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Posts Tagged ‘New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club’

We’ve seen some unusual below zero F. cold lately and when it gets cold like this my thoughts usually turn to a deep cut rail trail up in Westmoreland that ice climbers call the icebox. The groundwater constantly seeping from thousands of cracks in the stone walls of the manmade canyon freezes into ice columns that can easily reach the size of trees. It can be very beautiful but since it is only November I wasn’t sure what I’d find. Though I doubted there would be much ice to see, last Saturday I made the drive to Westmoreland to find out.

There was some impressive ice to be seen but nothing like it will be in January.

There are a lot of minerals in the groundwater that seeps through the stone and they are the only thing I can think of that would color ice like this.

I’ve seen orange, green, blue, red, tan, brown and even black ice here.

The giant ice columns are like a magnet for ice climbers and members of the New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club come here to train beginning climbers. I was surprised to see some of them here on this day since it is so early in the season.

This should give you an idea of the scale of the place. Though the ice might look impressive it is much less so than it will be in a couple of months. This climber said she was a beginner but she had climbed just about as far up as she could. The ledges in this spot I’d guess are about 50 feet high. Though it was cold at about 40 degrees this day I’ve read that the ideal conditions for climbing happen at between 20 and 35 degrees, because those temperatures produce the just right “plastic” ice; not cold enough to shatter and not warm enough to melt. Ice climbers swing sharp tools called picks into the ice and embed them in it so they can hang onto them as they climb, and I would guess that the last thing they want to see is shattering ice. Since the temperature in the canyon is always colder than the surrounding countryside it must have been just about perfect for plastic ice on this day.

This view looks back the way we came in. It can be very cold in here because the sunlight rarely seems to reach the canyon floor in winter. There is almost always a breeze blowing through the canyon as well, even when there is no breeze outside. It’s as if it makes its own wind.

The railroad engineers used a lot of the stone they blasted out of the canyon to build massive retaining walls along the parts of the trail outside of the canyon. They are some of the best examples of stone wall building that I know of and you won’t find a teaspoon of mortar in any of these walls. Note how the wall leans back into the hillside at about a 10 degree angle, as any good retaining wall should. I’d bet next week’s paycheck that a bed of crushed stone or gravel extends out at least two or three feet from the back of the wall into the hillside. This is for drainage so wet soil doesn’t freeze behind the wall and heave it apart. You want the back of the wall as dry as possible.

I like to see how the ice forms according to the conditions. This little grotto scene looked almost other worldly.

This ice looked like a necklace made of clear crystal, all formed by drip after drip of water.

In places the ice was rotten, and you can tell that by its matte gray, opaque “sick” look and the dull thud it makes when you tap it. Ice becomes rotten when air  and / or dirt get in between the grains of ice and it becomes honeycombed and loses its strength.

In some places where the sun reached the walls of the cut ice had been falling, and in fact I saw (and heard) some  fall while I was here.

I thought how, if I was a teenager once again, I’d find a way to slide down this giant ice slide.

I have a feeling that it’s going to be a good year for ice formations even though the forecast is for rain and above freezing temps this week.

Drainage ditches along the railbed have been doing their job of directing all of this water out of the canyon for around 150 years, but heavy rain overwhelmed them last summer and washed away parts of the railbed. It’s a hard thing to see this place being so severely damaged but there is only so much the snowmobile club volunteers can do, I suppose. One day instead of a railbed here it might be a stream.

In places the stone is stained by years of mineral seepage.

In other places the colors on the walls come from living things, like this algae, but I don’t think they color the ice because they don’t grow where a lot of ice accumulates. This is actually a green algae called Trentepohlia aurea but the same pigment that colors carrots orange makes green algae orange as well. It’s also very hairy, but I couldn’t get close enough to show you.

Colorful foam gathered on one of the drainage ditches in what I thought were beautiful swirling patterns. What caused it to appear and what colored it, I don’t know.

I didn’t have my high rubber boots with me on this trip so I couldn’t get close enough to the canyon walls to get close shots of the algae or the great scented liverworts (Conocephalum conicum) seen here. This beautiful, reptilian liverwort gets its common name from its fresh, clean scent. It will only grow near water that is very clean and it grows here on the  canyon walls just above the drainage ditches. Groundwater constantly splashes them and keeps them wet in warm months. In winter they are often encased in ice, which has just started happening to the plants in this shot.

We’re having some wet heavy snows this month but the old lineman’s shack still somehow stands, even though people have been pulling it apart for as long as I’ve known about it. It just goes to show how the railroad built things to last. Their carpenters were as good as their stone masons. I hope it’s still standing a month from now when I come back to see how the ice has grown.

The splendor of Silence,—of snow-jeweled hills and of ice. ~Ingram crockett

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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By now you might think I’d had enough of ice but there is a special place called the ice box in Westmoreland, just north of Keene, that I couldn’t go long in winter without visiting. I was here a month ago at the end of December but the ice, which often grows as big as tree trunks, hadn’t grown much by then. This is a deep cut through solid rock made by the Cheshire Railroad back in the mid-1800s which has become a popular spot for learning how to ice climb. The New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here and on this day there were more climbers here than I had ever seen.

They were young and old and from what I gathered, all skill levels. As I usually do I just wandered through quickly, snapping the shutter now and then. I worry about distracting the beginning climbers so I don’t often speak to anyone or even stand and watch. I’ve asked in the past if my use of a camera bothered them and they’ve always said no, but that wouldn’t make me feel any better if someone fell because they were wondering what I was doing instead of paying attention to what they should have been doing.

What I’d like to ask them is why they don’t ever seem to climb the colored ice. It’s possible that it isn’t as stable as the clear or blue ice. Even though blue ice is the densest they seem to stay on the clear ice when climbing. I’ve read that ice is plastic and actually has quite a lot of give and movement, so maybe that has something to do with it. All of the bags and packs that you see in this photo are what the ice climbers use to pack their ropes out here. They use lots of rope!

These ledges soar up to what I would guess is about 50 feet in places and the ice columns sometimes reach all the way to the top. As I’ve said, they can also grow to the size of large tree trunks and they can be amazing things to see.

Sometimes it isn’t just their size that makes the ice columns amazing. It’s their beauty as well.

I believe that the colors in the ice come from mineral seepage in the groundwater that forms the ice columns, and I believe that simply because I can’t come up with any other plausible explanations. I’ve seen brown ice, green ice, orange ice, blue ice, red ice, and even black ice on these walls, so there must be some kind of mineral soup going on here.

I should say that I know regular readers of this blog have heard me say these things many times but there are new readers coming on board all the time, so I hope you’ll understand why I keep repeating what I say about this and some of other places I visit. This place especially, seems to fascinate those who haven’t ever seen anything like it. It really is quite amazing even to me, and I’ve seen it countless times.

I like the far southern end of the canyon; the end away from the climbers, because there is never anyone here. I think it might be because the ice receives too much sunshine on this end and it melts and fills the drainage ditches along the sides of the trail. I wouldn’t want to climb down an ice column and suddenly find myself standing in two feet of freezing cold water.

In years past I’ve seen huge ice columns colored reddish orange but this year I only saw those colors in the mineral stained stone. You can see in this photo how the groundwater seeps directly out of fractures in the stone.

I saw plenty of tan ice that had a few orangey streaks, but no orange ice.

There was so much ice in some spots you couldn’t see the stone that it hung from.

This photo shows the drainage ditches, which are frozen over at times and clear of ice at other times.

I saw some waves that had been frozen in place. There are small fish in these drainage ditches but they’re very fast so I’ve never been able to get a shot of them.

The ice over the drainage ditches is often thick enough to stand on, but you want to make sure you have high rubber boots on if you do. I’ve plunged through this ice before and found myself almost up to my knees in the cold, wet ditch.

Wherever the water touches the ice columns they melt, and they tell the story of how the water rises and falls in the ditches. We had a recent day with almost 2 inches of rain and there was plenty of evidence of flooding here.

This is one of two places where the water in the ditches rose so high that it washed parts of the railbed away. This was disheartening to see because the same thing happened last winter and the local snowmobile clubs had to put in a lot of time and effort last summer to fix it. They keep these trails open on their own time with their own tools without pay, and that’s why I always remind people to donate a little to their local snowmobile club, if and when they can.

The rushing water scoured away the finer material on the rail bed and exposed the gravel base. Chances are good that this hasn’t been seen in about 150 years, since the railroad workers put it down. It’s interesting to see that most of this stone isn’t made up of pieces of blasted rock from blasting the canyon through the hillside. These stones are more what I’d expect to see on a river or stream bank. So where did they come from? There must be a very big hole somewhere.

I thought I had chosen a good day to come here because it was sunny and approaching 50 degrees. It was a beautiful spring like day but somehow I never gave a thought to the fact that the ice would be melting because of it. But it was, and in places it was melting fast and falling from the walls. This rotten ice was a sure sign that things were changing due to the warmth. Ice is rotten when air bubbles or dirt particles get in between the ice crystals and weaken the bonds between them. It gives the ice a gray, opaque, “sick” look. When you tap on it you hear more of a thud than a good ringing rap.

This wasn’t good and it convinced me that I’d better get out of here, because an ice column had fallen and reached the center of the trail. I always walk in the center of the trail, thinking that if ice ever fell it would never reach me. So much for that theory.

I put a glove on one of the pieces of fallen ice column to give you an idea of how big they were. They were easily big and heavy enough to crush and kill if they ever fell on someone.

All of this freezing and thawing takes its toll on the ledges and stones fall from these walls too. The water gets into the cracks in the stone and expands when it freezes and shatters the stone, as can be seen in this photo. Stones big enough to crush cars have fallen from the walls in the past. I hope I’m not here when the next one comes down.

As I always have I stop and stand in awe of the old lineman’s shack which, even with one wall and half its roof gone still stands. It’s slowly getting worse though and I doubt it will make it through one more winter. I often wonder if they stored shovels in the shack so they could shovel out this canyon when it snowed. I’ve seen photos of train locomotives with big plows on them but where would they plow the snow in a canyon barely as wide as the train was? I think they must have had to shovel it, at least some of it, and I can’t even imagine what back breaking work that must have been.

After one last peek at the ice climbers my time here was done.

There are places which exist in this world beyond the reach of imagination. ~Daniel J. Rice

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

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After posting the 2 part blog post just before Christmas about searching a new rail trail to find ledges where huge icicles might grow I realized that many readers might have no idea why I would be looking for such things, so I visited one of my favorite rail trails in Westmoreland. This is a deep cut that was blasted through a hillside in the mid-1800s so the Cheshire Railroad could get to Vermont. Groundwater constantly seeps through fissures in the stone and in winter it freezes into huge ice columns as big as tree trunks.

The size of the ice columns can be quite amazing but sometimes the minerals in the groundwater color them and make them even more amazing. The walls of this man made canyon soar up to 50 feet high in places so the ice columns also get very tall. They must be perfect for climbing because the New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club comes here to hold ice climbing clinics.

As luck would have it they were there climbing the ice on this day. Though I didn’t ask I’m assuming that the climber in this photo was relatively new to climbing, because he was on ice that wasn’t very tall. I met climbers here last year who described this kind of climb as a “baby climb.” Just to get used to it, I would think. I try not to be too intrusive or distracting when I see climbers so I don’t ask to many questions for fear of breaking their concentration.

If you are wondering what became of all that blasted stone, in this case the railroad used it to build mighty retaining walls along the sides of the cut where there was hillside soil that had to be held back.

This view is of the opposite end of the canyon from where the ice climbers climb. Though the ice here is nearly as big as on the other end I’ve never seen them climb here, and it wasn’t until this year that I finally figured out why.

At least I think I know why they don’t climb here. The drainage ditches are full of water on this end of the canyon and there is no water in them where the climbers climb. These ditches are almost knee deep in places and I’d hate to climb down an icicle and find my feet in frigid water. This is the section where most of the interesting plants grow though, so when I need to get close to the walls I put on rubber boots and walk in the ditches. I don’t do it often because of the danger of falling ice and stone, but I’ve done it a few times.

These drainage ditches were designed to carry water out of and away from the rail bed, so the water is always flowing like a stream, and the movement keeps the ice columns from growing any further than the surface of the water. It looks like they have been cut off right at the water’s surface all the way down the ditches.

It’s always cold here in winter and it often gets cold enough to freeze the surface of the drainage ditches, and that’s what happened in a few spots on this day. Where they had frozen over long feathers of hoar frost had grown. Without thinking I hold my breath when I’m taking photos of these beautiful, fragile things because all it takes is the warmth of a stray breath to destroy them.

In some places the hoar frost had grown into sharp looking needles. It’s odd to think of frost growing on ice but it happens quite frequently when conditions are right. Humidity seems to play a large part in it.

I’ve learned much from this man made canyon and one of the chief things among them is how cold can change the appearance of stone. It brings out colors in the stone for instance, that aren’t seen when it’s warmer. Colored stains from over a hundred years of seeping, mineral laden groundwater appear as if by magic when it gets cold.

But do the minerals color the ice? I think they do, because I can’t think of any other thing that would. And the color doesn’t come in just green; I’ve also seen orange, blue, brown, and even black ice here. The blue ice is colored by its own density and clarity and by the way it reflects light, but the other colors must come from some foreign material. Brown ice for example, might simply be colored by soil. Orange ice could be colored by the iron in the stone. There’s a lot of it here.

You can see in places how the mineral laden water colors the snow as well as the ice.

Ice isn’t the only reason I come here. There are many unusual plants here that I don’t see anywhere else, and one of them is the green algae called Trentepohlia aurea. Though it’s called green algae a carotenoid pigment in the alga cells called hematochrome or beta-carotene color them orange. It’s the same pigment found in carrots, but in this instance it hides the green chlorophyll in the algae. I couldn’t get close enough to show it but these algae are very hairy. Though I’ve seen orange ice here it wasn’t where the few colonies of algae grow so I doubt they have anything to do with coloring ice. I keep hoping to see the algae producing spores, but so far I haven’t had any luck. In certain parts of the world algae have produced enough spores to color the rain. If you ever hear of red rain falling chances are it’s because of algae spores.

Another plant that I come here to see is the beautiful, reptilian, great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum.) This liverwort gets its common name from its clean, fresh scent. It is the only liverwort with this reptilian appearance, so it’s easy to identify. They grow on these ledges by the thousand, constantly watered by splashing groundwater. They like a lot of water but it has to be absolutely clean and unpolluted, so finding this liverwort is a good indicator of very clean water.

White tipped moss (Hedwigia ciliata) also grew in an area where it was constantly splashed by dripping groundwater, and the tiny water droplets made it even more beautiful. One of the first things you notice here in this icy canyon is the sound of dripping water. It seeps and drips year round, winter and summer, through the entire length of the canyon and the sound can be very pleasing or very annoying, depending on your mood. I’ve met people here who described it both ways. There are those who feel that the sound of water intrudes on the peacefulness of a place I suppose, but to me it is like a musical gift from the earth.

Can Ice be beautiful? Oh yes it can, and these windblown icicles looked every bit as beautiful as Lalique crystal to me. For those who may not know, Rene Lalique was a French glass designer who practiced his art in the Art Noveau period (1890-1910.) He is known today for his opaque, matte finish glass, which can look much like these icicles. He was completion for Louis Comfort Tiffany, so if you received a piece of Lalique crystal for Christmas you are very lucky indeed.

Unfortunately, though the opaque finish on Lalique crystal means good things, on ice it does not; especially if you happen to be an ice climber, because ice that looks like this is rotten and unsafe. Ice becomes rotten when water, air bubbles, and/or dirt get in between the grains of ice and cause it to honeycomb and lose its strength. Instead of a sharp ringing crack when it is struck it produces more of a dull thud. The grayish white color and matte finish are a sure sign of rotten ice, and a good sign that you should stay away from it when it’s hanging over your head.

Each winter I come here and stand in awe of the old lineman’s shack, which still stands against the weight of the snow even though it lacks half its roof, a wall and a half, and most of its floor. It has stood here for well over a century and is the very definition of well built. If it wasn’t for people slowly pulling it apart I have no doubt it would still look just as it did when it was built.

The sun was getting lower and a single ray fell on a green icicle. Though it lit up the icicle it had no heat to melt it, and this reminded me how very cold it was here on this day. This canyon usually runs about 10 degrees cooler than it is on the outside and it was 27 degrees F when I came in, so it was no wonder that my toes were cold. I always have to be careful that I don’t wander too far out of myself and get lost in this winter beauty because frostbite is always close by.

With a last look at some beautiful little frost feathers back out into the world I went, hoping that it would be just a bit warmer there. I’ll have to return in a month or two when the icicles should be as big as trees.

In the winter the world gets sharp. Beautiful things happen. ~Peter Fiore

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for coming by.

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1. Long Shot

Last weekend I went to one of my favorite places, a “deep cut” along a rail trail where the icicles grow as big as tree trunks. Since little or no sun shines down into this man made canyon once it gets cold it stays cold. It can also be quite dark so I waited for a rare (this winter) bright sunny day, hoping there would be enough light to be able to take some photos.

2. Ice Formations

There is ice everywhere you look here. The odd thing about it is how in the summer you barely notice the groundwater that constantly seeps from the rock faces. Winter really reveals just how much water there is here, and it’s a lot.

3. Ice Climbers

The ice climbers were here. They call this place the “ice box” and come here to train and get used to ice climbing before they go out and tackle the really big ice falls. The New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here too, but I don’t know if that was what was going on here on this day. I try to never bother them because I imagine that ice climbing takes intense concentration and I’m always afraid that if I distract someone they could fall. I certainly don’t want to be the cause of that.

If you’d like to see someone actually climbing this ice you can watch a video of it by clicking here. The video also shows just how high these ledges are toward the end of it.

4. Cracked Ice

I’m thinking that they probably have enough on their minds without answering questions from me, like that horizontal crack that runs completely through this ice column.  Just taking a photo of it made me nervous. I’ve seen massive pieces of ice lying in the trail after they’ve fallen and I know that I don’t want to be anywhere near one when it comes down. When you’re the only one here and it’s quiet if you stop and listen you can hear the ice creaking and cracking, letting you know that what you thought was static and unmoving is actually moving all of the time, expanding and contracting and growing larger.

5. Laep (Leading Edge Anchor Point) Anchor

Last summer I noticed several of these rock climbing anchors, called “LEAPs” screwed into the rock face, so ice isn’t the only thing climbed here. LEAP stands for Leading Edge Anchor Point and is what ropes get tied to. This photo also shows that part of the rock face was wet. It’s hard to believe that what looks like such a small amount of moisture can grow into such massive ice formations.

 6. Drainage Ditch

All this water has to go somewhere so when the railroad engineers blasted this canyon through the rock they also dug drainage ditches along each side of the rail bed. After over 150 years they still work fine. They hadn’t yet completely frozen over yet when I was there and considering how cold it was that was a real surprise.

7. Liverworts

There are thousands of plants, mosses, ferns and liverworts growing on the rock faces and I usually wear my rubber boots so I can wade through the drainage ditches to get an up close look at them. I wore my boots this day but the ice was making some really strange sounds and I didn’t think that it was a good idea to be standing under it, so this shot of some liverworts was taken from a few feet away. After being here in such cold it amazes me how anything can survive these conditions. It was 20 °F when I left my house and I’d guess it was probably half that here in the canyon. Add the breeze that always seems to blow through here and it was probably close to zero with the wind chill.

8. Steam Drill Tool Mark

I just finished reading the book Sermons in Stone, which is about New England stone walls, and in it author Susan Allport says that long, round tool marks like that in the above photo were made by steam powered drills and since steam powered drills weren’t invented until 1861, the particular stone that bears these tool marks couldn’t have been worked before then. I can’t argue with that but there is plenty of evidence that the granite here was hand cut using star drills and feathers and wedges, so I think what might have happened was the railroad came back once the steam drill was available and widened the rail bed. If it was originally all done by hand then it was probably only as wide as it absolutely had to be. They could also have been making sure that there was no loose rock that might fall on the tracks.

9. Hand Cut Granite

The tool marks from the old method of drilling and splitting by hand can’t be confused with anything else.

10. Colored Ice

I’ve never seen ice come in so many colors as it does here. This place is beautiful at all times of year but the ice adds a bit of magic. The first time I saw it I walked this trail stunned into silence and awestruck by the sight of it. It’s hard to tell by these photos but these ledges soar upwards 50 feet or more in places and you feel as if you’re in an ice cathedral. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.

11. Orange Ice

This was the first time I saw orange ice here. I’ve read that orange icicles on a rock face are caused by iron minerals in the soil and water. I can’t find any reference to what might cause green or blue ice.

12. Algae on Rock Face

I wondered if the orange ice was caused by this algae growth which, even though it is bright orange, is called “green algae” (Trentepohlia aurea.) A carotenoid pigment in the alga cells called hematochrome or beta- carotene, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color, hides the green chlorophyll in the algae.

13. Mineral Stains

Mineral stains of various colors are also visible on the rock faces.

14. Blue Ice

My favorite is the blue ice but all of the different colors are beautiful and part of what makes this such an amazing place.

 15. Bridge

Just as the sun started to go down I saw that someone had been clearing a new trail off of the rail trail that I was on. It looks like the new trail is meant to cross this old bridge, which didn’t look to be more than 4 feet wide. It crosses a small stream and looks like something the stone masons would have used to get cut granite out of the woods. I wanted to explore it but it was getting even colder as the sun dropped, so it’ll have to wait for another day.

Beauty waits until the patience and depth of a gaze are refined enough to engage and discover it. In this sense, beauty is not a quality externally present in something. It emerges at that threshold where reverence of mind engages the subtle presence of the other person, place or object. ~ John O’ Donohue

Thanks for coming by.

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Last weekend we had a beautiful warm, sunny Saturday so I decided to visit one of my favorite places, an old railroad cut in Westmoreland that in winter becomes a cold, hard world of ice and stone.

 1. Ice Canyon

There was so much snow that I wasn’t sure if I’d see any living thing other than trees. I was surprised to find the wind blowing here because the day was calm. It is always at least 10 degrees cooler here than the surrounding area, winter or summer, and now I’m beginning to wonder if the place doesn’t create its own wind as well because, as I think back to previous trips, it always seems to be blowing here.

 2. Ice Climbers

In the deepest, most shaded part of this man made canyon a group of ice climbers were training. I’ve recently learned that the New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here and it looked like that was what was going on. I didn’t bother them and let them have the ice to themselves. Ice was not what I was here for. 

 3. Ice Formations

Still, it’s impossible to ignore the ice formations. With ice like this it’s no wonder that they come here to train. I saw some rotten ice but I’m sure they know enough about what they do to avoid it.

 4. Mosses

This is what I came for-to see something green and growing. Mosses, lichens, liverworts and an incredible assortment of ferns and other plants have grown undisturbed in this place for nearly 2 centuries. I think someone could easily spend a lifetime trying to identify them all.

 5. Mountain Haircap Moss

This is a very wet place, with groundwater constantly running down the rock faces, and the mosses love it. This mountain haircap moss (Polystrichastrum pallidisetum) still had a few closed spore capsules (sporophytes) meaning that it’s busy trying to cover even more stone ledges.

 6. Fallen Tree 

This tree that has fallen and spanned the gap is my signal to start looking for liverworts, but as I looked at the ice covered walls it was hard to imagine anything growing in such harsh conditions.

 7. Canyon Walls

Fortunately in places the sun warms the stone enough to keep the walls clear of ice and this is where many plants choose to grow.

8. Velvet Shank Mushroom aka Flammulina velutipes

I saw a few clusters of velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) growing on a dying American elm. This is a true “winter mushroom” that fruits from September to March and can live through being frozen solid. When young velvet shanks are ivory colored but age to reddish brown. They are usually dark in the center of the cap and lighter colored toward the edges. These examples were no bigger in diameter than a nickel, but I’ve seen them reach 3 inches.

 9. Velvet Shank Mushroom Gills

Velvet shank gets its common name from the velvety feel of its stem, which is lighter near the cap. Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog thought of the idea of using a telescoping mirror to see the underside of mushrooms instead of kneeling in the snow. I bought one and it works great but this one was high enough on the tree so I didn’t need to use it. The mirror idea might be good for those who have trouble kneeling.

 10. Narrow Mushroom Headed Liverwort

The first liverwort I saw was the narrow mushroom-headed liverwort (Preissia quadrata). This liverwort can be either male or female, or have can have both male and female reproductive structures on a single plant. Fruiting structures are short, umbrella shaped, spore producing growths that usually appear in March. The examples in the photo were just starting to grow fruiting bodies, which are the 5 or 6 little bumps that can be seen on the body (thallus) of the liverwort. I’ve circled one in white to make it easier to see. These will rise on short stalks before opening like an umbrella. Male reproductive structures will have flat tops and look like small mushrooms and females will look like tiny palm trees. I hope to be there to see them.

11. Snakeskin Liverwort

The snakeskin liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) reproduces in much the same way as the narrow mushroom-headed liverwort, but I didn’t find any getting ready to do so just yet. This is also called great scented liverwort and I remembered to smell it this time. I was astonished by its fresh, clean scent that immediately reminded me of air fresheners. It was kind of lemony, kind of spicy, but in the end impossible to accurately describe because I’ve never smelled anything exactly like it. It’s another interesting facet of an interesting and very unusual plant.

 12. Wild Strawberry 

Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) was a plant I didn’t expect to see growing on these rocks in February but there it was, still attached to its parent by its runner (stolon).

 13. Railroad Shack 

It looks like the old lineman’s shack is going to make it through another winter even though half of the roof, most of the floor, and most of the siding boards are gone. Many were taken to be used as bridges across the drainage ditches on either side of the rail bed and they can still be seen here and there along the trail.

14. Railroad Shack Graffiti

I don’t know when it was built but according to the graffiti on its back wall the shack will see at least its 90th anniversary next year. My father was born and grew up in this town and I can’t help but wonder if he ever saw the inside of this building. He was 18 in 1925.

15. Large Ice Farmation

It’s going to be a while before all of the ice has melted in this place but spring is happening, even here.

There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere. ~ Edward Abbey

Thanks for coming by.

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