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Posts Tagged ‘Stoddard New Hampshire’

Every year when the leaves change I get the urge to see them from above, believing that somehow the colors will be better up there, but so far seeing fall color from above hasn’t really proven worth the climb. Still, I keep trying and last weekend I chose Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard because of its 360 degree views. There is a fire tower on the summit so the trail is actually an access road, which is wide but also steep and rocky near the summit.

Many of the trees along the old road had already lost their leaves and they crackled under foot. I wish you could experience the smell of walking through thousands of dried leaves. It’s an earthy, burnt marshmallow type of smell that is impossible for me to accurately describe but once you’ve smelled it you never forget it. It always takes me back to my boyhood.

Powdery mildew on some of the oak leaves told climbers the story of how warm and humid it has been recently and reminded them how glad they should be that it wasn’t humid on this day. I for one was very happy that it wasn’t.

The old stone walls along the access road reminded me of the Pitcher family who settled here on the mountain in the 1700s and farmed it. At one time much of the mountain had most likely been cleared for sheep pasture, which was very common in those days.

The rock pilers had been here but this time they used rocks small enough so I could have hidden this pile behind my hand. What they get out of doing this, other than cluttering up the landscape and spoiling the views, I’ll never understand. I refuse to call them cairns because cairns are useful things that help travelers along their way, but these piles of stone are of no use at all.

I can’t say how many times I’ve made this climb and failed to see the Scottish highland cattle that I know live here but this time there they were. I watched them for a while but when number 10 noticed me and started acting interested I thought of the old saying “be careful what you wish for” because all that separated us was a flimsy little electrified fence that I wasn’t sure was even turned on. Luckily the hairy beast was more interested in its stomach than me and it went back to munching grass. It wasn’t until I saw the photo that I realized how cute it was. Kind of cuddly, for a cow.

The highland cattle were very close to one of my favorite places and might have wandered over this ridge. I like this spot because after living in a forest for so long it seems vast and infinite, and void of distractions. It’s just the earth the sky and you and, for a while, blissful emptiness.

Once I had pulled myself away from the edge of infinity and started climbing again a monarch butterfly came flying hurriedly down the mountain and almost flew right into my face. It was in such a hurry that I never did get a photo of it, but it was nice to see it just the same.

As you near the summit big old mountain ash trees (Sorbus americana) appear along the trail. This is the only place I’ve ever seen these native trees in their natural habitat. I’ve seen lots of others but they have all been used as ornamentals.

My favorite thing about mountain ash trees are their big purple-black buds.

The Pitcher family or a subsequent land owner must have had an apple orchard up here because as you near the summit there are also quite a few apple trees in the area. They still bear abundant fruit as the one in the above photo shows. The bears, deer and other apple eaters must be very happy.

I was going to take a rest on the porch of the old ranger cabin but hornets swarmed all around it. The unattended building must be full of them. I wouldn’t want to be the one chosen to find out.

I call the old fire tower, built to replace the original 1915 wooden tower that burned in 1940, a monument to irony. The Stoddard-Marlow fire that took it was the biggest fire in this region’s history, destroying 27,000 acres of forest, including the tower and all of the trees on the summit. It left the summit with an unbroken 360 degree view which is very popular with hikers of all ages. When the fire tower is manned climbers can go up for a look and I’ve seen many families do so.

Many ferns become very colorful before they go to sleep for the winter. I liked the orange / brown of these marginal wood ferns (Dryopteris marginalis.) Marginal wood fern gets its name from the way its spore cases (sori) grow on the leaf margins.

The view wasn’t really hazy but the light had a warm feel and the colors were also on the warm side of the wheel. We’re well on our way to the warmest October since records have been kept, so this was no surprise.

The summit was full of people, and that was a surprise. The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway trail passes over the summit and hikers often stop to rest here, but I’ve never seen so many at one time. I made my way around them and the fire tower to my favorite view of what I call the near hill. As I stood looking out over the landscape I couldn’t help but hear a conversation which was dominated by a woman lamenting the fact that she had never been “in the moment” and had no idea how to be. She went on to list those times she thought she had been close, but hadn’t quite made it. My thoughts about it were kept to myself because I don’t know much about the subject but if I had to guess I’d say that to be “in the moment” you would have to stop talking, especially about what has happened in the past, and just sit and enjoy the incredible beauty before you. Stop talking and worrying about being in the moment and just be right here, right now. It sounds very simple to me.

Color wise the views weren’t quite as spectacular as they were last year but the foreground colors were good. The shrubs are mostly blueberries and dogwoods and the trees are mixed hardwoods and evergreens. Pitcher Mountain is famous for its blueberries and many people come here to pick them. What I’d guess is that many who pick the fruit don’t realize how beautiful the bushes are in the fall.

Another look at the summit colors.

I was able to see the windmills on Bean Mountain over in Lempster. I discovered recently that I’ve been calling this mountain by the wrong name for years, because when I first read about the windmill farm I thought the text said it was on Bear Mountain. I think it looks more like a reclining bear than a bean, but maybe a family named Bean settled there. Or something.

I loved the deep purple of these blackberry leaves. I wouldn’t want to see a whole forest that color but it’s very pretty dotted here and there in the landscape. Virgin’s bower, blueberries, bittersweet nightshade and quite a few other plants turn deep purple in the fall. I’ve read that the first photosynthetic organisms were purple because they relied on photosynthetic chemicals that absorbed different wavelengths of light. A green plant only appears green because it doesn’t absorb the sun’s green light. Instead it reflects it back at us, so I’m guessing that purple must work the same way.

I always thought of these natural water catching basins that appear here and there in the granite bedrock as birdbaths, and then last year I saw a bird using one for just that purpose. I like the way they catch the blue of the sky and darken it a shade or two. There always seems to be water in them, even during the drought we had last year.

I couldn’t make a climb on any hill or mountain without taking a look at the lichens. There are several species up here but the common yellow goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) pictured was the most prevalent. It is on the rocks all over the summit. This crustose lichen is very easy to find and will almost always be found growing on stone. I also see it on headstones in cemeteries quite often. Crustose lichens form crusts that tightly adhere to the substrate that they grow on and usually can’t be removed without damaging it.

With one last look out over the vast forest I started the climb down. It’s almost always harder on the way down than on the way up, and this trip was no different. I don’t know if the trail is getting steeper or if I’m just getting older.

We don’t stop hiking because we grow old-we grow old because we stop hiking. ~Finis Mitchell

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At this time every year when the red maples bloom I get the urge to show you what a forest full of millions of red maple flowers looks like from above, so I pick a mountain and climb up above the treetops. This year I chose Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard because it offers a 360 degree view. The above photo shows the start of the trail. It was a sunny, hot Sunday that was supposed to have temperatures in the mid-80s F. It proved true; it reached 85 at my house and the weather people say it was the warmest Easter in 30 years. I’ve never had to use air conditioning in April, but I thought about it that day.

I’ve climbed this mountain fairly regularly for years now and have apparently walked right by this hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) growing right beside the trail every time. The things I don’t see often amaze me as much as the things I see do.  Hobblebush is one of our most beautiful native viburnums. The name hobblebush comes from the way the low growing branches, unseen under last year’s fallen leaves, can trip up or “hobble” a horse or hiker.

A pileated woodpecker had cut this tree right in half looking for insects. I’ve been cutting and splitting wood at work and the other day I split a log that had a huge colony of big black carpenter ants in it. A pileated woodpecker would have been very happy to have pecked at that tree.

An old pine tree had broken off halfway up its trunk and fallen onto the side of the trail. We’ve had some strong winds lately so I wasn’t surprised.

I turned about halfway up the trail to take a photo of Mount Monadnock and I could see by the haze that the views wouldn’t be good, but I wasn’t here for the views; I was here for the red haze produced by millions of red maples. I noticed that there was still snow at the edge of the meadow.

There was even more snow in this part of the meadow. It was hard to believe after a week of warm temperatures and such a hot day as this one. The haze made this view look almost surreal.

I love to see the shading on the distant hills. I saw something similar done in fabric once and it was a very beautiful piece of artwork. The idea must have come from a scene like this one.

Before you know it you can see the fire tower through the trees. This means you’re very close to the summit, but it also means you’ll climb the steepest part of the trail to reach it.

I hoped that all of those trees with bare branches would look like someone had washed them with red watercolor, but I’m not seeing that. My color finding software sees various shades of red in small amounts, but more gray. There are blueberry bushes and mountain ash trees out there too, and they also have red buds.

I got distracted by the clouds for a time.

The near hill showed what looked to be smudges of red but still not what I expected.

The wind whistled loudly through the steel structure of the fire tower. One day last year was the only time I’ve ever seen this tower manned. The  New Hampshire Forestry Service lets people into the tower and quite a few people were going up on the day I was here. Many were children and I didn’t want them to miss their chance so I didn’t bother trying to get in.  This tower was built to replace the original wooden tower that burned in the 1940 Stoddard-Marlow fire. It was the biggest fire in the region’s history.

The tower is anchored to the bedrock by stout cables and it’s a good thing because the wind was so strong I couldn’t stand still swayed in the breeze. It was just as strong the last time I came here and each time was the strongest wind I’ve seen here.

Common goldspeck lichen (Candelariella vitellina) is a crustose lichen that is very granular. Its round, almost microscopic fruiting bodies (apothecia) are hard to see in the photo but they are there. 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.

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, so the species name in this case is a guess on my part. Tile lichens grow on rock in full sun, winter and summer.

Depressions in the stone catch water and I’ve always called them birdbaths. On this day there was actually a bird there, drinking and bathing.

I think it was a dark eyed junco but I don’t know birds well so I hope someone more knowledgeable in the subject might correct me if I’m wrong.  It was gray on top and white underneath, and was just a little smaller than a robin.

Though the birdbath looks quite big in the photo it isn’t more than 5 inches deep and hardly as big in diameter as an adult bicycle tire. There seems to always be water in it no matter how long we go without rain.

In the end I didn’t get the photo of the red maples that I had hoped but it wasn’t because there aren’t any red maples here. The target canker on the bark of this tree tells me it’s a red maple because, if I understand what I’ve read correctly, red maple is the only maple that gets target canker. I think, though there are plenty of red maples here, the buds simply hadn’t opened yet. Though the buds have fully opened in Keene Pitcher Mountain lies far enough north of town to make a difference, so maybe they were still closed.

But I still had plan B, which was to visit these red maples that grow along a very busy stretch of highway in Keene. I couldn’t show them from above but at least they give some idea of what we see here each spring.

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

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1-ashuelot-north-of-keene

The fall colors continue to astound even those of us who’ve lived in this corner of the state for years. As this photo taken slightly north of Keene on the Ashuelot River shows, most of the trees have turned now, and by the time this is posted many will have lost their leaves entirely. It’s a brief but colorful few weeks when nature pulls out all the stops, and I hope readers aren’t getting tired of seeing fall in New Hampshire just yet.

2-beaver-lodge

After I climbed Pitcher Mountain in my last post I stopped at nearby Rye Pond in Stoddard. The beaver lodge was still surrounded by water but the pond was very low. The open channels through the grasses told me that beavers had been here recently but I wonder if they’ve moved on.

3-beaver-brook

I didn’t see any signs of beavers in Beaver Brook but there were plenty of colors reflected in the water. Unfortunately there wasn’t much water left to reflect more. Normally all but a handful of the largest stones would be covered by water in this spot.

4-beaver-brook

Many of the leaves that had fallen into Beaver Brook had pooled behind a fallen log.

5-fallen-leaves

I like how our water becomes dark, almost black in the fall. I never know if it’s caused by a trick of the light or some other reason, but it only seems to happen in the fall. It makes the colors of the fallen leaves stand out beautifully, as if it were planned that way.

6-blueberry

The blueberry bushes have been extremely colorful this year, wearing everything from yellow to plum purple, like this example. I just read in the Washington Post that “Studies have suggested that the earliest photosynthetic organisms were plum-colored, because they relied on photosynthetic chemicals that absorbed different wavelengths of light.”

7-hillside

Keene sits in a kind of bowl surrounded by hills so views like this one are common in  the fall.  You might think that because views like this are so common we take them for granted but no, you can often see people who have lived here all their lives standing right alongside the tourists, amazed by the colors.

8-fall-foliage

This was the view across a swamp in Hancock; the first time I had seen it. You have to watch out for cars pulling off the road suddenly at this time of year when they come upon colorful views like this one. That’s exactly what I did when I saw it, but at least I checked my rear view mirror first.

9-starflower

Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) have lost nearly all of their color. This one reminded me of a poinsettia. You can just see the plant’s tiny white seedpod there on the lower left of center. The seedpods look like tiny soccer balls and often stay attached to the stem even after the plant has lost its leaves.

10-ashuelot-in-keene

This was the view along the Ashuelot River in Keene late one afternoon. The setting sun always lights the trees on fire here and it’s one of my favorite fall walks.

11-ashuelot-in-swanzey

This view of the Ashuelot in Swanzey was also colorful. That’s the thing about this time of year; it doesn’t matter what town you’re in or where you look, because the colors are everywhere.

12-maple-close

The sun coming through this maple in my yard caught my eye one day. It’s a beautiful tree, especially at this time of year.

13-mallards

It wasn’t so much the ducks but their colors along with the beautiful colors that pooled around them that had me stunned and staring on a walk along the Ashuelot River one afternoon. The water was on fire and I became lost in the burning beauty of it all for a while. There are times when I wonder how I ever came to be lucky enough to be born in a paradise such as this one. Whatever the reason, I’m very grateful to be here.

14-reflections

I like the cloudy day brilliance but also the softness of the colors in this photo of the forest at Howe reservoir in Dublin. It’s a great place to get photos of reflections and, if you stand in the right spot, photos of the area’s highest peak, Mount Monadnock.

15-burning-bush

The burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey are still turning to their pinkish magenta color. They will keep turning until they become the faintest pastel pink just before their leaves fall. I like to get photos of them at that stage but it’s tricky; I’ve seen the entire swath of what must be hundreds of bushes all lose their leaves overnight. I’ll have to start checking on them every day soon.

16-dogwood

The native dogwoods are also very colorful this year. I think this one is a gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) but the birds have eaten all its berries so it was hard to be sure. It might be a silky dogwood (Cornus amomum.) We’re lucky to have so many different dogwoods.

17-surry-mountain

Surry Mountain in Surry looks to have more evergreens than deciduous trees on it but it could be that the beeches and maples hadn’t turned yet when I took this photo. To the right, out of sight in this shot, is Surry Dam, built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1941 to help keep the Ashuelot River from flooding Keene. The reservoir created by the dam is called Surry Mountain Lake but it is actually the Ashuelot River, about 5 times wider than it would have ever gotten naturally.

18-surry-hillside-close

This is a close up of Surry Mountain showing quite a few evergreens, which I’m guessing are mostly white pines (Pinus strobus.)

19-oak-leaves

The oaks are turning quickly now along with the beeches, and they will be the last hurrah of autumn as they are each year. I’ve got to get to the beech / oak forest at Willard Pond in Hancock very soon. Last year it was glorious there.

20-yellow-tree

Sunrise comes later each morning and on the misty morning when this photo was taken both cameras I carried struggled with the low light and produced fuzzy photos of this yellow leaved tree, but I thought this one looked like something Monet would have painted so I decided to include it.

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

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1-trail

Each year at this time I start thinking that if I could just get up above the trees the colors would be better or brighter somehow, but they never seem to be and I’ve never been really happy with any photo that I’ve taken that way. But maybe this time would be different, I hoped. The weatherman told me that we were at the peak of our fall colors, so last Saturday I decided to climb Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard to try again.

2-striped-maple-leaf

I kept seeing dark spots on the fading, pale orange striped maple leaves (Acer pensylvanicum) so I had to take a closer look. The quarter size spots were made up of many smaller specks.

3-striped-maple-leaf

I haven’t found a reference to anything similar so I can’t say what they are at this point. They looked like hardened drops of a liquid but I doubt the leaves would weep in such concentrated areas and not all over. If you know what they are I’d love to hear from you.

4-torn-mushrooms

Something ate these little brown mushrooms and tore the stems when they did so. I’ve never seen this before and I’m not sure what animal would do it. There is everything from chipmunks to moose to bears in these woods so without tracks or other clues it’s hard to know. I do know that many kinds of little brown mushrooms can make a person very sick, and some can kill.

5-pasture

A pasture appears on the right side of the trail and I always stop here for a breather. The farm that owns this land raises Scottish highland cattle and my hopes of seeing them were raised by the regular snapping of an electric fence at just about knee and waist level, but the cattle never showed up. I had to pay attention so I didn’t get tangled in that fence with my metal monopod, so maybe it’s a good thing they didn’t.

6-trail

The trail takes a sharp 90 degree left turn and parallels the pasture for a time. It also becomes quite rocky in this stretch. Not far after the turn, maybe a hundred feet or so, there is a break in the trees and brush to the right. If you follow this short path after just a few steps you come to a good view of Mount Monadnock on the right. And the electric fence in front of you.

7-monadnock-from-trail

The reason I chose Pitcher Mountain is because it has a full 360 degrees of viewing area on its summit. If the light is harsh in one direction as it was in this shot of Mount Monadnock from the trail, it often isn’t quite so harsh in a different direction. At least that’s what I was hoping. Finding correct exposure settings can be tough with some colors in such bright light.

8-beech

Beech trees are starting to turn and they seem to be right on schedule. Though they are among the last to turn along with the oaks, most had turned fully by Halloween last year.

9-fire-tower

Before too long the fire tower glimpsed through the trees tells you that you’re very near the summit.

10-ranger-cabin

The old fire warden’s cabin might be in for a rough ride this winter if nature decides to make up the 15 inch rain deficit with snow. Though I’ve climbed up here in the winter several times if that happens I probably won’t be up here to see it.

11-pasture-from-above

You can turn and look back just above the warden’s cabin to see the pasture from above, along with Mount Monadnock in the background. The view from the summit to Monadnock would be almost directly south.

12-fire-tower

The fire tower is the second one to stand on this peak. Ironically the first wooden tower built in 1915 burned in April of 1940 in a fire which destroyed 27,000 acres of forest, including the tower and all of the trees on the summit. It was the most destructive fire in the region’s history. Stout cables keep this one from blowing off the mountain but there is still little to protect it from a large fire.

13-near-hill

If you’re standing where I was in the previous photo looking at the tower and walk around to the left side of it, what I call the near hill seems to be close enough to touch. I don’t know its name or if it even has one.

14-summit-colors

It was hard to pay attention to far off colors when colors like this were so close by on the summit.

15-scattered-rock-posy

Scattered rock posy lichens (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) added to the orange colors of fall. I was thinking one day about how we rarely see orange in nature for most of the year but then all of the sudden we are saturated with it in the fall. The orange pad like parts of this lichen are its fruiting bodies (apothecia) and the grayish, brain like part is the body (thallus.)

16-crater-lichen

Black and white crater lichens seemed to stare back at me from the stones. I think they are Diploschistes scruposus, simply called crater lichen after their cup shaped black fruiting bodies (apothecia,) which are surrounded by a stark white or gray body (thallus.) They grow on exposed rock all over the earth, even in the Polar Regions.

17-blueberry

Pitcher Mountain is known for its blueberries, and they turn a beautiful red in the fall. They supply most of the red that can be seen in the near distance in many of these photos.

18-blueberries

There were a surprising amount of berries that the birds and pickers had missed, but they were shriveled.

19-fall-colors

As far as the eye could see the trees were turning. I’m surprised to see how many more deciduous trees than evergreens there are in this photo.

20-unknown-mountain

I’m not sure what the name of the mountain in the distance is but it seemed to be higher than the one I was standing on and it wasn’t Mount Monadnock. It was quite far away but unfortunately I didn’t pay any attention to what direction it was in.

21-birch

This birch tree was almost leafless but its comrades more than made up for its lack of color. It seemed a kind of exclamation point, as if colors like these needed to be emphasized.

22-summit-colors

I think this photo is my personal favorite from that day because it has all of the colors I saw in it. It also shows the incredible beauty that can be found up here.

23-natural-birdbath

It seemed strange to see the natural birdbath full of water in the middle of a drought; it must have rained recently. I’m sure the many birds that I heard are very grateful.

I’m sorry that this post was so photo heavy but our autumn “season” is really very short and we’re lucky if we see three weeks of the kind of colors that I saw on this day, so I went a bit overboard. Though I don’t usually climb strictly for the views on this day that’s what I came for and they were very good, with little haze.

To see what others cannot…
You must climb the mountain.
~Ron Akers

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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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. Rye Pond Beaver Lodge

I heard we were going to get a lot of rain this week and possible flooding, so last Sunday I thought I’d see how much more water we could take. With all of the meltwater the Ashuelot River is fairly high but as this photo shows, the water level of Rye Pond is looking much like it does in June. Rye Pond lies to the north of Keene and since the boundaries of three towns run through it, it’s hard to say what town it’s in; Antrim, Nelson, or Stoddard.

 2. Rye Pond Ice

The water level might look like it does in June but there was still ice on the pond in places, so I’m sure the water temperature feels more like December. I’m anxious to put my kayak in this pond because I’ve seen photos of some beautiful orchids that grow here, but I think I’ll wait until the water warms up a bit.

3. Cranberry Plants

I’ve seen a lot of cranberry plants (Vaccinium macrocarpon) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any as red as these that grew along the pond’s shores.

 4. Bailey Brook Falls

Since I was in the neighborhood I thought I’d stop and see Bailey Brook falls in Nelson. There was plenty of water coming over the falls but the brook didn’t seem that high. There is also an upper falls here but I wanted to save my hiking legs for another waterfall I planned to visit later in the day, so I didn’t go to see it.

5. Trail Sign

The folks in Nelson have a unique sense of humor. That’s a black fly on the trail sign along Bailey Brook.  For those of you not familiar with black flies; they are a tiny biting insect that breeds exclusively in clean running water, which is something that we have plenty of here in New Hampshire. Black fly season usually begins in early May and lasts until early June depending on the weather. Though they are a sign of a healthy environment, when the black flies disappear in June we are very thankful. Then comes mosquito season.

6. Striped Maple Buds

Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) buds have broken. The orangey pink leaf buds will be among the most beautiful in the forest once they get just a little bigger. I’ll have to visit the plants daily now so I can catch them at their best. The colorful period doesn’t last long.

7. Trillium

Purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) are also showing buds. They seem to be blooming earlier each year. Last year I saw my first one on April 26th, and that one had bloomed earlier than those I found in 2012 and 2013.

8. Ashuelot in Gilsum

I like to stop along this stretch of the Ashuelot River between Gilsum and Surry because it always makes me think of how wild it must have been before Europeans came here. A few years ago severe flooding in this area really tore the banks up and washed away a bridge or two, and many of the scars are still visible along the banks.

9. Coltsfoot 2

I was surprised to see some coltsfoot plants blooming along the river bank.

10. Coltsfoot

I’ll have to remember where I saw them so I can come back and see them again next year. I’ve lost a few colonies of coltsfoot plants to loggers and flooding.

11. Lower 40 Foot Falls

Since I had time I thought I’d stop in at 40 foot falls in Surry. I’m not sure if the name describes the length of the falls or the height, but I think it must be the length.  The lowers falls are pictured above. There was some severe flooding here a few years ago too, and the size of some of the boulders that washed down the brook is astounding.

12. Middle 40 Foot Falls

These are what I call the middle falls. The dead tree isn’t a mistake-I liked it.

13. Upper 40 Foot Falls

My favorite thing to see here is the gorge where the upper falls are. I’d guess that the height of the ledges here must be at least 50 feet, and that light colored boulder to the right is the size of a compact car. It gets its light color from being made of pure feldspar, as are the ledges. I think it’s the most feldspar I’ve ever seen in one place and I’m surprised that it wasn’t mined years ago like so many other deposits were. If you are going to make glass you are going to need feldspar.

14. Upper 40 Foot Falls

You can just see the upper falls over to the right. Unless you want to put on waders and wade under the overhanging boulders, this is the best view you can get of them. If I could have taken the ice on the left and laid it out flat on the ground it would have been the size of a small pond.

 15. Unknown Yellow Organism

The strangest thing I saw on this outing was this organism that I haven’t been able to identify. As I walked by a fallen log I saw that pieces of bark had fallen off its underside. They weren’t just pieces of bark though; they were covered by the bright yellow growth shown in the above photo.  When I picked them up and put them on the log to take their photo, large clouds of yellow spores blew in the wind.

 16. Unknown Yellow Organism

A close up shot shows that the yellow growth was hairy like the bright orange algae called (Trentepohlia aureathat) that I find growing on certain cliff faces, but those algae don’t grow anywhere near as uniform as this growth appears in the previous photo. It’s so uniform it almost looks like a yellow lawn, and the only thing I know of that looks like that is a slime mold. I’ve never known or heard of a slime mold that lives through winter in its plasmodial stage, but this growth reminds me of the plasmodial stage of the scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica.) If it is then it’s the earliest example of it that I’ve ever seen.

The waters of the stream played the part of the orchestra, and the sunlight provided the dancers. Every now and then a crescendo of wind highlighted the symphony in the clearing by the creek.
~Edward Mooney Jr.

Thanks for coming by.

 

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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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