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Posts Tagged ‘Fall Foliage In New Hampshire’

To be sure that the beech and oak trees are at their peak colors I usually wait until Halloween to visit Willard Pond in Hancock but this year I was afraid that Halloween might be too late, because I saw lots of oak trees already changing. The weather people told me that last Sunday was going to be a perfect fall day, so off I went to the pond.

Before I start following the trail I go to the boat landing to see what the colors are like. That’s where we’re going; right along that shoreline at the foot of the hill. The oaks didn’t look at their peak but the colors weren’t bad.

What I call the far hillside was showing good color as well. Halloween is usually too late for that hillside’s peak because I think it is mostly maples and by then their leaves had fallen.

And then there was a surprise. I heard they built a windfarm over in Antrim and that you could see it from Willard Pond but I didn’t know the wind turbines would be so big. They were huge, and spinning rapidly.

Here is the trail we’re taking. Can you see it? If not don’t worry, it’s there. It’s a very narrow, often one person wide trail.

The trail is very rocky and has a lot of roots to stumble over, but it’s worth all of that and more to be walking through such a beautiful hardwood forest.

Blueberry bushes are virtually everywhere here and they were all wearing their fall best. Such beautiful things they are.

Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) is common here as well, and the big hand size leaves still had some green in them. They will go to yellow and then to white before falling.

Striped maple comes by its common name honestly. Another name for striped maple is whistle wood because its pulp is easily removed and whistles can then be made from the wood of its branches.

You have the pond just to your right and the hillside just to your left on the way in, and what there is left can be very narrow at times.

There were leaves falling the whole time. These are mostly maple.

Someone had done some trail work at some point in the past and had cut some small oaks, but they were growing back and were beautifully red against the yellow of the beeches.

Wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum) grew on a log. These tiny brown spheres are common at this time of year. The biggest I’ve seen were about the size of a pea. They start out as tiny pink globules but as they age and become more like what we see in the above photo, the globules look more like small puffballs growing on a log.

Wolf’s milk slime mold is also called toothpaste slime because of the consistency of its inner plasmodial material. It’s usually pink and goes from liquid to a toothpaste consistency like that seen here, before becoming dusty gray spores.

The hard black balls of the chaga fungus (Inonotus obliquus) grew on a fallen birch. Chaga is the only fungus I can think of that looks like burnt charcoal and grows on birch.  This fungus has been used medicinally in Russia, China, Korea and Japan for centuries, and it is said to be packed with vitamins and minerals. Recently it has shown promise in cancer research, reducing the size of tumors. In Siberia it is said to be the secret to long life.

Hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) were beautiful in their fall reds. Hobblebush is a good name for them because their stems grow close enough to the ground to be covered by leaf litter and if you aren’t careful you could be tripped up and hobbled by them. They’ve brought me down on my face more than once.

The hobblebushes have their spring flower buds all ready to go. These are naked buds with no bud scales. Their only protection from the cold is their wooly-ness.

As is often the case when I come here I took far too many of this incredibly beautiful forest, so I’ll keep sneaking them in when you aren’t watching.

Huge boulders have broken away from the hillside and tumbled down, almost to the water in some places. Some were easily as big as delivery vans. You might find yourself hoping there isn’t an earthquake while you’re here.

In one spot you have to weave your way through the boulders, sometimes with barely enough room for your feet to be planted side by side.

No matter how big the stone if it has a crack that water can seep into and then freeze, the pressure from the ice will eventually split the stone. This boulder was easily as big as a garden shed, but just look what water has done.

Polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum) grow in great profusion here on many of the boulders. Another name for this fern is the rock cap fern, and it makes perfect sense because that’s what they do. They were one of Henry David Thoreau’s favorites.

They are producing spores at this time of year and each of the spore producing sporangia looks like a tiny basket full of flowers. This is the time of year to be looking at the undersides of ferns fronds. How and where the sporangia grow are important parts of an accurate identification for some.

Another fern that you see a lot of here is the royal fern. Royal ferns (Osmunda spectabilis) turn yellow in the fall before becoming this kind of burnt orange. Many people don’t realize that they’re ferns but they are thought to be one of the oldest; indeed one of the oldest living things, with fossil records dating back dating back over 300 million years. Individual plants are believed to be able to live for over a century and they live on every continent on earth except Australia. They’re very pretty things.

I wonder how many people have ever been deep in a forest like this one. I hope everyone has but I doubt it. If I could take people who had been born and had lived their lives in a city and lead them into this forest what would they think about it, I wonder. Would they love it, or would it frighten them? I hope they would love it because there is nothing here to be frightened of. It is a gentle, sweet, loving place where the illusion that you and nature are separate from each other can begin to evaporate. It is a place to cherish, not to fear.

Our native maple leaf viburnum shrubs (Viburnum acerifolium) can change to any of many different colors including the beautiful deep maroon seen here. The foliage will continue to lighten over time until it wears just a hint of pale pastel pink just before the leaves fall. There are lots of them along this trail.

Witch hazels blossomed all along the trail. I love seeing their ribbon like petals so late in the year and smelling their fresh, clean scent.

The old bent oak tells me I have reached the end of my part of the trail. Though it goes on I usually stop here because I like to sit for a while and just enjoy the beauty of the place.

There is a handy wooden bench to sit on and so I put away the camera and just sit for a time. On this day I heard a loon off in the distance. Moments of serenity, stillness and lightness; that’s what I find here. It seems an appropriate place to witness the end of the growing season and watch as nature drifts off to sleep in a beautiful blaze of color.

Here is one reason I like to sit on the bench; this is what you see.

And this is what you see on the way back. If you come to Willard Pond you’ll find that you’re in a truly wild place; before the axe and the plow this is how it was. But you’ll also find that the only thing really difficult about being here is leaving.

In wilderness people can find the silence and the solitude and the noncivilized surroundings that can connect them once again to their evolutionary heritage, and through an experience of the eternal mystery, can give them a sense of the sacredness of all creation. ~ Sigurd Olson

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Each of the past two years, on the last weekend in October I’ve made the trip to see the fall foliage at Willard Pond in Antrim so, not wanting to break tradition, I visited the pond last Saturday. As this shot of the road to the pond shows, a lot of the leaves had already fallen, but the bare trees are maple trees and I was here to see the beeches and oaks.

I wasn’t disappointed. These beautiful beech trees greeted me as I pulled into the parking area.

Willard pond is a wildlife refuge so it wasn’t surprising to see a sign like this. I wish I could see the actual loons instead though.

I always walk by the actual trail head and go down to the boat landing because you get a good view of the hillsides from here. The trail I’ll follow will hug the shoreline in the distance over a large part of its length. I was hoping the pond would have a mirrored surface but it was breezy and you can’t have everything.

From here the trees didn’t have quite the same eye popping color that they’ve had in previous years and I wondered if the warm October weather had held them back a little.

The colors seemed a little more intense when the sun shined directly on the trees. They looked to be mostly beech, oak, and many bare maples. I’ve decided I’ll come here earlier next year to see the maples and then again later on to see the beeches and oaks. I’d love to see all the colors of those maples.

My favorite view of a forest is from the inside, so down the trail I went.

The beeches and oaks were absolutely beautiful. This is why I come here at this time of year, every year. I can’t think of another forest that is dominated by beech, oak, and maple like this one is. As is always the case when I come here I couldn’t stop taking photos of the trees.

There are hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) all along the trail and many had beautiful red leaves, which is something I’ve never seen on this native viburnum. Usually the leaves are splotchy maroon and green or yellow but never red that I’ve seen, not even here at the pond. This shrub has a good name because it grows long stems close to the ground that crisscross each other and get covered by fallen leaves, and if your feet get tangled in them they will hobble you and you could find yourself face down on the ground rather quickly. It has happened to me a couple of times so I don’t walk through them now. I always walk around them.

Another native shrub with a lot of red in it is the highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum.) Even the witch’s broom that grows on them is red when young. Witch’s broom is a deformity that is described as a “dense mass of shoots growing from a single point.” When witch’s broom grows on blueberries it is caused by a fungus called Pucciniastrum goeppertianum. This fungus spends part of its life cycle on balsam fir (Abies balsamea.) When it releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry it becomes infected. It overwinters on blueberries and again releases its spores in the spring, and these will infect more balsam ferns and the cycle will begin again. I’ve worked with infected blueberry bushes and in my experience the witch’s broom doesn’t harm the plant.

But I wasn’t thinking about witch’s broom or fungal spores on the trail. I was admiring the beauty of the blueberry foliage, which in this case was orangey red. It can be anything from yellow to deep purple and is one of our most beautiful native shrubs for fall color.

There are many small streams flowing down the mountainside to the pond and they cross the trail, and that reminds me to tell you that you should wear good stout hiking boots when you come here. There are many stones, roots and other obstacles in the trail so this is not the place for sneakers or flip flops. I have waterproof boots, and they’re even better here.

When the streams are too wide to step across bridges help make the hike easier, but other than a bridge or two, blazed trees, and the marks of a saw on a tree that might have fallen across the trail, there are few signs of man here. It is for the most part natural and rugged. And very beautiful.

Several species of sphagnum moss grow along the trail, as if to remind you how very moist the soil is. These plants, approximately 380 species according to Wikipedia, can absorb 16-26 times their own dry weight in water. They are called peat mosses and are found in peat bogs, forests and tundra in both the north and south hemispheres. I see them everywhere but don’t usually say much about them because they can be very difficult to identify accurately. Because of its great absorbency peat moss was used as diaper material by Native Americans. It has also been used for centuries as a wound dressing, due to its natural ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Peat bogs were also once used to preserve food, and 2,000 year old containers of things like butter and lard have been found in them.

Motor boats aren’t allowed on Willard Pond but these two kayakers made me wish I had brought my own kayak. How beautiful it must be to see these flaming hillsides from the water.

There are some huge boulders here and by huge I mean house size. They’re bigger than any I’ve seen anywhere else and it makes me wonder why. They’ve tumbled almost right down to the water and there are places where you have to squeeze through a two boulder pinch point. They’re fascinating things to look at because they have all kinds of things growing on them.

One thing you can find growing on the boulders is polypody ferns (Polypodium virginianum.) Polypody fern is also called the rock cap fern, for good reason. I’ve never seen them growing anywhere but on stones. They are evergreen and very tough, and can be found all winter long.

The spores of polypody ferns grow on the undersides of the leaves in tiny mounds called sori, which are made up of clusters of sporangia, which are the receptacles in which the spores are formed. The sori are naked and lack the protective cap (insidium) found on many ferns. The sori are often a beautiful orange color and look like tiny baskets of flowers but it looked as if these examples had already released their spores and were going by.

If this boulder isn’t called table rock it should be. It was big, and flat enough to build an average size garden shed on.

Fern roots reminded me of a porcupine’s tail. I think it might have been a sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) but I don’t see many of these so I’m not 100% sure.

There is a new thing, or maybe it’s a very old thing with a new name, called forest bathing. To practice it you go into a forest and walk slowly. You breathe in the forest air and open all of your senses and just be part of the forest. Once again I find that I’ve been doing something for my whole life without knowing it had a name, but practitioners say that forest bathing reduces blood pressure, improves mood, increases your ability to focus, and accelerates recovery from surgery. All of these benefits have been studied quite extensively, and there is even evidence that trees give off compounds that boost our immune system to help with things like fighting cancer. They also say that being in a forest gives you a deeper and clearer intuition, an increased energy level, and an overall increase in your sense of happiness. I’d have to agree. I’ve always believed that nature has very strong healing powers, and to reap its benefits you need do nothing more than just go and walk or sit in the woods.

This is the view from the little bench in the previous photo. It’s a beautiful place to sit and soak in the beauty. In general it is very quiet and serene at Willard Pond; much more so than the other ponds I visit. All you hear is birdsong and the lapping of the waves.

If you sit on the bench and turn around 180 degrees, this is what you see.  It’s hard to say which view is more beautiful. I like them both and I could sit and stare at either one for hours.

This place takes me out of myself more than any other that I visit regularly, and every time I’ve come here I’ve been shocked by how much time had passed. On this day I was here for a good part of the day, and it seemed like only an hour or two.  If you let yourself go and let yourself become immersed in your surroundings, that’s often what happens. It’s very refreshing, as if you’ve recharged your batteries.

I hope that everyone has their own special forest that they can easily get to. If you can, try to make regular visits to it. Don’t turn it into a job; just walk through and relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. After just a surprisingly short time I think you’ll notice that you’re becoming a different kind of person. Happier, more at ease, more energetic, and less stressed. You might notice that you are beginning to see with different eyes, and that your mind has quieted. One of the benefits I most enjoy from being in the forest is the seemingly endless supply of simple joy. I do hope you’ll find the same in your own forest.

It was in the forest that I found “the peace that passeth all understanding.”  ~Jane Goodall

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I just finished reading Monadnock, More than a Mountain by Craig Brandon. In it he tells of how, throughout history different artists have painted the mountain from different sides, and how a few had traveled around the mountain painting it from all sides. That sounded like a fine idea to me and, since I have never seen it done before, over the last few weeks I’ve traveled to several towns that surround the mountain to take photos from each one.

The unusual thing about 3,165 ft high Mount Monadnock is that it can be seen from each town in the area, which collectively make up what is known as the Monadnock Region. The purpose of this post is to show how much the mountain changes from town to town-sometimes after driving just a few miles down the road. I’ve lived here nearly my entire life and even I was surprised by how much it changed.

1. Monadnock From Jaffrey

Much of Mount Monadnock lies in Jaffrey, New Hampshire so I thought I’d start off this post with a view from there. This is the south eastern face of Monadnock.

 2. Monadnock From Jaffrey

At this spot in Jaffrey you are just about as close to the mountain’s south eastern flank as you can get without actually being on it. This is where you get a real sense of how massive Monadnock really is.

 3. Monadnock from Gilmore Pond in Jaffrey

This view of Monadnock’s eastern face from Jaffrey can make you wonder if you’re looking at the same mountain that you saw from other directions, so different is its outline.

 4. Monadnock from Perkin's Pond in Troy

Perkin’s pond in Troy, on Monadnock’s western side, is the place someone with a new camera goes to try landscape photography. I can’t imagine how many photos have been taken of Monadnock from this spot, but the number must easily be in the millions. On a weekend at this time of year you almost have to wait in line for your turn. On this day there was an artist here painting the mountain and she had the best viewing spot. 5. Monadnock from Troy There are other fine views to be had in Troy. I was surprised by the even separation of foliage colors here, as if someone planted a row of maples, then a row of oaks, then a row of pines, etc. all the way up the mountain. I’m not sure what would have caused this.

 6. Monadnock from Fitzwilliam

Just down the road from Troy is Fitzwilliam, with a few good views of its own. This was taken at Rockwood Pond. Mount Monadnock is so loved by the public that, each time over the years that it has been threatened by loggers, developers, radio stations and others, money has poured in from all over the world to buy the threatened acreage and protect it. Though never 100% safe, the mountain will be well protected in the future. Most of it is now owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

 7. Monadnock from Rindge

The view from Rindge is a very pretty one of Monadnock’s southern flank. I just discovered this view while taking photos for this post.

 8. Monadnock from Mount Caesar in Swanzey

Sometimes you have to climb a mountain to see a mountain as I did one morning just as the sun broke through the dense fog on top of Mount Caesar in Swanzey. Swanzey lies to the northwest of Monadnock.

 9. Monadnock from Harrisville

Harrisville has some beautiful views of Monadnock from the north. This one is from a place called Child’s Bog, known for its great fishing.

 10. Monadnock From Sucker Brook in Nelson

I had heard stories of a great view of Monadnock to be had at a place called Sucker Brook Cove Sanctuary in Nelson, New Hampshire so I went there and found that it was indeed an excellent view, with Silver Lake in the foreground. The light would have been much better if I had gone there in the morning though, rather than in the afternoon. This view is from the north.

 11. Monadnock from Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard

This view of Monadnock is from the top of Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard, which is the northernmost point in my travels around the mountain. The weatherman said we would have wall to wall sunshine on the day this was taken, and I believed him. When I started this trip I saw sunshine but once I had climbed to the top of Pitcher Mountain there wasn’t a sunbeam to be seen.

 12. Monadnock from Marlborough

One of my favorite views of Monadnock is from this spot in Marlborough, New Hampshire. The sun breaking through the clouds made a patchwork of colors on the western face of the mountain on the afternoon that this was taken.

 13. Monadnock from Dublin

This is a view from Dublin. This is another good place to see the mountain’s great mass. This is the first photo taken with my new cell phone to appear on this blog. The phone camera has a much wider angle than either of my other cameras and it does a pretty good job. Speaking of cell phone photos, if you’d like to see some amazing ones you should pop over to Marie’s blog. You can get there by clicking here. You won’t believe her photos were taken with a cell phone camera, but they were.

 14. Monadnock from Dublin

This view of Monadnock from Dublin is a favorite of photographers. I took this photo with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7, which is the camera that I usually use for macros.

 15. Monadnock from Dublin

Some days you just have to wait for Monadnock to peek out from its blanket of clouds, as this view from Dublin shows.

 16. Monadnock Summit

When he climbed it in 1860 Henry David Thoreau complained about the number of people on the summit of Monadnock. Nothing has changed since. On a typical Columbus Day weekend in October it is not unusual to find that it is standing room only on the summit. It is estimated that 100,000 people per year climb the mountain, making it the most climbed mountain in the United States and the second most climbed in the world after Mount Fiji in Japan. On the afternoon that this photo was taken you could see climbers on the summit, just as you can on most days.

 17. Monadnock from Keene

My favorite view of the mountain is of course the one I grew up with and have seen each day for the better part of a lifetime. I’ve lived in other places but you don’t miss the mountain until you can no longer see it, and I’ve always come back. To me this view from Keene is the best one, but anyone in any town in the region would probably say the same about their view.

 18. Monadnock Region Map

This map of the Monadnock Region might help you see how the towns that the above photos were taken in are related to each other, and to Monadnock itself. The town names are underlined and Mount Monadnock has a black triangle beside it. It is about 19 miles (30.6 Km) from Keene to the mountain.

If you’d like to learn more about the towns mentioned in this post you should take a look at Laura Mahoney’s blog Touring New Hampshire. I think you’ll find excellent photos and descriptions of every town here. You can get there by clicking here.

Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it. The view of the pinnacle itself from the plateau below surpasses any view which you get from the summit. ~Henry David Thoreau.

Thanks for stopping in.

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