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Posts Tagged ‘Stratton Mountain’

 1. High Blue Sign

Last week we had one sunny afternoon when the temperature climbed to almost freezing. A walk at lunchtime convinced me that I needed to take some time to rid myself of the cabin fever I could feel coming on, so off I went to Walpole to climb the High Blue Trail in Warner Forest.

2. High Blue Trail

I told myself after I climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey last winter that I’d never climb in winter again but, even though the trail leads uphill it is an easy, gentle climb and there are plenty of interesting things to see on the way. Many feet had passed this way before mine so the trail was well packed but not icy.

3. Hay Field

There are some large hayfields along the way that make great wintering places for white tailed deer. There is strong sunshine, plenty of browse, and plenty of forest to hide in.

It’s hard to imagine it now but 100 years ago most of the hillsides in this region would have been cleared of trees, and would have looked just like this hay field. Farming the thin, rocky soil was a hard way to make a living though, so in the mid-1800s when textile and furniture mills started offering better pay for easier work, many farms were abandoned and reverted back to forest.  Now New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the nation with 4.8 million acres-nearly 85 % of the total acreage forested. Only the state of Maine has more trees. This is why, for those of us who live here, a pasture like the one in the photo is a rare and welcome sight.

4. Deer Browse

Deer put on as much as 30 pounds of fat in the fall and though they browse on twigs like that in the photo, winter food is usually not very nutritious and they burn the extra fat. If everything goes according to plan they will be much thinner but still healthy in spring.

5. Deer Print

Deer prints were everywhere.

6. High Blue Game Trail

This is a game trail. Not a single print in the photo is human, so a lot of deer and other animals follow it. Trails like this crisscross the woods in every direction.

 7. Pileated Woodpecker Stump

I saw a stump that got into a fight with a pileated woodpecker and lost. This happened before the latest snowfall, otherwise there would be shredded tree all over the top of the snow.

8. Smoky polypore aka Bjerkandera adusta or White Rot Fungus

These bracket fungi were very dark and I suspected that they weren’t turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). After looking through my mushroom books I think they might be smoky polypores (Bjerkandera adusta). I didn’t want to kneel in the snow so I broke one of my own rules and didn’t look at the undersides.  The adust part of the scientific name means “scorched” or “appearing burned” and a peek at the burnt looking, dark gray, pore bearing surface would have helped confirm my suspicions.

9. Turkey Tails

There was no doubt that these were turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). The good thing about looking for the identity of things in books is, you only have to do it once or twice for each new thing you find. After a while as you learn what things are, the books become less necessary.

 10. Stone Foundation Ruins

I always try to visit this stonework when I come here. I used to build dry stone walls and it’s always fun to try to understand what the builder might have been thinking as he chose the stones. Flat stones with at least one square corner don’t just roll out of the forest and stop at your feet. I’m sure many of these were plowed up in the fields that were here.

 11. View From High Blue

The view from the granite ledge overlook is always very blue just as the name implies, but it can also be very hazy as it was this day. I could just make out the ski trails on Stratton Mountain, off across the Connecticut River valley in Vermont. In winter the wind out of the North West makes you pay for this view, so I didn’t stay long.

12. High Blue Sign

I always take a shot of this sign, just for the record.

 13. Rock Tripe

There are places in these woods where large outcrops of granite are covered with rock tripe lichens (Umbilicaria mammulata). The Umbilicaria part of the scientific name comes from the Latin umbilicus, meaning navel. This is where another common name, navel lichen, comes from and points to how these lichens attach themselves to stone with a single attachment point that looks like a navel.  The puckered area in the center of the lichen in the photo shows its attachment point. These lichens can grow as big as lettuce leaves and Native Americans taught early settlers how to prepare and eat them to keep from starving. George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe while trying to survive the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1777.

14. Barbed Wire

I read a book recently, written by a man in Massachusetts who said he took great delight in running through the woods without following any trails. I wouldn’t advise doing that here. Since these woods used to be pasture land there are still miles of barbed wire running through them and it’s often hard to see.

15. Monadnock From High Blue Trail

As you come back down the trail and re-enter the hayfield there is a good view of Mount Monadnock directly ahead of you. This view is almost completely covered by foliage in the summer so it’s another thing that makes coming up here in winter worthwhile.

He who would study nature in its wildness and variety, must plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent, and dare the precipice. ~ Washington Irving

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Dim Sun

Here in New Hampshire November is always the cloudiest month but I looked out the window one recent morning and saw a beautiful, sunny day. I didn’t want to waste it so I set off for the High Blue trail north of here in Walpole. By the time I parked at the trailhead the sun was just a white smudge on a sky so flat and gray it looked as if it had been painted by a melancholy watercolorist. It would have been a great day for wildflower or foliage photography, but it wasn’t too good for landscapes.

 2. High Blue Sign

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests maintains the trail that leads to ledges that, at 1588 feet above sea level, look out over the Connecticut River valley into Vermont. It’s an easy, quick walk to a great view and I come here quite often.

 3. Mossy Ledges

I especially like to come here at this time of year when the bones of the forest are revealed. At any other time of year you could walk right by these mossy ledges without seeing them, but now they really stand out. This is a great place to find many different lichens and mosses.

 4. Rock Tripe Covered Boulders

A closer look shows large boulders covered with rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata)

 5. Rock Tripe

It is said that soldiers stationed at Valley Forge under George Washington ate rock tripe to stay alive. But they also ate their shoes, and rock tripe is considered barely edible even though science has shown that it has a very high nutritional value. On this day it was dry and brittle but when it rains it will become pliable and algae will blossom up to its surface, turning it dark green.

 6. Beech with Beech Bark Disease

Rain isn’t going to help our beech trees, I’m afraid. This is called beech bark disease and I’m seeing it more and more. Sometime around 1890 a European Beech was imported in Nova Scotia, and it was infected with a scale insect called wooly beech scale. This scale is a sucking insect and it makes holes in the bark to get at the sap. These wounds allow certain types of fungi to begin growing and killing the inner bark of the tree. If there are enough wounds and they circle the tree it is girdled and killed. Since both the scale insect and the various fungi that follow it are wind borne, the future doesn’t look bright for the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) in this part of the country.

7. Beech Drops

Beech drops (Epifagus virginiana) is a plant that parasitizes the roots of beech trees, but doesn’t do any real damage to them. I usually look for this plant in the fall when it blooms, but this time I found it gone to seed. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, because information on this plant’s seeds and how they are dispersed is just about impossible to find. In fact, I found only one other photo of its seeds, and it was out of focus, so the photo here is something of a rarity, apparently. If only I’d known when I was in the woods! I did find one article that said it is thought that raindrops, landing in the open, cup shaped pod seen in the photo, would disperse the seeds, but nobody really seems to know for sure.

1. Toothed Fungus

I thought this odd colored toothed fungus was interesting. I think it is a bear head fungus (Hericium americanum) but I’m not sure if that comes in this color. It was a very cold morning though and this and other fungi were frozen solid, so that might have affected the color and changed it from the usual white. The icicle like appearance of this fungus was very appropriate on such a cold morning.

8. Stone Wall

If you like stone walls this is the time of year to look for them. They’re much easier to see now that the leaves have fallen. Here in New Hampshire you don’t have to go very far to find one-any forest will do. Many, if not most, of these old walls still mark property boundaries.

9. Foundation Stones

Cellar holes and old stone foundations are also much easier to see. This is the corner of what was once the foundation of someone’s house. We might wonder why someone would be living “out in the middle of nowhere” because it’s easy to forget that just one hundred years ago most of these hills were cleared and used as pasture land.

10. High Blue Cairn

This is new. When I was up here last August I didn’t see any cairns, but now there are three. I’ve never seen a source of loose stone here either but there must be one nearby. I can’t imagine anyone carrying that much stone all the way up here. Cairns have been built since before recorded history for many different purposes but I’m not sure what, if anything these ones are supposed to mean.

11. High Blue View

The view of the Green Mountains off to the west from the ledges was blue as it always is, but also hazy. I think the clouds were low enough to limit the viewable distance somewhat. The wind was coming at this spot from right over Stratton Mountain and it was cold.

12. High Blue View

It’s no wonder the wind coming over the mountain was so cold. According to the Stratton Mountain Ski Area web site, they’ve been making snow and are expecting some natural snow someday this week. If it snows I hope it stays on that side of the Connecticut River and doesn’t make it this far east. I’m not ready for it yet. I wish I had made it up here when the foliage colors were peaking.

 13. Monadnock from High Blue Trail

As you walk down the trail at this time of year Mount Monadnock can be seen to the south east. It too will be snow covered soon.  When there are leaves on the trees this view is mostly blocked.

You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, and remakes all the moves. ~Lito Tejada-Flores

Thanks for stopping in.

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