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Posts Tagged ‘Glacial Striations’

Last Friday the 18th was a beautiful day, already warm when I got to Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard at about 11:00 am. I could see spots of ice on the trail so I wore a coat and had my micro-spikes in my pocket, just in case. I couldn’t find any recent information on trail conditions so I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it would be nice to be climbing again after the terrible ice had kept me on level ground all winter.

I looked at the hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) along the way and though I saw plenty of leaf buds I didn’t see a single flower bud.

There are lots of dead trees in the forest along this trail. A standing dead tree like this one is called a snag, and snags play an important part of the overall health of the forest. This tree is probably full of insects and I could see where woodpeckers had been at work. Fungal spores will also find their way to it and eventually it will fall and provide nutrients to the surrounding soil for years to come. This one looked almost like it had a bear platform in it.

Beech leaves are quickly going white. Strong March winds usually clean them off the trees and I’m seeing as many on the ground as I am on the trees lately.

I think of this stop at the meadow as the great breathing space. I can catch my breath and think about absolutely nothing here. It’s just earth, myself, and sky. And silence. I often find a nice rock and just sit for a while.

It paid to rest up a bit for this stretch. I was expecting a little ice on the trails here but instead I got thick mud, which on a hill is almost as bad.  

Mud and stones for the rest of the way.

And roots; lots of roots. They were useful to stop yourself if you were slipping backwards in the mud, which I did a couple of times. You really want to wear good, sturdy hiking boots with some ankle support here if you can.

The bright orange-red witches’ brooms on blueberry bushes burned like fire in the woods. They may seem unsightly to some and if you have a blueberry plantation you would surely want to remove them, but I worked around a blueberry bush that had one for many years, and it bore fruit just as well as the other bushes that didn’t. I left it as an experiment, just to see what would happen and it really didn’t seem to bother the bush at all.  

If you turn around in the right spot as you climb the leg of the trail beside the meadow you can see Mount Monadnock over in Jaffrey. On this day it showed me that it would not be a good day for views. It was strange because I saw no signs of haze as I drove from Keene.

As I neared the summit, I saw that the old ranger cabin’s broken windows had finally been boarded up. It had been broken into and vandalized last year so better late than never, I suppose. It would be tough getting the tools and materials up here to do the job, I would think.

The only mountain ash (Sorbus americana) I’ve ever found in the wild lives up here and it looked to be doing well.

Big, black and pointed mountain ash buds often look like they have a single cap like bud scale but they actually have several overlapping scales which are quite sticky. They should be swelling any time now if this warm weather keeps up.

As I looked up at the fire tower on the summit I was grateful, because I remembered the winter I had to crawl up those last few rocky yards on my hands and knees because of the ice. I doubt I’ll ever do it again, even though being up here in January can be pretty special.

This really was not a day for views but I was able to get a fuzzy shot of the wind turbines over in Antrim. It really is amazing how big they are.

When I saw these three trees, I thought of the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

There was plenty of water on the summit for the birds to drink, and that meant plenty of mud as well. There was no escaping the mud on this day. It was over 70 degrees F. and everything had melted quickly, including any frost in the ground. By this point I was wishing that I had left my coat in the car.

Deep striations in the granite are a reminder that this entire region was once under ice. It’s hard to imagine ice thick enough to cover these mountains. It is estimated that the ice that covered New England in the last ice age was 2 Km (6,562 Ft.) thick. That means that 2,153-foot-high pitcher mountain was buried under more than 4000 feet of ice.

The near hill looked a bit drab on this day but I’ve known it in all seasons and soon it will be beautifully green with new spring leaves, because it is covered with mostly deciduous trees. In the fall it will be even more beautiful when those leaves begin to turn.

The summit is covered with many different lichens, like the yellowish goldspeck and the black and white tile lichens seen here. There are 136 species of tile lichens so identification is difficult without a microscope. I just like the colors in this scene.

I don’t know if the Pitcher family who settled here planted apple trees but there are apple trees here, and the sapsuckers love them. Their trunks are full of small holes.

I got to see a staghorn sumac bud just beginning to open.

And then there was the trail down. I picked my way carefully avoiding what mud I could, and I made it just fine, and that made a beautiful spring day seem even better.

Since there were no summit views to be had I thought I’d stop and get a shot of the Congregational Church in Stoddard on my way home so those of you who have never been to New England could see what a fairly traditional New England church looks like. The town was named after Colonel Sampson Stoddard of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the charter being granted to him and others on May 10, 1752. The population has fluctuated over the years, falling to as low as 100 people in 1900 to around 1000 today. According to the town’s website the Congregational Church was organized in 1787, but the building in the photo wasn’t built until 1836.

A mountaintop is not simply an elevation, but an island, a world within a world, a place out of place. ~Paul Gruchow

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Trail

A friend of mine who moved to California many years ago came back east for a visit recently and, since it was a beautiful summery day with low humidity we decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard, New Hampshire. This mountain was named for the Pitcher family who settled here in the 1700s. The trail is actually a road so the fire wardens, technicians, and others can easily drive almost all the way to the top. Hiking it takes about 15 minutes with no stops.

2. Meadow

Before long you reach the pasture where Scottish highland cattle are kept. They weren’t here this day, but there were plenty of wildflowers to admire.

3. Grass Flowering

Grasses were also flowering. They are beautiful when they bloom.

 4. Trail

Nearer to the top the trail gets steeper and rockier.

5. Ranger Station

Before you know it you’re at the old ranger station. There is a shed and an outhouse out in back.

6. Firetower Anchor

It isn’t hard to imagine the mighty winds that must blow up here. The fire tower is tied down to solid granite in several places so it doesn’t blow off the mountain.

7. Fire Tower

Ironically the original wooden fire tower built here in 1915 was destroyed by fire in April of 1940. 27,000 acres of forest burned, including the fire tower and all of the trees on the summit.  It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history and burned the top of the mountain right down to bare granite. There are 16 active fire towers in the state, but this one is only manned when the fire danger is high. It has microwave transmitters and receivers on it, and I’m never really sure what to think about that.

8. Blueberry

Blueberry bushes have colonized the mountaintop and this is a favorite spot to come and pick them. Sometimes entire families will come and pick buckets full of berries. There are acres of them and there always seems to be enough for everybody.

9. Mountain View

Others come for the views, which on this day were quite good.

10. Lichens

I always have to take a close look at the lichens when I come here, even though they never seem to change. Orangey-yellowish common gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) and black and white tile lichen (Lecidea tessellata) appear here with small spots of pale yellow sulfur fire dot lichen (Caloplaca flavovirescens.)

 11. Cloudscape

I took this shot more for the clouds than anything else. I like the way that they float off into infinity. According to Henry David Thoreau mountain tops were sacred and mysterious places to Native Americans and they never visited them. “Only daring and insolent men go there” he said, but I didn’t feel particularly daring or insolent on this day.

 12. Glacial Striations

Deep striations in the granite are a reminder that this entire region was once under ice. It’s hard to imagine ice thick enough to cover these mountains.

 13. Triangulation Station

Even on mountain tops, trigonometry.

14. Monadnock

As you start back down the path on this, the second highest mountain in the region, you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock, which is the highest. The sun coming through the clouds was doing some strange things to the colors of the hills, making them look like a painting.

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. ~Rene Daumal

Thanks for coming by. Happy first day of summer!

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