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Posts Tagged ‘Porcupine Falls’

1-trail

I haven’t paid much attention to waterfalls this summer because of the drought and all of the dried up ponds and streams I’ve seen, but we’ve had some rain now and the weather people say the drought is easing, so I thought I’d go and see Porcupine Falls in Gilsum. It’s kind of an odd waterfall that I’ve often thought would actually look better with less water falling from it and I thought that the drought might have helped in that regard, so off I went up the old logging road that starts the trail.

2-stone-wall

Stone walls line parts of the road and speak of the history of the place. When you see stone walls it’s a fair bet that the forest was once cleared, because the stones that make up the walls were cleared from fields, not forests. This example is a tossed or thrown wall, where the stones were simply stacked loosely on top of each other without thought of form or function. Stones broke plow blades and other farm equipment and could harm horses that stumbled over them so the idea was to get rid of them as quickly and easily as possible, and piling them along your property lines made the most sense. Most of the stone walls in New Hampshire are this type.

3-brook

And this view of what is left of white brook shows just how many stones there are in this part of the country. Though there was a trickle of water in the bed of the brook it didn’t give me great confidence in the possibility of seeing a waterfall.

4-trail

The old logging road becomes what looks to be an even older farm road, covered with ankle deep leaves. I’ve seen a lot of deer prints here in the past but on this day the leaves made that impossible. You’d think by the way the light falls in this photo that it was late evening when I was there, but it was actually 11:00 in the morning.

5-brook

There was enough water in this section of the brook to have it chuckling and giggling, as brooks do.

6-brook-foam

A teardrop of brook foam had what reminded me of a yin yang symbol in it. According to Wikipedia the yin yang symbol in Chinese culture describes “how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” In other words, a balance between two opposites.

7-crust-fungus-on-branch

Split pore polypore (Schizopora paradoxa) is a common white rot crust fungus that grows on dead hardwood limbs, especially oak. They start life small and more or less round and then grow into a mass like that seen in the photo. It is said to be very drought tolerant.

8-underside-of-crust-fungus-on-branch

The underside of the split pore crust fungus can show a wide variation in its spore bearing surfaces according to my mushroom books, and they can be circular, oblong, angular, or maze like. This example was very maze like. The variations don’t make this fungus any easier to identify.

9-bridge

A bridge over the brook at a point where it widens into a pool gets you to the view of the falls. Though it looks arched in this photo for some reason, it’s really as flat as a paved road.

10-stone-seat

Someone found some flat stones and made benches out of them. I sat on one for a while listening to the brook and the birds and thought about what a rare opportunity it was to sit in the middle of a brook and stay dry. When the water level returns to normal nobody will be sitting here without waders on.

11-pool

Here is the view of the pool from the bridge. You can just see the stone benches at the far end. It’s a beautiful place to just sit and soak in the forest.

12-steps

These well-built stone steps were built by the Jolly Rovers trail crew, which is a nonprofit organization from New York that travels throughout the country creating or improving trails. I’ve seen a few of their projects and they were high quality work so if you’re reading this and need trail work done I’d contact them. Many thanks to them for the great work they’ve done in this area.

13-mica-in-feldspar

Mica glittered on the stones throughout the area. The stones are mostly made up of feldspar, and feldspar, mica, garnet, beryllium and other minerals were once mined in Gilsum. Gilsum has a long history of mining and a geologically famous rock swap is held here each summer and attracts people from all over the world. If you want a good photographic challenge or if you just want to make yourself a little crazy, try getting a few photos of mica.

14-black-tourmaline

Finger size black tourmaline crystals were scattered here and there in the stones. I’ve spent many hours breaking stones open with a sledgehammer to find these crystals but there is a certain amount of luck involved, because black tourmaline is very fragile and just the vibration from the hammer hitting the stone can often shatter them into pieces. The examples shown here were all broken.

15-bench

There is a well-placed bench for visitors to sit and watch the waterfall, but on this day I was the only one interested.

16-porcupine-falls

And that was probably because the waterfall was just a shadow of its former self. This photo makes it appear smaller than it actually was but it was still pretty anti-climactic. I think I’ve seen more water coming off my roof in a drizzle, but the pleasing sound of falling water was still there and I enjoyed hearing it.

17-porcupine-falls

I tried to make it look better by slowing down the shutter speed but it came out looking like a mass of broken fiber optic cables.

18-porcupine-falls

This photo from 2 years ago shows what Porcupine Falls normally looked like before the drought. It also shows how for a waterfall it isn’t very photogenic, and I think it’s because the water comes too fast and furious. This shot was taken in December. Maybe July would be a better time but it’s very dark here even with no leaves on the trees, and I’m not sure my camera could see the falls then. One thing that is very unusual about this waterfall is its tilt. It tilts because it follows the natural slant of the stone, which looks to be about 15-20 degrees off vertical. I don’t see many tilted waterfalls.

19-cladonia-lichen

A nature hike wouldn’t be any fun without finding an unknown or two and this is today’s head scratcher. It’s a lichen that I’ve been trying to identify for about three years and every time I think I’ve done it I can’t ever be 100 percent sure. The closest I’ve come is the many forked Cladonia (Cladonia furcata,) but I can’t say for certain. It reminds me of a reindeer lichen because it has “that look,” and reindeer lichens are also Cladonia lichens, but the examples in the book Lichens of North America don’t look the same as this one.

20-cladonia-lichen

The book does say that the many forked Cladonia is very changeable and can look like certain reindeer lichens, and that its appearance can even change from sun to shade. Though it isn’t rare I don’t see it very often. It grows on a thin layer of soil that has formed on stone, and though it was soft and pliable on this day in the past I’ve seen it become quite bristly and prickly when it dries out. This example grows in a spot that might get an hour of direct sunlight each day. If you know what it is I’d love to hear from you.

21-wrinkled-crust-fungus

Young wrinkled crust fungi (Phlebia radiata) grew on a log. They have no stem, gills or pores at this stage but there were larger examples on the same log that had a very wrinkled and fleshy surface that radiated out from a central point. This fungus doesn’t seem to mind cool weather; the two or three I’ve seen have been growing at this time of year. As far as I’m concerned they took this day’s prize for the most beautiful thing I saw. They remind me of shells I might find on a tropical beach. Or maybe the snow flurries in the air today have set me to day dreaming.

If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song. ~Carl Perkins

Thanks for coming by. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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1. Trail

No, this post isn’t about a large caviomorpha rodent taking a spill. It’s about a new waterfall in Gilsum New Hampshire, which is north of Keene, called porcupine falls. By “new” I of course mean new to me. There is little about these woods that could be considered new. In fact very old is more like it. The route I took was an old dirt road that climbed gently through the surprisingly snowy woods. I say surprisingly because down in the low country our snow is gone.

2. Stone Wall

Stone walls line the old road, showing that parts of these woods were once farmland.  Some of this land seems like it would be awfully hard to farm though, with large outcroppings of stone and boulders everywhere you look, but maybe a sheep farmer could have scraped by. Sheep farming was big business in this area at one time and many of these hills were cleared nearly to their summits.

3. Deer Print

There were more deer tracks on this old road than I’ve ever seen anywhere. I don’t know what the attraction is for them but they obviously love it up here.

4. Stream

White brook is the name of the brook that porcupine falls is on and though the water giggles and chuckles over and around stones for much of its length it does have an occasional calm stretch like this one. Apparently this is a great spot for animals to come and drink because I saw many tracks leading here. I found it a good place to just sit and drink in nature’s serenity, so maybe the animals come here for a little of that too.

 5. Blushing Bracket Fungus

Blushing bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa) fungi get their common name from the way their white, maze like pore surface turns reddish when it’s touched. This one can be difficult to identify because of the variability in the shape of its pores and by the zones of color on its cap. This example wasn’t very zonal and was quite old and well beyond the blushing stage. This is another fungus that shows medicinal promise and many countries are testing its antiviral compounds, especially in relation to influenza. It is also called the thin walled maze polypore.

6. Tinder Polypore

Tinder polypores (Fomes fomentarius,) also quite old, grew on a birch stump. The iceman was found to be carrying dried pieces of this fungus when he was found in the Ötztal Alps 5,000 years after his death, so it has been used to start fires for a very long time.

7. First Glimpse of Falls

After a short hike off the old road through the woods you get your first glimpse of porcupine falls. In this photo they’re shooting out of the large rock outcrop in the upper right corner with a roar. I tried to find out how they got their unusual name but haven’t had any luck.

8. Stone Steps

Someone built a nice solid set of stone steps near the falls. There is a lot of work in these, and finding the right stones for the treads wasn’t the least of it.

9. Bench

Someone also built a viewing bench. I didn’t sit on it but it told me that this spot was probably best for viewing the falls, and that turned out to be true.

10. Porcupine Falls

I don’t know why I didn’t notice it when I was actually there taking the photos, but what an odd angle for a waterfall to have.  It must be a good 20 degrees off vertical. There is nothing mysterious about it; it was simply following the gap in the stone outcrop, but I’ve never seen a tilted waterfall. It actually falls into another brook that enters the shot from the left. We’ve had a lot of rain and it was quite forceful but photographically speaking, I think this is one waterfall where less water would have made for a far better shot. I’m going to have to go back once it dries out a bit.

11. Rock Outcrop

If you stand where I was when I was viewing the waterfall and turn around, you find a massive rock outcrop covered with lichens, mosses and evergreen ferns. It might as well have been a nature nut magnet and of course I had to look it over.

12. Coral Lichen aka Sphaerophorus tuckermanii

I found a large patch of what I think is coral lichen (Sphaerophorus tuckermanii) growing on a mossy boulder. It was very stiff and prickly, much like a porcupine, but I’m having a hard time finding any reliable information about it.  I have high hopes that the often frustrating lack of information on lichens will change in the near future because thanks to the generosity of Santa I was finally able to order the book Lichens of North America by Irwin M. Brodo, Sylvia Duran Sharnoff, and Stephen Sharnoff.  I’m hoping it will shed some light on these fascinating organisms.

13. Mica in Feldspar

Gilsum is well known for the abundance of beautiful mineral specimens that are found there and it draws rock hounds from all over the world each July when the town holds its annual rock swap. There are a lot of old mines in the area and minerals like beryl, tourmaline, garnet and quartz can be found in and around them. I saw a lot of examples of feldspar that had me wishing I’d brought my rock hammer. The piece of feldspar in the photo was full of mica and splitting it open might have revealed a beautiful crystal that had formed millions of years ago, but I think my days of breaking rocks open with a sledge hammer are probably over. Even when I was young I could only take about half a day of it.

14. Bone

There was an old bone near the trail, or part of one anyhow. It had teeth marks on it and I’m assuming it is from a deer leg. At least I hope so. I see deer skeletons and carcasses in the woods fairly regularly but I’ve never stopped to actually study one so I’m not up on my deer anatomy.

 15. Slime Mold

The last thing I expected to find here was a slime mold but there it was, growing all over a rotting log. Not only is it odd to see a slime mold in winter but this one was growing in full sun. That’s doubly strange since slime molds dry up quickly in sunlight. I think this one was scrambled egg slime (Fuligo septica.) Whatever it was it was breaking all the rules and had me shaking my head in surprise as I set off down the trail. It was a good reminder that in nature study the words “always” and “never” don’t apply.

If you live in the Keene / Gilsum area and enjoy the outdoors this is a nice easy hike through an area with lots to see. Unless you stop to look at everything along the trail like I do the trip to the falls and back probably wouldn’t take more than half an hour.  With me along it might take 3 or 4.

Go to the winter woods: listen there; look, watch, and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest. ~ Fiona Macleod

Thanks for stopping in. Happy New Year!

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