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Posts Tagged ‘Swanzey NH’

1. Trail

We haven’t had very many warm sunny days here this spring so when we do I try to make the best of them.  On one recent beautiful spring day I decided to climb Hewes Hill in Swanzey. A 40 ton glacial erratic sits on top of the hill along with some toadskin lichen friends that I like to visit occasionally.

2. Snowy Woods

The woods and the trail were snow covered by about 6 inches of snow but in the shade the crust was strong enough to walk on, so it was almost like walking on pavement.

3. Snow Melt

The snow had melted away from every tree trunk. I showed this in a post I did recently and several of us agreed that this must be caused by the sun heating up the tree bark which, if you really think about it, is pretty amazing.

4. Oak Leaf

This eastern hemlock caught an oak leaf and didn’t want to let go.

Hemlock Wound

According to the book Bark by Michael Wojtech, eastern hemlock is the only tree in the northeastern U.S. that produces wound tissue (cork) in annual rings that can be counted like rings of wood. I counted about 21 years that it took this wound to heal. But my question has always been, how do trees out in the middle of nowhere, away from human activity, get these wounds in the first place?

6. Deer Print

Deer are smart animals. They let humans do the work of breaking trails through the snow and then packing it down, and then they just follow along.

7. Sign

Before too long you see the sign that “captain obvious” must have put up.

8. Tippin Rock

I say that because there aren’t many rocks this big in the immediate vicinity. In fact there aren’t any. For those new to the blog, this glacial erratic gets its name from the way it rocks (tips) back and forth if you push it in the right place. I’ve never been able to move it but I’ve talked with someone who saw a group of kids all stand on one end to make it move. If you look closely at the underside you can see that it comes down to a point like the keel of a boat.

When you think of all that had to happen for a glacier to set a 40 ton boulder down on the single flat piece of rock on a hilltop in New Hampshire so it would be perfectly balanced it becomes close to impossible to believe, but there it is.

9. Crack in Rock

Something I never noticed before was this large crack that runs from top to bottom of the rock on one side. It doesn’t go all the way through though, so I don’t think tippin rock is in any danger of cleaving itself in two.

10. Ledge Ice

There are some good views up here but you can’t see them from tippin rock. To get to the ledges where the views are you have to walk another 10 minutes or so through the woods past a lot of stone outcrops that still have a lot of ice on them. The trail itself was very icy on this section as well.

11. Rest Spot

There were some dry spots to sit and catch your breath or to just listen to the forest. The birds were singing happily this day.

12. View

Since the views look off to the south southwest, afternoon is not the time to come up here and take photos, but I always try anyway. There is something about this place; it’s peaceful energy maybe, which is different than all the other hills I climb. It makes me feel like just being here is what’s really important, and that the photos don’t really matter. Though I’ve never really gotten a good photo from up here, neither have I ever come away feeling disappointed.

13. View

It was so sunny and warm up here that it felt like summer and not spring was right around the corner. I could have sat here for days.

14. Toad Skin Lichen

Though the views are beautiful  they are really secondary to my real quest, which are the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) I’ve found them only on hilltops so being able to see them always comes with a price. This one was reddish orange, which is a color I’ve never seen among them. I thought that it could have come from an algae coating, which is common among some lichens, but the book Lichens of North America says that it is a pruinose coating similar to that on plums and grapes, but red instead of white.  I never knew a pruinose coating could be anything but white.

Toadskin lichens are umbilicate lichens, meaning they attach to the substrate at a single point, and that point can be clearly seen in the upper third of this example. This lichen was about as big as a penny, or about 3/4 of an inch.

15. Toad Skin Lichen

These toadskin lichens are pea green when they’re wet, and when they dry out turn ashy gray to almost white. This one was very dry and crisp but I chose this photo because the lichen’s fruiting bodies (apothecia) are so easily seen. They look like tiny black dots scattered over the surface. The bumps that look like the warts on a toad are called pustules, and they look like indentations from the underside.

16. Toad Skin Lichen

This close up shows a better view of the toadskin lichen’s apothecia, which are tiny black discs with a sunken center that makes them look like a bowl with a thick black rim. The way that they sit on the body (thallus) 0f the lichen makes them look like they’d blow away in a breeze, but they are attached. If I could magnify them enough we’d see clear to brown muriform spores in each apothecia. Muriform means they are “wall like” with internal cross walls that make them look as if they were made of brick and mortar. What strange and fascinating things nature will show us if we just look a little closer.

I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts

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We’ve had all kinds of weather extremes here lately, from heat and humidity to torrential rains, so I’ve been spending time at the Ashuelot River. The banks of the river are always cooler when it’s hot and after heavy rains the rapids really get rolling, and I like to watch them.  Since I spend so much time here and so many of my photos are taken here, I thought I’d do a post with a little background information of the area.

1. Ashuelot Rapids

This stretch of river is easy to get to and there are many good photo opportunities here-from the rapids to the many wildflowers that grow on the river banks. There are 4 small rapids that were built when a 250 year old timber crib dam was removed in 2010. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services created the rapids by laying very large boulders side to side across the riverbed in a crescent shape.

2. Swanzey Dam Removal

The timber crib dam was owned by the Homestead Woolen Mill, which is the large brick building in the background. The dam was built in revolutionary war times to power the mill, which in its heyday made many different kinds of textiles. Removing this dam opened up 20 miles of river and now brook and rainbow trout are caught here regularly. Salmon have also been caught and someone said they saw an eagle this spring.

Photo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Division of Habitat Conservation, Open Rivers Initiative.

3. Ashuelot Rapids

When we’ve had a lot of rain if you stand in the right spot at the right rapid, you can see some fine waves. Since there are a few seconds of delay between when you press the shutter release and when the wave crests, getting shots of waves cresting and crashing is really hit and miss. Every time I try to anticipate what the river will do it does just the opposite, and that’s what makes trying to get a shot I’m happy with so much fun.

 4. Riverside

This view is looking downriver at two of the rapids and the shoreline that floods regularly, but where many wildflowers grow.

5. Thompson Bridge

 Slightly upriver from the rapids is the Thompson covered bridge, named after playwright Denmon Thompson, who was a native son, and built in 1832. This bridge is a truss style bridge with two spans that meet on a center support. One span covers 64 feet and the other 63.5 feet, making the total length 136 feet 10 inches long. It once had two covered walkways, but now has only one on the upriver side. It can be seen on the left in the photo. The bridge is so close to the mill building that I had my back against it when I took this photo. Town records indicate that there has been a bridge in this spot since at least 1789.

 6. Thompson Bridge

This view of the bridge shows the covered walkway. At the far end is where I perch to take many of the river photos that appear on this blog. The covered walkway comes in handy when it’s raining. Many wildflowers grow on the steep embankment on this side of the river, just below where I was standing when I took this photo.

7. Thompson Bridge

This view from downriver shows the stone center support for the two spans. The bridge design is known as “Town lattice,” patented by Connecticut architect Ithiel Town in the early 1800s. The Thompson Bridge is considered by many to be the most beautiful covered bridge in New England.

 8. Thompson Bridge

The open lattice work lets a lot of light into the bridge and this is unusual because many covered bridges are dark and cave like.  In the 1800s being able to see this much light inside a covered bridge would have been the talk of the town.

 9. Ashuelot Jetty 2

At the same time that the old dam was being removed stone jetties were built upriver from the bridge to protect its abutments. These jetties, one on each side of the bridge, direct the strength of the current and prevent erosion of the abutments at each end of the bridge. If you look closely at the white water at the far end of the jetty you can see the ripples of the current flowing in towards the middle of the river.

10. Ashuelot Wildflowers

This view from the bridge shows just a few of the wildflowers that grow on the river bank near the jetty in the previous photo. The town of Swanzey is planning on building a park in this area so the future of these plants is unknown at present. I thought the lupines growing here were our endangered wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) but after going back and counting leaflets and looking for leaf hairs, now I’m not so sure that they aren’t a natural hybrid. I’m hoping I can save some of their seeds and grow them in my own yard and get to know them a little better.

11. Clouds Over the Ashuelot

Flowers, rapids, and solitude aren’t the only reasons I come to this part of the river. The view downriver from the bridge is wide open and you can catch an occasional beautiful sunset here. I also like to come here to watch storms roll in.

12. Lori's Painting

 Local artist Lori Woodward was also taken with the view from the Thompson Bridge and did this painting from one of the photos that she saw on this blog. There is an upcoming exhibit of paintings and photos of the Ashuelot River at the Cheshire County Historical Society and this painting will be part of it. Lori works in acrylic, watercolors and oils. If you’re an art lover interested in collecting fine art, or just like looking at beautiful landscape paintings, you can visit Lori’s website by clicking here.

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. ~A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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