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Posts Tagged ‘Reindeer Lichen’

We had a day with blue skies, puffy white clouds, and low heat and humidity so I thought I’d take advantage of such a fine day by climbing Mount Caesar in Swanzey. The mountain it is said, is named after a freed slave named Caesar Freeman and he is supposed to be buried somewhere on it, but nobody really seems to be able to verify any of the tale. One thing about the mountain is certain; Native Americans used it for a lookout and in the mid-1700s they burned Swanzey to the ground, house by house and mill by mill. The climb to the top starts on a path of solid granite bedrock, as is seen in the photo.

One of my favorite things to see on Mount Caesar is this river of reindeer lichen. Since there are no reindeer or other animals to eat the lichens they thrive here. But they are fragile and should never be walked on.  Reindeer lichen is very slow growing at about an eighth to three eighths of an inch per year and if overgrazed or dug up, it can take decades for drifts like the one pictured to reappear. The Native American Ojibwa tribe was known to bathe newborns in water in which reindeer lichens had been boiled.

Just before you enter the forest there is a meadow teeming with wildflowers. On this day most of what was blooming were pale spike lobelias (Lobelia spicata,) which get their common name from the small, pale blue to almost white flowers. Every now and then you can find a plant with deeper blue flowers, but most are pale.

Sometimes if you look carefully you can find dark blue pale spike lobelias, as this one was. These flowers are small; hardly bigger than a standard aspirin. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for lobelia and one of them was as a treatment for asthma, but it has to be used with great care because too much of it can kill.

Stone walls will follow you almost all the way to the summit of Mount Caesar and remind hikers that this land was once completely cleared of trees. I’d guess that sheep once grazed on the mountain’s flanks, as was true of most of the hills in the area. The walls most likely date from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Not old enough to be covered by moss yet but there certainly are plenty of lichens on them. The yellow ones seen in the photo are sulfur dust lichens (Chrysothrix chlorina). This lichen doesn’t like to be rained on so it is usually found hiding under some type of overhang.

I saw many mushrooms on this climb, among them yellow chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius.) I’m not a real mushroom aficionado but I know this edible mushroom is considered choice. I don’t see many but when I do it’s usually about this time of year or a little earlier, and I always see them growing right alongside trails. It is believed by some that the compacted earth of the trail or road may cause the chanterelle mycelium to react by fruiting.

Another mushroom I saw in great abundance was yellow patches (Amanita flavoconia,) and it is not a choice edible fungus, in fact it is poisonous and should never be eaten. This mushroom is identified by the chrome yellow “warts” on the cap, which are easily brushed off. It prefers growing in hemlock forests, so it is right at home here. It is said to be one of the most common and widespread species of Amanita in eastern North America. It faintly resembles yellow fly agaric (Amanita muscaria v. formosa) but that mushroom has white warts on its cap.

I’ve seen people go up to the summit and then back down again in the time it took me to reach the half way point but this isn’t a race and I dawdle and wander, looking at this and that all the way up and down the mountain. A 45 minute climb with me can easily take half a day, and that’s why I almost always hike alone. To see the kinds of things that I see you absolutely must walk slowly and from what I’ve seen most people simply aren’t able to do it. Unfortunately most people I’ve seen and spoken with in places like this seem to feel that the end of the trail is far more important than what can be seen along it and race through it. If only they knew that they were missing all of the best that nature has to offer.

Eastern teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens,) bloomed all along the trail. This native wintergreen is in the same family as the blueberry and its flowers show that. Teaberry is also known as checkerberry or American wintergreen and by fall its flowers will have turned into small red berries that taste minty, like Teaberry chewing gum. Many animals, from foxes to chipmunks, and birds including grouse and pheasant rely on the berries to help them get through the winter. Wintergreen oil has been used medicinally for centuries, and the leaves make an excellent, soothing tea. The plant’s fragrance is unmistakable and its oil is used in toothpaste, mouthwash, pain relievers, and many other products.

Before too long the approach to the summit appears as granite bedrock, and that’s when you realize that this mountain is just a huge piece of solid granite with a few inches of soil covering it. I’ve seen several trees that have blown over and their roots were very shallow. They have to be because they can’t penetrate the granite.

I like a few clouds in the sky to give it some interest. A year or two ago we had an entire summer of blue skies with not a cloud to be seen, and it was quite boring if you wanted landscape photos. I like the way the shadows of the clouds pass over the land. It’s something I’ve watched and enjoyed since I was a boy.

The view was hazy in some directions but I usually spend time marveling at how vast this forest really is, so I don’t mind a little haze.

Mount Monadnock could be seen through the haze off to the east but it wasn’t a day for mountain portraits.

You need to watch where you step when you’re taking photos of the mountain because you have to get close to the edge of the cliff if you want the best shot. This is one time when it isn’t wise to step outside of yourself and become totally absorbed by what you see before you. It’s a long way down and for someone who doesn’t like heights it’s a stomach knotter, and I tread very mindfully up here.

I was surprised to see so many old friends up here, like this bristly sarsaparilla. It made me wonder if it has just moved in or if I have been negligent and ignored it on previous climbs. It obviously likes it up here; it was blooming well. It normally grows in dry, sandy soil at road edges and waste areas. Its stems are covered in short, sharp, bristly hairs and that’s where its common name comes from. Technically, though it looks like a perennial plant, it is considered a shrub because the lower part of its stem is woody and persists throughout winter.

Each tiny bristly sarsaparilla flower will become a round black berry if the pollinators do their job and it looked like they were hard at it. I’m not sure what this insect’s name is but it was very small. The entire flower head of the plant in the previous photo is barely bigger than a ping pong ball.

Blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) also grew on the summit. It seems like I’m seeing this little beauty everywhere I go this summer and it makes me wonder if it doesn’t like a lot of rain like we’ve had this year, even though it grows in sandy waste areas.

Zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) was a real surprise because it usually grows in wooded areas instead of out in the open.  It has wide leaves and smallish flowers that grow from the leaf axils and at the terminal end of its zigzagging stem.  Zigzag goldenrod grows in the shade and prefers moist soil, so this seems like an odd place to have found it. It grew beside a large stone so maybe the stone keeps it shaded for part of the day.

We had torrential rains the day before I made this climb so I thought my little friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) would be happy, but most of them weren’t. I don’t know if they just dried out that quickly or if overhanging tree branches kept the rain off them. They grow in just about full sun so I suppose they could have simply dried out. The example in the above photo was close to what I expected but it still wasn’t that deep, pea green color and I could tell that it was drying out. When at their best these lichens are very pliable and feel like an ear lobe, but when dry they feel crisp like a potato chip. This one was somewhere in between.

This one was ashy gray and very dry. You can see the broken edges top and bottom where it has snapped like a brittle chip. I have to say that, though I doubt the lichens enjoy being in such a state, I think they’re at their most beautiful when they look like this. I wish I could see them every day so I could witness all of their changes but I’ve seen them only on the summits, so if you want to visit with them you have to work for the privilege.

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

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1-trail-start

Ever since a friend of mine and I tipped Tippin Rock back in August something has been nagging at me. I’ve lived long enough to know that ignoring something that is nagging at you isn’t going to make it go away, so I decided to confront it head on. To do that I had to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey, which is a huge mound of granite with a thin covering of soil. The above photo shows the start of the trail, which is bedrock. I’m not sure if shoe soles or the weather has removed what little soil there was there.

2-reindeer-lichen

Mount Caesar has the biggest drifts of reindeer lichens (Cladonia rangiferina) of anyplace I’ve seen.  I’ve read that they grow very slowly, so the colonies here are most likely hundreds of years old.  It is said that Mount Caesar was used as a lookout by Native Americans when settlers began moving in, and both settlers and natives probably saw these very same lichens. If damaged they can take decades to restore themselves, so I hope they’ll be treated kindly.

3-looped-white-pine

A young white pine (Pinus strobus) grew itself into a corkscrew. Trees often grow into strange shapes when another tree falls on them and makes them lean or pins them to the ground. That would explain this tree’s strange shape, but where is the tree that fell on it? There wasn’t a fallen tree anywhere near it.

4-trail

The trail goes steadily uphill and is bordered by stone walls for most of its length.

5-jelly-fungi

I’m seeing a lot of jelly fungi this year. This fallen tree was covered with them.

6-red-maple

I’ve seen a lot of target canker on red maples but this tree was covered almost top to bottom with it, and it was very pronounced.  Target canker doesn’t usually harm the tree but in this case I had to wonder if maybe the maple wasn’t losing the battle. Target canker is caused by a fungus which kills the healthy bark and the patterns of platy bark seen here are the tree’s response to the fungus; it grows new bark each year.

7-turkey-tails

I’ve been waiting all summer to find some turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) that had some colors other than shades of brown, and here they were the whole time. Hundreds of them crowded a fallen log.

8-turkey-tail

These turkey tails grew on a nearby stump. I also saw many bracket fungi that looked like turkey tails but their gills gave them away as impostors. Turkey tails always have tiny round holes called pores on their undersides, never gills.  If I find bracket fungi with gills I start looking up gilled polypores to try to identify them.

9-trail-end

Though you walk on soil for much of its length the trail ends just as it began; on solid granite.

10-view

The views were what I would expect on a cloudy day, but at least the clouds were high enough to be able to see the surrounding hills.

11-view

And the miles and miles of forest; 4.8 million acres in New Hampshire alone. It is why many of us still carry maps and compasses.

12-monadnock

To the east the clouds parted long enough for a good look at Mount Monadnock, which is the highest point in these parts; 2,203 feet higher than where I was standing on top of Mount Caesar.

13-monadnock

It must have been very cold up there but I could still see people on the summit. Unfortunately none of the shots showing them up close came out good enough to show. When he climbed it in 1860 Henry David Thoreau complained about the number of people on the summit of Monadnock. Nothing has changed since, and that’s one reason that I don’t climb it. Thoreau also said ”Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it.” I feel the same way he did. It’s very beautiful when seen from a distance.

14-erratic

The glacial erratic called “the rocking stone” in a photo from 1895 was the object of this climb. I wanted to see if it rocked like Tippin Rock over on Hewe’s Hill did. I pushed on it from every side and watched the stone carefully to see any movement but I couldn’t get it to budge. You always have to wonder about these old stories, but the one about Tippin Rock proved true so this one probably is too. Maybe the next time my friend Dave flies in from California I’ll have him take a crack at it since he was able to rock Tippin Rock.

15-old-stump

An old weathered stump is all that remains of a tree that once grew on the summit. I’m guessing it was an eastern hemlock since they’re the only tree that I know of with stumps that decay from the inside out.

16-old-stump

Can you see the face? I’ll have to remember this when I do the next Halloween post.

17-blueberry

The blueberry bushes were beautifully colored. Since we’ve had several freezes I was surprised to see leaves still on them, but the temperature in the valleys is not always the same as it is on the hilltops. Cold air will flow down hillsides and pool in the valleys, just like water.

18-goldenrod

Even more of a surprise than the blueberry leaves was this blooming goldenrod. It was only about as big as my thumb but any flowers blooming at the end of November are special and I was happy to see them.

19-going-down

Going down a mountain always seems harder than going up but this time it was tough. Oak leaves are slippery anyway, but this time they had thousands of acorns under them, so I had to pick my way down the steepest parts very carefully. My calf muscles reminded me of the climb for a few days after.

It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape. ~Ruskin Bond

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1. Pine Bark Beetle Damage

Pine bark beetles (Ips pini) made an intricate design on a white pine (Pinus strobus) limb. These beetles are small and range in size from about 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch in length, but they can do a lot of damage when enough of them are in a forest. They feed on the phloem tissue just beneath the bark and if they girdle the branch it will die. Dead branches mean no photosynthesizing and eventually the tree will die. For those who have never head the term; girdling of a branch or tree happens when the phloem and bark has been cut around its diameter in a complete circle. Native Americans and then early settlers used girdling to remove trees from fields and pastures and it is still used by some today.

2. Reindeer Lichens

I saw a beautiful drift of gray and green reindeer lichens recently. This shrubby lichen gets its common name from the way reindeer and caribou paw through the snow to find and eat it. Reindeer lichen reproduces vegetatively by small growths called soredia that break off and grow new lichens under the right conditions. The soredia are carried by wind, water or animals. Reindeer lichens grow about .31 inches (8 mm) per year so it’s clear that this drift has been here for a very long time. They can live for a century or more and studies have shown that only boiling and radiation caused severe damage to them. There are many who believe that lichens are virtually indestructible and are therefore immortal.

3. Reindeer Lichen

Reindeer lichens remind me of corals that you would see under the sea. The grayish white color and the way that the branch tips all point in one direction tell me that this one is gray reindeer lichen (Cladina rangiferina.) I find the biggest colonies of this lichen along the edge of a pine forest, growing in a very thin quarter to half inch of dry sandy soil over granite bedrock. At times they get so dry that if you walk on them it sounds much like it would if you walked on potato chips. I’ve read that reindeer lichens produce a single new branch each year and that their age can be determined by counting the branches. The plants pictured must have been very old indeed. I’m glad that I didn’t have to count their branches.

4. Bittersweet in Tree

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) grew into the top of a tree and then found that it had nowhere else to climb so it massed in the tree top, and its bright red berries show that. Bittersweet is very persistent and will simply grow or hang back down until it reaches the ground and then creep until it finds something else standing vertical. As it grows the vine winds tightly around the tree trunk and doesn’t expand when the tree does, so its wire like strength will eventually strangle the tree. This is why its sale and cultivation are banned in New Hampshire.

5. Blueberry Stem Gall

Blueberry stem gall always reminds me of a kidney bean. This gall forms when a shiny black wasp called Hemadas nubilipennis damages a bud while laying her eggs on a tender shoot. The plant responds to the damage by growing a kidney shaped gall around the eggs, and this is where the larvae will overwinter before emerging as adults in the spring. This example was a highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) but this wasp isn’t choosy and will also use lowbush plants (Vaccinium angustifolium.) The galls do no real harm to the plants.

6. Witches Broom on Blueberry

This witch’s broom on a highbush blueberry looked very red. It’s interesting that the highbush blueberry’s leaves turn a beautiful red in the fall and the stem galls and witch’s broom are also red. Why so much red present, I wonder. Witch’s broom is a deformity that causes a dense mass of shoots to grow from a single point. It’s not caused by an insect but by a fungus called Pucciniastrum goeppertianum. This fungus spends part of its life cycle on the needles of balsam fir (Abies balsamea) so bushes should never be planted near fir trees. When the fungus releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry, the bush becomes infected. The fungus overwinters on the bush and in the spring again releases spores which will infect even more balsam fir trees, and the cycle begins again. The disease infects the entire plant so pruning off the witch’s broom won’t help. I’ve worked on blueberry bushes that have borne large amounts of fruit even though they had witch’s broom, so I’m not sure how much the deformity harms the plant. I think it’s more offensive to the eye than anything.

7. Waterlily Leaf in Ice

A water lily leaf was trapped in the ice just off shore in a small pond. It tugged at me and I thought it might make a fine picture, but it looked much better in person than it does here.

8. Hornet Nest

Do hornets care that what they build is so beautiful, I wonder?

9. Burl

There was a time that I thought I had some artistic ability and I’d sit for hours drawing and painting. One of the things I loved especially was pen and ink drawing, and that’s what this burl I found on an old tree stump reminded me of. It looked like a Da Vinci sketch in pen and ink with a colored wash over all to add some depth and character, and how beautiful it was. I think the old master himself would have been pleased to see it.

For those not familiar with burl; it’s an abnormal growth that grows faster than the surrounding tissue. Scientists don’t fully understand why it happens but burls are thought to grow on trees that have been weakened by stress or damage.  Once the tree’s defenses have been weakened insects and /or fungi can attack and cause the abnormal growth. Woodworkers make some very beautiful things from burl and prize burls highly. Bowls and other objects made from it can sometimes sell for thousands of dollars.

10. Wooly Aphids

I found this colony of wooly alder aphids (Paraprociphilus tessellatus) on an alder limb. These insects can be winged or unwinged and need both silver maples and alders to complete their life cycle. Eggs overwinter in crevices in the bark of silver maple trees. In spring, nymphs hatch and begin feeding on the underside of new leaves. In late May through July, they develop wings and fly to alder trees where they feed on twigs and begin reproducing. Soon the colony is composed of aphids in all stages of development and becomes enveloped in white, fluffy wax as seen in the photo. Some aphids mature, return to silver maple trees and mate. Each mated female lays only one egg, which once again starts the overwintering stage.

11. Wooly Aphids

Wooly aphids are sap sucking insects that secrete sweet honeydew on branches and leaves of plants. The honeydew attracts a fungus called black sooty mold. Since the mold only grows on the aphid honeydew and not the plant, it doesn’t harm plants. In fact the aphids will do far more harm. I’m not sure if the aphids with dots in this photo always look that way, if they haven’t grown the white waxy covering yet, or if they’ve lost the covering for some reason. They were very small; not even pencil eraser size.

12. juniper Berries

I love seeing juniper berries at this time of year. A waxy coating called bloom makes them a bright and beautiful blue. I always wonder how many gin drinkers know that the unique flavor in their drink comes from this plant’s fruits. Though they’re called berries, botanically speaking juniper fruits are actually fleshy seed cones. Unripe green berries are used to flavor gin and the ripe, deep purple-black berries are the only part of a conifer known to be used as a spice, often used on game like venison, moose and bear meat.

13. Unknown Fungi

Part of what I try to do on this blog is show the amazing and beautiful things that are tucked into virtually every nook and cranny of nature and, with nothing but a slower gait and a watchful eye, how easy they are to see. Walking along at a toddler’s pace and looking at logs is just how I found the unknown fungi in the above photo. I knelt to give them a closer look and saw that they were like nothing I’d seen. Finding unexpected beauty like this can take us to that higher place where time seems to stop for a while. Sometimes it’s hard to know how long you’ve been there but that’s okay; as Mehmet Murat ildan said: “If you are lost inside the beauties of nature, do not try to be found.”

14. Mushroom Mycelium

Mushroom mycelium grew on the bottom of a log where it made contact with the soil. It wept golden nectar and its many intricacies reminded me of distant cosmic nebulae where stars and planets are born.

He who does not expect the unexpected will not find it, since it is trackless and unexplored. Heraclitus of Ephesus

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1. Riendeer Lichen

I haven’t had time to do much climbing over the last few months so I thought I’d make up for the lapse by climbing Mount Caesar in Swanzey. It’s one of my favorite climbs because there is so much to see there, like this drift of reindeer lichen that looks like a snowy path through the woods even in August.

2. Trail

The uphill climb isn’t steep but it’s steady. Recent logging operations here haven’t helped the trail any, but at least it wasn’t muddy.

3. Bedrock

In some places the granite bedrock is exposed. I like the patterns of minerals in it.

4. Starflower

Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) have gone to seed but the tiny white seed pods haven’t opened yet.

5. Starflower Seed Pod

Starflower seed pods look like tiny soccer balls and can be tough to get a good photo of. Putting a penny on a stump to use as a background helped.

6. Cicada

I found a dead cicada on the trail and put him on a stump for a better photo too. I never knew they were so blue.

7. Downy Rattlesnake Plantains

As if to illustrate how you can hike the same trail a hundred times and still not see all there is to see, I found downy rattlesnake plantain orchids growing right beside the trail. I can’t believe that I’ve walked right by them all these years without seeing them.

8. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Flowers

This orchid’s flowers are very small and hard to photograph, so I went back with a piece of black artists foam core board and got this shot so you could see what they look like. They look a lot like the flowers of the checkered rattlesnake plantain that I showed in another recent post and indeed the two plants are thought to cross pollinate naturally. I don’t know what made them appear so sparkly in this photo.

9. Acorns

Acorns were falling all around me but the real surprise was hearing a large tree fall off in the woods. I couldn’t see it and was glad I wasn’t anywhere near it because it made a tremendous crashing sound when it fell. That’s a rare experience for me.

10. Fairy Stool

Cinnamon fairy stools (Coltricia cinnamomea) grew here and there all along the trail. They get their common name from the concentric bands of cinnamon brown coloring on their inch diameter caps. They are a tough, leathery polypore which, if picked when fresh, will hold their color and shape for a long time.

11. Coral fungus

My Mushroom books don’t say much about club shaped fungi but I think this might be Clavaria ornatipes. This fungus is described as spatula or club shaped and greyish to pinkish gray. It grew directly out of the ground.

12. Coral fungus

The reason club and coral fungi grow the way they do is to get their spores, which grow on their tips, up above the soil surface so the wind can disperse them. This example is another of the Clavaria club fungi I think, but I haven’t been able to identify it.

13. View

There are good views to the south from the top of Mount Caesar though on this day it seemed just a bit hazy.

14. Swanzey LakeIt was a very hot and humid day with temperatures approaching 90 degrees and I found myself wishing I was swimming at Swanzey Lake rather than sitting up here in full sun.

15. Monadnock

I couldn’t leave without looking across the hills to Mount Monadnock over in Jaffrey. It’s the highest mountain in these parts and is also the second most climbed mountain in the world, and on a day like this there were probably hundreds of people on it.

16. Toadskin Lichen

My friends the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) were very dry and ashy gray for the most part, but I did find a moist green one here and there. I’ve only seen these lichens growing on the very tops of hills so visiting them comes with a price. They’re beautiful and rarely seen though, so it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

18. Looper Moth

I never would have seen this moth if it hadn’t flown in front of me to land on a tree trunk. Even though I knew where it had landed I had a hard time finding it, so perfect was its camouflage.  I think it might be a looper moth in the family Noctuidae. There are many, including some familiar ones like the cabbage looper and the golden looper. They all seem to be experts in camouflage, just as this one was.

19. Violet Coral Fungus aka Clavaria zollingeri

Easily the most beautiful thing I saw on this day was this violet coral fungus (Clavaria zollingeri.) My daughter had climbed here the day before and told me that she had seen it but this is a big mountain and I had little hope of finding it. Her directions were perfect though and there it was; the most beautiful coral fungus that I’ve ever seen. I knelt before it to admire its beauty and forgot the heat, the mosquitoes, and even myself for a while.

The events of the past day have proven to me that I am wholly alive, and that no matter what transpires from here on in, I have truly lived. ~Anonymous mountain climber

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1. Mount Caesar

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

2. Reindeer Lichens

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

3. Clearcut Forest

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

4. Forked Blue Curls

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

5. Blowdown

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

 6. Trail

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

7. Club Coral

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

 8. Mushroom with Yellowish Stem

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

9. Trail

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

 10. View from the Top

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

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

11. View from the Top

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

12. Mount Monadnock From Mount Caesar

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

 13. Lowbush Blueberry

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

14. Cliff Edge

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

15. Toadskin Lichen

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

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

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1. Fly Agaric

Certain mushrooms seem to appear at the same time each year, and yellow fly agarics (Amanita muscaria var, guessowii) are right on schedule. This one was about as big as my index finger, but was strong enough to push up through a mat of wet leaves.

2. Indian Pipes

I’ve never seen as many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year.  Not only have their numbers increased but they appeared earlier than usual. Since they don’t make their own food and live as parasites, stealing nutrients from the mycelia of certain fungi, they don’t need chlorophyll. The lack of chlorophyll leads to another common name: ghost plant.

3. Leaf Spot on Aster

If you’re a gardener a fungal disease like leaf spot is the last thing you want to see in the garden but if you can get past the feelings of disappointment and frustration and see it for what it is, it can be quite pretty. Many fungal infections of plants are caused by high humidity, poor air circulation, and / or lack of direct sunlight. Increasing air circulation and the amount of sunlight reaching the plant by cutting back surrounding growth or moving the plant will often solve the problem.

4. Starflower Fruit

I visited a web site that said the seed pod of a starflower (Trientalis borealis) was 6 to 8 millimeters in diameter, but I think they forgot a decimal point. .6 to .8 millimeters (.024-.031 in) would be more like it, and even that is stretching it. If the seed pods are that small, just think how small the seeds must be. Seeds of starflowers don’t germinate until the fall of their second year, which gives birds and insects plenty of time to move them around.

 5. Wood Frog

The dark eye mask makes this wood frog easy to identify. Wood frogs are the only frogs to live north of the Arctic Circle and they manage that by being able to freeze in winter. They produce a kind of antifreeze that prevents their cells from freezing. When it gets cold they just crawl under the leaf litter. Their heart stops beating and they stop breathing until the weather warms again in spring, when they mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools. This one was 2-3 inches long, which is big compared to a thumbnail sized spring peeper.

6. Hanging Caterpillar

This caterpillar was just hanging around one day on a silken thread so fine that I couldn’t even see it. Much to my surprise the camera couldn’t either, so it looks like he is defying gravity. I think he’s an inchworm. I wonder what they get out of doing this.

 7. Blue Black Wasp

I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye and turned to find that this large, blue-black wasp (Ichneumon centrator) had landed next to me. He didn’t stay long though, and only gave me time for a couple of shots. This wasp is about 3/4 of an inch long and adult females hibernate under the loose bark of fallen trees in winter. This one pictured is an adult male. Thanks to the good folks at Bugguide.net for the help with identification.

8. Orange Mushrooms

Over the years I’ve noticed that the first mushrooms to appear are mostly white or brown, then come the red, yellow, and orange ones and after them the purples. Right now we’re in our red, yellow, orange phase. I think these might be one of the wax cap mushrooms, possibly the butter wax cap (Hygrocybe ceracea).

9. Pinwheel Mushrooms

These small pinwheel mushrooms, (Marasmius rotula) none bigger than a pea, grew on a piece of tree bark. These mushrooms are fairly easy to see after a rain but when they dry out the whitish cap shrivels down to a dot at the end of a hair-like stalk and they become almost invisible-at least to my eyes.

 10. Daddy Longlegs

I thought that this black and white spider on a hazelnut leaf had the longest legs of any spider that I’ve seen, and a tiny body that seemed out of proportion to its legs. Thanks to the folks at Buggide.net I learned that this is not a spider but a harvestman (Opiliones). The difference is that spiders have a two part body and harvestmen have a one part body. And this is indeed a daddy longlegs. What I thought were daddy longlegs all these years are actually spiders called cellar spiders (Pholcus phalangioides). Who knew?

11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

As I’ve said before on this blog, fall starts on the forest floor and, even though none of us want to hear it, this false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is a perfect example of how it begins.

12. Wild Sarsaparilla Fall Color 2

Other signs that fall is on the way include the turning leaves on wild sarsaparilla plants (Aralia nudicaulis). Almost as soon as its berries ripen the leaves start to change to yellow, the deep rosy brown seen here, or a mixture of both colors.

13. Fly Honeysuckle Fruit

Another sign of fall is of course, ripening berries. These are the unusual twin berries of American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis).

 14. Reindeer Lichen

With all this talk of fall you might think that this is a dusting of snow in the woods but no, it’s just a drift of reindeer lichens (Cladonia arbuscula). I’m hoping that they don’t get covered by a snow blanket for a good long time.

Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from. ~Terry Tempest Williams

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NOTE: After trying for several hours I am again able to upload photos to this blog, but now the text formatting changes to what WordPress wants it to be, so I’m afraid this will have to do for now.

History tells us that Mount Caesar in Swanzey, New Hampshire was named after Caesar Freeman, a freed black slave and one of the original settlers here.

According to The History of Swanzey, New Hampshire, written in 1862, land was granted to Caesar Freeman on July 2, 1753. I’m assuming that this mountain was part of that original grant. Some believe that Caesar is buried somewhere on it.
Personally, since it is only 962 feet high I would call it a hill, but there is no clear distinction between a mountain and a hill. It certainly felt more like a mountain the day I climbed it because the trail was quite steep. My goal was the ledge in the photo below.
1. Mt. Caesar Ledges from Below

History says that these ledges were once used as a lookout by Native Americans. This photo is deceiving; the ledges are quite high up on the side of the mountain.

2. Mt. Caesar Trail

The trail was a constant, steep, uphill climb with no level areas.

3. Number 3 Made From Lichens

I’m not sure what these lichens were trying to tell me, but they had grown into the shape of a 3. The trail was nowhere near 3 miles long so they must have had something else in mind. I can’t imagine how or why they grew like this.

4. Reindeer Lichen

15-20 foot wide reindeer lichen “gardens” extended for several yards on both sides of the trail for a while. The name “Reindeer lichen” (Cladina) is used for any of several species that are eaten by reindeer or caribou. The animals kick holes in the snow to find the lichens and will feed on them all winter.

5. Stone Wall on Mt. Caesar

Many of the hills in this area were once completely cleared and used as pasture or farmland by the early settlers. Mt. Caesar is no different, and the stone walls show evidence of its history. You have to wonder if Caesar Freeman himself built these walls in the 1700s.

6. Mt. Caesar Ledges

This is what you see at the top of the trail.

7. View from Mt. Caesar

And this is the view when you stand on the ledge-looking directly south, toward Massachusetts.

8. Mt. Monadnock From Mt. Caesar

This is what you see when you follow a small trail to the east from the summit. It is Mount Monadnock, which has appeared in this blog several times. The word Monadnock is a Native American term for an isolated hill or a lone mountain that has risen above the surrounding area. At 3, 165 feet Mount Monadnock is taller than any other feature in the region and is visible from several surrounding towns.

9. Shiny Clubmoss aka Lycopodium lucidulum

Shiny (or shining) clubmoss (Lycopodium lucidulum) is easy to identify because it grows straighter and taller than other clubmosses.

10. Log

I liked the look of this log. It might have been a standing tree in Caesar Freeman’s day.

11. Little Brown Mushrooms on Stump

Little brown mushrooms grew on a stump. Our nights have been below freezing but the days are still warm enough for mushrooms. They must last for one day and then freeze at night.

12. Reindeer Lichen

A closer look at Reindeer lichen.
According to the History of Swanzey, New Hampshire Native Americans “rendezvoused on Mt. Ceesar in 1755. From this mountain they would come down as near as they dared to the fort on Meeting-house hill and execute their war and scalp dances, and exhibit themselves in the most insulting attitudes to the people in the fort.” After many of their number were killed the settlers were forced to abandon the town, but returned several years later and built more forts.

The mountain and surrounding lands were extremely valuable to the Native Americans, called Squakheag, who lived here and they put up a mighty fight for them. In the end of course, they lost the fight. It was interesting, and a little sad, to contemplate these things as I climbed their mountain.
After Col. Henry Bouquet defeated the Ohio Indians at Bushy Run in 1763, he demanded the release of all white captives. Most of them, especially the children, had to be “bound hand and foot” and forcibly returned to white society ~James W. Loewen
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