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Posts Tagged ‘Monadnock’

I know this photo of Mount Monadnock doesn’t look very spring like but we got a dusting of snow Friday and I wanted to see how much fell in other places. They got about 3-4 inches in Troy where this was taken, but I’d guess there is a lot more up there on the mountain. I climbed it in April once and in places the snow was almost over my head. It was a foolish thing to do; I got soaked to the skin.

In lower altitudes flowers were blooming in spite of it being a cold day and I finally found some coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara.) The flowers on coltsfoot plants come up before the leaves show so there is no hint of when it will appear. You have to remember where you’ve seen it last year and revisit the places the following spring. This was taken last Saturday and I’m guessing that there are a lot more blooming now, so I’ve got to get back there and see. Coltsfoot is native to Europe and Asia and was brought here by early settlers. It has been used medicinally for centuries and another name for it is coughwort.

The male catkins of American hazelnut (Corylus americana) have lengthened and turned golden, and that’s a sure sign that they’re almost ready to release their pollen.

It wouldn’t make sense for the male hazelnut catkins to release their pollen unless the female blossoms were ready to receive it, so when I see the male catkins looking like those in the previous photo I start looking for the female blossoms, like those pictured here. If pollinated successfully each thread like crimson stigma will become a hazelnut.

Female American hazelnut flowers are among the smallest flowers that I try to photograph but size doesn’t always come through in a photo, so I clipped a paperclip to the branch to give you an idea of scale. That isn’t a giant paperclip; it’s the standard size, so you have to look carefully for these tiny blooms. Male catkins and female flowers will usually be on the same bush. Though the shrubs that I see aren’t much more than 5-6 feet tall I just read that they can reach 16 feet under ideal conditions. The ones I see grow along the edges of roads and rail trails and are regularly cut down. In fact I had a hard time finding any this year. I went to one spot near powerlines and found that hundreds of them had been cut.

A week ago I saw 2 dandelion blossoms. This week I saw too many to count and some had insects on them, so it looks like we’ll have a good seed crop before too long.

Each stalked brownish-purple bud scale on a male speckled alder catkin (Alnus incana) opens in spring to reveal three male flowers beneath, each with a lobed calyx cup and three to five stamens with anthers covered in yellow pollen. The flower parts are clearly visible in this photo but even though it is heavily cropped they are still tiny. The entire catkin is only about 2 ½ inches long.

Just like with the male American hazelnut catkins we saw earlier, when I see the male catkins open on alders I start looking for the female flowers. In this photo the tiny scarlet female stigmas poke out from under the bud scales on all sides of the catkin. The whitish material is the “glue” the plant produces to seal each shingle like bud scale against the wet and cold winter weather. If water got under the bud scale and froze it would kill the female blossoms. When pollinated each thread like female stigma will become a small cone like seed pod (strobile) that I think most of us are used to seeing on alders. These female flowers aren’t much bigger than the female hazelnut flowers we saw earlier so you need good eyes. Or good glasses.

Red elderberry buds (Sambucus racemosa) often break quite early as this one has, and they often pay for it by being frostbitten. But, though it was 18 degrees F. the night before and this one had ice on it, it looked fine. Each small opening leaf looked great all the way to the tip with no damage.

Many of the red maple (Acer rubrum) female blossoms in this area are fully opened now, so from here on it’s all about seed production. I’m looking forward to seeing their beautiful red samaras. The male blossoms have dried and will simply fall from the trees once they have shed their pollen. Sugar maple buds haven’t opened yet that I’ve seen.

At a glance the buds of striped maple (Acer pennsylvanicum) don’t look like they’ve changed much since January, but you have to look a little closer to see what’s going on.

Once you turn the buds of striped maple sideways you can see that the bud scales have come apart, revealing the bud inside. These pink and orange fuzzy buds will be some of the most beautiful things in the forest in a while and I’d hate to miss them. That’s why I check them at least weekly, starting about now. These buds illustrate perfectly why you have to be willing to touch things in nature and bend or turn them whenever possible so you can see all sides, otherwise you can miss a lot of beauty.  When I take photos I try to get shots of all sides, and even under the caps of mushrooms when possible. Most of them are never seen by anyone but me but I can choose the best ones to show you.

From a distance I couldn’t see any yellow flowers on the willows but my camera’s zoom showed me that there were plenty of them. It was one of those sun one minute and clouds the next kind of days, with a blowing wind.

The bees will be very happy to see these blossoms, which are some of our earliest to appear. Willow bark contains salicin, a compound found in aspirin, and willows have been used to relieve pain for thousands of years.

Last week the tiny white flowers of what I think are hairy bittercress plants (Cardamine hirsuta) were ground hugging, but this week they stood up on 4 inch tall stalks. That’s a lot of growth in a week. I’ve read that the seed pods are explosive, so having them as high up as possible makes perfect sense.

Out of a bed of probably 50 hyacinths a single one is about to bloom. Most have buds that have just appeared and aren’t even showing color yet, but this one just doesn’t want to wait. I hope it knows what it’s doing. It’s still getting down into the teens at night.

The daffodil bud that I saw last week and thought would be open this week was not, but it had a visitor. Some type of fly I think, but I’m not very good with insects. It’s not a great photo but it does show that there are indeed insects active. I also saw a hoverfly but I haven’t seen a bee yet.

In spite of it being a sunny day all the crocuses had closed up shop but the reticulated irises (Iris reticulata) were still open for business. They’re beautiful little things.

The tiny ground ivy flowers (Glechoma hederacea) are still showing on a single plant that is surrounded by hundreds of other plants that aren’t blooming. It’s clearly working harder than the others. It must have had ten blossoms on it.

So the story from here is that though spring is happening winter hangs on as well. The last snowstorm dusted my yard with snow that looked like confectioner’s sugar and it melted overnight, but just a few miles north at Beaver Brook the hillsides got considerably more. Chances are it is still there too, because it has been cool. Sooner or later it’s bound to warm up and stay the way. The weather people say there’s a chance we might see 50 degrees today and 70 degrees by Saturday. We’re all hoping they’ve got it right.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.

~Robert Frost

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Backyard

There’s a high pressure system sitting and spinning in Canada that’s dragging down bitter cold air and one snowstorm after another, sometimes as many as three in a single week. With nothing but cold weather between the storms the snow doesn’t melt but instead just builds up. I tried taking a photo of the trees in my backyard during one storm. Judging by the blurry spot on the right one of the flakes landed on my lens, but I didn’t see it until just now. I never have great luck taking photos when it’s snowing but I wanted to try to show you what it was like.

2. Snow Depth

I didn’t realize I had cropped this photo so the yardstick said “the finest pain” but it fit so I left it that way. Actually, I don’t know if I could call the pains I have from shoveling my roof “the finest,” but they’re right up there in the top five. If I have to shovel it once more they might make it to number one.

The snow had settled some when I took this shot in my back yard and the spot was in a hemlock shadow, so it’s not entirely accurate.  I think 24 inches is closer to reality, but I was too worn out to wade through anymore knee deep snow that day.

3. Evergreens

Evergreens always look nice when they’ve been frosted by show, especially when they’re not in my yard and I don’t have to shovel the frosting.

 4. Bent Birches

It’s been so cold that the snow has been very light, dry and powdery, but the heavy wet snow that we had in November on Thanksgiving eve bent many of the birches. Though most of them stood right back up again there are some that didn’t, and I’m curious to see what will become of them. I wonder if they’ll just grow on in their bent state or if they’ll die.  I’m guessing that they won’t last long.

5. Beech and Oak Leaves

The beech and oak leaves add such beautiful colors to the winter woods, especially when the sun breaks through the clouds.

6. Ashuelot

You know it’s cold when you see the Ashuelot River frozen from bank to bank in this spot in Swanzey. I’ve only seen it happen twice; last year and this year. Both winters had extended periods of zero degrees F or below at night.

7. River View

You would think that the farther north you went the more likely a river would be to freeze over but the strength of the current plays a part in it as well. In this spot north of Keene, I’ve never seen it freeze over completely so I’m guessing that the current must be quite strong.

8. Roadside Icicles

There’s no problem with water freezing on the ledges along the side of this highway. I’m guessing that it must be close to 100 feet from the top of the hill, so these are some of the longest icicles that I’ve seen.

9. Roadside Icicles

They’re bigger than tree trunks and have a blueish tint. I don’t want to be anywhere near them when the temperature starts rising.

10. Ice Fishing Hut

The bright sunshine can be deceiving. It was bitter cold here this day with the wind coming hard across the pond so I took a couple of quick shots and jumped back into my truck. The ice fishermen were all huddled in their huts and I didn’t blame them.

11. Dim Sun

There are a few photos of sunny days in this post but most of our days have looked more like this, with the sun trying but not quite able to burn through.  There was actually snow falling when I took this, in spite of what the sun was doing.

12. Monadnock

I went to get a closer look at Mount Monadnock on one sunny day because, though it’s easily seen from Keene, I don’t get to see it up close that often. I grew up in the shadow of this mountain and it’s good to know that, no matter where you are in this part of the state, all you have to do is look over your shoulder and there it is, like an old friend.

13. Monadnock

I’ll never forget climbing up there in mid-April one year through waist deep snow. It must be shoulder deep right now so I think I’ll just stay down here and admire it. The snow might make it harder to climb but it also makes it more beautiful to see.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” ~A.A. Milne

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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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Recently I wrote about the Ashuelot River and how it played a part in shaping my boyhood, but the river wasn’t my only influence-other parts of nature tugged at me as well. One of those was our local mountain, Mount Monadnock.

I grew up in its shadow, but I don’t remember feeling the mountain’s pull until my teen years. That’s when I decided that I would be the first person to catalogue all of the wildflowers that grew on its flanks. In the process of discovering that no one had ever bothered to do such a thing I also discovered Henry David Thoreau, who had climbed the mountain several times and mentioned quite a few of its plants in his notebooks. I read everything by Thoreau that I could lay my hands on and credit him with teaching me the difference between seeing and observing. He was also instrumental in my becoming more interested in all of nature, rather than in just two or three specific areas.

It was only after I finally walked and climbed the mountain that I saw why no one had ever attempted to catalog all of its wildflowers; it is so big that it would take three lifetimes to do so. Someone who wasn’t working all day might do it in less time, but it would still be quite a job.

The word Monadnock comes from the native Abenaki language and means “mountain that stands alone.” It is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan, because people from all over come to climb it year round. 

Local people love the view of Mount Monadnock, which can be seen from several towns and is why the area is called “The Monadnock Region.” People who want to see a view of the mountain like that above out of their own windows will pay a high price to do so; land with a mountain view is scarce and is bought up as soon as it becomes available.

Competition over who will have the best view of the mountain has gone on for centuries. Settlers in the nearby town of Marlborough chose the view below for the town meeting house in 1770.

 Though the meetinghouse no longer stands here the land is still owned by the town and is open to visitors. 

 This is one of the views of the mountain that folks here in Keene are used to, and is the one I grew up with. Monadnock can be seen from all over town but is several miles away. This view has appeared in many paintings by many different artists and curiously, to me this photo looks more like a painting than a photograph. I’m playing with a new (used) Canon point and shoot and I’m really not sure what I did to make it come out this way.

Poets, artists, writers, photographers-all have flocked to Monadnock. There are poems, prose, operas, symphonies, and dances written about it. Some say it is the most painted and written about Mountain in America. 

 

 The hike to the summit is from two to four miles depending on the trail chosen. Getting to the top takes an average of 2 hours but just like anywhere else kids run all the way and people of age sit and rest here and there. On a clear day you can see all the way to Boston, but beautiful scenery can be found at just about any time.

In 1987, Mount Monadnock was designated a National Natural Landmark. To learn more about the mountain, click here.

Photo of the view from the summit is by the Sierra Club.

This is the 100th post since I started this blog on March 20, 2011. Almost a year of blogging! Thank you all for taking the time to read it.

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