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Posts Tagged ‘Richmond New Hampshire’

I thought I’d go and see Brickyard Brook over in Richmond, New Hampshire last week because I hadn’t been there in a while. When I was here last I saw a very curious thing; the brook had plugged itself up and had changed course. More accurately it had always been split in two with a weak half and a strong half, and the strong half got plugged up so the weak half then became the strong half, and the original strong half is now all but dried up. I hope you can follow that. I saw it for myself and even I can barely follow it. But it was all very strange.

There is a trail of sorts that is blazed but you don’t need it. All you need to do is follow the brook.

I’m seeing lots of blowdowns this year and here was another. We’ve had some ferocious windstorms.

Here is the brook further up, still running strong.

And then all of the sudden, no more brook. It’s running a few yards off to the left now but you can’t see it in this photo. Just upstream from here there is a quite large pile of fallen trees and stones all in a tangled heap, and that’s what plugged up the original water course. The brook used to roar right through here when I first started coming here and there was a big stone you could lie on to take photos of the brook. The stone is still there but the brook isn’t.

If you moved a few small fallen saplings you could set a tent up over there and wake each morning to the happy sounds of the giggling, chuckling brook. To me that would be paradise right here on earth. I must have been a hermit in a previous life because for me a hermit’s life yearns inside of me, and when I see a place like this I dream of how wonderful it could be.  

I’ve seen purple cones on many species of conifer but this was the first one I had ever seen on an eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis.) The scales on the cones were still closed tightly but soon they will open and the seeds will become winter food for black capped chickadees and other small birds. The 1/2 inch long cones are among the smallest of all the trees in the pine family but the trees usually produce so many of them that the ground is completely covered in the spring. The needles and twigs of hemlocks are ground and distilled and the oil is used in ointments. Native Americans used the inner bark (cambium) as a base for breads and soups or mixed it with dried fruit and animal fat to use in pemmican. They also made tea from hemlock needles, which have a high vitamin C content, and this saved many a white settler from scurvy.

Tinder fungi (Fomes fomentarius) were also wearing purple, and this was the first time I had ever seen that as well. They were growing on a dead beech tree. The spores from this fungus enter the tree through damaged bark and cause rot inside. It usually grows on hardwoods but can occasionally grow on conifers as well. This bracket fungus produces spores at all times of year but through spring and summer studies have shown that as many as 800 million can be produced in a single hour. Its common name comes from its usefulness as tinder for starting fires. The 5000 year old “iceman” found preserved in ice and snow in the Italian Alps carried pieces of this fungus with him. It is also useful medicinally and is known to stop bleeding, so he might have used it both ways.

A young eastern hemlock had broken off about shin high at some point in the past. I knew it was an eastern hemlock because of its bark and because the way the stump was rotting away.

In the book Forest Forensics, Tom Wessels describes white pine (Pinus strobus) and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) stumps as “decaying from the outside in toward the center.” He also says that it takes 50 years for the wood to completely decay.  Hemlock has a very rot resistant bark that is usually still in place even when the wood has completely decayed, so the stump looks like a tube.

I could tell by the way the moss was worn off this log that I wasn’t the only one who had walked here. I usually step over logs rather than up on them because it’s easier on the knees. If you’re walking miles through the woods and step up on every log you see you’ll know why you shouldn’t have the next day.

Here was another tree down across the trail but it was easy to step over.

Your reward for this hike is a small waterfall that empties into a good size pool. The pool looked to be about 4-5 feet deep and on a hot August day would be very inviting. My father would have loved this place because he loved fishing for brook trout. He took me with him a few times when I was a young boy but I was more interested in exploring the forest than fishing so that didn’t last long. It’s hard to catch fish while you’re trying to catch your wayward son, I would imagine. 

I read once that you should always slow down your camera when photographing water to “show its movement.” Now, I’m betting that everyone reading this blog knows that the water in a brook is moving but just in case, I slowed down the camera so we could be sure that the water was indeed moving.

I saw an oak apple gall on the underside of an oak leaf and it looked like a bird had gotten the wasp larva within. These galls form out of leaf tissue when a gall wasp injects chemicals into it. It grows into a spherical shape like that seen in this photo, and a wasp larva grows at its center. 

The fronds of the evergreen wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) stay green throughout winter, but their weak stems usually see them lying flat like these were so they’re often covered by snow. This example grew on top of a boulder, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen.

Looking for two rows of spore cases (sori) growing on the underside of the sub-leaflets and the large brown scales on the bases of its stalks are good ways to identify the evergreen wood fern. This fern contains toxic substances that can paralyze some reptiles and mammals, so it isn’t often eaten. 

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) plants are loaded with berries this year, so our wild turkeys will eat well.

Heart leaf foam flowers (Tiarella cordifolia) grow here by the hundreds. They’re one of our prettiest late spring flowers and I always find them near water or growing in wet ground along rail trails. They’re easy to spot because of their hairy, maple-like leaves and foot high flower stalks, and a colony as big as the ones found here are a beautiful sight. Native plants have leaves that are bright green at first and then turn a darker green, sometimes mottled with maroon or brown. Many hybrids have been created and foam flowers are now popular in garden centers and are grown in gardens as much for their striking foliage as the flowers. They are an excellent, maintenance free choice for shady gardens that get only morning sun.

A hairy, maple like leaf that grows close to the ground, usually in large colonies, is a sure sign that you’ve found foamflowers. The hard part is remembering where you saw them when spring comes around.

Believe it or not there is a house at the top of that hill to the right, so this gorge is as far as I’ve ever followed the brook. The walls of the gorge are steep so I’d have to go to the top of the hill and follow the brook through that family’s yard. What a lucky family; imagine having all of this in your back yard.

The woods were made for the hunters of dreams,
The brooks for the fishers of song;
To the hunters who hunt for the gunless game
The streams and the woods belong.
~ Sam Walter Foss

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1. Brickyard Brook Falls

We had about two inches of rain last week and almost all the snow has now melted, so I set off to find out how our streams and rivers were handling all of the extra water. Brickyard Brook in Richmond (above) didn’t look any different than it would in high summer. The small gorge this little brook cuts through is a favorite spot of mine. It’s always shaded and cool and is a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds of falling water.

2. Bailey Brook Lower Falls

Bailey Brook in Nelson drops considerably more than Brickyard Brook and has two waterfalls along its length. This photo shows the lower falls, which were roaring. This is not the place to come if you’re looking for a quiet day beside a gentle stream.

3. False Hellebores

I was very surprised to see false hellebore (Veratrum viride) shoots about four inches high. Nelson is supposed to be one of the coldest towns in the county but many plants are further along there than they are in the warmer southern towns.

4. False Hellebores Eaten

I was also surprised to see that something had eaten a couple of the false hellebore shoots. This plant is among the most toxic in the forest but I’ve read that deer have a “toxicity threshold” and can eat as many as they like as long as they don’t go above that threshold. This lets them also eat skunk cabbage, another toxic plant. False hellebore can sicken sheep, goats and cattle, and can kill people who sometimes mistake it for wild leeks at this time of year.

5. Bailey Brook Upper Falls

The upper falls on Bailey Brook didn’t have anywhere near the amount of water falling over them as I thought they would. Again, not much more than they would in summer.  I wanted to get closer for a better photo without the tree in the way but I took a fall here last year and almost ended up in the brook, so I decided that I could live with the tree in the shot.

6. Beaver Brook

Further south in Keene Beaver Brook was different. There was a lot of water there, filling the banks.

7. Tree Over Beaver Brook

Even thought it was high, you could see by how the water stripped the bark from the lower part of this tree that it has been much higher in the past. The exposed part of the log had been bleached silver-gray.

8. Eddy

White foam swirled in eddies in the sheltered areas along its banks.

9. Ice in the Woods

There is still a lot of ice left to melt in shaded areas of the forest.  Maybe this was why Beaver Brook was running faster than the others.

10. Disappearing Hillside Waterfall

The disappearing waterfall on the far hillside was there, just as I thought it would be. It runs for a day or two after a good rain and then disappears, so it can literally be here one day and gone the next. There was still snow in the shaded areas on that side of the brook.

11. Beaver Brook Falls

Beaver brook falls roared over its 30 to 40 foot height. It wasn’t deafening but it was plenty loud. The surface of the brook was made much choppier than it usually is by the force of so much falling water. Since the ice was gone in this spot I was able to climb / slide down the steep embankment to the canyon for an unobstructed view. I’ve wasted many a climb down to the brook only to find the falls in deep shade, but on this day the lighting was perfect.

12. Ashuelot on 4-20

Regular readers of this blog know that this story will end at the Ashuelot River as it must, since all streams, brooks, and rivers in the region drain into it before it drains into the much larger Connecticut River. Its banks are full at the moment. The clouds above it formed an arrow pointing upriver and as I look at the photo I wonder if I should have followed the sign.

For those new to this blog, the name Ashuelot is pronounced ash-wil-ot or ash-wee-lot. I was raised to say ash-wil-ot. In Native American Penacook or Natick language the word means “the place between.” I assume they must have meant “between hills” because we have plenty of those and the river does run between them.

13. Ashuelot Flooding

Downriver in Swanzey the Ashuelot had jumped its banks and turned these hayfields into a temporary marsh. The normal course of the river is off in the distance, just in front of the trees to the left, and it would be hard to see from this spot in summer. This land has probably been flooding since the glaciers that helped form it melted.

14. Canada Geese

The Canada geese seemed very happy with the flooding.

Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.  ~Anonymous

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1. Beaver Pond

Last Wednesday I was floating in a canoe on this beaver pond with friends from north of here. It was a lot of fun but we got rained on and the canoe took on enough water to soak anyone sitting in the bottom of it, meaning me. Still, even though I got wet I’d happily do it all over again.

 2. Canoe

This beautiful cedar strip canoe was able to glide over most of the pond with ease and though we ran into an occasional log or stone, our trip was uneventful. Meaning we didn’t end up in the drink! Jim, who writes the jomegat blog, built this canoe and is in the process of re-building another one.  He drove for a couple of hours with them on top of his car so we could use one and so I could see the other one. It was interesting to see it in person after seeing it on his blog. If you’d like to see it for yourself, just click here.

3. Beaver Lodge

Everything was so wet that afternoon because of the rain and all that I took very few pictures for fear of destroying my camera. I went back to the pond on a dryer day and took some of the shots that appear here so I’d be able to illustrate the adventure for you. We took a spin around this beaver lodge but nobody seemed to be home.

 4. Bullhead Lily

We saw hundreds of yellow pond lilies, also called bullhead lilies (Nuphar lutea.) Jim brought along his young daughter Beth, whose natural exuberance and happiness was contagious. I think we were all surprised by how shallow the water was. I’ve read that beavers like shallow ponds, but this pond was barley 6 inches deep in places. I don’t think we saw anything deeper than 18 inches.

5. Unknown Seed Pods

This caught my eye as we floated past. Because it was raining at the time I couldn’t see well, and couldn’t really even tell if these were flowers or seed pods. They turned out to be dry seed pods, and I think they might be last year’s turtlehead (Chelone glabra) seed pods.

 6. Rhodora aka Rhododendron canadense

Jim and Beth spotted pinkish / purplish flowers off in the distance, but we couldn’t get near them because of all the obstacles in the shallow water. Though I hoped they were orchids I guessed that they were most likely Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense,) which is a small, native rhododendron that loves swampy places. Unfortunately, even with binoculars we couldn’t make a solid identification. These plants I’ve used for illustration grow at a cranberry bog that I know of. They are in full bloom right now.

 7. Rhodora aka Rhododendron canadense

Rhodora blossoms appear delicate-as if they would blow away in a strong wind- and are very beautiful. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote poems about this flower.

 8. Leather Leaf

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)i s another shrub that likes swampy places and we saw what I thought were several examples of it. The plant’s stems and leaves have an odd, leathery feel to them because of their pebbly texture. From a distance both the flowers and leaves look like smaller versions of the blueberry.

9. GBH Nest

We saw a great blue heron fly over us towards this nest, but it didn’t stop. It just flew around the nest and left as silently as it had come. When I suggested this pond as a good place to find wildflowers I didn’t know that herons, ducks and other birds were nesting here. I realized later on that this nest could have had heron hatchlings in it. Mid May would be about right, so I hope we didn’t scare the parents away permanently.

 10. Marshland

Last weekend I saw what I thought would be a perfect spot for canoeing in Dublin, New Hampshire, which is east of here. When I stopped I saw that someone had put up signs saying boating here was very dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted. All I can do is wonder why.

11. Monadnock from Dublin Lake

Shortly after passing the marshy area in the previous photo Dublin Lake appears on the right if one is traveling east. There is a good view of Mount Monadnock from the lakeshore. Dublin has a reputation for having wealthy summer residents and many famous people have been here. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson came and climbed the mountain. Mark Twain spent two summers here, and well-known American master painters Abbott Thayer and George DeForest Brush owned homes here. They and several other well-known artists painted views of the mountain. At 2,834 feet (864 m) above sea level Dublin is also the highest village in all of New England.

12. Brook

I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old when my father started taking me along when he went fishing for brook trout. He did this 3 or 4 times before finally realizing that it was hopeless, because all I was interested in was exploring the forest. I didn’t care a whit about catching fish and his relaxing fishing trips turned into a living hell of chasing a whirlwind-pretending-to-be-a-boy through the woods and over slippery boulders. I stopped at this roadside stream last weekend to explore its banks and had to smile when those memories came floating back through time.

13. Brook Waterfall

I don’t run much anymore and I make a point of staying away from slippery boulders, but I still enjoy the forest.  Hearing the sound of falling water and following that sound through the trees  until you come to a deep, still pool that is fed by a waterfall is what makes it all worthwhile. Sitting quietly on the bank of a stream enjoying the power and beauty of nature is one path to true joy, and my father knew it. I don’t think that he really cared  about catching a fish any more than I did.

We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey. ~ John Hope Franklin

I hope everyone is safe and was able to stay out of harm’s way during the recent tornado outbreak. Thank’s for coming by.

 

 

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