Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Beaver Brook’

1. The Group

Last Saturday afternoon the weather cooperated and after 2 or 3 false starts the Pathfinders finally made it to Keene for their tour of the old abandoned road that follows Beaver Brook. Their group was much smaller than what had been originally planned last winter, but I hope that the ones who couldn’t make it can come another day. When I took this photo of them walking up the old road I thought oops, I forgot to tell them to wear long pants. The road is covered with poison ivy along one side and it’ll be a miracle if none of them starts itching.

2. Poison Ivy

I was busy showing them the mosses, lichens and liverworts that they had come to see and didn’t take many photos so I went back the following day after it had rained to get more shots of the poison ivy and other things that we saw. That’s why it’s going to look dry in some of these photos and wet in others.

I pointed the poison ivy out to the Pathfinders right away but I didn’t need to because they all knew it well. I forgot that they are called “Pathfinders” for a reason and probably know the woods as well as I do.

3. Jewelweed

Many think that jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) gets its common name from its spotted orange or yellow flowers but the name actually comes from the way the waxy coating on its leaves makes rain water bead up and sparkle like jewels. The pathfinders noted that the plant always seems to grow near poison ivy, and how its sap has been used since before recorded time by Native Americans to alleviate the rash brought on by its toxins. It’s as if nature put the illness and the cure side by side.

4. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Everyone was impressed by how the spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) looked blue gray in certain light but more blue in a photo. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue in the right light. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen but they are still very small.

The Pathfinders needed to find 5 lichens, 5 mosses, and a liverwort (I think) to earn their badges in one of the nature categories, similar to what the Boy Scouts do, by the sounds of it. In the end they found all they needed and more.

5. Dryad's Saddle Fungus

I saw some dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) bracket fungi on a dead elm. I was surprised to see them since May had been such a dry month. These mushrooms get quite large and are fairly common on dead hardwood trees and stumps in the spring and fall. They are often funnel shaped rather than flat and saddle shaped like the example above.  The squamosus part of the scientific name means scaly and this mushroom almost always has brown scales on its cap. By the way, a dryad is a tree nymph or female tree spirit from Greek mythology. They were considered very shy creatures but I suppose even shy creatures need somewhere to sit down every now and then.

6. False Solomon's Seal

There were many false Solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum racemosum) blooming along the roadsides. This common plant grows in every state except Hawaii and is also called treacle berry because its ripe red fruit tastes like molasses. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for the plant including as a cough suppressant and a treatment for sunburn. They say that the young spring shoots taste like asparagus but there are other poisonous plants with shoots the look much the same, so I think I’ll just let them grow.

7. False Solomon's Seal

Each tiny false Solomon’s seal flower is slightly more than an eighth inch across and made up of 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a central pistil with a short pudgy style. The word tepal is used when a flower’s petals and sepals look enough alike to be nearly indistinguishable, as they do in this case.

8. Forest Tent Caterpillar

The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria Hübner) is found in hardwood forests across America and is especially abundant here in the east. Though their preferred foods are sugar maple, aspen, cherry, apple, oaks, birch, ash, alder, elm, and basswood this one had been munching on a flowering raspberry leaf (Rubus odoratus.) They hatch near the time of bud break and eat both flower and leaf buds along with mature foliage. If they happen to defoliate the same tree more than 2 years in a row they can kill it. I’m not crazy about it defoliating trees but I love the beautiful sky blue color of its stripe.

9. Rose Moss

I was able to show the pathfinders a few rare mosses including rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum). I think it was their favorite, judging by the amount of photos being taken. It’s a beautiful thing that isn’t often seen in this area. It isn’t normally so shiny; the shininess of it in this photo is because it had rained.

10. Polypody Fern Sporangia

We spent a little time talking about polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum) and I showed them what the sporangia, where the spores are produced, looked like. They grew on the boulders all around us and explained very nicely why “rock cap fern” is one of their common names.

11. Polypody Fern

Polypody ferns are one of our few evergreen ferns. They love to grow on boulders and could be seen topping many of the larger stones. They have a very tough, leathery feel, not delicate at all.

12. Beaver Brook

Beaver brook was little more than a trickle in places; so low that I don’t think a beaver could have swam in it without first damming it up. In a normal spring with normal rainfall I would have been swept downstream if I had tried to stand where I was when I took this photo.

 13. Falls

All but one of us made the slide / climb down to the falls. The light was all wrong for a good photo but the bright sun brought out the pinks and tans in the microcline feldspar that is so prevalent here. The brook was low enough to walk across so some of the kids crossed over and had some fun splashing around in the small pool at the base of the falls (and almost losing shoes.)  I’ve never seen these falls with so little water flowing over them, even in July. It was really surprising and drove home the point that rainfall is down nearly 6 inches from March first. The Pathfinders wanted to know if you could swim here. I told them that people used to but nobody did.

14. The Road Dark

The Pathfinders are polite, well behaved, fun, happy, and all around good kids. I really enjoyed my time with them and I hope we can get together again sometime. Though this old road leads nowhere these days, I have a strong hope that the experiences they had on it will help lead them to a love of nature that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives. ~ Thomas Berry

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Trail

I agreed, back in February, to help a group of Pathfinders get some merit badges by helping them find mosses, lichens, and liverworts. Pathfinders range in age from 10 to 15 I think, and are kind of like scouts, at least when it comes to earning merit badges. Of course as soon as the plans were finalized it began to snow and it didn’t stop until nearly every living thing was buried under feet of it. We’ve had some warmth since though, so recently I decided to check out the old abandoned road near Beaver Brook in Keene to see if we could get in there without snow shoes.

2. Snow Melt

The snow had melted well on the hillsides along the sunny side of the road but the road itself still has as much as 6 inches of loose granular snow in places. Tough to walk in, but not impossible. Good, waterproof hiking boots will be best for this trip.

3. Snowy Hillside

The hillsides along the shady side of the brook still had quite a bit of snow on them.

4. Ledge

The last time I was here the wind had blown so much snow against the ledge faces, you wouldn’t have known they were there if you weren’t familiar with the place. Many of the mosses, lichens and liverworts that the Pathfinders want to find grow on these ledges so it would have been a waste of time.

5. Dog Lichen

Dog lichen (Peltigera membranacea) is just one of many things that grow here that I rarely see anywhere else. Dog lichens aren’t fussy and will grow on soil, stone or bark but they do seem to like moist, sunny spots. They also always seem to grow near moss, probably because moss soaks up water like a sponge.

6. Stairstep Moss

Chances are the Pathfinders won’t realize how special what they’re seeing actually is, but I plan to tell them that this is the only place that I’ve ever seen this stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens.) It is also called glittering wood moss and grows on the side of a large boulder here. It could be that I rarely see it because it usually grows in the boreal forests of Canada, Europe and Russia. I’m not sure why this particular example is growing so far south. This moss was once used to plug gaps between the logs in log cabins. It has anti-bacterial qualities.

7. Rose Moss

Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) is one of the most beautiful mosses in my opinion and like the stair step moss, this is the only place I’ve ever seen it. This moss gets its common name from the way the small rosettes of leaves resembled rose blossoms to the person who named it. The example that grows here is large and I think must be quite old. It grows on the flat top of a boulder. As the photo shows, the rosettes grow so dense that you can’t even see the stone.

8. Yellow Feather Moss

Yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) is another moss that’s rare in this area, at least in my experience. This small clump is the only one I know of. It’s looking a little bedraggled because of being covered by snow all winter, but at least the Pathfinders will be able to see it.

9. Stone

I don’t know too much about geology but I do know that there are some interesting things to see here among the ledges, including garnets, milky quartz crystals, and veins of feldspar. I also know that I could build a nice looking wall with the stones in this section.

10. Ice Free Brook

In places the ice that covered the brook all winter has completely melted and the silence of winter has been replaced by the chuckles and giggles of spring water moving over and around the stones. Be more like the brook, I remind myself. Laugh your way through life and just flow around any obstacles that might appear.

11. Icicles

Not all of the brook is ice free. There were still some impressive icicles to be seen.

12. Falls

The lower section of Beaver Brook Falls had shaken off its think coating of ice and was announcing spring with a roar. It’s amazing to come here in the dead of winter when even they are silent. Ice makes a very good sound insulation.

13. Greater Whipwort

Greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata) will fulfil the Pathfinder’s one liverwort requirement. Their need for 5 each of lichens and mosses will easily be met here as well. This liverwort doesn’t grow everywhere but it isn’t really rare either. I always find it growing on stones near a brook or a stream. At a glance it might fool you into thinking it was a moss but a closer look reveals the three tiny lobes at the base of each leaf that give it the trilobata part of its scientific name. This liverwort is the host plant for the larva of a moth known as the gold cap moss eater (Epimartyria auricrinella.)

14. Blue Fibers on Tree Skirt Moss

A while ago I did a post about all of things that I found growing on a single tree, and in it I mentioned how I had been seeing a lot of long white fibers hung up on lichens especially. Well, now they’re getting hung up on moss too, and they’re blue. I found this little bundle on some dry tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates.) I wonder if a bird was collecting it for its nest and dropped it. I don’t see many humans where this particular moss grows.

 15. Line on Road

The snow had melted enough in one spot to see a little piece of the yellow line that still runs up the middle of this old road. Since the temperature reached into the 60s F yesterday I’m hoping to see a lot more of it next week when the Pathfinders are here.

If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. ~Rachel Carson

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

1. Road View

I’ve agreed to help a group of youngsters called Pathfinders in their quest to find good examples of mosses, lichens and liverworts. I know of 2 places where they could find all three of them without too much trouble and decided that the old abandoned road along Beaver Brook would probably be the safest. From what I can tell Pathfinders are anywhere from 10-15 years old and get merit badges and other awards each time they meet certain goals, much like the Boy Scouts.

2. Beaver Brook

Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows that if you stand me up in front of a group of people and ask me to speak I immediately forget everything I’ve ever known, but this should be very different. By reading other nature blogs I know that people who lead excursions like these usually go off on the hunt alone before they lead a group, so that’s what I did. Beaver Brook was almost completely iced over with just a narrow ribbon of water glistening in the sunshine. It was sunny but it was cold and the snow where it hadn’t been walked on was quite deep. Since I made this trip we’ve gotten over a foot of new snow, so I hope the Pathfinders have already earned their winter survival badges.

 3. Ledge Ice

I chose this place because of the easily accessible ledges and trees. Since vertical ledges and trees don’t accumulate much snow the lichens, mosses and liverworts that grow on them are easy to find all winter long. We’ll have to pay close attention to ice though; we don’t want anyone standing under that. Since this trip is planned towards the end of the month the ice could be rotten and falling by then.

4. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen

Beautiful smokey eye boulder lichens(Porpidia albocaerulescens) grow on the stone of the ledges along with many other lichens and mosses. I’m hoping that each Pathfinder has his or her own loupe or magnifying glass so they can see details like the beautiful sky blue fruiting bodies (Apothecia) on this lichen. Part of this lichen in the top center of the photo was under ice, and what a difference it made in its appearance.

5. Quartz Crystal Formations

While I was looking for lichens I found a pocket of milky quartz crystals that I’ve never seen here before. It seems like every time I come here I see something new and on this day, between lichens and quartz crystals, I found three things that I had never seen here. That’s why it pays to follow the same trails over and over; you think you’ve seen all there is to see but you find that you haven’t even come close.

6. Hole in the Snow

There was a quarter sized hole in the snow that must have had warm water vapor rising up through it, because its edges were decorated with delicate, feather like frost crystals.

7. Yellow Feather Moss

Yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) always looks pale and sickly but it is perfectly healthy, as its spore capsule production shows. This moss is rare here and this small clump is the only example I know of, so maybe it will earn the Pathfinders some extra points.

8. Yellow Feather Moss Spore Capsule

I won’t tell you how many shots of this yellow feather moss spore capsule I had to take before I got a useable one, but it was a lot. This example still has its tiny, pointy, red cap-like lid (operculum), meaning it hasn’t released its spores yet.

9. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens) is another beautiful moss that I’ve seen nowhere but here. It’s looking a little dry at the moment but it will snap back as soon as it warms up and we get some rain. This moss gets its common name from the way new leaves “step up” from the backs of older leaves.

10. Possible Fused Rim Lichen aka Lecanora symmicta

I found a crustose lichen that I’ve never seen before. It grew on tree bark and I think that it might be a fused rim lichen (Lecanora symmicta.) Fused rim lichens get their name from the way the tan colored fruiting bodies (Apothecia) sometimes fuse together. I don’t know if this is a rare lichen or if I’ve just never noticed it before because it fruits in winter, but it’s something else that might earn the Pathfinders extra points.

11. Blue Lichen

I’ve known for a long time that lichens change color when they dry out but I didn’t know that cold affected them. Then I started seeing blue lichens in places where I was sure there were none before and I realized that some of the lichens that I saw in the summer were turning blue in winter. That isn’t much help when it comes to identifying them though, so now I have to go back when it’s warmer and see if I can figure out what they are. Once I’ve identified them I can see what the books say about them turning blue.

12. Greater Whipwort Liverwort

The Pathfinders need to find 5 mosses, 5 lichens, and 1 liverwort and the greater whipworts (Bazzania trilobata) that grow on the ledges here will take care of the liverwort requirement. They’ve shriveled a bit because of the cold and dryness but it’s still obvious that they aren’t a moss. I always find these liverworts growing on stones near streams, so they must like high humidity.

13. Script Lichen

Script lichens (Graphis) are another candidate for a hand lens but well worth the effort. There are 39 species of script lichens in North America and many more throughout the world and their most important identification characteristic is their squiggly apothecia, which look like ancient script written on tree bark.  I counted at least five different species on this day in just this small area, but I think you could probably spend a lifetime trying to identify script lichens. If I was still a teenager I might take on such a challenge.

14. Yellow Crust Fungus

I’m sure that the Pathfinders will find all that they’re looking for and plenty more besides. I even found a bright yellow fungus that I think might be a crowded parchment (Stereum complicatum), even though they are usually orange. Color like this is always a welcome sight in winter and I hope I can remember where it was so I can show it to them.

15. Brook View

The only thing I can’t be sure of is how much snow we’ll have by the day of our trip. I’ve already had to start wearing gaiters, but if we keep getting two or three snowstorms each week like we have been lately we might all need snowshoes.

I’m glad that I made this solo journey because now I know that the kids won’t be disappointed. There is plenty here to see and I hope they will come away from this place with an urge to see more and learn more. I also hope the knowledge that they can see beauty virtually anywhere as long as they are willing to look for it will stay with them for a good long time.

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.  ~ Ritu Ghatourey

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

1. Ashuelot Waves

It has been more like spring than winter here for the past week, with above freezing temperatures and lots of rain. With all of the rain and snowmelt I thought that I might look for some roaring water. My first stop was the Ashuelot River on the one sunny day that we’ve had in over a week. I like the challenge of trying to read the rhythm of the river so I can catch its waves when they’re curling like ocean waves. The deep rich blues and greens and clean, bright whites that appear in the water on a sunny day can be really beautiful.

2. Brook

When I visited 40 foot falls in Surry there was no sun to be seen but I found that there was still plenty of snow in the woods, though in my own yard it’s all gone. Before you can get to the falls you have to cross what is normally a small stream but on this day because of all the rain it had swollen to twice its normal size, wider than I could jump, so I had to follow it upstream and find a place to cross.

3. Crossing

Footprints told me that someone else had crossed here where the stream narrowed so I crossed using the stones as a bridge, hoping that none of them were slippery or tippy. Luckily I stayed dry.

4. Lower 40 Foot Falls

The lower falls were a bit of a letdown because they didn’t seem to be running any stronger than they had been last fall when I first visited this place. It could be that there is a beaver dam further up that regulates the flow. Next summer I’ll find out.

5. Middle 40 Foot Falls

The middle falls weren’t any better as far as volume, but I decided to blur the water so it might look like more was spilling over. I’ll let you be the judge of whether the effort was successful or not. I didn’t bother going all the way to the upper falls because even with Yak Trax on it was slippery. They don’t help much when it is leaves instead of ice making it slippery, I’ve discovered.

6. Beaver Brook Abandoned Road

I hadn’t been to Beaver Brook falls for a while so I decided to give them a try. The snow on the old abandoned road was melting where it saw sunshine.

7. Beaver Brook Abandoned Road

I was happy that I had worn my Yak Trax on the shadier parts though, because the packed snow had turned to ice. It’s hard to tell from the photos but it’s a steady and gentle uphill climb to the falls and ice makes it difficult.

8. Beaver Brook

Beaver brook was roaring along almost at the top of its banks, so I had high hopes that the falls would be roaring too, as long as they hadn’t frozen.

9. Along Beaver Brook

It was a beautiful warm sunny day and in places along the old road it looked like spring might be right around the corner.  Just two more months and it will be spring if you go by meteorological rather than astronomical seasons, and I do. If you’d like to know the difference between the two just click here.

10. Beaver Brook Ledges

In other places winter still had a firm grip on the landscape.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls fell with a deafening roar and didn’t disappoint. Since I was wearing Yak Trax I decided, for the first time in winter, to climb down the embankment so I could get a better photo. Sitting and watching the water, all I could think of was the boy who was fishing above the falls last summer and somehow fell in and got swept over the edge of this monster. He fell at least 40 feet into the rocky pool below, suffering a broken arm and shoulder and many cuts and bruises. He had to be flown out by helicopter strapped to a backboard, but thankfully he lived to tell about it. I was thinking as I listened to the roar that this boy now has a story to tell that few if any will ever believe. And who could blame the disbelievers, especially if they had seen what I was seeing? I can hardly believe it myself and I know it’s true.

12. Beaver Brook Falls Climb

The price you pay for having dared climb down the steep embankment to get an unobstructed view of the falls is climbing back up. I never would have made it without my trusty Yak Trax on.

13. Island

Even the pond ice is starting to melt. I saw three wooly bear caterpillars this fall and every one had a wider brown band in its middle section than I’ve ever seen. Folklore says the wider the brown band, the milder the winter, and I’m beginning to wonder. Of course, maybe it’s just wishful thinking; I still haven’t forgotten the three straight weeks of below zero nights we had last winter.

When the seasons shift, even the subtle beginning, the scent of a promised change, I feel something stir inside me. Hopefulness? Gratitude? Openness? Whatever it is, it’s welcome. ~Kristin Armstrong

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

1. Abandoned Road

Recently I was contacted by Sean Hurley, playwright and frequent contributor to New Hampshire Public Radio. Mr. Hurley had read the blog post that I did last year about an old abandoned road and was interested in also doing a story about it. We talked back and forth for a few days, trying to find a common space where we both would have time to meet on the old road. In the end due to my time constraints and his three day’s hence deadline we never did get to meet face to face, but the telephone solved the problem and he called to interview me late one afternoon. He had a radio voice that was deep and smooth, and his words sounded more like they were being poured than spoken.

2. Beaver Brook Falls

He had explored the old road earlier and had lots of questions so we quickly got down to business. We started by talking about the place in general and what I thought of it. I told him that I thought it was great that it was so close to downtown Keene and so easily accessible. People have a place where they can go to experience nature up close and personal and can also see a great waterfall.

3. Beaver Brook Garnets

Native garnets are good for use in the abrasive industry, but not much else.

We talked about rocks; about what kind there were there. I told him that there was a lot of feldspar in the area and how I used to go there to find garnets colored such a deep blood red that they  looked almost black, and which had formed way back when the molten feldspar slowly cooled. In fact there are so many garnets in places that it looks like they were shot out of a shotgun. And they are just about the size of shotgun shot, too-quite small.

4. No Passing Lines

No Passing Zone

“What about the double yellow lines on the road?” he asked. “The grass growing up through them must mean something.” He was hoping that nature boy would come up with something deep and metaphorical, but all I could think of was how it was sunnier where the lines were, and how nature was doing all it could to fill that sunny spot with leaf surface so not a drop of sunshine was wasted. I told him that nature was slowly healing the scar that man had made. He was less than impressed, I could tell. It was only later that I thought about how ironic it was that the yellow lines meant “no passing” when everything about this place speaks of the passage of time.

5. Beaver Brook  Ice

Beaver Brook in winter

He asked if the road ever changed. Thinking like a photographer I told him about how the light changed from day to day, and even from morning through afternoon. Once again he was looking for something more-something deeper-and it was only later that I thought about how beautiful the place is when the leaves are falling, and how silent it becomes in winter when the brook wears a blanket and the roar of the falls is muffled by gigantic, gleaming columns of ice.

6. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

We talked about the plants that grow there and I told him about trillium and Jack in the pulpit, about dog lichens and Solomon’s seal and red elderberry. He answered yes, he had noticed the poison ivy growing thickly along both sides of the road, and then asked about any rare plants that I’d found there. I told him about rose moss and blue stemmed goldenrod but forgot about several others, like the smoky eye boulder lichens so amazingly blue that it looks like the sky itself has been broken into pieces and sprinkled over the stones.

7. Star Drill Hole Through Feldspar

Hole through feldspar boulder drilled by hand with a star drill sometime in the 1800s.

We talked about history, and I told him how my search for the exact dates of when the old road was closed and when the new highway was built had been frustrated at every turn. Can it really be possible that everyone has forgotten? Aren’t things like that written down somewhere? I told him that I had friends who remember driving on it, and how I could remember traveling on it as a boy with my father.

8. Beaver Brook Bridge 2

As soon as I mentioned my father I found myself wishing he were here, because he’d know all about this old place, and I wondered why he never told me about the waterfall that we passed each time we drove through here. And then I wondered if maybe he had told me and I just didn’t listen. Hearing is different than listening and I was a headstrong youth who often heard but rarely listened.

9. Dad

And that’s how, much like the old road itself with all of its twists and turns, this became a father’s day post-so I could I urge those of you who are lucky enough to still have fathers to listen-really listen-to their stories. I can say with certainty that you won’t regret it if you do, but you might regret it one day if you don’t.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. ~Umberto Eco

If you’d like to listen to Sean Hurley’s radio piece and read a transcript about the abandoned road just click here.

If you’d like to read the 2 part blog post that started all of this, just click here.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. Thanks for coming by.

 

Read Full Post »

1. Brickyard Brook Falls

We had about two inches of rain last week and almost all the snow has now melted, so I set off to find out how our streams and rivers were handling all of the extra water. Brickyard Brook in Richmond (above) didn’t look any different than it would in high summer. The small gorge this little brook cuts through is a favorite spot of mine. It’s always shaded and cool and is a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds of falling water.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Bailey Brook in Nelson drops considerably more than Brickyard Brook and has two waterfalls along its length. This photo shows the lower falls, which were roaring. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for a quiet day beside a gentle stream.

3. False Hellebores

I was very surprised to see false hellebore (Veratrum viride) shoots about four inches high. Nelson is supposed to be one of the coldest towns in the county but many plants are further along there than they are in the warmer southern towns.

4. False Hellebores Eaten

I was also surprised to see that something had eaten a couple of the false hellebore shoots. This plant is among the most toxic in the forest but I’ve read that deer have a “toxicity threshold” and can eat as many as they like as long as they don’t go above that threshold. This lets them also eat skunk cabbage, another toxic plant. False hellebore can sicken sheep, goats and cattle, and can kill people who sometimes mistake it for wild leeks at this time of year.

5. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

The upper falls on Bailey Brook didn’t have anywhere near the amount of water falling over them as I thought they would. Again, not much more than they would in summer.  I wanted to get closer for a better photo without the tree in the way but I took a fall here last year and almost ended up in the brook, so I decided that I could live with the tree in the shot.

6. Beaver Brook

Further south in Keene Beaver Brook was different. There was a lot of water there, filling the banks.

7. Tree Over Beaver Brook

Even thought it was high, you could see by how the water stripped the bark from the lower part of this tree that it has been much higher in the past. The exposed part of the log had been bleached silver-gray.

8. Eddy

White foam swirled in eddies in the sheltered areas along its banks.

9. Ice in the Woods

There is still a lot of ice left to melt in shaded areas of the forest.  Maybe this was why Beaver Brook was running faster than the others.

10. Disappearing Hillside Waterfall

The disappearing waterfall on the far hillside was there, just as I thought it would be. It runs for a day or two after a good rain and then disappears, so it can literally be here one day and gone the next. There was still snow in the shaded areas on that side of the brook.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls roared over its 30 to 40 foot height. It wasn’t deafening but it was plenty loud. The surface of the brook was made much choppier than it usually is by the force of so much falling water. Since the ice was gone in this spot I was able to climb / slide down the steep embankment to the canyon for an unobstructed view. I’ve wasted many a climb down to the brook only to find the falls in deep shade, but on this day the lighting was perfect.

12. Ashuelot on 4-20

Regular readers of this blog know that this story will end at the Ashuelot River as it must, since all streams, brooks, and rivers in the region drain into it before it drains into the much larger Connecticut River. Its banks are full at the moment. The clouds above it formed an arrow pointing upriver and as I look at the photo I wonder if I should have followed the sign.

For those new to this blog, the name Ashuelot is pronounced ash-wil-ot or ash-wee-lot. I was raised to say ash-wil-ot. In Native American Penacook or Natick language the word means “the place between.” I assume they must have meant “between hills” because we have plenty of those and the river does run between them.

13. Ashuelot Flooding

Downriver in Swanzey the Ashuelot had jumped its banks and turned these hayfields into a temporary marsh. The normal course of the river is off in the distance, just in front of the trees to the left, and it would be hard to see from this spot in summer. This land has probably been flooding since the glaciers that helped form it melted.

14. Canada Geese

The Canada geese seemed very happy with the flooding.

Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.  ~Anonymous

Thanks for stopping in.

Read Full Post »

 1. Beaver Brook

Another warm sunny day last weekend prompted me to follow this old abandoned road up to Beaver Brook falls once more. I thought that, the way things were warming up so fast, it might be my last chance to see them in their frozen state.

 2. Blue Ice Formations 

The blue ice on the ledges reminded me of the aquamarine crystals I used to find while mineral hunting. I can’t say that blue ice is rare but I’ve only seen it in two places. As I learned from reading Sue’s Back Yard Biology blog, blue ice happens when the oxygen-hydrogen bonds in water absorb the red parts of the spectrum and reflect blue light back. Further reading tells me that it is also very dense. These ledges are about 15-20 feet high and the ice formations are bigger than tree trunks.

 3. Ice Formations

Beaver brook also had some interesting ice formations growing in it.

 4. Amber Jelly Fungus

It was warm enough to thaw the amber jelly fungi (Exidia recisa). I like holding it up to the light so I can see through it because it looks like stained glass, but I’ve never noticed the yellowish spots in it before. Amber jellies are true “winter fungi” and that is when I usually find them.

 5. Aster Seed Head

There are still plenty of seeds on the New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). In fact I’m still seeing an abundance of seeds, nuts and berries everywhere I go. That strikes me as odd but it could be that I’ve just never noticed how much is left in the spring before.

 6. Giant Boulder

This boulder sits in the woods on the far side of the brook so I can’t get to it to see if it is a true glacial erratic, but it’s easy to see from where I stand that it’s as big as a house.  There is quite a steep hill on that side of the brook and I wonder what stopped its rolling further down the hill and into the brook.

 7. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen 

There are some interesting lichens here, like this smokey eye boulder lichen (Porpidia albocaerulescens). One thing that makes it so interesting to me is how the whitish coating on the black fruiting disks (Apothecia) changes color when the light comes from different anglers.  They can appear light gray, dark gray, light blue or dark blue.  They change color because of the whitish waxy coating that reflects ultra violet rays and is very similar to the bloom on plums, blueberries, and black raspberry canes.

 8. Greater Whipwort Liverwort aka Bazzania trilobata

Every time I come here I see something that I’ve never seen here before and this time was no different. In the case of the greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata) in the above photo I’m sure that I missed it because you have to look closely to see that it is a liverwort and not a moss.  Bazzania trilobata is a leafy liverwort that likes high humidity. It always reminds me of centipedes.

 9. Greater Whipwort Liverwort Closeup aka Bazzania trilobata

I’m not sure why it is called greater whipwort, because each leaf is only about an eighth of an inch wide and the group of plants in the previous photo isn’t 6 inches across. The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the way that each leaf ends in 3 triangular notches.  The root-like growths are branches.

 10. Beaver Brook Falls 

Ice must be a great insulator because the 40-50 foot tall falls, like the brook itself, was silent. It seems so strange for this place to be silent after hearing the very load roar of the falls in summer.

To get a really good view of the falls you have to climb down quite a steep embankment, which I’ve decided would be foolish to do in winter, so that’s why there are trees in the way in this shot.

 11. Hole in Brook Ice 2

This is part of the reason I don’t climb down the embankment to the falls. If you tipped a Volkswagen Beetle on its side it would fit right into this hole with room to spare.  The depth from the top of the snow layer down to the water surface was about 7 feet, and I stood there thinking that if I accidently stumbled into a hole like this, I would most likely never get out of it. It reminded me once again why you have to have your wits about you when you’re in the woods.

 12. Egg Case Hanging from Moss

This is probably the strangest thing I saw this day. I’m assuming it is a spider’s egg sac, but I’m not sure. It was hanging from some moss by a thread of silk like a tiny Christmas ornament.

 13. Egg Case Hanging from Moss 2

This is a closer look at the whatever-it-is. It had a little stocking cap like growth on top that was opened, but I couldn’t see any of this until I cropped the photo because it was so small. The “orb” itself was no bigger than a sixteenth of an inch across. If you’re reading this and know what it is I’d like to hear from you.

Note: If you’d like to read more about this place just type “Beaver Brook” in the search box in the upper right corner.

The whole secret of the study of nature lies in learning how to use one’s eyes.  ~George Sand

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Long time readers will recognize this place but for you newer readers who are interested, last summer I did what turned out to be a popular two part post on an old abandoned road that we have here in Keene. Since people seemed to enjoy it I thought they might be interested in seeing what the area looks like in winter. If you missed the original posts or if you’d like to see what the area looks like in summer just click here.

1. Old Road Start

This is the starting point. Rather than break a trail through fresh snow I let the cross country skiers and snowshoers get here first. I was able to walk on nice, packed snow with just hiking boots on.

2. Frozen Brook

The road follows Beaver Brook, named for all of the beavers that once lived here. In places the ice had completely covered the brook and in others it was close to doing so.

3. Frost Covered Shrub

Down near the water every twig was covered in hoar frost.

 4. Hoar Frost

Hoar frost grows just about anywhere when there is enough moisture and it is cold enough. Here the delicate, feathery crystals grew at the edge of a puddle. Just a single warm breath is enough to destroy their beauty, so I wrapped all but my eyes up in a scarf before kneeling in the snow to take this photo.

 5. Moss and Snow

The feathery patterns in the hoar frost were repeated in this delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum.) Though this moss has the word delicate in its name in my experience it is quite tough. Snow and ice don’t seem to bother it at all.  It is also one of the prettier mosses, in my opinion.

6. Frozen Waves

In places the brook looked like it had flash frozen, with even its small waves captured in the ice. Once again I saw the feather pattern that I had seen in the hoar frost and delicate fern moss. It’s interesting how nature re uses some of the same patterns again and again.

7. Icicles

There were plenty of groundwater icicles on the ledges, but there was also still enough rock exposed to allow some lichen hunting.

8. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaeralescens) are crustose lichens that grow well here. The gray fruiting pruinose discs surrounded by black borders are very striking. A pruinose surface is one that is covered by white powdery granules and looks as if it has been frosted or dusted with powdered sugar. In this instance the surface reflects light, so these apothecial bodies often appear to be blue instead of gray.

9. Mountain Haircap Moss Capsules

Mosses also grow on these ledges. This example of mountain haircap moss (Polystrichastrum pallidisetum) had open spore capsules (sporophytes). When immature these capsules are covered by a hairy hood that resembles a stocking cap, and that’s how the name haircap moss came about. This moss is very similar to common haircap moss (Polytrichum commune). The chief difference between the two is a disk at the base of the spore capsules. Common haircap moss has this disk and mountain haircap moss does not.

10. Old Road

I took this photo to show how close the brook is to the road. I’ve met people up here who have told me that they remembered seeing the water up over the road in spring. Evidence that the brook is slowly eating away at the road can be seen all along it.

 11. Brook Ice

Ice dams had blocked the brook and created large pools behind them. This one had the flow down to little more than a trickle.

12. Beaver Brook Falls

I’ve spoken with a few people that I’ve met here and I think a lot of them come simply to get a taste of nature. Others though, come to see Beaver Brook Falls, which usually splashes into the pool below with a roar. On this day it was partially frozen and the water was falling behind a curtain of ice, so the roar had been reduced to little more than a splash. This isn’t a great shot of the falls but the steep path down to the brook looked treacherous, so I snapped what photos I could from the road. Even though this area isn’t that far from downtown Keene a twisted ankle out here alone could quickly turn serious, so I decided to play it safe. If you’d like to see and hear the falls in summer, just click the link at the start of this post.

The sole criterion is to walk with the senses, with hands that feel, ears that hear, and eyes that see. ~ Robert Browne

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

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

 1. Bluestem Goldenrod

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

 2. Bluestem Goldenrod

A closer look at the flowers of blue stemmed goldenrod.

 3. Poison Ivy

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

 4. Ledges

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

 5. Common Powderhorn Lichen

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

 6. Star Drilled Stone

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

 7. Beaver Brook Falls

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

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

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

 8. Beaver Brook Falls

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

 9. Historic Beaver Brook Photo

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

 10. Path to Road from Falls

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

11. Old Postcard

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

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

12. New Highway

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

13. Old Road Extension

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

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

14. Beaver Brook Dam

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

15. Beaver Dam

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

 16. Above the Dam

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

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

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

 

Read Full Post »

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

1. Abandoned Road Start

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

 2. Abandoned Road

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

 3. Brookside

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

 4. Beaver Brook

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

 5. Abandoned Road Lines

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

 6. Guard Rails

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

 7. Guard Post

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

 8. Wooden Guard Post

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

 9. Beaver Brook Postcard

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

 10. Guard Rail

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

 11. Abandoned Road Storm Drain

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

 12. NE Aster

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

 13. White Baneberry Berries

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

 14. Hillside Waterfall

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

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

Thanks for coming by.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »