just never noticed, but since this is one of the easier to see mosses I don’t know how I could have missed it. I’ve looked in my moss books and on line and can’t find another example with white tips, but on this day I saw many. This moss gets its common name from its spherical spore capsules that some say look like tiny green apples.

9. Moss Islands

In her book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer tells of an experiment where chipmunks were coaxed into running over some sticky paper. When the paper was examined it was found to have thousands of moss spores stuck to it, so if you’ve ever wondered how mosses get 100 feet up in the tree tops thank a chipmunk, because the spores stick to their feet. And squirrel’s feet too, I’m guessing.  Of course, wind and rain also carry spores so rodents don’t have to do all the work. The above photo is of tiny green moss islands I found on the trunk of a tree, and I think it shows the spores just becoming recognizable plants. I wish I’d seen that lichen on the right with rose colored apothecia when I took this photo. It’s a beauty.

10. Crispy Tuft Moss

I think the moss islands in the previous photo will turn into something like this clump of crispy tuft moss (Ulota crispa.) This moss is very common on tree trunks in these parts and I see it all the time. When dry its leaves tighten and curl.  This clump was about an inch across.

11. Broom Moss aka Dicranum scoparium

Some mosses are so animal like they make you want to reach out and pet them. This broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) is one of those that I had to touch before I left it. This moss grows on stone, wood or soil in sunnier places and it’s common here.

12. Rose Moss on Dog Lichen

Another very beautiful moss is rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum,) shown here growing against the dark shine of a dog lichen (Peltigera membranacea) on a boulder. Each little rosette of leaves looks like a tiny flower, and that’s how it comes by its common name. Rose moss is a good indicator of limestone in the soil so it’s wise to look for other lime loving plants when it is found. Many native orchids for instance, fall into that category.

13. White Tipped Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

The name medusa moss (Hedwigia ciliata) comes from the way this moss looks like a bunch of tangled worms when it dries out. It is also called white tipped moss, for obvious reasons. This moss is fairly common and I find it mostly growing on stones in sunny spots. It always seems to be very happy and healthy.

14. River Foxtail Moss

This is the first time this moss has appeared on this blog because I’ve only just found it. I think it might be a moss called river foxtail moss (Brachythecium rivulare) which is said to have a whitish cast.  I found it growing in shade on a stone shelf where it was watered by constantly dripping ground water; exactly the habitat that river foxtail moss likes.

15. Unknown

This moss was growing right beside the one in the previous photo but even though I tried several times it was simply too small to get a sharp photo of. Instead over and over the camera focused on the tiny water droplets that decorated it like Christmas ornaments, so that’s what I’ll show here. Everything seen in this photo would easily fit on a penny (.75 inches.)

Pleasure is spread through the earth in stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find them. ~William Wordsworth

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Beech Leaf

I saw a beech leaf with a bright white crust that I can’t identify on it. It was thin enough to seem part of the leaf and I’ve never seen anything like it.

2. Blue Turkey Tails

After two years of seeing hardly any turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) this year I’m seeing them everywhere, and in some beautiful colors too. Over the last two years virtually every one I’ve seen has been in shades of brown but this year blue and purple seem to be the most abundant colors. This bracket fungus gets its common name from the way it resembles a turkey’s tail. According to the American Cancer Society there is some scientific evidence that substances derived from turkey tail fungi may be useful against cancer.

3. Deep Blue Turkey Tails

Some of the turkey tails appearing this year have been wearing a deep beautiful blue that I’ve never seen them wear before. Their fuzzy surface makes them look as if they’ve been cut from blue velvet cloth.

4. Blue and Orange Turkey Tails

These examples in blue, orange, tan, brown and even touches of salmon pink have to be the most colorful and beautiful examples of turkey tails that I’ve seen.  Who can say that there isn’t any color to be seen at this time of year?

5. Polypore Pores

Though a polypore will rarely have gills most, including turkey tails, have pores like those seen in the above photo. These pores form tubes and their sides are covered with a spore forming surface called the hymenium. The tubes protect developing spores and help increase the spore producing surface. The size and shape of pores can vary a lot between species and some are small enough so they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Those shown in the photo were challenging but after several tries I was able to get a passable photo of them.

6. Polypore Pores

Not all polypore pores look alike though. Some appear stretched and elongated and maze like as the examples in this photo show.

7. Polypore

The maze like surface shown in the previous photo belongs to another polypore called the thin maze flat polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa.) Though its upper surface is zoned like a turkey tail the zones tend to be tan to brown to cream, rather than brightly colored like a turkey tail.  Michael Kuo of Mushroom Expert. com says that this mushroom’s appearance is highly variable, with pores sometimes appearing elongated and sometimes more round. The lower pore bearing surface will also sometimes bruise a reddish color and other times won’t.  Once you get used to seeing and identifying turkey tails though, you’ll never confuse this one for one of them.

8. Velvet Shanks

Velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) are considered a winter mushroom and are very cold hardy. They grow on standing trees and cause white rot and I find them quite often growing on American elm (Ulmus americana) as they were in this photo, sometimes dusted with snow. The orange caps of these mushrooms often shade to brown in the center. The stem is covered in fine downy hairs and that’s where this mushroom’s common name comes from. When the temperature drops below freezing on a winter day it’s a real pleasure to see them.

9. Orange Jelly

This jelly fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) I found growing on an old hemlock stump was the deepest orange color of any I’ve seen. Jelly fungi can be yellow, orange, white, pink, red, or black and grow on deciduous or evergreen trees. They can absorb up to 60 times their weight in water and when dry are little more than colored scales on wood. I found one recently that had fallen from a tree to the forest floor where it sat on a leaf. I tried to pick it up but it was so slippery that I couldn’t pinch it between my fingers to get a grip on it. It was just like trying to pick up a piece of gelatin, and I quickly gave up the idea of ever holding it in my hand.

10. Zig Zag Scar

A few years ago I found this old hemlock with a zig zag scar and I happened to walk by it again recently. None of us could really explain the scar, which comes right out of the soil and runs about three feet up the trunk. Some thought it might have been caused by lightning and I suppose it’s possible, but lightning strikes usually cause much more damage to a tree than this. I haven’t seen anything similar in Michael Wojtech’s excellent book Bark either.

11. Zig Zag Scars

A while ago I found the two zig zag scars in the center of this photo on another hemlock and I wonder if the scar in the previous photo might not be just a natural occurrence. It’s a mystery.

12. Icicles

If you didn’t see an occasional icicle you wouldn’t guess that it was December here in New Hampshire. The temperatures have soared above the average almost every day through November and now December. As of this writing we’re 8.5 degrees above average for the month and if we keep going like we have we might break the record for warmest December going all the way back to 1881.

13. Ice Needles

I did find some ice needles in a wet, shaded spot on an old dirt road. 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.

14. Puddle Ice

The paper thin white puddle ice that makes that strange tinkling sound when it’s broken always takes me back to my boyhood. Seeing this ice on puddles after a long winter meant that spring was here and though nights still got cold and icy, the days were warm and muddy. Before long school would let out for the summer and I’d be free to roam the woods and explore the banks of the Ashuelot River once again. My father would have warmed the seat of my pants for me more than once if he’d known all the foolhardy things I used to get up to back then. He was forever telling me to stay away from the river but for me it was like a magnet, and it taught me so much.

15. Geese on the River

Just like the turkey tails we saw previously the Canada geese have returned after a two year absence. This is a favorite spot of theirs on the Ashuelot River but two years ago they just stopped coming for no apparent reason. I wonder if it was just a coincidence that they and the turkey tails disappeared during two of the worst winters we’ve seen in recent memory, or if they somehow knew that those winters would be severe. I think I lean toward them sensing that those winters would be extreme because I doubt that very much in nature happens merely by coincidence. Anyhow, it’s nice to see the geese and the turkey tails back again; they were missed.

16. Riverside

I’m not sure what drives people to stack rocks but I suppose it’s something inside some of us that is almost as old as the rocks themselves. The urge was strong enough to make whoever stacked these rocks go for a walk in what I expect were the frigid waters of the Ashuelot River. Personally I’ve never had the urge to stack rocks but I suppose nature tugs at each of us in different ways. In my opinion they detract from rather than add to the beauty that is found in nature, but I’m sure not everyone feels that way. In this case the river will wash them away in no time at all anyway.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. ~Joseph Campbell

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

 

 

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1. Freezing Fog Morning

Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 50s F. Sunday, the weather people said, would be even better with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the 60s. In New Hampshire such predictions for a December day are enough to get people really excited, but unfortunately a fog rolled in overnight and at 10:30 am on Sunday our landscape still looked like the photo above.

2. Frosty Leaf

Not only had fog rolled in but cold as well, so this wasn’t just ordinary fog. No, this was freezing fog.

3. Frosted Twigs

Everything was coated in rime including the roads if you could believe the road watchers. I didn’t happen to see any icy roads but maybe I was just lucky.

4. Foggy View

I had planned the night before to show you a June day in December with sunshine, blue skies, and green grass, so I had to come up with a plan B. If there’s one thing you learn as a nature blogger it’s that you have to be flexible and take what nature gives. Make all the plans you want, but nature will do as nature pleases and you’ll either go along or be left out of the game. Anyhow, in a pinch I thought I’d climb one of our many hills to see if I could get above the fog. When I reached the bottom of Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey I was presented with the view in the photo above.

5. Frosted White Pine

This white pine (Pinus strobus) at the trail head really was white, but with frost.

6. Trail

The trail was wet but easily climbed. This is a quick, easy climb and that’s why I chose it. I was afraid the sun would come out and burn off all the mist before I could get up above it, which is exactly what happened when I tried this last year on Mount Caesar in Swanzey. It’s a bit of a letdown to climb as fast as you can only to finally reach the summit and huff and puff as you watch the last wisps of mist disappear before you can even turn your camera on.

7. Spider Web

I didn’t expect to see any spider webs because I thought any sensible spider would be doing whatever spiders do in the winter like maybe sleeping, but there were spider webs to be seen. They looked more like someone’s kite string had tangled in the bushes than the beautiful crotchet like spider webs you’d see in the corners of the Addams Family mansion but there they were; strings of ice.

8. Tree Skirt Moss

The trees wore long stockings made of tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates.)

9. Turkey Tail

Blue turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) decorated the logs and fallen branches.

10. Sun Patch

A slice of bright sunlight made me think that I had spent too much time dilly dallying along the trail and had once again lost my chance to get above the fog.

11. Sunshine

In fact my chances weren’t looking at all promising. The mist I saw from the top of Mount Caesar last year burned off quicker than I ever would have believed it could.

12. First Glimpse

But finally there it was, and this was the first glimpse. I had made it, but only just in time.

13. Mist

Is this what a forest fire looks like from above, I wondered?

14. Mist

The cloud was beautiful as it washed through the valley like a stream but silently, without even so much as a sigh.

15. The Edge

Careful, we don’t want to take the fast way down. It would most certainly be our last step.

16. Toadskin Lichen

I visited with my friends the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) while watching the mist roll on. They’re very shy and only grow on hilltops, but since I always lean on their rock when I come here I’ve gotten to know them well. They were being woken by the first rays of the sun and that made me wonder how much light a lichen needs. I know that they produce their own food through photosynthesis but beyond that I know very little about their light requirements.  I think this one is one of the most unusual and beautiful of our lichens.

17. Mist Breaking

All too soon the mist started to yield to the power of the sun and evaporate.

18. Mist Gone

And then it was gone, just like that, with nothing left but a soft haze, and I sat beside the toad skin lichens wondering about all of the people who had missed it. I wondered if they knew how peaceful it was up here, and I wondered how many knew that most of their troubles and fears would vanish like the mist had if they just spent more of their time in places like this one.

19. Smiley

I knew how the person who blazed the trees must have felt when he or she painted this smiley face because I had smiled myself all the way down the trail. And who wouldn’t, after such an interesting and beautiful morning?

20. After the Climb

This is the same view that appears in the 4th photo in this post just two hours later, so I am able to show you a June day in December with sunshine, blue skies, and green grass after all.

Glance into the world just as though time were gone: and everything crooked will become straight to you. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

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1. Half Moon Pond

I’ve been taking photos with my phone off and on since I got it but not seriously. Once in a while I’d snap a landscape because of the phone camera’s wider, almost panoramic format. Then recently I took a close photo of a mushroom and was surprised that it did so well, so I decided to put it through its paces and really see what it could do. This post is made up entirely of photos that I took with the phone, starting off with a foggy, rainy view of Half-Moon Pond in Hancock. The phone camera did about what I’d expect in such gloomy conditions; the scene looks like it was shot in black and white.

2. Crowded Parchment Fungi

This was taken with the phone camera on another rainy day but the colors of the crowded parchment fungi (Stereum complicatum) still came through. One of my mushroom books describes them as orange fading to cream, or cinnamon buff. These are definitely orange fading to cream. Sometimes crowded parchment fungi grow so close together that their edges fuse together, even though there seems to be more than enough room on the branch for all. This fungus grows on fallen deciduous tree branches; usually oak.

3. Lemon Drops

The phone camera seems to handle color and high contrast quite well, as the yellow lemon drop fungi (Bisporella citrina) on a dark log show.

4. Lemon Drops

Lemon drops are very small but even when cropped the phone photo still holds plenty of detail.  The smaller examples in this shot are about the size of a period made by a pencil on paper. These tiny disc shaped sac fungi actually have a stalk but it’s too small to be seen by me.

5. Milk White Toothed Polypore Crust Fungus

Milk white toothed polypore (Irpex lacteus) is a crust fungus with “teeth” that are actually tubes or pores in the spore bearing surface which break apart with age and become tooth-like as the above photo shows. As they age these “teeth” turn brown as they have here. I wasn’t sure if the phone camera could pick them out but it did a fairly good job of it. This crust fungus is common on the undersides of fallen branches and rotting logs.

6. Half Moon Pond 3

I’m not sure what happened to make the hill lit by the rising sun in this photo so red / brown. Since I didn’t look at the photo until a few days after I took it I can’t say if the colors were enhanced by the phone or not, but do know that I’ve seen the early morning sun do some very strange things here at Half-Moon Pond in Hancock.

7. Black Raspberry

The phone camera has a macro function so of course I had to try it, but I ended up not liking it. Either I was doing something wrong or it has trouble focusing in macro mode. When I zoom in on the photo of the bud on this black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) I can see that it isn’t in sharp focus at all. It seems like the camera actually does better with close up shots when it’s in normal shooting mode.

8. Black Locust

It did okay with these black locust thorns (Robinia pseudoacacia) as far as focus goes but there is kind of a garish look to this photo, as if it was done in high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) that wasn’t set quite right.

9. Bitersweet Berries

The phone camera picked up the pucker on these oriental bittersweet berries (Celastrus orbiculatus) with no problems and also did well on the color. Red can be a tough color for some cameras, especially in bright sunlight as these examples were.

10. Hazel Leaves

The strangest thing about witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) to me is how its leaves always seem more colorful after their fall color has left them. They turn yellow in the fall but it isn’t the blazing yellow of beech and maple. It isn’t that it’s a drab color; it’s just not very exciting. Then the leaves go from yellow to brown, but it isn’t just any old brown. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and rich orange-brown that always makes me stop for a closer look, and sometimes a photo or two. I think the phone camera did a good job with the color. Even though I’m colorblind I can still see certain colors, and I can see that this one is very different from the pink brown of an oak leaf, or the red brown of iron oxide on stone. This brown is warm and alive, and on a cold winter day it can warm your perspective.

11. Moss on Quartz

Now that I see these phone photos I wish I had also taken the same photo with a different camera so I could compare the two. I’m fairly certain that either one of my other cameras would have seen the brightness of the quartz in this scene and darkened the shot considerably to compensate. But the cell phone didn’t and I really didn’t have to fiddle around much with this shot. The broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) looks more alive than just about any other photo of moss that I’ve taken, and it’s very beautiful against the milky white of the quartz.

12. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

The spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) look blue in the right light. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen which can be brown or the grayish white color seen here. They’re very small and I was surprised that the phone camera picked them out so well.

13. Feather

I wanted to see how the phone camera did on stop action shots and what could be a better subject for that than a feather blowing in the wind? The camera failed miserably but I think that’s because I didn’t have the settings adjusted the way they should have been. I really don’t use it enough to know what’s best.

14. Half Moon Pond

This simple shot of water plants on a foggy morning is my favorite shot to come out of the phone because it speaks of serenity, solitude and bliss; all things that I find regularly in these New Hampshire woods.

What I hope this post shows is that you don’t need anything more than a phone camera to record what you see in nature, and I hope it will inspire more people to get out there and give it a go. As I’ve said here before, if you photograph what you love that love will burn brightly in your photos and it will be very apparent to others. I don’t think the brand of camera you use matters as much as how you feel when you use it. If the subject and the photo please you they will please others as well. If you’d like to see a daily blog done solely with a cellphone you should take a peek at Marie’s blog, called I Walk Alone. She’s been writing a blog for several years now and uses nothing more than a phone camera, and her photos are often stunning.

Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. ~Annie Leibovitz

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1. Deep Cut

Each year at about this time I start wondering if the ice is forming in the deep cut rail trail that I visit up a ways north of Keene. This place gets very little direct sunlight so usually once the nights get cold enough the ice starts to grow, and our nights have been in the 20s lately. The ice grows steadily through January and February to the size of tree trunks. On this day though the temperature had soared into the 60s so there was little ice to be seen.

2. Ice

I saw that a few icicles had formed on the cliff walls but had quickly melted and fallen. Usually on a hot summer day breezes blow through here and cool it off to about 10 degrees cooler than the temperature at ground level. On this day though, for the first time, I felt a warm breeze blowing. I was dressed for two days before December but before I left I was sweating as if it were tax time in April. I should have paid more attention to the forecast.

3. Drilled Hole

Railroad workers used steam drills and black powder to crack this rail bed out of the bedrock about 150 years ago. You can still see many of the holes they drilled.

4. Ties

Signs of the railroad are still seen here and there. Here two railroad ties have been placed against the cliff face. Why I don’t know; possibly as help for climbing these walls. The New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here and seeing them climb on winter weekends is common.

5. Bolt Hanger

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. You can see signs that people have been climbing on the higher parts of the wall, which I’d guess must reach 40-50 feet.

6. Mossy Wall

On this day the ice climbers would have been disappointed; there was more greenery than ice to be found. In places these walls are completely covered by all kinds of plants, mosses, lichens and liverworts and are very beautiful. It often makes me think of the Shangri-La that James Hilton wrote of in his novel Lost Horizon.

7. Possible Wall Rue Spleenwort

Some of the plants that I see here are ones that I don’t see anywhere else. I’ve been trying to identify this one for close to three years with no luck, so if you know it I’d love to hear from you. I have a feeling it’s a spleenwort (Asplenium) but I don’t know which one. It’s similar to wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) but I don’t know if that’s it. Since there are close to 700 species of Asplenium it might be a while before longer I uncover its name. It grows right out of the cliff faces and is evergreen. It reminds me of flat leaf Italian parsley.

8. Built Wall-2

The railroad engineers used the stone from blasting to build massive retaining walls along parts of the rail bed. Drainage ditches run all along the base of the walls on both sides and still keep the rail bed dry after a century and a half.

9. Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot plants (Tussilago farfara) still had their leaves and reminded me of spring. Their hoof shapes give this plant its common names. It has been used to treat coughs for centuries.

10. Insects on Branch

What I think were a type of winter crane flies (Trichocera) swarmed all over the cut surface of a branch and appeared to be drinking the sap. Others flew back and forth along the trail. Without too much effort I could imagine that it was almost April instead of almost December.

11. Water

In places small streams pour out of and over the rocks and there is always the sound of splashing and dripping water here. It’s like being near a public fountain.

12. Ice

There was some ice on a rock but it was rotten and probably fell soon after I took this photo.

13. Liverworts

I’ve seen many amazing things here and some of the most amazing are the large mats of liverworts that grow here in the many thousands. They’ve probably been growing here for the century and a half that these stone cliffs have been here. They grow on the rocks just above the drainage ditches where the humidity must be high, and to get close to them you have to wade through the ditches with high rubber boots on, but it’s worth the effort.

14. Great Scented Liverwort

One of my favorite liverworts is the great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum.) I like its reptilian appearance and the fresh, clean scent that gives it its common name. It likes water but will die if it is submerged so it needs a place where it can be moist but not touching water. The groundwater that constantly runs down over the stones makes this the perfect spot.

15. Overleaf Pellia aka Pellia epiphylla

Another liverwort called overleaf pellia (Pellia epiphylla) also grows here but in nowhere near the numbers that the great scented liverworts do. I’ve noticed the overleaf pellia grows on the sunnier side of the cut and the great scented grows on the shaded side. When it gets cold this liverwort starts to turn purple as is seen in the photo. Though not even one tenth the size of a slice of bacon this one always reminds me of fried bacon because of the way its wavy edges curl.

16. Lineman's Shack

The old lineman’s shack’s walls seem to bulge and its roof sags just a bit more each time I see it. I wonder how many more winters it can stand before it can stand no more. Since there is graffiti dated to 1925 it I know that it has seen a few. What I don’t know is if my father, who was 18 years old in 1925, might have been one of the people who wrote on the walls. He didn’t live too far from here and might have once walked the tracks.

17. Antenna Rotor Control

The old 1940s bakelite television rotor controller still sat where it did the last time I was here. It seems so big and cumbersome now but it never did when I had to use one on our antenna years ago. It seemed like a marvel of modern engineering then.

18. Trail in February

This photo is from February of last year and is for those who might not have seen previous posts I’ve done about this place. The ice grows into massive columns and comes in many colors, including green, blue, black, and orange. I believe the many colors come from minerals, algae, soil and other contaminates, as well as the density of the ice and how it reflects and refracts light. It’s very beautiful and I look forward to seeing it each winter, but with the forecast calling for above average temperatures this winter ice like this might be hard to find.

Nature is shy and noncommittal in a crowd. To learn her secrets, visit her alone or with a single friend, at most. Everything evades you, everything hides, even your thoughts escape you, when you walk in a crowd.  ~Edwin Way Teale

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1. Spruce

I’d be willing to bet that when most of us here in New England (and maybe the whole country)  hear the word evergreen we think of a pyramidal tree with needles that stays green all winter, but as I hope this post shows there is much more to the evergreen story than that.

2. Striped Wintergreen

Striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) loses its chlorophyll and turns deep purple in winter. This plant is relatively rare here and though I’m finding small numbers more and more most of them flower but don’t set seed.  I was happy to see this one had a seed pod on it. The Chimaphila part of the scientific name is from the Greek cheima (winter) and philein (to love,) so it loves winter and does not die from the cold.

3. Teaberry

American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens,) is also called teaberry or checkerberry and it is the first wild plant that I learned to identify, with the help of my grandmother. We used to love to eat the bright red minty tasting berries. It’s probably the easiest of all wintergreens to identify because of the strong, minty scent that comes from its crushed leaves. If you have ever tasted teaberry gum then you know exactly what it smells and tastes like. The plant contains compounds that are very similar to those found in aspirin so it’s not good to eat a lot of it, but a taste of the berries shouldn’t hurt. Its leaves often turn purple as the nights get colder, as the plant in the rear shows.

4. Foam Flower

Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) has hairy leaves that look delicate, but they’re fairly tough and stay green under the leaves and snow all winter. The purple veins in each leaf become more pronounced as the nights cool and sometimes the leaves will have purplish bronze splotches. This plant makes an excellent flowering groundcover for a damp, shady spot in the garden. Plant breeders have developed many interesting hybrids but I like the native best, I think.

5. Partridge Berry

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is another native that makes a good garden groundcover. Small, heart shaped leaves on creeping stems grow at ground level and you can mow right over it. In spring it has white trumpet shaped flowers that grow in pairs and in the fall it has bright red berries which are edible but close to tasteless. I leave them for the turkeys, which seem to love them. My favorite parts of this plant are the greenish yellow leaf veins on leaves that look as if they were cut from hammered metal. I have several large patches of it growing in my yard.

6. Trailing Arbutus

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is also called mayflower because that’s often when its small white to pink, very fragrant flowers appear.  Its oval evergreen leaves are tough and leathery and hug the ground but though it looks like a groundcover botanically speaking it has a persistent woody stem, so it is classified as a shrub. This was one of my grandmother’s favorite plants and she would walk in the woods to find and smell it rather than dig it up to plant in her yard.  It’s too bad everybody didn’t do the same because this plant was once collected into near oblivion. These days it can be found at many nurseries so there is no longer any reason to dig it up. Since it’s very fussy unless it’s given the right amount of light, water, nutrients and soil type it won’t grow except where it chooses to anyway. That’s true of most of these plants, in fact.

7. Gold Thread

New goldthread (Coptis groenlandicum) leaves are a bright, glossy lime green but darken as they age and by winter will often be very dark green. They’ll hold their color under the snow all winter and look similar to wild strawberries until late April or early May when new leaves and small white flowers will appear. Goldthread gets its common name from its thread like, bright yellow roots. Native Americans used goldthread medicinally and told the early settlers of its value in treating canker sores, which led to its also being nearly collected into oblivion like trailing arbutus and others. At one time more goldthread was sold in Boston than any other native plant, probably by its other common name: canker root. Luckily it has made a good comeback and I see lots of it.

8. Dewberry

Swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus) is a trailing plant with fruit like a black raspberry and its stems are every bit as prickly. It also looks a lot like a strawberry when it’s in bloom and because of its strawberry like leaves, which stay green under the snow all winter. This is a plant that can trip you up when hidden by snow.

9. Intermediate Wood Fern

Intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) is also called evergreen wood fern. It is said to be the only fully evergreen fern with a lacy appearance but it cross breeds with so many other ferns in the Dryopteris  genus that I’m not sure how an amateur botanist like myself would ever know for certain what he was looking at.  But it isn’t always the name that’s so important. Just the fact that you can walk through the forest in January and see some green is often enough.

10. Intermediate Wood Fern

Unlike the spore producing sori on the marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) which appear on the leaf margins the sori on evergreen woods ferns appear between the midrib and the margins. In this photo this frond looks very much like the spinulose wood fern (Dryopteris carthusiana,) which it cross breeds with. It also crosses with marginal wood fern.

11. Christmas Fern

Evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) has deep green, tough leathery leaves that usually lie flat on the ground after a hard frost. They stay that way under the snow until spring when they will finally turn yellow and then brown to make way for new fronds. Christmas fern is so common that it’s hard to walk in these woods without seeing it. It’s also very easy to identify.

12. Christmas Fern

What makes an evergreen Christmas fern so easy to identify are its leaflets (Pinna) which some say look like little Christmas stockings. You can see why if you look at the part of leaflets near the stem in the photo. Each leaflet has a little bump or “ear.” This is the toe of the Christmas stocking and this is the only fern in the New Hampshire woods with this feature. One story says that the name “Christmas fern” is thought to come from the early settler’s habit of using its fronds as Christmas decorations.

13. Fan Club Moss

Fan shaped clubmoss (Diphasiastrum digitatum.) was also once used as a Christmas decoration (and still is in some places.)  These forest floor evergreens were collected by the many thousands to make Christmas wreaths and they are still rarely seen here because of it. Clubmosses aren’t mosses at all but do produce spores and are called “fern allies,” which are vascular plants that don’t produce seeds. I think fan shaped clubmoss is the most elegant of any of the clubmosses and I’m always happy to see it, especially in winter.

14. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Not all evergreens look alike and some, like the downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) pictured, don’t look evergreen at all. Orchids are often thought of as tender, fragile things but not our native orchids. It’s hard to tell from the photo but this plant is covered almost entirely by short, fine hairs. I watched it get covered by feet of snow last year and in the spring it looked just as good as it does in the photo. I think its leaves are every bit as beautiful as its small white flowers are.

It is thought that staying green through the winter lets evergreen plants begin photosynthesizing earlier in the spring and that gives them a head start over the competition. This post has just scratched the surface; there are many other evergreens out there and I hope now you’ll see more than conifers wearing green this winter.

The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools. ~Henry Beston

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