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.
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.
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.
The mosses were so green. They seemed to just throb with life.
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.
The road gets rocky after a while so you need to concentrate on the climb.
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.
The sun was blinding as it reflected off the tower windows in this, the first glimpse of it.
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.
Some of the cabin’s underpinnings aren’t providing much support.
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.
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.
The views weren’t great on this day but since I don’t climb for the views I wasn’t disappointed.
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.
This view was very blue. The sunshine and shadows were playing tag on this day and the views changed quickly.
Steel tie-downs tell stories of the strong winds that sometimes blow up here.
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.
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.
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.
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!