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Posts Tagged ‘Glacial Erratic’

1. Trail

Last Sunday morning I decided to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey. This hill seems to be a single, huge piece of granite bedrock that was thrust up out of the earth unknown eons ago. As the above photo shows, the trail starts out bare granite with a little moss and some reindeer lichens growing on the sides. Exposed granite like that shown can be seen here and there all the way to top, but there must be pockets of soil in places because settlers once went to a lot of trouble to clear it.

2. Red Maple

A red maple tree (Acer rubrum) has blown over onto a stone wall and its roots have humped up part of the trail.

3. Target Canker

I know the tree is a red maple by the target canker on its trunk. This canker doesn’t harm the tree but causes its bark to grow in circular patterns of narrow plates which helps protect it from the canker. As the tree ages the patterns disappear. If I understand what I’ve read correctly red maple is the only tree that does this.

4. Cut Forest

The blowdown was caused by the cutting of a large area of town owned forest, which was sold off a few years ago. A tree that has grown behind such a large windbreak all its life it doesn’t need very strong roots, but when the windbreak is removed its weak roots will let it fall. That’s why trees in a constant wind have much stronger roots than those that grow in sheltered locations. That’s also why people who have encountered hardship and adversity throughout their lives are much more able to bear the strain than those who have lived lives of sheltered ease.

5. Cut Boulder

The removal of the shade provided by the forest has revealed a lot of things I haven’t noticed before, like this large boulder that was cut by someone in the past. The short 3 inch deep lines around its edge are what’s left of the holes that were drilled so tools called feathers and wedges could be pounded in them to split the stone. The holes were most likely drilled by hand with a sledge hammer and star drill. One person would hold the drill while the other hit it with the hammer, and that says a lot about both skill and trust.

6. Trailing Arbutus

The cutting of the forest has also thrown sunlight on many shade loving plants, including this trailing arbutus. Its leaves should be deep green rather than the yellowish green seen here. There were a few flowers tucked under the leaves but the plants don’t look as healthy as many other examples I’ve seen.

7. Trail

The skidder used to haul the logs out of the forest turned the trail into a logging road and in places it’s so muddy that people have been forced to make a new narrow trail above the now 2 foot deep trench.  It works fine until you meet someone going the opposite way.  I doubt that it will ever be repaired until the trail becomes a stream and washes half the hill into the road that borders it. Parts of the trail are showing signs that this is already happening, and they look more like dry stream bed than trail. In a pouring rain the water must really rush through.

8. Stone Wall-2

When I was building dry stone walls I always thought of them as giant puzzles, because I knew that there was always a perfect stone that would fit in the space that I was trying to fill; all I had to do was find it. These days I just admire the work of others, and I thought that this part of an old wall looked particularly puzzle like. This isn’t a “thrown wall” where someone just tossed stones on top of each other in a long pile. This wall was thought about and a certain amount of care was taken when it was built.

9. Stone

Sometimes you see stones in walls that have a story to tell, like this one that I assume probably had the deep grooves worn into it by a glacier. I imagine the father and son, brother and brother, or master and slave had a lot to talk about as they cleared the fields of the many rocks they found. They were talking about glaciers and ice ages in Sweden in the 1700s, but whether or not any of that knowledge would have reached the residents of Swanzey is a question I can’t answer. I do know that Native Americans burnt the town to the ground in the mid-1700s, so the residents probably had other things on their minds than glaciers and ice ages.

10. Stone

Other stones, instead of being shaped by ice, show traces of the hot magma that formed them.

11. Turkey Tails

These young turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) grew on a piece of bark that had pulled away from the stump it grew on. They reminded me of the old song Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton, and I had it playing in my head for the rest of the hike.

12. Log

There is a very big old log lying beside the trail just before you reach the top and I usually stop here to catch my breath. When I did that this time I saw that the old log had become a nurse log, with a small cherry or black birch growing out of the hollow where a branch once grew. I should have tasted a twig; the taste of wintergreen would have meant it was a black birch (Betula lenta,) which is also called sweet birch, cherry birch, and mahogany birch. It’s an unusual place for a tree to grow and it’ll be interesting to watch.

13. View

I think, out of all the hills I climb, if I climbed them for the view I’d be disappointed about 80% of the time, but since I don’t really care what the view looks like I’m never disappointed. I climb more for the things I see along the trail than what I see from the top, and I see interesting things along the trail every single time I climb. Today’s view would have been among the 80% I’m afraid, with its harsh sunlight and flat blue sky. A deeper blue in the sky and some puffy white clouds would have made a beautiful view but you can’t have everything, and I need to stop and remind myself that I should be thankful that I can even make it up here. There was a time not that long ago when Mount Caesar might as well have been Mount Everest.

14. Monadnock

Mount Monadnock sat in a sun washed haze over in Jaffrey. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ At 3 165 feet Mount Monadnock is taller than any other feature in the region and is visible from nearly every surrounding town. It rises about 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I took this photo.

15. Turkey Vulture

A large bird soared above me on the thermals. I think it was a turkey vulture and I wondered for a moment if it thought I was a turkey. It seemed very interested and circled a couple of times before flying off.

16. Lean To

Someone built a lean-to near the summit sometime in the past. If they stayed up here at night I hope they had a good flashlight and an excellent sense of direction. The cliffs here are quite high and stumbling around up here in the dark would not be wise.

17. Erratic

There is a large glacial erratic that sits on top of Mount Caesar but for some reason I’ve never shown it in a blog post. It’s smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle but not by much. It sits on the granite bedrock where the glacier left it, simply too big and heavy to do anything with. It could have been drilled and split with feathers and wedges like the boulder we saw earlier in this post but that was a lot of work, and what would have been the point? Then you’d just have had to drag the resulting stone slabs all the way down the trail.

18. Mica

This erratic has a lot of mica and feldspar in it, which are minerals I’ve never seen anywhere else here on Mount Caesar. Maybe the glacier carried it from Gilsum to the north. There is plenty of both there. Of course the definition of a glacial erratic is “a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests” and this example seems to fit that definition perfectly.

19. Toadskin

I had to sit by my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) for a while and study them a bit, because the more I look the more I see. On this day they were very dry to the point of crispness, but were still beautiful. The smaller one on the right was pierced by a pine needle, so if you know the size of a pine needle that will tell you the size of the lichen. They aren’t very big; I think the biggest one I’ve seen was about the same diameter as a ping pong ball. I keep hoping to find them at lower elevations but so far the only place I’ve ever seen them is on hilltops. More sunshine? Cleaner air?  I don’t know what attracts them to only the high places.

20. Bluets

The only wildflowers I saw on this morning were bluets (Houstonia caerulea,) and that was okay. They’re beautiful little things but I’ve never seen such an even division in the white and blue on the petals. Usually they have more of one color or the other, and often the white makes a narrow band around the center and the blue colors most of the rest of the petal. I’d have to call these examples bicolor. They were a surprise, and a real treat to see.

Away from the tumult of motor and mill
I want to be care-free; I want to be still!
I’m weary of doing things; weary of words
I want to be one with the blossoms and birds.

~Edgar A. Guest

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Tippin Rock Sign

I’ve heard a lot over the years about 912 foot Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey New Hampshire and about the 40 ton glacial erratic boulder that sits atop it, so recently I decided to finally climb up and see it for myself. It’s called Tippin Rock because according to legend “with a shove of your shoulder under the right spot” you can make 40 tons of granite rock gently, like a baby’s cradle.

2. Close Trail

The trail starts out as little more than a game trail, single file narrow, until it widens just a little as the above photo shows. Even though it’s a little wider here than where it started it’s still one person wide. Tall tree seedlings crowd in on both sides, obscuring any view into the forest.

3. Trail Widening

Finally it widens out to road width and steepens, and you can see deep into the forest ahead and on both sides. When bears are fattening up for hibernation I feel a lot more comfortable on a trail like this than I do on a close, winding trail where you can only see a few feet directly in front of you. There is less chance of being surprised.

4. Violet Toothed Polypore aka Trichaptum biformis

I found some violet toothed polypore (Trichaptum biformis) growing on a log. I don’t see these very often so I wasn’t thinking about getting a shot of the undersides, which are toothed. I like their purple edges.

5. White Coral Fungi

I also saw coral mushrooms (Ramariopsis kunzei) as white as the snow that will soon cover them. I always wonder how something that has just come up out of the ground can be so clean. Coral fungi get their name from the corals that grow under the sea.

6. Trail

Before too long the canopy thins and sunlight gets through, and you know that you’re near the top.

7. Tippin Rock Sign

The sign proves it. I had to laugh at the way it stated (and pointed to) the obvious.

8. Tippin Rock

So this is Tippin Rock? It’s only as big as a delivery van, so I wouldn’t have guessed. It’s a good thing the sign was there!

A glacial erratic is defined as “a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests.” You have to wonder where this one came from.

9. Tippin Rock Underside

Of course I immediately (before anyone could see) “got my shoulder under” every likely spot on the 40 ton behemoth and shoved and grunted and sweated and swore, but I couldn’t get it to move. I crawled under it to see what made it tick and found that, as the photo shows, it has a keel much like a boat. Who would have ever guessed that a glacier could set a 40 ton boulder down on a sheet of granite on a mountain top, in exactly the right position so it would rock back and forth? At least, it rocks for people who know the secret. I thought about finding a log and prying it, but then decided that doing so would be cheating. It would be hard to claim that I had tipped Tippin Rock knowing that I had cheated.

10. Old Photo of Tippin Rock

Did this lady tip it, I wonder? Actually, maybe I’m better off not knowing. I found this photo on line and what I find most interesting about it is how the visible side of the boulder is covered with rock tripe lichens. Rock tripe is a lichen that loves to grow on very large boulders and it can often be found on mountain and hill tops. It’s similar to toadskin lichen which we will see a little later. The lady’s outfit and the fact that the first really affordable camera-the Kodak Brownie-came out some time around 1900, means that it’s very safe to assume that a hundred years ago there were lichens on this rock face.

 11. Tippin Rock

So where did all the lichens go? This is the same face of the boulder shown in the previous circa 1900 photo, and it’s as clean as if it had been scrubbed. Did the trees grow and shade them out? Did they all die and just fall off? Did the weather wash them away? Tests have shown that lichens are tough enough to survive even the vacuum of space and tenacious enough to etch glass for a foothold, so how and why they disappeared from this rock face is a real mystery.

I leaned my monopod against it to give you an idea of how big this stone really is. Fully extended the monopod is about 6 feet long. I’m guesstimating the boulder is about 9-10 feet high, 18-20 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.

 12. Ledges

After you’ve worn yourself out trying to tip Tippin Rock you can follow a small side trail that leads to a lookout, and these cliffs are one of the things you pass on the way. Though it doesn’t look it in the photo it must have been 30 feet or more to the top. I wasn’t able to back away from them for a better angle because there was another even longer drop behind me which it wouldn’t have been good to test. People come up here to rock climb, and I can see why.

13. Toadskin Lichen

Toadskin lichen (Lasallia papulosa) decorated several boulders and I was happy to see it. This makes two places that I’ve found it now. Both take quite a climb to get to, so I wonder if altitude plays a part in where it will grow. It had just rained the night before so these examples were plump, pliable, and pea green. The black parts are their fruiting bodies (Apothecia) and these lichens were fruiting heavily.

14. Ledge View

The views from up here look south toward Massachusetts and are some of the best I’ve seen. This is a place that makes you feel small and that’s a good feeling to have every now and then. Sometimes feeling small reminds us just how big the universe is.

15. Ledge View

This beautiful view, taken as I had my back against the boulder that the toadskin lichens grew on, is my favorite. Every time I look out over such vast expanses of unbroken forest I realize that I’m seeing fairly close to what the early settlers would have seen. I wonder what they thought when they climbed a hill and found something like this before them. How daunting it must have been to know that you had to carve a homestead out of that wilderness with a single axe-your most valuable possession. I can’t help but wonder what I would have done. Would I have had the strength and courage to go on or would I have turned around and gone back to where I came from?  Still more questions which (thankfully) I’ll never find the answers to.

A man does not climb a mountain without bringing some of it away with him and leaving something of himself upon it. ~Martin Conway.

Thanks for coming by.

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