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Posts Tagged ‘Mountain Climbing’

1. Signs

It’s blueberry picking time in these parts so last Saturday I thought I’d visit one of our most popular blueberry picking sites and get a climb in as well. The day was supposed to be hot and humid as so many have lately so I got up early and headed out to Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard; about a half hour north of Keene.

2. Sign

Since blueberries cost as much as $3.50 a pint in stores $1.50 a quart is quite a good deal, but of course you have to pick them yourself. Payment is often trusted to the honor system.

3. Trail

The trail is a drivable road to a point; wide with a relatively easy grade. If I was 20 again it might take me 15 minutes to make it to the top but these days I find interesting things to photograph along the way, so it often takes me twice that amount of time. Or maybe that’s just an excuse to stop and catch my breath.

4. Bush Honeysuckle
I’ve climbed this mountain so many times that I really don’t know the number, but I’ve never seen bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) here before. On this day it was everywhere, all along the trail. This illustrates perfectly why I follow the same trails over and over; you simply can’t see it all in one hike and sometimes I wonder if you could say that you had seen it all even after 100 hikes.

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Bush honeysuckle flowers are tubular and pale greenish yellow at first before changing to orange or purplish red. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a photo of them that I could be satisfied with. The long red mushroom shaped central pistil is a good sign that you’re seeing bush honeysuckle. In the fall the leaves turn from green to yellow to red. Bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds visit the flowers and moose and deer like to browse on the branches.

6. Meadow

There is always a feeling of having stepped through a doorway into another world when I see this view. After living in the closeness of the forest for so long here is suddenly open space, and it seems vast and infinite. I have to stand here and stare foe awhile trying to take in the immensity, and if I remember I’ll take a photo.

7. Trail

The old road gets a little rocky from this point on but I’ve seen trucks drive up it. Walking up it is a little trickier, but not too bad.

8. Meadow

I keep hoping to see the Scottish highland cattle that live in the fields that border the trail but I haven’t seen them yet.

9. Meadowsweet

As if to live up to its name meadowsweet grew beside the meadow. This one had a blush of pink, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen. I just found out that there is a native meadowsweet called Spirea alba and an introduced species called Filipendula ulmaria. In photos they look identical, so that will complicate things somewhat. It looks like I’ve got some studying to do. I also discovered that I misidentified the scientific name of the meadowsweet that appeared in my last flower post.

10. Fire Tower

Before you know it the fire tower appears above the trees. The last time I was here it was manned and someone was washing the windows, but I didn’t see anyone this time. One benefit of climbing early is the sun doesn’t glare off those windows.

11. Cabin

The old cabin seems to tilt more to the left each time I see it, but it’s hard to see in this photo. It’s only a matter of time until a snowy winter takes it down, I imagine. I’m guessing that it was probably built so the fire lookouts could stay around the clock. It makes me wonder what living up here was like. For a lover of solitude it must have been just about perfect, even without indoor plumbing.

12. Fire Tower

The 5 acres at the very top of Pitcher Mountain are owned by the New Hampshire Forestry Commission. They first built a wooden fire tower here in 1915 but in April of 1940 a fire destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the fire tower and all of the trees on the summit. It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history. The present steel tower is a replacement and, because of the lack of trees, offers a full 360 degree view of the surrounding hills. Visitors are sometimes welcomed in to see the views.

13. Tie Down

It takes some serious hardware to keep the fire tower from blowing off the mountain. Strong steel cables pin it to the bedrock in several locations.

14. Windmills

The wind turbines over on Bear Mountain in Lempster, New Hampshire were visible. It’s often so hazy that they can’t be seen at all. As the trees in the foreground of this photo show it was quite breezy on this day and the windmills were pointed right into it. There was a time or two when strong gusts came through and I wondered if they might blow me over.

15. Near Hill

I don’t know the name of this hill that is nearest to the mountain but I like the way it rises out of the surrounding forest like an ancient burial mound. It’s hard to believe that all I could see was burned and treeless less than a century ago. Nature heals itself quickly.

16. Cloud Shadows

Clouds were casting shadows on the forest below and I sat for a while watching them move over the landscape. I used to like doing the same when I was a boy. I didn’t notice the many undulating hills and valleys rising and falling off into the distance until I saw this photo.

17. Blueberries

Blueberry bushes are everywhere you look here, all along the trail and all over the summit, and you can often hear blueberry pickers that you can’t see. As this photo shows the berries aren’t quite fully ripe but I was still surprised that I didn’t meet any pickers this day. In fact it seemed like I had the whole mountain to myself. Black bears love blueberries too and I’ve heard that they’ve been seen here during berry season, but I didn’t see any of them either.

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Common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitellina) cover the bare bedrock in several places. At least I think that’s what they are; there is an alpine species that apparently looks much the same unless you have a microscope to see the spores with. My new camera does well with macros but it can’t get quite close enough to see lichen spores.

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The body (Thallus) of the goldspeck lichen is kind of egg yolk yellow and the tiny round fruiting bodies (Apothecia) have a slightly raised rim. This is a crustose lichen that I usually find on rock, but it can also grow on wood, bark and soil. I know of a few trees that are covered with it right in downtown Keene. Unlike many lichens it doesn’t seem to mind car exhaust.

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A flower I’ve never seen grows in the cracks in the rocks at the summit and I was amazed that I had never noticed it before. Mountain white cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) is also called three toothed cinquefoil because of the three large teeth at the end of each leaf. The white 5 petaled flowers are small; maybe a half inch across on a good day. They are said to bloom for 2 or 3 months and make an excellent choice for a sunny rock garden that doesn’t get too hot, because they don’t like heat. They must be struggling this summer because it has been hot. We’ve had a long string of mid-80 to 90 degree days.

21. Birdbath

There had been a thunderstorm the night before and it helped fill the natural birdbath a little, but the darker line on the stone in this photo shows how much has evaporated. I love how the sky reflects so much blue into this small puddle.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleanora Duse

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Sign

It has been a while since I last climbed Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard, so I went over recently to see if anything had changed.  This mountain gets its name from the Pitcher family, who settled here in the late 1700s.

2. Trail

Even though Pitcher Mountain is, at 2,152 feet (656 m), the second highest mountain in this area after Mount Monadnock, most of the elevation can be gained by driving, so once you park where the Pitcher family’s farmhouse used to be you only have to hike for about 20 minutes. If the gate that the fire warden passes through was open you could drive within a stone’s throw from the top with a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

3. Ferns Turning

Some ferns along the trail were taking on their ghostly fall colors.

4. Meadow

The meadow was bathed in wall to wall sunshine as I expected because clouds have been a rare commodity this summer. The distant haze told me that this would probably not be the best day for viewing the surrounding landscapes from the top.

5. Dewberry

Bristly dewberries (Rubus flagellaris) grow along the path and many ripe berries hadn’t been eaten by wildlife. This plant is closely related to the blackberry but instead of standing up straight the prickly vines trail along the ground. The berries look more like black raspberries than blackberries though. I see the red berried swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus) far more often than this black version.

It’s no surprise to find these plants grow along the edges of the meadow. Plants with sharp thorns like raspberries and blackberries were often planted with hawthorn trees along boundaries. These thorny, prickly plants can form an impenetrable thicket which nothing much bigger than a rabbit can easily get through. 16th century English poet and farmer Thomas Tusser told how to enclose a field in this poem:

Go plough up, or delve up, advised with skill,
The breadth of a ridge, and in length as ye will,
Then speedily quickset, for a fence ye will draw
To sow in the seed of the bramble and haw.

6. Trail

The trail gets a lot rockier along the meadow and a lot sunnier too. There is something about this photo that really pleases me, but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of an impressionist’s painting.

7. Leaf

A brightly colored leaf caught my eye.

8. Tower Glimpse

The fire tower comes into view when you least expect it. The 5 acres at the very top of Pitcher Mountain are owned by the New Hampshire Forestry Commission. They first built a wooden fire tower here in 1915 but in April of 1940 the most destructive fire in the region’s history destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the fire tower and all of the trees on the summit. The present steel tower is a replacement and, because of the lack of trees, offers a full 360 degree view of the surrounding hills.

9. Ranger Station

The old fire warden’s cabin still stands but doesn’t look like it sees much use even though the tower is staffed from April through October. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it had been taken over by small animals.

10. Ranger Station

The cabin is nestled between the forest on one side and the mountain on the other so it probably doesn’t see much wind, but nothing can protect it from the snow and it sees a lot of it.

11. Tie Down

The original tower needed wind protection and was chained down to the rock in several places using these stout eye hooks.

12. Tower

The newer tower also has to be anchored against the wind. I’ve seen it blow quite forcefully up here, especially in winter. I wonder how often the tower gets struck by lightning. It bristles with 4 lightning rods, so I’m guessing that it sees plenty.

13. Monadnock

As I suspected, the views were less than ideal. Mount Monadnock could just be seen through the heavy haze. I’ll remember the summer of 2015 as hazy hot and humid with endless blue, cloudless skies.

14. View

No matter which direction you looked the view didn’t improve but it was still nice to be up here catching the breeze on such a hot and humid day.

15. Near Hill

The view across to the nearest hill wasn’t bad. As you stand on the mountaintop this small hill looks almost near enough to touch, but getting to the top of it from here would probably be quite a hike.

16. Survey Marker

I wonder if 1873 is the date this marker was put here. A 250 dollar fine seems like it would have been an impossible sum to raise in those days.

17. Boulder Grooves

Every time I come up here I see something I’ve never noticed before and this time it was these deep grooves in the exposed bedrock. Though all of the rock up here is scarred by glacial movement these grooves weren’t made that way. I think they were chiseled into the stone by man, but for what purpose I can’t guess.

18. Cut Brush

Something else I’ve never seen here is a pile of cut brush but of course cutting it must be a constant chore, otherwise trees would quickly obscure the view. I’ve cut a lot of brush in my time and I can imagine what a job it must be to do it here, so I’ll take this opportunity to say thank you to those who work so hard for the rest of us.

19. Goldspeck Lichen

In spite of the dry conditions common goldspeck lichens (Candelariella vitelline) were fruiting. This crustose lichen contains a yellow pigment called calysin and was once used in Sweden to dye wool yellow. It must have been difficult scraping it off the rocks that it grew on.

20. Goldspeck Lichen

This dime gives an idea of how small the goldspeck lichens in the previous photo really are.

21. Scattered Rock Posy

Scattered rock posy lichens (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) were also fruiting. Each disc shaped orange fruiting body (apothecia) grows to about .04 inches (1mm) across. They grow in large colonies on the exposed rock up here.

22. Plane Coming

Sometimes when I sit on these mountaintops I think back to the early settlers and how they must have felt looking out over unbroken forest as far as the eye could see. You had a gun, an axe, and yourself to rely on and that was all. As I was wondering if I would have attempted such a risky undertaking a plane flew over and dragged me back into the 21st century.

23. Plane Going

As it flew over the near hill and off into the haze I started the climb down, which for some reason is always tougher than the climb up.

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park? ~Ralph Marston

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Path on Bedrock

Since I couldn’t remember the last time I had climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey I thought it was probably time that I did. I had two objectives in mind: I wanted to see the toadskin lichens that grow on its summit, and I wanted to see the arrow that is carved into the granite on the summit, supposedly by Native Americans. It is said that it points the way to Mount Monadnock. In fact it is said that every hill in this area has an arrow on its summit which points to Monadnock. As you can see in the above photo, the trail starts out as granite bedrock covered by a thin layer of pine needles.

2. Blowdown

What soil there is here is a very thin layer on top of bedrock, as this blown down white pine shows. When it fell it took the soil in its root mass with it, revealing the granite underneath. It’s hard to believe that such a big tree would have a root system no more than 6 or 8 inches thick but this one did.

3. Fern Christmas Tree

A fellow hiker pointed out these small ferns growing on the underside of the blowdown’s rootball. “Christmas ferns in the shape of a Christmas tree,” he said. And so they were.

4. Fallen Tree

Yet another fallen tree had a tangle of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) vine in its topmost branches. This invasive vine climbs trees, strangling them on the way, to get to the most sunshine. Between their strangling habit and shading out a tree’s crown, the vines weaken the tree and it eventually falls, just like this cherry did.

5. Blue Gray Lichen

Blue is a tough color to find in nature especially in the world of fungi and lichens, so I was surprised when I saw several of these blue gray crustose examples on a stone beside the trail. Crustose lichens grow like a crust and usually can’t be removed without damage to the substrate. I haven’t been able to identify this one.

6. Running Club Moss

I don’t remember ever seeing running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) on Mt. Caesar but here was a large colony of it. This plant gets its name from the part that isn’t seen in this photo; a long, running stem (rhizome) under the leaves from which the upright parts that are seen here grow. Though this example had no fruiting members (called strobili), the spores that they produce were one collected, dried and used in photography as flash powder before flash bulbs were invented.

7. Teaberry

Teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) grew right alongside the running clubmoss. If I had to go back as far as my memory could take me and search for the first plant that I ever got to know well, this one would have to be it. My grandmother called them checkerberries and loved the minty taste of the berries. She used to take me into the woods to find the plants when I was just a very young boy. While searching for the plants I would see other plants and ask her what they were, and that’s how my woodland education began. I’ve wanted to know the name of every plant that I see ever since. Teaberry is one of our native wintergreens and is also called American wintergreen.

 8. Bark Patterns on Red Maple

I wondered for a long time what caused these circular patterns in the bark of red maples until I finally found out that they are natural markings that the tree eventually outgrows.  I don’t see them often but every now and then a single tree will be marked in this way. Now I wonder why a certain tree will have them when all of the others around it don’t. If you know anything about it I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Thanks very much to Kathy Schillemat, Josh Fecteau and Al Stoops for identifying this unusual bark pattern as target canker that affects only red maples. The bark pattern is actually caused by the tree defending itself against the canker. Al also sent me an excellent article about how and why Michael Wojtech wrote the book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. It’s very much worth a read and can be found by clicking on the word HERE.

 9. Branch Collar

There is a huge old log lying parallel to the trail that always tells me three things:
1. I am very close to the summit.
2. I’m not as young as I used to be.
3. It’s time to stop and pretend that I’ve seen something fascinating while catching my breath.

Only this time I really did see something fascinating; a perfect example of a branch collar. If you do any tree pruning you would do well to read all you can find about branch collars, because if you prune off a branch while ignoring the branch collar you could be slowing down the healing process and inviting any number of diseases to come and visit your trees.

10. View

It wasn’t a great day for looking at the views but it didn’t bother me because that wasn’t what I came here for. It seemed very hazy on this day but it was warm and spring like, so I couldn’t complain. I chose this photo because it shows one of the cliff edges found here. Since I fell out of a tree and shattered my spine in my early teen years heights and I haven’t been the best of friends, but I got close enough to this edge to make the fluttering butterflies in my stomach become soaring eagles. Doing so isn’t something I make a habit of.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

This is what I came to see; my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) I’ve only found them in two places and both are on mountain tops. I was surprised to see their grayish color because that meant they were drying out, even after all the rain we’ve had. When wet they are pea green and very pliable, but apparently it doesn’t take them long to dry out and become crisp like a potato chip. I took many photos of them but I chose this one to show you because the lighter gray area shows how they attach their undersides to the stone at a central point, much like a belly button. That is why they are classified as umbilicate lichens. I like their warty-ness.

 12. Carving on Summit

I paced back and forth over every inch of exposed bedrock on the summit but I couldn’t find the arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock. Instead I found this, which I I’m not fond of seeing. Defacing mountain tops has been going on for a very long time but that doesn’t make it right. Even Henry David Thoreau complained about it when he climbed Mount Monadnock back in 1858 and found a name that had been chiseled into the granite in 1801. The date of this example looks like either 1936 or 1986.

I think the very bright sunshine might have had something to do with my not being able to see the arrow, but I know it exists because I’ve seen photos of it online. It really looks more like a “V” than an arrow. It wasn’t a total loss though because I found toadskin lichens growing in 2 more locations that I didn’t know about.

 13. Split Granite

I also found this while I was looking for the arrow. One of the ways stone was split in colonial New England was by drilling a row of holes in it and filling them with water in the winter. When the water froze and expanded it would split the stone along the path made by the holes. Such is the power of ice, and though man had nothing to do with it I’d guess that ice is why this large piece of granite originally split in two. Over the eons-how many is anyone’s guess-the part on the left has been sliding down the mountainside and one day, most likely with an earth shaking roar, it will probably go over the edge.

14. Sign

Well, in the end I did find an arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had to laugh though, because I’ll bet that I’ve walked by this 50 times without seeing it. So much for my great powers of observation. It’s good to be humbled once in a while when we get too big for our britches but that doesn’t stop me from hoping someone will write in and say that they just tacked it to that pine tree last week.

 15. Monadnock

In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what the hubbub over Mount Monadnock is all about, here is a photo of it. At 3,165 feet it’s the highest point in southern New Hampshire and is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ It’s hard to get a good feel for its elevation from this photo but it is 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I clicked the shutter.

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. ~Ansel Adams

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Icy Roadside Shrubs

I felt like seeing the world from up above recently so I decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard. We’d had rain all day the day before but when I left Keene everything was sunny and dry. Stoddard is north of Keene and the weather had obviously been different there. As the bushes along the roadsides showed, the rain froze on contact.

2. Trail

The trail was covered in loud, crunchy snow so sneaking up on birds or animals was out of the question.

3. Icy Bush

If there is anything in the way of weather that New Englanders dread more than freezing rain, I don’t know what it is. Nothing can bring down trees and cut power like an ice storm, but neither is any other kind of weather quite as beautiful.

4. Ice Covered Pine Needles

Ice covered everything and limbs drooped over the trail.

 5. Icy Bud

It seemed to have frozen quickly.

6. Birches

The birches had just recovered from being bent under the weight of the Thanksgiving eve snowstorm, but the ice bent them once again.

7. Monadnock

Mount Monadnock loomed over a crystal forest.

8. Meadow View

There was a lot of ice but little snow. The only real snowstorm we’ve had this season was on Thanksgiving and it has just about all melted in this area.

9. Icy Branches

The ice caught the sunbeams like crystal prisms and flashed blue and gold, but apparently catching that in a photo is difficult. I tried several times and this is as close as I could get to what I was actually seeing.

10. Fire Tower

The fire tower had a few icicles on it but otherwise came through the storm unscathed. When you reach this point you’ve reached the steepest part of the trail. Getting all the way to the top from here was tricky due to the ice coating the rocks, but coming back down was worse because part of it was done by sitting down and sliding. If it wasn’t for the Yak Trax I wore it would have been even more difficult.

11. Ranger Cabin

I noticed that the old fire warden’s cabin is leaning to the left just a bit. I wonder how many more winters it will be able to withstand. The weather can be brutal up here.

12. Icy Blueberry Bush

The view from the top was of a frozen world, with sparkling ice in every direction.

13. Lempster Wind Turbines

I was finally able to get a photo of the wind turbines over in Lempster, New Hampshire. In the past it has always been too hazy to see them.  There are twelve 400 foot tall turbines at the wind farm on Bear Mountain in Lempster and they produce 24 megawatts of electricity. It was windy enough on this day to make me wonder if they might be spinning about as fast as they ever do.

14. Ice Covered Tree

The bright sunshine was deceiving. Up here the 30 mile per hour wind took care of any warmth that the 30 degree temperature might have provided. It was mighty cool but thankfully I’d had sense enough to dress for it.

 15. Icy Blueberry Bush

Dressed for it or not after a while the biting wind gets to your exposed skin, so I didn’t stay long. Climbing a mountain after an ice storm is something I’ve never done before this trip but I would do it again. The beauty of the ice is something I’ll most likely never forget.

It occurs to me now that I have never seen the ice-storm put upon canvas, and have not heard that any painter has tried to do it. I wonder why that is. Is it that paint cannot counterfeit the intense blaze of a sun-flooded jewel? ~Mark Twain

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Sign

I’ve been determined this year to show you what our fall foliage looks like from up above the treetops. My first try on Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey wasn’t entirely successful because of the limited viewing range and the bright sunshine that day, so last week I decided to try Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard. There are 360 degree views from the top of this mountain, so I reasoned that it would be possible to take photos without the sun shining directly at the camera.

2. Trail

It was partly cloudy and windy that day and most of the trees seemed to still have plenty of leaves on them.

3. Maple

This young maple was certainly colorful.

4. Meadow

About halfway up the trail you come to a large meadow where long horned and long haired Scottish Highland cattle are kept. At least some of the time, anyway; I’ve climbed this mountain many times now and have never seen an animal in this meadow.

 5. Ranger Cabin

A little more climbing brings you to the old ranger cabin. The fire tower on this mountain is manned when the fire danger is high, but I don’t think the ranger station is used any longer.

6. Fire Tower

It’s hard to miss the fire tower. In April of 1940 27,000 acres of forest burned, including all of the trees on this summit and the old wooden fire tower that once stood here.  It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history and burned the summit right down to the bare granite. The tower seen in this photo replaced the original that was built here in 1915.

7. Tower Tie Down

It’s a good thing that the tower is well anchored. The wind felt like it was blowing at gale force up here on this day, and I had to use it as a wind break.

8. Common Goldspeck Lichen

Large colonies of common gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) cover the exposed granite. They were fruiting so they must be very happy up here.

9. Blueberry Bush

Pitcher Mountain is famous for its native high bush blueberry bushes which cover many acres, and people come from all over to pick them.  They are also one of our most colorful native shrubs.

10. Mount Monadnock

Mount Monadnock’s outline was barely visible off to the south due to the weather conditions, but by fiddling around with the camera’s controls I was able to get a shot of it. I’m not sure why the meadow and trees in the foreground look so dimly lit, but I kind of like it.

11. Distant View 1

Almost every time I’ve climbed Pitcher Mountain it has been sunny when I started out and then clouds rolled in as soon as I reached the summit. This day was no different, but a little patience paid off and every time the sun broke through I snapped a photo. It was so beautiful, I didn’t mind waiting.

12. Crow

As I sat waiting for the clouds to part I watched this crow struggling to not be blown out of the sky. The wind was fierce and I too struggled with keeping the camera steady on its monopod.

13. Closest Hill

I sat on the side of the fire tower away from the wind and waited for some sunshine to illuminate this, the nearest hill. I had to laugh at my luck because once or twice all of the surrounding landscape in any direction was in full sunshine except this hill and the mountain I sat on.  When the sun finally illuminated the hill, it was beautiful as I knew it would be. I was surprised that so many trees were bare though.

14. Foliage

There were some nice colors up close, too. I think we’re seeing the red of oak, orange maple, and yellow beech in this shot.

15. Distant View 2

This was taken when the sun was shining just about everywhere except the mountain I sat on. It’s a good example of how the light, and lack of it, can impact foliage colors. I’m not sure why the few evergreens in the foreground appear so dark.

16. Distant View 3

Though the photos don’t really do them justice the colors seen from the mountaintop and the way the light played on the distant hills were breathtakingly beautiful, and at times I felt like I was inside a painting by Monet or Renoir. There is simply nothing that compares with being on a mountaintop, especially at this time of year.

Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve; they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion. ~Anatoli Boukreev

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Mount Caesar

History says that Mount Caesar in Swanzey was named after Caesar Freeman, a freed black slave and one of the original settlers in the area. It is said that he lived with the Carpenter family, which is still a well-known name in the town today. I haven’t climbed here since last year, so I thought I’d give it a go over Labor Day weekend.

2. Reindeer Lichens

Mount Caesar seems to be a huge granite monolith. Here and there on the trail you can see where the soil has washed away from the bedrock. At the bottom where the trail starts large areas of reindeer lichens grow on a thin film of soil that covers the granite.

3. Clearcut Forest

Last year, on the other side of a stone wall from the reindeer lichens in the previous photo, large areas of forest were clear cut. This means that the reindeer lichens, pink lady’s slippers, mosses, ferns, and many other shade loving plants now get full afternoon sun. I wonder how long they’ll be able to stand it.

4. Forked Blue Curls

On the other hand, many sun loving annual plants like forked blue curls, slender gerardia, and different lobelia varieties have moved in to colonize the now sunny clear cut area. The forked blue curl blossom (Trichostema dichotomum) pictured had its anthers completely curled up and tucked under, which is something I’ve never seen them do. There are hundreds of these little plants here now.

5. Blowdown

More sunlight isn’t the only change; the loss of such large areas of forest also means that there is now nothing to slow the wind, and several trees in the remaining forest next to the clear cut have been blown down.

 6. Trail

Large log skidders dragging trees down the trail have turned it into road full of rocks and roots. This might not seem like a big deal unless you understand that this trail was probably made by Native Americans and was most likely almost invisible to settlers. Compared to what it once might have been it is now a super highway.

7. Club Coral

Yellow spindle coral mushrooms (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) seem to like growing in soil that has been well packed down, and there is plenty of that along this trail. This group was less than an inch tall. They looked like tiny yellow flames coming out of the earth.

 8. Mushroom with Yellowish Stem

I haven’t been able to identify these pretty mushrooms that I found lying beside the trail and I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen them before. Someone must have picked them to get a closer look.

9. Trail

If you compare the natural lay of the land to the trail surface you can see how much the trail has been eroded-as much as two feet of depth in some places. Parts of it are always wet and muddy but when it rains there is little to stop the entire trail from becoming a stream, so it erodes even more.

 10. View from the Top

In spite of all the obstacles you finally make it to the summit and as always, find that it was worth the effort. This was a beautiful blue sky, white puffy cloud kind of day and I wondered as I sat here, why wouldn’t Native Americans have climbed to this spot to enjoy the view just as we do? It is said that they used Mount Caesar as a lookout but I think that they came here just to sit and gaze too, just like I do.

This mountain and the surrounding lands were extremely valuable to the Native American tribe called Squakheag who lived here and they were willing to fight to the death for them. In April of 1747 they burned the town of Swanzey to the ground. The settlers, fearing the rapidly expanding numbers of natives in the area had all left for Massachusetts, but of course they eventually returned and defeated the natives. Sadly, that seems to have marked the end of any real native presence here. It’s hard not to wonder how much richer our lives would be if we had learned to coexist. The loss of thousands of years of first-hand knowledge of plants, animals, and all of nature is such a shame.

11. View from the Top

You couldn’t have asked for a better day to be sitting on top of a mountain contemplating the view and pondering a little colonial history, so I was surprised to find that I had the whole place to myself. The hardest part of climbing for me is leaving such beauty behind and going back down. There really isn’t any other experience I can think of that can compare to sitting on a mountain top.

12. Mount Monadnock From Mount Caesar

It is said that on Mount Caesar and on the summits of several other hills in the area, there are arrows carved into the granite that all point to Mount Monadnock, which is pictured here. Unfortunately every time I climb up here I forget to look for it but anyhow, there’s no missing Monadnock. At 3, 165 feet it is taller than any other feature in the region.

 13. Lowbush Blueberry

Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) were already showing their fall colors on the summit.

14. Cliff Edge

If you’re reading this and think you might like to climb Mount Caesar I would bring a flashlight if it’s going to be a late afternoon trip. There are sheer cliffs here, so this isn’t the place to be wandering around in the dark.

15. Toadskin Lichen

Besides the view one of the things that draws me up here are the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) that live on the summit, because this is the only place I know of to find them.  They grow on stone and are very warty, and they really do look like toad skin. The black dots are their fruiting bodies (apothecia.)

To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.   ~Sir Francis Younghusband.

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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