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Posts Tagged ‘Hill Climbing’

1-trail

We’ve had nights that have been more than cold enough to make snow and most of our ski slopes plan on being open by Thanksgiving day (Nov. 24), so last Sunday I was off to Walpole and the High Blue Trail to see if I could sneak a peek across the Connecticut River valley to see if the slopes were white on Stratton Mountain. Warm days after a freeze mean Indian summer, and it was a glorious Indian summer day for a walk; warm and sunny, but with a chance of showers.

2-black-knot-on-cherry

I stopped to look at some black knot disease on a young black cherry. It is caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa which can also attack plums, peaches, and apricots. Spores from the fungus can be spread by rain or wind and typically infect trees from April through June on new growth. Infected stems swell up and produce hard black knots like those in the above photo. This disease can eventually kill the tree so infected limbs should be pruned off 2-4 inches below the knots and buried or burned before bud break the following spring.

3-boulders

This one is for Jerry over at the Quiet Solo Pursuits Blog. (If you’re a bird lover then you’ll love his blog.) Jerry says that they don’t have many boulders in Michigan so I show him some of ours occasionally. In my recent post on Willard Pond I showed a large boulder, but this example is only about half the size of that one. To give you an idea of scale I put my hunting season hat on my monopod and leaned it against the stone. What looks like green rags all over the boulder are actually rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata.)

4-rock-tripe

Some of the biggest rock tripe lichens I’ve ever seen grow here, and I looked for the absolute biggest among them to show you. The camera that I use for macro photos shows just how big they are. Rock tripe is very pliable and rubbery when it’s moist, but once it dries out it becomes crisp like a potato chip. It sticks itself to stone by way of a single, navel like attachment point. The rest of the lichen hangs from this central point, much like a rag hanging on a peg.

5-cornfield

The magic corn had been harvested. I think of it as magic corn because I was here in mid-June and there was a meadow here, and then I returned in September and the meadow had become a corn field, complete with ripe, golden ears. And in the middle of a drought.

6-corn

The critters got some of the corn but they didn’t get it all.

7-fungus-on-bear-scat

A bear must have eaten its fill because a large pile of its dung was full of corn. A mold that looked like 4 inch tall wiry horse hairs grew on it. Or more accurately, the mold grew on the sugars in the corn.

8-fungus-on-bear-scat

It’s hard to tell from these photos but tiny spheres full of spores top each hair like filament of this mold. Because of that the fungus is often called pin head mold and is in the Phycomyces family. It is related to bread mold and has been around for hundreds of millions of years, even though its life cycle spans just a few short hours. It’s best to stay away from molds that grow on animal droppings when they’re releasing spores because the spores have been known to make people very sick. I took a couple of quick shots and moved on.

9-goldenrod

I don’t know if it was because the corn towering over them protected them from frost or not, but there were many goldenrod plants blooming in the meadow / cornfield. It was nice to see them.

10-foundation

As I often do I thought of the early settlers who once lived up here as I passed what’s left of the old foundation. It’s hard to know why they left but many farms were abandoned when the woolen mills opened. They were paid next to nothing by the mill owners but it was an income that wasn’t weather dependent and one they could count on. I tried working in a woolen mill once and I knew right off that it wasn’t for me, but it isn’t too hard to imagine at least some of the homesteaders being happy they had a regular job. Farming is hard work in this stony ground.

11-stone-wall

The people who settled here were certainly hard working if not persevering, and the many hundreds of miles of stone walls snaking through these woods is a constant reminder of all of those who once tried to tame this land.

12-pond

I was glad to see that the small pond had a little more water in it than it did two months ago. I’ve seen lots of tracks around it so I know that many animals come here to drink. Most of the duckweed had disappeared as well. Several readers have told me that it sinks to the bottom in the fall. It disappeared last fall, but was there again this past summer.

13-sign

If the view from the overlook doesn’t tell you that you’ve arrived the sign will.

14-view

I’m not sure that I’ve ever shown a proper long shot from High Blue into Vermont, but that’s Stratton Mountain Resort in the center of the photo, way over across the Connecticut River Valley. It would be quite a hike.

15-view

Stratton Mountain had so many clouds around it I couldn’t tell if there was snow on the ski slopes or not. I decided to wait and see if they moved away and cleared the view. To give a sense of the distance and scale shown in this scene; the tiny white specks over in the lower left corner are houses.

16-view

To the left part of the Green Mountain range over in Vermont could be seen. The clouds were getting darker though.

17-view

To the right a neighborhood basked in bright Sunshine.

18-view

Straight ahead a darkness came over the land and the rain fell in torrents, obliterating the view of the mountain. That sounds a bit more biblical than I meant it to but it’s what came to mind as I watched the scene unfold. Since Vermont lies to the west of New Hampshire their weather almost always becomes our weather, so I thought it might be wise to head back down the hill. The clouds moved slightly to the left (south) but mostly floated slowly towards me, so it was hard to tell how long they would take to reach me and my unprotected camera.

19-trail

The sun was still at my back and the day was still beautiful here away from the storm, so I took my time going down.

20-unknown-yellow-crust-on-stone

I spied something very out of the ordinary just as I reached the parking area. I used to collect rocks and minerals so I know enough about them to know that yellow is a rare color for a stone in this part of the world. Radioactive minerals like gummite and autunite are yellow and both are found in the northern part of New Hampshire, but the example above doesn’t look quite like either one and I’m not convinced that it’s a mineral at all. It looks as if the yellow material is on the surface of the stone rather than part of it.

21-unknown-yellow-crust-on-stone

The only thing I’ve seen in nature that was egg yolk yellow and could cover the surface of a stone is a slime mold, but slime molds almost always have some texture and this example looks more like it is simply coating and mimicking the texture of the stone, along with the bits of hemlock needles, acorns and other plant materials on it. I doubt that it’s a radioactive mineral and I don’t think it’s a slime mold. At least, not an active slime mold; it might be one that has dried out, but I can’t say for sure. In the end I have to say that it’s another of nature’s mysteries.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. ~Albert Einstein

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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1-asters-and-goldenrod

Sometimes when you live in a forest there is a feeling of closeness, so I like to occasionally visit more open areas to balance things out. Hill climbing usually widens the viewpoint so on Saturday I decided to climb the High Blue trail in Walpole. From up there, I knew there would be nothing blocking my view of the horizon.

There were plenty of flowers to be seen along the way, especially asters and goldenrods. They must have mesmerized me because I got home and discovered that I had no photos of the trail itself, so I have to ask you to imagine walking on your favorite forest trail as you scroll through this post.

2-asters

Some aster blossoms were about an inch and a half across and that told me they were most likely New England asters. There is no other native aster as big that I know of that will grow in dry places. Some come close in size but they want wet feet and grow on stream banks.

3-aster

They’re always beautiful no matter what their name or size.

4-coltsfoot-foliage

Years ago there was a substantial colony of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) here that bloomed heavily each spring. They were the most coltsfoot plants I had ever seen in one place but a logging skidder plowed them up and I haven’t seen one bloom here since. I saw plenty of foliage on this day though, and that tells me that they’re making a comeback.

5-corn-field

In all the time I’ve been coming here this large plot of land has been a hay meadow, but all of the sudden it’s now it’s a cornfield. I was here last June and the field hadn’t even been plowed, so I was surprised to see so much corn.

6-corn

In spite of the drought the corn looked good, with large ears showing. Animals had found it though, and they were helping themselves. Possibly raccoons, or maybe turkeys or crows, or maybe all three.

7-corn-field

When I was a boy walking along the railroad tracks I saw (and played in) many cornfields, so this field made me feel young again. The corn must have been 8 feet tall.

8-sarsaparilla

Fall had been sprinkled on the sarsaparilla plants (Aralia nudicaulis) along the trail.

9-reflector

A reflector button on a tree reminded me that archery season for white tail deer had started two days before. There are plenty of deer in this area and most likely plenty of hunters as well, but I didn’t see any. Bow hunters often sit up in the trees.

10-foundation

 The old foundation on the summit and the deer hunters made me wonder what the settlers who once lived here must have eaten;  probably plenty of venison, as well as moose, bear and other animals.

If you’re interested in history the following is from the book Walpole as it was and as it is. 1749 to 1879.

“The flesh of the deer and bear afforded the settlers many a delicious repast. Wild turkeys were trapped and shot, and quails and pigeons caught in nets, in great abundance. The brooks were filled with trout and dace, and the river abounded in salmon and shad.“

11-stone-wall

Clearing this place of all the stones in this wall as well as all of the trees that once grew here was hard work when all you had was an axe and a horse, or oxen if you were lucky, so I’m sure eating well would have been all important.

12-pond-surface

The small pond on the summit has shrunken to about half its size due to the drought but at least it still had some water in it. If the hoof and paw prints in the mud are any indication a lot of animals drink here. Though the pond’s surface was mostly covered by duckweed the dappled sunlight on it was beautiful. It was like  looking through a kaleidoscope.

13-sign

This place is called High Blue because it’s higher than the surrounding terrain and the view to the west across the Connecticut River valley is always blue, without fail.

14-view

As expected the view was blue this day and there was little haze. I could see Stratton Mountain over in Vermont clearly, and that was a surprise. I’ve noticed that it can get very hazy here and sometimes you can barely make out the mountain.  I also noticed that some of the trees were getting taller, and I wondered who maintained this overlook. Whoever it is has some work ahead of them.

15-view

It was clear enough to just make out the ski trails on the right hand end of Stratton Mountain. I’m not anxious to see snow on them but I’m sure they’ll be covered by mid-November, either by man-made or natural snow. Thanksgiving always comes with a school vacation and that’s a busy time for the ski slopes.

16-rock-piles

I saw that there are now four piles of stones here, not only marring the landscape but also interfering with the space that people have to stand and look at the view. There isn’t much room to begin with and these piles take up half the available real estate, so I’ve decided that I will dismantle them. I could understand building them if they marked a trail or had some other significance, but up here they are just a nuisance. I almost tripped over one of them when I was trying to find the best spot for taking a photo.

17-fern-gully

The place I’ve come to call fern gully because of all the ferns there was both green with live ferns and brown with dead ones, with a little orange and yellow to mark the halfway point between them.

18-lady-fern

Some of the lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) were at the white stage; which is the last color they turn before becoming brown and dry. Lady ferns are also called ghost ferns because of this habit. Unfortunately they don’t all turn at the same time. If they did fern gully would be a wondrous sight at this time of year.

19-hobblebush

The hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) warned that fall was right around the corner, and in fact tomorrow is already the first day of autumn.

20-full-moon

Later that night I thought I’d take a photo of the harvest moon. I haven’t taken a photo of the moon in so long I can’t remember when the last time was, so I thought it was about time. But after a summer of cloudless skies one cloud floated in and parked itself right in front of the moon. It was the slowest moving cloud I’ve ever seen; I waited nearly two hours for it to float away so I could take this photo.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.” ~ John Muir

Thanks for coming by.

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1-trail

Last Saturday an old friend who moved to California years ago came east for a visit, so I thought I’d take him up Hewe’s hill to see Tippin’ Rock. He’s a regular reader of this blog and has seen the behemoth in photos, but never in person. Luckily he’s always up for an uphill climb.

2-turkey-feather

Since we’re about the same age I don’t think he minded my stopping to take photos, like this one of a turkey feather. We don’t run up and down hills quite like we used to.

3-tippin-rock

But we were able to huff and puff our way to the top where the 40 ton glacial erratic sat waiting. We marveled at the size of the thing and thought about all the things that had to have happened millions of years ago for it to have ended up here. It doesn’t just sit on dirt; it’s on the only perfectly flat section of the granite bedrock that the hill is made from. And it isn’t just any old rock; its underside is like the hull of a ship, with a keel-like shape to it. It also comes with a very old legend that says if you “get your shoulder under” the right part of the stone and heave, it will move. That’s where the name “Tippin” Rock” comes from.

4-tipping-tippin-rock

Well, I’ve gotten my shoulder under every part of the thing and heaved until I was blue in the face, so I thought I’d let my friend Dave have a turn. Here he is going at it from the side, using his arms instead of his shoulder. The rock just sat there, so then he tried a different spot and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Wonder of wonders; 40 tons of granite rocked back and forth like a baby cradle.  “Well I’ll be,” I said and then I took a turn. Once again it moved back and forth like a pendulum. But it’s a slow, subtle movement and we discovered that if you’re looking directly at the stone you can’t really tell that it’s moving. You have to look at an edge to really see the slow rocking motion, and that’s what makes me think that every time I’ve heaved at the stone it was moving and I just couldn’t see it. We also noticed that we could hear it rocking by its crushing the dry forest debris that the wind has blown under it.

5-tipping-tippin-rock

We tried several different spots and the big stone rocked slowly back and forth nearly every time, so the legend of Tippin Rock has proven true, and I’m glad to be able to check another of nature’s mysteries off my long list. I told Dave I’d make him world famous; known from here to Timbuktu as the man who can move 40 tons of solid granite with nothing but his bare hands.

6-trail

We spent more than a few minutes marveling at our sudden onrush of super human strength but there were other things up here to see, so we headed off down the trail to where the views are found.

7-in-the-tree-tops

As I feared the sky was flat, dull, white, and uninteresting. It might seem ungrateful to complain about an entire summer of cloudless blue skies but I can say with surety that even the best things in life can become tiresome when you have too much of them. We did have a dark cloudy day with a little drizzle yesterday and it seemed like all of nature was rejoicing.

8-view-south

To the south there were miles of unbroken forest. I didn’t see much in the way of fall colors but some of the trees seem to be hinting at lighter shades.

9-view-west

To the west there was more unbroken forest and even a touch of blue in the sky. There is also a stronger hint of fall in this photo, I just noticed.

10-ledges

In places the bedrock forms ledges and in the ledges there are sometimes shallow caves, some big enough to sit in when it rains.  You have to choose your cave carefully though, because in many of them the stone on the ceiling is falling to the floor.

11-ledges

In places the bedrock forms sheer faces and rock climbers come here to hone their craft. Just to the left, out of sight in this photo, is a drop of (we guessed) about 60-80 feet. Vertigo comes easily here, at least for those who don’t do heights well, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to be wandering around at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I introduced Dave to my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) and he was impressed by their tenacity. Even after a summer of little rain but here they sit, dry and brittle, patiently waiting for the fall rains that we are all hoping for. We just had a hurricane move up the coast that looked promising for a few tropical downpours but unfortunately it has missed us except for a tiny bit of drizzle.

13-lady-fern

Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) reminded us that fall was right around the corner. According to the “Fern Bulletin,” which is a quarterly publication devoted to ferns, fern reproductive systems weren’t understood until the middle of the 16th century, when fern spores were finally studied. Before that time people thought that there were male and female ferns, and that’s how the lady fern came by her common name. There are other stories about the origin of the name but this one seems the most plausible. It is also called ghost fern for the way it turns white in the fall.

14-butterfly

You have to cross a meadow filled with red clover to get back to your parking spot and on this day every clover blossom seemed to have a yellow butterfly on it. I think they were all common sulfurs.

15-butterflies

It was nice of this one to fly into the frame as I snapped the shutter and show us the upper surface of its wings. The markings match the common Sulphur butterfly. There must have been a large hatching of them, or maybe they’re migrating through the area. Seeing so many at once was a beautiful sight.

16-smiley-face

Mister smiley face didn’t have to remind me that there was plenty to smile about, but it was good to see him just the same.

The best part of the journey is the surprise and wonder along the way. ~Ken Poirot

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Trail

Last Sunday the forecast was iffy, with possible showers and high wind gusts predicted, so I had to shake a leg and get moving earlier than I would have on a sun filled day. As the puddles in this photo of the old logging road that starts this climb show, it had rained the night before. It has been very dry here so the rain is welcome.

2. Sign

I chose High Blue trail in Walpole because of the forecast. It’s an easy and relatively quick climb and I know it well. I was hoping the showers would hold off, and they did.

3. Meadow

Before you know it you’re in the meadow. I met a porcupine here last year but I didn’t see him this time.

4. Orange Hawkweed

I did see some orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) though, and I was happy to find it because it’s something I don’t see much of. Yellow hawkweed is far more common here. Orange hawkweed is native to the alpine regions of Europe, so apparently it likes high places. If you look at the flower over on the left you’ll see a tiny crab spider pretending to be orange like the flower.

5. Crab Spider-2

Crab spiders can change their color to match the background, but I think this one went a little heavy on the red. They change color by secreting pigments into the outer cell layer of their bodies and I wonder if they carry a whole case full of different colored pigments along with them. This one needs to mix in a little yellow to get the desired orange, I think. I’ve seen white, yellow and purple crab spiders but never red or orange.

6. Spider in Buttercup

I don’t know what kind of spider this one was, but it was living in a buttercup and it had a visitor. I don’t know the visitor’s name either, but it was able to balance on the edge of a petal.

7. Spider in Buttercup

Then all of the sudden the visitor was gone. I don’t know for sure where he went, but I can guess.

8. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

An eastern swallowtail butterfly appeared to be sunning itself on the edge of the meadow. It let me take 3 photos and then flew off.

9. Rock Tripe

There are places where the bedrock thrusts up into ledges and some of the biggest rock tripe lichens (Umbilicaria mammulata) that I’ve ever seen grow on them. They look like green rags hanging from the stone. These were very pliable because of the previous night’s rain. If you want to know what they felt like just feel your ear lobe, because they feel much like that, only thinner. Rock tripe is edible and eating it has saved the lives of people who were lost and starving in the past.

10. Rock Tripe with Camera

I put my new camera above one of the rock tripe lichens so you could get an idea of their size. The camera is about 2 X 3.5 inches and though it looks like it was on that’s just a reflection on the viewing screen.

This camera is hopefully going to replace the Panasonic Lumix that I’ve used for years. The Lumix was a great camera that took macro photos better than any camera I’ve owned, but it finally gave up the ghost after taking many thousands of them. Since you can’t get that version of the Lumix any longer its replacement is a Canon Power Shot ELPH 180. The jury is still out on its capabilities. I’ve noticed that it gets confused and can’t find the subject occasionally but it took all of the macros and close ups in this post, so I’ll let you judge for yourselves.  I need to put it through its paces a bit more, I think.

11. Erineum patches on Beech

The eriophyid mite Acalitus fagerinea produces erineum patches on American beech that look and feel like felt. In fact the definition of erineum is “an abnormal felty growth of hairs from the leaf epidermis of plants caused by various mites.” The patches can turn from green to red, gold, or silver before finally turning brown. They don’t cause any real harm to the tree but if you had a copper beech as an ornamental they could be unsightly.

12. Virw

I finally stopped dawdling and reached the summit to find that the view was hazy as I expected. But at least the clouds were casting deep blue shadows on the hills, and that’s something that I had hoped to see on my last climb of Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey.  I could just make out the shape of Stratton Mountain, off across the Connecticut River valley in Vermont, on the left. It’s easier to see in winter when it has snow on it.

13. Virw

I sat and watched the cloud shadows race each other over the hills for a while like I remember doing as a boy. This view is to the west and the clouds coming toward me were beginning to darken and stack up, and the wind had started gusting enough to make the trees creak and moan. This spot is always windy even on a good day, so I decided it was time to be on my way.

14. Pond

But first I wanted to see the pond to see if it was covered with duckweed like it was last summer. It wasn’t covered yet but the tiny plants floated along the shoreline. It also had a lot of tree pollen floating on its surface. The tree and grass pollen has been bad this month because we haven’t had much rain to scrub it out of the air, and allergy sufferers are having a hard time of it.

15. Duckweed

Last year the duckweed all disappeared from this pond and readers told me that it sinks to the bottom in winter, and comes back in spring. So far it seems they were right.

16. Duxkweed

I swished the end of my monopod through the duckweed and came up with these plants. Each plant has 1 to 3 leaves, or fronds, of 1/16 to 1/8 inch in length. A single root or root-hair grows from each frond. Many ducks eat duckweed and carry it from pond to pond on their bodies. I suppose if you had it in a home pond the only way to control it would be to scoop it out with some type of net. It does flower and makes seeds, so chances are good that you’d have to do it at least once a season for 2-3 years.

17. Lady's Slipper

I saw several native pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) growing near the pond but all but one had lost its blossom, maybe to a hungry deer. This photo shows a view of the hole at the top of the blossom that insects need to crawl out of to escape the pouch after entering through the slit down its middle front. There is another hole just like it on the other side, so they have a choice. Downward pointing hairs inside the pouch prevent them from crawling back through the central slit, so forced to exit through a hole they get dusted with pollen.

18. Fern Gully

I decided to take another side trail through what I’ve taken to calling fern gully; there was one more thing I wanted to see.

19. Fern Patterns

The fern fronds dancing back and forth in the wind were mesmerizing and I could have sat watching them for a while if the swaying, groaning trees hadn’t quickened my step.

20. Dinosaur

I wondered if the dinosaur and coins would still be there on the quartz ledge and they were. I don’t really know anything about them but I like to think that a child was thankful for what nature had shown them and wanted to give something back out of gratitude, so they left their favorite toy and their allowance money. At least, that’s the story that has written itself in my mind.

Close your eyes and turn your face into the wind.
Feel it sweep along your skin in an invisible ocean of exultation.
Suddenly, you know you are alive.
~Vera Nazarian

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Trail Start

Last Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far, with plenty of tropical humidity as well. Puffy white clouds floated slowly through the sky and if you hadn’t known it was May you’d have sworn it was August. When I was a boy I used to love such days, when you could see the shadows of the clouds moving across the distant hills, so I decided to climb one of those hills to see those shadows again. Since it was so hot I decided on an easy climb and chose Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey. You start by crossing the meadow in the above photo. I saw that someone had been there before me; maybe another cloud lover.

2. Grass Flowering

Grasses were flowering. It’s too bad that so many miss them, because they can be very beautiful when they blossom.

3. Blue Eyed Grass

Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) wasn’t a surprise; meadows like this one is where it loves to grow. Despite its name this little beauty isn’t a grass at all; it’s in the iris family. Wild turkeys love its seeds.

4. Trail

I knew if I didn’t stop dawdling among the meadow flowers I’d never get to the top of the hill, so I set off up the trail.

5. Lady's Slipper

But there were more flowers there to dawdle over. Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule,) one of our most beautiful native orchids, bloomed alongside the trail. Native Americans called it moccasin flower, for obvious reasons. They used the plant medicinally as a nerve tonic and a pain reliever.

6. Wooly Oak Gall

Further up the trail I found a woolly oak gall, created by the wool sower gall wasp (Callirhytis seminator.) It was a small example about the size of an acorn, but I’ve seen them as big as ping pong balls. The gall is caused by secretions from the grubs of the gall wasp, which will only build it on white oak and only in spring. There are small seed like structures inside the gall which contain the wasp larva, and that’s why these galls are also called oak seed galls.

7. Oak Apple Gall

Oak apple galls fall from the trees regularly at this time of year. Theses galls are caused by a gall wasp known as Biorhiza pallida laying an egg inside a leaf bud. Tissue swells around the egg and a gall is formed.

8. Oak Apple Gall Inside

The gall wasp larva lives in the very center of the gall. Once they develop into an adult wasp they make a hole through the side of the gall and fly (or crawl) off to begin the cycle again. A web of spokes keeps the hollow sphere from deflating by connecting the inner hub to the outer shell.

9. Tippin Rock

When you see the 40 ton glacial erratic called Tippin rock you know the climb is just about done. This rock gets its name from the way it can be rocked or tipped when pushed in the right spot, but I’ve never found the spot. Anyhow, this wasn’t what I had come to see so I took a quick photo and moved on. The climbing might be over but the hiking to the scenic overlook isn’t.

10. View

I came hoping to see puffy white clouds casting shadows on the hills, and though I saw plenty of puffy white clouds I didn’t see any shadows. That’s because the clouds were off to the left and the sun was on the right. I find that usually when I go into the woods expecting to see a certain thing I don’t usually see it. Focusing on just one thing can make you miss a lot of what nature has to offer, so that’s why when I go into the woods I try to strip myself of all expectations and just enjoy whatever happens to be in my path. I saw many other interesting things so a lack of cloud shadows wasn’t disappointing. There will be other days with puffy white clouds.

11. View

Some of the puffy white clouds were becoming puffy dark gray clouds, and I wondered if we might see a thunderstorm. I hoped not since I was carrying three cameras (2 in pockets) with no way to protect them.

12. View

This view probably comes closest to what I was trying for, but it’s still not it.

13. Clouds

This shot, taken earlier on the same day at a different location, is what started it all, and shows what I was hoping to see on the hilltop. I might have done better just staying in the low lands.

14. Toadskin Lichen

But if I hadn’t climbed I wouldn’t have gotten to see my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa,) because they only grow on hilltops. Their warty projections are called pustules and if you look at the back of this lichen there will be a corresponding pit for every pustule. When wet the greenish color of the algae that is present comes through but when dry they can be very ashy gray. They are also very brittle when dry, like a potato chip.

16. Rock Tripe Lichens

Growing right alongside the toadskin lichens is rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) which is kind of like a toadskin without the warts. It attaches to the rock in the same way and also gets brittle when dry. Though I imagine they must taste like old rubber, these lichens were a source of emergency food for Native Americans and saved the lives of many an early settler. Even George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe to survive the brutal winter at Valley Forge in 1777.

17. Toadskin and Rock Tripe Lichens

In this photo the green rock tripe lichens are smaller than the gray toadskin lichens and that’s unusual, but it’s because the rock tripe lichens in this photo are babies. I’ve seen rock tripe lichens as big as my hand but have only seen toad skins about 2 inches across, which is what I’d say the biggest examples in this photo were.

18. Toadskin Lichen

Each lichen, both rock tripe and toad skin, is attached to the rock at a single point that looks much like a belly button, and that makes them umbilicate lichens. I hope everyone reading this will make lichens one of the things they look for when outdoors. They’re fascinating, beautiful things that grow virtually everywhere; even in cities if the air is clean. Cemeteries are a good place to look for those that grow on stone.

19. Smiley Face

Mr. Smiley face was happy as always because that’s what happens when you spend all of your free time outside. You become filled with more joy than you ever thought possible.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~John Lubbock

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1. Freezing Fog Morning

Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 50s F. Sunday, the weather people said, would be even better with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the 60s. In New Hampshire such predictions for a December day are enough to get people really excited, but unfortunately a fog rolled in overnight and at 10:30 am on Sunday our landscape still looked like the photo above.

2. Frosty Leaf

Not only had fog rolled in but cold as well, so this wasn’t just ordinary fog. No, this was freezing fog.

3. Frosted Twigs

Everything was coated in rime including the roads if you could believe the road watchers. I didn’t happen to see any icy roads but maybe I was just lucky.

4. Foggy View

I had planned the night before to show you a June day in December with sunshine, blue skies, and green grass, so I had to come up with a plan B. If there’s one thing you learn as a nature blogger it’s that you have to be flexible and take what nature gives. Make all the plans you want, but nature will do as nature pleases and you’ll either go along or be left out of the game. Anyhow, in a pinch I thought I’d climb one of our many hills to see if I could get above the fog. When I reached the bottom of Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey I was presented with the view in the photo above.

5. Frosted White Pine

This white pine (Pinus strobus) at the trail head really was white, but with frost.

6. Trail

The trail was wet but easily climbed. This is a quick, easy climb and that’s why I chose it. I was afraid the sun would come out and burn off all the mist before I could get up above it, which is exactly what happened when I tried this last year on Mount Caesar in Swanzey. It’s a bit of a letdown to climb as fast as you can only to finally reach the summit and huff and puff as you watch the last wisps of mist disappear before you can even turn your camera on.

7. Spider Web

I didn’t expect to see any spider webs because I thought any sensible spider would be doing whatever spiders do in the winter like maybe sleeping, but there were spider webs to be seen. They looked more like someone’s kite string had tangled in the bushes than the beautiful crotchet like spider webs you’d see in the corners of the Addams Family mansion but there they were; strings of ice.

8. Tree Skirt Moss

The trees wore long stockings made of tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates.)

9. Turkey Tail

Blue turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) decorated the logs and fallen branches.

10. Sun Patch

A slice of bright sunlight made me think that I had spent too much time dilly dallying along the trail and had once again lost my chance to get above the fog.

11. Sunshine

In fact my chances weren’t looking at all promising. The mist I saw from the top of Mount Caesar last year burned off quicker than I ever would have believed it could.

12. First Glimpse

But finally there it was, and this was the first glimpse. I had made it, but only just in time.

13. Mist

Is this what a forest fire looks like from above, I wondered?

14. Mist

The cloud was beautiful as it washed through the valley like a stream but silently, without even so much as a sigh.

15. The Edge

Careful, we don’t want to take the fast way down. It would most certainly be our last step.

16. Toadskin Lichen

I visited with my friends the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) while watching the mist roll on. They’re very shy and only grow on hilltops, but since I always lean on their rock when I come here I’ve gotten to know them well. They were being woken by the first rays of the sun and that made me wonder how much light a lichen needs. I know that they produce their own food through photosynthesis but beyond that I know very little about their light requirements.  I think this one is one of the most unusual and beautiful of our lichens.

17. Mist Breaking

All too soon the mist started to yield to the power of the sun and evaporate.

18. Mist Gone

And then it was gone, just like that, with nothing left but a soft haze, and I sat beside the toad skin lichens wondering about all of the people who had missed it. I wondered if they knew how peaceful it was up here, and I wondered how many knew that most of their troubles and fears would vanish like the mist had if they just spent more of their time in places like this one.

19. Smiley

I knew how the person who blazed the trees must have felt when he or she painted this smiley face because I had smiled myself all the way down the trail. And who wouldn’t, after such an interesting and beautiful morning?

20. After the Climb

This is the same view that appears in the 4th photo in this post just two hours later, so I am able to show you a June day in December with sunshine, blue skies, and green grass after all.

Glance into the world just as though time were gone: and everything crooked will become straight to you. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

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1. Road

Last Sunday morning there was ice on the puddles and I thought that it must have been cold enough over the last few nights to make snow at the ski areas so off I went to the High Blue trail in Walpole, which is north of Keene and higher in elevation. From there you can see the ski trails on Stratton Mountain in Vermont. The trek starts by following an old logging road to the trail head.

2. Sign

With a sign like this one to guide you, you can’t miss it.

3. Meadow

Soon you come to the meadow, which is cut each summer for hay. As I was taking this photo I saw something small and dark moving out there, and it was heading straight for me. I’ve been here enough times to know that there shouldn’t be anything moving in this meadow, but if there was it would most likely be a deer.

4. Porcupine

It certainly wasn’t a deer; it was a porcupine and it seemed to be eating its way through the meadow. It would walk a few feet and then stop and munch some clover or whatever it was finding. What was odd about this encounter is that porcupines are supposedly mostly nocturnal creatures and spend much of their time in trees.

5. Porcupine

He came right over to me and sat up on his haunches for a better look. I asked him to please hold still for a photo or two and smile if he liked, and he was very obliging. He was also quite cute and looked like he had just had his hair done. If he was a pet I think I’d call him Yoda. Now I know why Leslie asked me if I ever posted porcupine photos a few posts ago. She said they were one of her favorites, so this one is for you Leslie. It’s easy to love such a gentle, friendly animal isn’t it? I’ve heard that they will play with toys like a ball of string for hours, just like a cat would.

For those who don’t know porcupines, they’re a rodent that can weigh up to 35 pounds, and large ones can be almost 4 feet long, including their tail. They are herbivores with large front teeth that they use to eat wood, bark and stems. They also eat fruit, clover, leaves, and fresh young springtime growth.

6. Porcupine

After giving me the once over he seemed to remember that he was on a mission and gazed out over the meadow with his beautiful, sparkling eyes. I realized that I was between him and an old apple tree and I wondered if that was where he was going. If so I didn’t want to stand in his way, even though he looked well fed.

7. Porcupine

As he slowly moved on I got a good look at the quills on and near his tail. Though their hair is soft porcupines carry sharp, barbed quills that can anchor themselves in flesh, so you don’t want to cuddle them. Many a dog has had to have quills removed from their noses in a painful procedure that often involves pliers. When attacked a porcupine curls into a bristly ball to protect its vulnerable stomach and then there is no way in except through the quills. The porcupine’s Latin name Erethizon dorsatum means “quill pig.”

8. Apple

Later when I was leaving I stopped at the old apple tree and saw a single, half eaten apple on it. These branches were too small to support the weight of a porcupine though, so I’m guessing that birds are eating it. Maybe the rest of the fruit had fallen and was easier for the porcupine to get to. Or maybe he wasn’t interested in apples at all; I didn’t see him on the way back.

9. Deer Browse

I keep hoping to see a deer here but I never have. All I see are the game trails they follow and twigs they’ve browsed on.

10. Reflector

Hunters know they’re here too, as this reflector tacked to a tree shows. I first saw these last year but didn’t know what they were until several helpful readers said they were used by hunters when it’s dark enough to have to use a flashlight to find their way. I was glad I was wearing a bright orange hat and hunting vest. This isn’t the time of year to be wearing my deer colored coat.

11. Road

After the meadow there is more old road to walk for a shot while.

12. Trail

Then the road narrows to trail, which was covered with dry, crackly beech and oak leaves. The noisy leaves would make sneaking up on a deer just about impossible I would think. Better to sit and wait for them to happen by.

13. Pond Ice

But it was a little cool to be sitting around waiting for deer, as the ice on the far side of the small hilltop pond shows. I was very surprised to see no duckweed on it; when I was here in September it was almost completely covered with it, so where could it all have gone so fast? It’s usually almost impossible to get rid of once it’s on a pond so its disappearance is a mystery to me. Maybe the wood ducks ate it all.

14. Stone Wall

Being a once upon a time dry stone wall builder myself I always have to stop and admire the old walls that run through these woods. There are many miles of them, crisscrossing in a way that once made perfect sense when this land was pasture, but which now seems quite random.

15. Ledge

Living up here might not have been easy but the outcrops break naturally into large flat slabs an inch or two thick, and that meant that wall building was probably easier than it would have been otherwise. The stones that come from ledge like this are every wall builders dream. I was able to build a wall with it once and it went up faster than any other wall I’ve ever built.

16. Yellow Fuzz Cone Slime Mold

Yellow-fuzz cone slime mold (Hemitrichia clavata) grew on a fallen birch log. In this photo you can see the fruiting bodies that open into tiny cups filled with yellow fuzzy threads that make the mass look and feel a lot like felt. I first saw this slime mold at about this time last year at Porcupine Falls in Gilsum, so it has taken me just about a year to identify it. The cups are small enough to give me trouble seeing them without a lens, so I have to quite literally shoot blind and hope for the best.

17. View

The view from the top was hazy as it often is. Stratton Mountain, off across the Connecticut River valley in Vermont, looked like a blueish blur and its peak was cloud covered.

18. View

Zooming in didn’t help much but I can see a white line or two and that means snow on the ski trails. If they’re making snow up there in the mountains it won’t be long before it falls naturally down here. Maybe I came here subconsciously hoping that seeing snow would prepare me for winter and maybe it has, but nothing could prepare me for all of the other surprising things that I saw. That’s one of the things I love about being out in nature; there’s always a surprise waiting just around the next bend.

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. ~ Emily Dickinson

Thanks for coming by.

 

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