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Posts Tagged ‘Pitcher Mountain’

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

We had a week of wonderfully warm temperatures that I thought had probably melted all the trail ice so last Sunday I thought I’d give Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard a try. There was something I wanted to see.

2. Trail

Thankfully the trail was ice free because this one would have been tough with ice on it. There was mud in spots but that was far easier to get through than ice.

3. Witch's Broom on Blueberry Roots

I saw some witch’s broom on a blueberry. Though there is nothing odd or surprising about that this witch’s broom was growing on the blueberry plant’s roots, and that’s something I’ve never seen.

4. Witch's Broom on Blueberry Branch

This photo shows witch’s broom on the branch, which is where you’d expect to see it. Witch’s broom is a deformity described as a “dense mass of shoots growing from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest.” The two examples shown were found on highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and were caused by a fungus (Pucciniastrum goeppertianum). This fungus spends part of its life cycle on the needles of balsam fir (Abies balsamea). When it releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry, it becomes infected. The fungus overwinters on blueberry bushes and in the spring again releases spores which will infect even more balsam fir trees and the cycle will begin again. In my experience witch’s broom doesn’t affect fruit production.

5. Stone Wall

The stone walls and what’s left of the apple orchard near the summit are all that is here to remind climbers of the Pitcher family, who forever gave their name to this mountain that they farmed in the 1700s.

6. Meadow View-2

When you’ve been surrounded by trees for your entire life and then come into a place like this there’s really no way to describe how it makes you feel. If there was an accompanying sound it would be a great rushing whoosh.

7. Monadnock

When I reach the meadow I always turn to look back, and there is Mount Monadnock just over my shoulder as it has always been. It’s as if it were a big brother, always watching over me.

8. First Glimpse of Tower

Pitcher Mountain isn’t a long or strenuous climb so before you know it you get your first glimpse of the fire tower through the undergrowth.

9. Window Washer

But on this day there was something different; someone was washing the windows and that could only mean that the tower was open. It wasn’t that surprising because the forest fire danger is very high right now due to the lack of snow this winter. I could have gone up for a visit but there was a family with children here and I wanted the kids to have a chance to see the views. I wouldn’t stand in the way of anything that might get them interested in nature. I was happy enough to see that there was someone watching out for fires because when you live in a 4.8 million acre forest you think about such things occasionally, especially in spring. 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.

10. Cabin

The old fire warden’s cabin speaks of an earlier time when they actually lived up here when the fire danger was high. I think they must rotate in and out on shifts these days because the cabin doesn’t seem to get any use. I’m always surprised that it has made it through another winter.

11. Meadows from Above

I always look at the meadows from up here to see if I can see where the Scottish Highland cattle that are raised here are, but I’ve never seen them.

12. Scattered Rock Posy

There are hundreds of scattered rock posy lichens (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) living on the stones on the summit but only a few were showing their orange, pad like fruiting bodies (apothecia.) When I see them I’m always surprised things like this that sometimes seem so fragile can survive with no protection from the elements.

13. Tower

I thought I’d try to get a shot of the fire tower looking up one of the guy cables that keep it from blowing off the top of the mountain. The highest wind ever was recorded was here in New Hampshire but that was on Mount Washington, not Pitcher Mountain. That wind reached 231 miles per hour and was recorded April 12, 1934 by the Mount Washington observatory staff. On that mountain there are heavy chains holding the buildings down.

14. Turnbuckle

Here on Pitcher Mountain the wires are fastened to the mountain by turnbuckles attached to steel eye bolts that have been screwed into the rock.

15. Birdbaths

The natural depressions in the rock collect rain water and make very good bird baths when nobody is watching, I would imagine. They were an unbelievable shade of blue; much darker than the sky above them.

16. Ski Area

I saw several mountains over in Vermont with snow still on the ski trails but I can’t give you their names. I keep telling myself that I’ll look at a topographical map and learn their names but it never seems to happen.

17. Lake

Unfortunately I don’t know the names of the lakes either.

18. Lake

There are several lakes that can be seen from the summit and I’m guessing that one of them must be Granite Lake in Munsonville, but I don’t know which one it is. This one looked like it might still have a little ice on the shoreline.

19. View

I don’t usually come here for any particular reason but the red maples are starting to flower down in the lowlands of Keene and I thought I’d see if they were doing the same up here. When the thousands of trees on the surrounding hills all blossom at once there is a red haze that colors the hillsides and I wanted to see if I could catch it in a photo, which is much harder than it sounds. I thought this photo showed it just a little in the lower half but since I’m colorblind I’m easily fooled.

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

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Trail Start

Since the forecast called for snow this week I decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard last Saturday, the day after Christmas. It was a beautiful sunny, spring like day and the temperature was just right for climbing. The trail up starts as a dirt road that fire wardens use to reach the tower on the summit. The road doesn’t go all the way to the top but it gets them more than half way there.

2. Leaf

So many times I’ve heard that there is nothing to see in winter. The complaint is usually that the landscape is “all brown.” But it isn’t, and what browns there are can be deep and rich like the leaf in the above photo.

3. Fuzz Cone Slime Mold

Yellow-fuzz cone slime mold (Hemitrichia clavata) grew on a log. This slime mold taught me that slime molds can and do live in winter. Before finding it I always thought slime molds needed the warm, wet weather of summer. This was the first time I’d seen a slime mold of any kind on Pitcher Mountain.

4. Moss

The mosses were so green. They seemed to just throb with life.

5. Pasture

If you had lived in a box for years and were suddenly released from it the world would seem like a very big place indeed, and that’s what seeing a view like this after living in a forest is like. It’s so expansive that I feel a great rushing release, as if a window into infinity has been thrown open and I have been sucked through it. Forest dwellers can lose themselves in the vast openness of such a place, and that’s one of the reasons I climb here.

6. Trail

The road gets rocky after a while so you need to concentrate on the climb.

7. Monadnock

If you take a rest stop and turn to look behind you during this rocky stretch you’ll see a fairly good view of Mount Monadnock over in Jaffrey.

8. Fire Tower

The sun was blinding as it reflected off the tower windows in this, the first glimpse of it.

9. Ranger Cabin

Before you reach the tower you come to the ranger cabin. It was once manned in the summer when fire danger was high, but now it seems abandoned.

10. Ranger Cabin

Some of the cabin’s underpinnings aren’t providing much support.

11. Privy

Someone tore the door off the privy. Take it from someone who has used one of these many times long ago: indoor plumbing is one of the best things mankind ever invented.

12. Tower

Before you know it you’ve reached the tower on the summit. Though I’ve been told it is manned at certain times of year I’ve never seen anyone in it. This metal tower was built after a forest fire in April of 1940 destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the original 1915 wooden fire tower and all of the trees on the summit. It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history.

13. View

The views weren’t great on this day but since I don’t climb for the views I wasn’t disappointed.

14. Windmills

The wind turbines over on Bear Mountain in Lempster, NH were visible and could even be seen turning quite quickly, it seemed. It’s often so hazy that they can’t be seen at all.

15. View

This view was very blue. The sunshine and shadows were playing tag on this day and the views changed quickly.

16. Tie Down

Steel tie-downs tell stories of the strong winds that sometimes blow up here.

17. Golden Moonglow Lichen

In the past I’ve only seen golden moon glow lichens (Dimelaena oreina) growing on polished granite but here was one growing on this rough, exposed stone. I’ve looked at the lichens that grow up here many times, but this is the first time I’ve seen it.

18. Golden Moonglow Lichen

Since the golden moon glow lichen was fruiting I’m guessing it was happy here. The things that look like tiny cups are its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) that produce its spores. Spores released to the wind up here are liable to be blown to just about anywhere.

19. Puddles

Puddles on the stones captured the blue of the sky and made natural bird baths. I’ve looked this way many times but have never seen them before.

20. Christmas Tree

Something else I’ve never seen before is this small spruce, even though I’ve looked off to the nearest hill in the background many times. I’ve even taken several photos of this view but the tree doesn’t appear in any of them, and that illustrates perfectly why I climb the same hills and follow the same trails again and again; there is always something new to see that I’ve missed. In this post alone there are 4 or 5 things that I’ve never seen in this place, even though I’ve climbed here countless times.  So if you’ve been to a place and think you’ve seen all there is to see, even if it’s the woods in your own back yard, you’re fooling yourself. If you return to that place I can guarantee that you’ll see things that you didn’t see before. That’s just the way nature works.

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday. ~John Burroughs

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!

 

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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. Sign

Last Saturday was relatively warm and sunny so I decided to go for a climb. I chose Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard because it is one of the few places in the area where you can find a place to park before you climb. Many haven’t been plowed.

2. Trail

I wasn’t sure if I’d make it without snowshoes but the trail looked to be good and packed down and even though the snow drifts were waist deep in places, I was able to get by with just gaiters and Yak Trax. It was slow going though and I had to stop frequently to catch my breath.

3. Deer Browsed Maple

I noticed that deer and other animals had been using the snow packed trail too, and deer had been browsing the bushes and trees along the sides as this young maple shows.  The buds of some maples look a lot like oak buds but oaks have alternate branching. Since this tree has opposite branching it must be a maple.

4. Rabbit Tracks

Rabbits were using the packed snow trail too even though they were light enough to hop on top of the snow without sinking in.

5. Staghorn Sumac

It looked like the rabbits had been eating the bark off all of the staghorn sumacs. I wonder if that means that they’re having trouble finding food.

6. Spruce

The snow was deep enough in places to make walking close to impossible if I had stepped off the packed trail. I decided that I didn’t want to wade through that much snow, so I stayed on it. I saw places where deer had stepped off the trail and sank into the soft snow probably up to their bellies. I felt bad for them-they must be having a very hard winter this year.  At least the snow isn’t crusty on top so it shouldn’t be cutting their legs all up.

7. Meadow

When I reached what I call the meadow I saw why there were snow drifts along the trail; the wind had scoured parts of these pastures almost down to bare grass, blowing it all toward the trail. I keep hoping that I’ll see the Scottish highland cattle that wander these pastures, but I never have. They probably don’t want to wade through the deep snow either.

8. Snow and Sky

In the book Country Editor’s Boy Hal Borland speaks of the high plains of Colorado, and how when he was a boy there was an unbroken view to the horizon in any direction. There wasn’t a tree or hill or building to add any interest, he said, and I wondered as I stopped and saw this view if this is what it was like. For someone like me who lives in a forest, seeing a view like this is like seeing the surface of another planet. I’m not sure how long I could stand it.

 9. Fire Tower

The fire tower hasn’t blown off the mountain yet. Since I learned that this tower was built as a replacement for the original 1915 wooden tower that burned down in April of 1940 in the most destructive forest fire that this area has ever seen, I see it as a kind of monument to irony.

10. Wind Rippled Snow

You could see that plenty of wind had blown through here but on this day there was only a slight breeze, so it wasn’t too bad. It could have been much worse.

11. Ranger Cabin

After all the snow we’ve had this year I thought the fire warden’s cabin would be either flattened or buried but it looked as if someone had shoveled it out and had been shoveling the roof as well. Now that’s a job that I wouldn’t want, no matter what it paid.

 12. Meadow from Above

For a change it wasn’t hazy at all and the views were good. Mount Monadnock was clearly visible over the meadow to the right.

13. Unknown Hill

I don’t know the name of this hill but I wish I did because it’s a beauty. Someday I’m going to have to get a topographical map of this area and earn the names of all of these hills.

 14. Lichens

The sun and wind had done their work on the many rocks found on the summit so there were plenty of lichens to see. The yellow orange ones are common gold speck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) and the black and white ones are tile lichens tile lichens (Lecidea tessellate.)

15. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

The biggest surprise of the day was this scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans.) For years I knew of one nickel sized example and then last year I found another and then another, and now I seem to be seeing them everywhere.

16. Rolling Snow

The going was much slipperier and tougher on the way down than it had been on the way up and I wished that I could just curl into a ball and roll down the mountain side. By the time I reached the bottom I knew that I wasn’t going to be good for much of anything else that day, and I was glad that I had nothing left to do.

Perhaps there’s no better act of simplification than climbing a mountain. For an afternoon, a day, or a week, it’s a way of reducing a complicated life into a simple goal. All you have to do is take one step at a time, place one foot in front of the other, and refuse to turn back until you’ve given everything you have. ~Ken Ilgunas

Thanks for stopping in. Don’t forget to turn the clocks one hour ahead tonight!

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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. Trail

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

2. Meadow

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

3. Grass Flowering

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

 4. Trail

Nearer to the top the trail gets steeper and rockier.

5. Ranger Station

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

6. Firetower Anchor

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

7. Fire Tower

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

8. Blueberry

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

9. Mountain View

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

10. Lichens

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

 11. Cloudscape

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

 12. Glacial Striations

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

 13. Triangulation Station

Even on mountain tops, trigonometry.

14. Monadnock

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

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

Thanks for coming by. Happy first day of summer!

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We had another warmish, sunny weekend day last week so I decided to see how climbing Pitcher Mountain in winter was.

1. Stoddard Church

Pitcher Mountain is in Stoddard New Hampshire, a small town north east of Keene. The town was named after Colonel Sampson Stoddard of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the charter being granted to him and others on May 10, 1752. The population has fluctuated over the years, falling to as low as 100 people in 1900 to around 1000 today. According to the town’s website the Congregational Church was organized in 1787 but the building in the photo wasn’t built until 1836.

 2. Pitcher Mountain Sign 

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 you only have to hike the last 300 feet. In fact, if the gate that the fire warden passes through was open you could drive almost to the top with a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

According to the good folks at the Cheshire County Historical Society Pitcher Mountain gets its name from the Pitcher family, who settled in this area in the late 1700s. Their house was located just a stone’s throw from this sign, right where the parking lot is today. They must have been hardy souls. This is rugged country for farming.

 3. Pitcher Mountain Trail

The elevation gain may be only 300 feet but the trail is steep enough for me to have to stop occasionally to huff and puff and look at interesting things. Several web sites say that if you don’t stop you can reach the summit in about 15 minutes, but what is the hurry?

4. Pitcher Mountain Pasture

The trail skirts a large pasture in places. The owners raise Scottish Highland Cattle here but I didn’t see any of them this day.

 5. Scottish Highland Cattle

Scottish highland cattle look well equipped for our winter weather. This photo is from Wikipedia.

 6. Pitcher Mountain Fire Tower

It isn’t long before you get a glimpse of the fire tower through the apple trees and blueberry bushes. The spacing of the apple trees tells me that there used to be an orchard here. Now people come from miles around to pick the blueberries, and with 50 acres of bushes there must be plenty to go around.

 7. Pitcher Mountain Ranger Cabin

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. There is a privy out in back of the cabin so there probably isn’t any running water here.

 8. Pitcher Mountain 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.

 9. Pitcher Mountain View to North East

Lovewell mountain lies somewhere to the north, just north of Washington, New Hampshire but I couldn’t see it on this day because of the haze. These hills make up the Monadnock highlands which separate the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers.

 10. Pitcher Mountain View to West

This hill off to the west looked almost close enough to touch but it would have been quite a hike to the top of it from here.

 11. Pitcher Mountain Pasture

This is the view of the pasture we passed in photo number 4 from above. The cattle have quite a view.

 12. Pitcher Mountain Rock with Lichens

I wondered if these steel rods hammered into the rock were once used for tying down the fire tower.  It was pretty cool with a gusty wind on the summit, so I didn’t stand around wondering for too long.  I was also interested in the lichens. The steel rod was about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter, so that should give you an idea of how small the lichens were.

 13. Common Goldspeck Lichen

Common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) is a crustose lichen that seems very granular when you get a close look at it, and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten in a photo. You can just make out a couple of its round, almost microscopic fruiting bodies (apothecia) in the center of the photo. This 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 and I would imagine that yellow wool in Sweden was very expensive then.

14. Tile Lichen

An areolate lichen is one in which the body is made up of many little lumps or islands. The tile lichen (Lecidea tessellata) in the above photo fits that description well. Its black fruiting bodies (apothecia) are even with, or slightly sunken into the surrounding body (thallus). There are 136 species of tile lichens and identification is difficult without a microscope. I’ve made a guess at the identity of this one hoping that someone will correct me if I’m wrong. Tile lichens grow on rock in full sun and can grow through winter in temperatures that are just above freezing.

 15. Monadnock From Pitcher Mountain

As you head back down the trail you are greeted by a view of Mount Monadnock to the south, the only mountain in this region taller than the one you’re standing on.

I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it. ~Author unknown

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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