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Posts Tagged ‘Blueberry Picking’

1. Trail Start

July ended much as we’d expect it to; sunny and hot. But after a month or more of hot rainless days everyone, especially farmers, is hoping for rain. The weather people said that rain showers would pass through last Friday night and we did get a little, so on Saturday morning I decided to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey. I was hoping that a few showers might help some mushrooms grow because it was about this time last year that I saw a beautiful violet coral fungus, easily one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in nature. The above photo shows the start of the trail between two dry stone walls. If I was a farmer in the 1700s and I wanted my cows to follow a certain path I would have built walls on either side of it too.

2. Hole Under Wall

There was a hole dug recently under one of the walls. It looked plenty big enough for a family of bobcats but I didn’t see any signs of activity.

3. Meadow

There is a meadow here, made when the town decided to clear cut a large swath of forest. I find many wildflowers here that I don’t see anywhere else, like slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia) and Canada St. Johnswort (Hypericum canadense.) Two different native lobelias grow here as well, pale spike lobelia (Lobelia spicata) and Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata.) This spot has seen full sun and 90 degree F weather for quite a while now, and only the toughest can take it.

4. Lobelia Blossom

I keep trying to explain in words how small some of the flowers are that appear in these posts but a picture is worth a thousand words, so I took a photo of a lobelia flower sitting on a penny. It is from an Indian tobacco plant, which is one that appeared in my last post. A penny is about 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

5. Trail

As much as I’d like to I can’t stay in the meadow all day, so up we go.

6. Fairy Stools

There will be stops along the way so I can catch my breath and admire things like these fairy stool mushrooms (Coltricia cinnamomea.) They are very tough, leathery little things that seem to have shrugged off the lack of rain. I like their concentric rings. Their cap is usually very flat and with their central stems they remind me of tiny café tables.

7. Sapsucker Holes

Bark full of tell-tale holes from a yellow bellied sapsucker were about all that was left of a birch log. Many other birds, insects and animals sip the sap that runs from these holes and they are an important part of the workings of the forest.

8. Unknown Fungi

A cluster of young fungi grew on the birch log. I’m not sure of their name but I was surprised to see them. It’s been dry enough to make mushrooms a rare thing this year.

9. Starflower Seed Pod

The starflowers (Trientalis borealis) have gone to seed and this tiny seed pod was just opening, as you can see by the hole at the top. These chalky white seedpods are so small that this one would have fit inside the lobelia flower that we saw earlier with room to spare. I like how they look like miniature soccer balls.

10. Pixie Cups and British Soldier

Other small things along the way were these red British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) growing with some trumpet like pixie cups (Cladonia pyxidata). Lichens like water so I was surprised to see that these examples looked so fresh.

11. Trail Top

The trail at the bottom of Mount Caesar starts out as bedrock and that’s also how it ends. This mountain is really just a huge mound of solid granite with a thin coating of soil covering it.

12. View

The views were what I expected them to be; hazy on such a hot, humid day.  I had hoped there would be a cooling breeze up here but hardly a leaf stirred. Not only that but the lack of shade made it feel even hotter than it did down below.

13. Earthworks

Off in the distance on another hill I saw a large sand pit that I’ve never noticed before. Swanzey is built on sand and gravel and digging it up to use elsewhere is thriving business. Surely an operation as big as this one has been there for a while, but I’ve never seen it.

14. Monadnock

Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey could be seen through the haze. At 3, 165 feet its summit rises another 2,203 feet higher than where I was standing. It was much too hot to even think about climbing that one but I’d bet that there was a cool breeze up there.

15. Rocking Stone

Everyone in this area has heard of Tippin rock, the forty ton glacial erratic that sits on the top of Hewe’s hill one mile to the south, but I doubt many have heard of the rocking stone that sits on the top of Mount Caesar. I’ve seen this big stone many times but hadn’t really paid much attention to it until a friend sent me a photo from 1895 with a caption calling it the rocking stone. It’s probably about a quarter the size of tippin rock but I didn’t try to rock it.

16. Mount Caesar

I was surprised to see a building along with the stone in the old photo with a caption calling it “the pavilion.” I wonder how many teams of horses or oxen were needed to get all that lumber to the summit, and I also wonder why a building was even needed up there. It looked old in 1895 so it must have been there a while. There was no air conditioning then so maybe people climbed to the summit hoping to find relief from the heat by sitting in the shade of the pavilion.  Maybe they had picnics up there; picnics were popular then. Or maybe they were tired of getting caught in thunderstorms and built a shelter, I don’t really know. I don’t even know who “they” would have been. I wandered all over the summit, using the shape of the stone as a guide, but I couldn’t find a trace of the building. Not a board, not a nail, nothing. Time has erased it completely.

17. Blueberries

I’m sure that people must have climbed these hills to pick the blueberries in 1895 as they still do, but I hope they had better luck than I did. It’s so dry up here this year they’re turning into hard, withered stones.

18. Toadskin

I couldn’t leave without a visit with my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) Their gray color told how dry and potato chip crisp they were but lichens are nothing if not patient, and they will sit here for eons if need be, waiting for rain. Some show an entire solar system on their faces and how fitting that is.; lichens have been flown into space and have survived more than two weeks in the void, leading many to believe that they are immortal.

19. Toadskin close

Toadskin lichens have warts called pustules and on the back of the lichen there is a corresponding pit for every pustule. The black dots are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) which are tiny black discs with a sunken center that makes them look like a bowl with a thick black rim. The way that they sit on the body (thallus) 0f the lichen makes them look like they’d blow away in a breeze, but they are attached. If I could magnify them enough we’d see clear to brown muriform spores in each apothecia. Muriform means they are “wall like” with internal cross walls that make them look as if they were made of brick and mortar. What strange and fascinating things nature will show us if we just take the time to look a little closer.

20. Fan Clubmoss

 I never did find the beautiful violet coral fungus that I hoped to see but I saw many other things that made this climb worthwhile, including this fan club moss (Diphasiastrum digitatum) that grew into double hearts.

May your dreams be larger than mountains, and may you have the courage to scale their summits. ~Harley King

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Signs

It’s blueberry picking time in these parts so last Saturday I thought I’d visit one of our most popular blueberry picking sites and get a climb in as well. The day was supposed to be hot and humid as so many have lately so I got up early and headed out to Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard; about a half hour north of Keene.

2. Sign

Since blueberries cost as much as $3.50 a pint in stores $1.50 a quart is quite a good deal, but of course you have to pick them yourself. Payment is often trusted to the honor system.

3. Trail

The trail is a drivable road to a point; wide with a relatively easy grade. If I was 20 again it might take me 15 minutes to make it to the top but these days I find interesting things to photograph along the way, so it often takes me twice that amount of time. Or maybe that’s just an excuse to stop and catch my breath.

4. Bush Honeysuckle
I’ve climbed this mountain so many times that I really don’t know the number, but I’ve never seen bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) here before. On this day it was everywhere, all along the trail. This illustrates perfectly why I follow the same trails over and over; you simply can’t see it all in one hike and sometimes I wonder if you could say that you had seen it all even after 100 hikes.

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Bush honeysuckle flowers are tubular and pale greenish yellow at first before changing to orange or purplish red. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a photo of them that I could be satisfied with. The long red mushroom shaped central pistil is a good sign that you’re seeing bush honeysuckle. In the fall the leaves turn from green to yellow to red. Bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds visit the flowers and moose and deer like to browse on the branches.

6. Meadow

There is always a feeling of having stepped through a doorway into another world when I see this view. After living in the closeness of the forest for so long here is suddenly open space, and it seems vast and infinite. I have to stand here and stare foe awhile trying to take in the immensity, and if I remember I’ll take a photo.

7. Trail

The old road gets a little rocky from this point on but I’ve seen trucks drive up it. Walking up it is a little trickier, but not too bad.

8. Meadow

I keep hoping to see the Scottish highland cattle that live in the fields that border the trail but I haven’t seen them yet.

9. Meadowsweet

As if to live up to its name meadowsweet grew beside the meadow. This one had a blush of pink, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen. I just found out that there is a native meadowsweet called Spirea alba and an introduced species called Filipendula ulmaria. In photos they look identical, so that will complicate things somewhat. It looks like I’ve got some studying to do. I also discovered that I misidentified the scientific name of the meadowsweet that appeared in my last flower post.

10. Fire Tower

Before you know it the fire tower appears above the trees. The last time I was here it was manned and someone was washing the windows, but I didn’t see anyone this time. One benefit of climbing early is the sun doesn’t glare off those windows.

11. Cabin

The old cabin seems to tilt more to the left each time I see it, but it’s hard to see in this photo. It’s only a matter of time until a snowy winter takes it down, I imagine. I’m guessing that it was probably built so the fire lookouts could stay around the clock. It makes me wonder what living up here was like. For a lover of solitude it must have been just about perfect, even without indoor plumbing.

12. Fire Tower

The 5 acres at the very top of Pitcher Mountain are owned by the New Hampshire Forestry Commission. They first built a wooden fire tower here in 1915 but in April of 1940 a fire destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the fire tower and all of the trees on the summit. It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history. The present steel tower is a replacement and, because of the lack of trees, offers a full 360 degree view of the surrounding hills. Visitors are sometimes welcomed in to see the views.

13. Tie Down

It takes some serious hardware to keep the fire tower from blowing off the mountain. Strong steel cables pin it to the bedrock in several locations.

14. Windmills

The wind turbines over on Bear Mountain in Lempster, New Hampshire were visible. It’s often so hazy that they can’t be seen at all. As the trees in the foreground of this photo show it was quite breezy on this day and the windmills were pointed right into it. There was a time or two when strong gusts came through and I wondered if they might blow me over.

15. Near Hill

I don’t know the name of this hill that is nearest to the mountain but I like the way it rises out of the surrounding forest like an ancient burial mound. It’s hard to believe that all I could see was burned and treeless less than a century ago. Nature heals itself quickly.

16. Cloud Shadows

Clouds were casting shadows on the forest below and I sat for a while watching them move over the landscape. I used to like doing the same when I was a boy. I didn’t notice the many undulating hills and valleys rising and falling off into the distance until I saw this photo.

17. Blueberries

Blueberry bushes are everywhere you look here, all along the trail and all over the summit, and you can often hear blueberry pickers that you can’t see. As this photo shows the berries aren’t quite fully ripe but I was still surprised that I didn’t meet any pickers this day. In fact it seemed like I had the whole mountain to myself. Black bears love blueberries too and I’ve heard that they’ve been seen here during berry season, but I didn’t see any of them either.

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Common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitellina) cover the bare bedrock in several places. At least I think that’s what they are; there is an alpine species that apparently looks much the same unless you have a microscope to see the spores with. My new camera does well with macros but it can’t get quite close enough to see lichen spores.

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The body (Thallus) of the goldspeck lichen is kind of egg yolk yellow and the tiny round fruiting bodies (Apothecia) have a slightly raised rim. This is a crustose lichen that I usually find on rock, but it can also grow on wood, bark and soil. I know of a few trees that are covered with it right in downtown Keene. Unlike many lichens it doesn’t seem to mind car exhaust.

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A flower I’ve never seen grows in the cracks in the rocks at the summit and I was amazed that I had never noticed it before. Mountain white cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) is also called three toothed cinquefoil because of the three large teeth at the end of each leaf. The white 5 petaled flowers are small; maybe a half inch across on a good day. They are said to bloom for 2 or 3 months and make an excellent choice for a sunny rock garden that doesn’t get too hot, because they don’t like heat. They must be struggling this summer because it has been hot. We’ve had a long string of mid-80 to 90 degree days.

21. Birdbath

There had been a thunderstorm the night before and it helped fill the natural birdbath a little, but the darker line on the stone in this photo shows how much has evaporated. I love how the sky reflects so much blue into this small puddle.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleanora Duse

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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