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Posts Tagged ‘Toadskin Lichen’

1-trail

Last Saturday an old friend who moved to California years ago came east for a visit, so I thought I’d take him up Hewe’s hill to see Tippin’ Rock. He’s a regular reader of this blog and has seen the behemoth in photos, but never in person. Luckily he’s always up for an uphill climb.

2-turkey-feather

Since we’re about the same age I don’t think he minded my stopping to take photos, like this one of a turkey feather. We don’t run up and down hills quite like we used to.

3-tippin-rock

But we were able to huff and puff our way to the top where the 40 ton glacial erratic sat waiting. We marveled at the size of the thing and thought about all the things that had to have happened millions of years ago for it to have ended up here. It doesn’t just sit on dirt; it’s on the only perfectly flat section of the granite bedrock that the hill is made from. And it isn’t just any old rock; its underside is like the hull of a ship, with a keel-like shape to it. It also comes with a very old legend that says if you “get your shoulder under” the right part of the stone and heave, it will move. That’s where the name “Tippin” Rock” comes from.

4-tipping-tippin-rock

Well, I’ve gotten my shoulder under every part of the thing and heaved until I was blue in the face, so I thought I’d let my friend Dave have a turn. Here he is going at it from the side, using his arms instead of his shoulder. The rock just sat there, so then he tried a different spot and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Wonder of wonders; 40 tons of granite rocked back and forth like a baby cradle.  “Well I’ll be,” I said and then I took a turn. Once again it moved back and forth like a pendulum. But it’s a slow, subtle movement and we discovered that if you’re looking directly at the stone you can’t really tell that it’s moving. You have to look at an edge to really see the slow rocking motion, and that’s what makes me think that every time I’ve heaved at the stone it was moving and I just couldn’t see it. We also noticed that we could hear it rocking by its crushing the dry forest debris that the wind has blown under it.

5-tipping-tippin-rock

We tried several different spots and the big stone rocked slowly back and forth nearly every time, so the legend of Tippin Rock has proven true, and I’m glad to be able to check another of nature’s mysteries off my long list. I told Dave I’d make him world famous; known from here to Timbuktu as the man who can move 40 tons of solid granite with nothing but his bare hands.

6-trail

We spent more than a few minutes marveling at our sudden onrush of super human strength but there were other things up here to see, so we headed off down the trail to where the views are found.

7-in-the-tree-tops

As I feared the sky was flat, dull, white, and uninteresting. It might seem ungrateful to complain about an entire summer of cloudless blue skies but I can say with surety that even the best things in life can become tiresome when you have too much of them. We did have a dark cloudy day with a little drizzle yesterday and it seemed like all of nature was rejoicing.

8-view-south

To the south there were miles of unbroken forest. I didn’t see much in the way of fall colors but some of the trees seem to be hinting at lighter shades.

9-view-west

To the west there was more unbroken forest and even a touch of blue in the sky. There is also a stronger hint of fall in this photo, I just noticed.

10-ledges

In places the bedrock forms ledges and in the ledges there are sometimes shallow caves, some big enough to sit in when it rains.  You have to choose your cave carefully though, because in many of them the stone on the ceiling is falling to the floor.

11-ledges

In places the bedrock forms sheer faces and rock climbers come here to hone their craft. Just to the left, out of sight in this photo, is a drop of (we guessed) about 60-80 feet. Vertigo comes easily here, at least for those who don’t do heights well, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to be wandering around at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I introduced Dave to my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) and he was impressed by their tenacity. Even after a summer of little rain but here they sit, dry and brittle, patiently waiting for the fall rains that we are all hoping for. We just had a hurricane move up the coast that looked promising for a few tropical downpours but unfortunately it has missed us except for a tiny bit of drizzle.

13-lady-fern

Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) reminded us that fall was right around the corner. According to the “Fern Bulletin,” which is a quarterly publication devoted to ferns, fern reproductive systems weren’t understood until the middle of the 16th century, when fern spores were finally studied. Before that time people thought that there were male and female ferns, and that’s how the lady fern came by her common name. There are other stories about the origin of the name but this one seems the most plausible. It is also called ghost fern for the way it turns white in the fall.

14-butterfly

You have to cross a meadow filled with red clover to get back to your parking spot and on this day every clover blossom seemed to have a yellow butterfly on it. I think they were all common sulfurs.

15-butterflies

It was nice of this one to fly into the frame as I snapped the shutter and show us the upper surface of its wings. The markings match the common Sulphur butterfly. There must have been a large hatching of them, or maybe they’re migrating through the area. Seeing so many at once was a beautiful sight.

16-smiley-face

Mister smiley face didn’t have to remind me that there was plenty to smile about, but it was good to see him just the same.

The best part of the journey is the surprise and wonder along the way. ~Ken Poirot

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Trail Start

Last Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far, with plenty of tropical humidity as well. Puffy white clouds floated slowly through the sky and if you hadn’t known it was May you’d have sworn it was August. When I was a boy I used to love such days, when you could see the shadows of the clouds moving across the distant hills, so I decided to climb one of those hills to see those shadows again. Since it was so hot I decided on an easy climb and chose Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey. You start by crossing the meadow in the above photo. I saw that someone had been there before me; maybe another cloud lover.

2. Grass Flowering

Grasses were flowering. It’s too bad that so many miss them, because they can be very beautiful when they blossom.

3. Blue Eyed Grass

Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) wasn’t a surprise; meadows like this one is where it loves to grow. Despite its name this little beauty isn’t a grass at all; it’s in the iris family. Wild turkeys love its seeds.

4. Trail

I knew if I didn’t stop dawdling among the meadow flowers I’d never get to the top of the hill, so I set off up the trail.

5. Lady's Slipper

But there were more flowers there to dawdle over. Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule,) one of our most beautiful native orchids, bloomed alongside the trail. Native Americans called it moccasin flower, for obvious reasons. They used the plant medicinally as a nerve tonic and a pain reliever.

6. Wooly Oak Gall

Further up the trail I found a woolly oak gall, created by the wool sower gall wasp (Callirhytis seminator.) It was a small example about the size of an acorn, but I’ve seen them as big as ping pong balls. The gall is caused by secretions from the grubs of the gall wasp, which will only build it on white oak and only in spring. There are small seed like structures inside the gall which contain the wasp larva, and that’s why these galls are also called oak seed galls.

7. Oak Apple Gall

Oak apple galls fall from the trees regularly at this time of year. Theses galls are caused by a gall wasp known as Biorhiza pallida laying an egg inside a leaf bud. Tissue swells around the egg and a gall is formed.

8. Oak Apple Gall Inside

The gall wasp larva lives in the very center of the gall. Once they develop into an adult wasp they make a hole through the side of the gall and fly (or crawl) off to begin the cycle again. A web of spokes keeps the hollow sphere from deflating by connecting the inner hub to the outer shell.

9. Tippin Rock

When you see the 40 ton glacial erratic called Tippin rock you know the climb is just about done. This rock gets its name from the way it can be rocked or tipped when pushed in the right spot, but I’ve never found the spot. Anyhow, this wasn’t what I had come to see so I took a quick photo and moved on. The climbing might be over but the hiking to the scenic overlook isn’t.

10. View

I came hoping to see puffy white clouds casting shadows on the hills, and though I saw plenty of puffy white clouds I didn’t see any shadows. That’s because the clouds were off to the left and the sun was on the right. I find that usually when I go into the woods expecting to see a certain thing I don’t usually see it. Focusing on just one thing can make you miss a lot of what nature has to offer, so that’s why when I go into the woods I try to strip myself of all expectations and just enjoy whatever happens to be in my path. I saw many other interesting things so a lack of cloud shadows wasn’t disappointing. There will be other days with puffy white clouds.

11. View

Some of the puffy white clouds were becoming puffy dark gray clouds, and I wondered if we might see a thunderstorm. I hoped not since I was carrying three cameras (2 in pockets) with no way to protect them.

12. View

This view probably comes closest to what I was trying for, but it’s still not it.

13. Clouds

This shot, taken earlier on the same day at a different location, is what started it all, and shows what I was hoping to see on the hilltop. I might have done better just staying in the low lands.

14. Toadskin Lichen

But if I hadn’t climbed I wouldn’t have gotten to see my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa,) because they only grow on hilltops. Their warty projections are called pustules and if you look at the back of this lichen there will be a corresponding pit for every pustule. When wet the greenish color of the algae that is present comes through but when dry they can be very ashy gray. They are also very brittle when dry, like a potato chip.

16. Rock Tripe Lichens

Growing right alongside the toadskin lichens is rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) which is kind of like a toadskin without the warts. It attaches to the rock in the same way and also gets brittle when dry. Though I imagine they must taste like old rubber, these lichens were a source of emergency food for Native Americans and saved the lives of many an early settler. Even George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe to survive the brutal winter at Valley Forge in 1777.

17. Toadskin and Rock Tripe Lichens

In this photo the green rock tripe lichens are smaller than the gray toadskin lichens and that’s unusual, but it’s because the rock tripe lichens in this photo are babies. I’ve seen rock tripe lichens as big as my hand but have only seen toad skins about 2 inches across, which is what I’d say the biggest examples in this photo were.

18. Toadskin Lichen

Each lichen, both rock tripe and toad skin, is attached to the rock at a single point that looks much like a belly button, and that makes them umbilicate lichens. I hope everyone reading this will make lichens one of the things they look for when outdoors. They’re fascinating, beautiful things that grow virtually everywhere; even in cities if the air is clean. Cemeteries are a good place to look for those that grow on stone.

19. Smiley Face

Mr. Smiley face was happy as always because that’s what happens when you spend all of your free time outside. You become filled with more joy than you ever thought possible.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~John Lubbock

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Trail

Last Sunday morning I decided to climb Mount Caesar in Swanzey. This hill seems to be a single, huge piece of granite bedrock that was thrust up out of the earth unknown eons ago. As the above photo shows, the trail starts out bare granite with a little moss and some reindeer lichens growing on the sides. Exposed granite like that shown can be seen here and there all the way to top, but there must be pockets of soil in places because settlers once went to a lot of trouble to clear it.

2. Red Maple

A red maple tree (Acer rubrum) has blown over onto a stone wall and its roots have humped up part of the trail.

3. Target Canker

I know the tree is a red maple by the target canker on its trunk. This canker doesn’t harm the tree but causes its bark to grow in circular patterns of narrow plates which helps protect it from the canker. As the tree ages the patterns disappear. If I understand what I’ve read correctly red maple is the only tree that does this.

4. Cut Forest

The blowdown was caused by the cutting of a large area of town owned forest, which was sold off a few years ago. A tree that has grown behind such a large windbreak all its life it doesn’t need very strong roots, but when the windbreak is removed its weak roots will let it fall. That’s why trees in a constant wind have much stronger roots than those that grow in sheltered locations. That’s also why people who have encountered hardship and adversity throughout their lives are much more able to bear the strain than those who have lived lives of sheltered ease.

5. Cut Boulder

The removal of the shade provided by the forest has revealed a lot of things I haven’t noticed before, like this large boulder that was cut by someone in the past. The short 3 inch deep lines around its edge are what’s left of the holes that were drilled so tools called feathers and wedges could be pounded in them to split the stone. The holes were most likely drilled by hand with a sledge hammer and star drill. One person would hold the drill while the other hit it with the hammer, and that says a lot about both skill and trust.

6. Trailing Arbutus

The cutting of the forest has also thrown sunlight on many shade loving plants, including this trailing arbutus. Its leaves should be deep green rather than the yellowish green seen here. There were a few flowers tucked under the leaves but the plants don’t look as healthy as many other examples I’ve seen.

7. Trail

The skidder used to haul the logs out of the forest turned the trail into a logging road and in places it’s so muddy that people have been forced to make a new narrow trail above the now 2 foot deep trench.  It works fine until you meet someone going the opposite way.  I doubt that it will ever be repaired until the trail becomes a stream and washes half the hill into the road that borders it. Parts of the trail are showing signs that this is already happening, and they look more like dry stream bed than trail. In a pouring rain the water must really rush through.

8. Stone Wall-2

When I was building dry stone walls I always thought of them as giant puzzles, because I knew that there was always a perfect stone that would fit in the space that I was trying to fill; all I had to do was find it. These days I just admire the work of others, and I thought that this part of an old wall looked particularly puzzle like. This isn’t a “thrown wall” where someone just tossed stones on top of each other in a long pile. This wall was thought about and a certain amount of care was taken when it was built.

9. Stone

Sometimes you see stones in walls that have a story to tell, like this one that I assume probably had the deep grooves worn into it by a glacier. I imagine the father and son, brother and brother, or master and slave had a lot to talk about as they cleared the fields of the many rocks they found. They were talking about glaciers and ice ages in Sweden in the 1700s, but whether or not any of that knowledge would have reached the residents of Swanzey is a question I can’t answer. I do know that Native Americans burnt the town to the ground in the mid-1700s, so the residents probably had other things on their minds than glaciers and ice ages.

10. Stone

Other stones, instead of being shaped by ice, show traces of the hot magma that formed them.

11. Turkey Tails

These young turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) grew on a piece of bark that had pulled away from the stump it grew on. They reminded me of the old song Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton, and I had it playing in my head for the rest of the hike.

12. Log

There is a very big old log lying beside the trail just before you reach the top and I usually stop here to catch my breath. When I did that this time I saw that the old log had become a nurse log, with a small cherry or black birch growing out of the hollow where a branch once grew. I should have tasted a twig; the taste of wintergreen would have meant it was a black birch (Betula lenta,) which is also called sweet birch, cherry birch, and mahogany birch. It’s an unusual place for a tree to grow and it’ll be interesting to watch.

13. View

I think, out of all the hills I climb, if I climbed them for the view I’d be disappointed about 80% of the time, but since I don’t really care what the view looks like I’m never disappointed. I climb more for the things I see along the trail than what I see from the top, and I see interesting things along the trail every single time I climb. Today’s view would have been among the 80% I’m afraid, with its harsh sunlight and flat blue sky. A deeper blue in the sky and some puffy white clouds would have made a beautiful view but you can’t have everything, and I need to stop and remind myself that I should be thankful that I can even make it up here. There was a time not that long ago when Mount Caesar might as well have been Mount Everest.

14. Monadnock

Mount Monadnock sat in a sun washed haze over in Jaffrey. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ At 3 165 feet Mount Monadnock is taller than any other feature in the region and is visible from nearly every surrounding town. It rises about 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I took this photo.

15. Turkey Vulture

A large bird soared above me on the thermals. I think it was a turkey vulture and I wondered for a moment if it thought I was a turkey. It seemed very interested and circled a couple of times before flying off.

16. Lean To

Someone built a lean-to near the summit sometime in the past. If they stayed up here at night I hope they had a good flashlight and an excellent sense of direction. The cliffs here are quite high and stumbling around up here in the dark would not be wise.

17. Erratic

There is a large glacial erratic that sits on top of Mount Caesar but for some reason I’ve never shown it in a blog post. It’s smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle but not by much. It sits on the granite bedrock where the glacier left it, simply too big and heavy to do anything with. It could have been drilled and split with feathers and wedges like the boulder we saw earlier in this post but that was a lot of work, and what would have been the point? Then you’d just have had to drag the resulting stone slabs all the way down the trail.

18. Mica

This erratic has a lot of mica and feldspar in it, which are minerals I’ve never seen anywhere else here on Mount Caesar. Maybe the glacier carried it from Gilsum to the north. There is plenty of both there. Of course the definition of a glacial erratic is “a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests” and this example seems to fit that definition perfectly.

19. Toadskin

I had to sit by my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) for a while and study them a bit, because the more I look the more I see. On this day they were very dry to the point of crispness, but were still beautiful. The smaller one on the right was pierced by a pine needle, so if you know the size of a pine needle that will tell you the size of the lichen. They aren’t very big; I think the biggest one I’ve seen was about the same diameter as a ping pong ball. I keep hoping to find them at lower elevations but so far the only place I’ve ever seen them is on hilltops. More sunshine? Cleaner air?  I don’t know what attracts them to only the high places.

20. Bluets

The only wildflowers I saw on this morning were bluets (Houstonia caerulea,) and that was okay. They’re beautiful little things but I’ve never seen such an even division in the white and blue on the petals. Usually they have more of one color or the other, and often the white makes a narrow band around the center and the blue colors most of the rest of the petal. I’d have to call these examples bicolor. They were a surprise, and a real treat to see.

Away from the tumult of motor and mill
I want to be care-free; I want to be still!
I’m weary of doing things; weary of words
I want to be one with the blossoms and birds.

~Edgar A. Guest

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Freezing Fog Morning

Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 50s F. Sunday, the weather people said, would be even better with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the 60s. In New Hampshire such predictions for a December day are enough to get people really excited, but unfortunately a fog rolled in overnight and at 10:30 am on Sunday our landscape still looked like the photo above.

2. Frosty Leaf

Not only had fog rolled in but cold as well, so this wasn’t just ordinary fog. No, this was freezing fog.

3. Frosted Twigs

Everything was coated in rime including the roads if you could believe the road watchers. I didn’t happen to see any icy roads but maybe I was just lucky.

4. Foggy View

I had planned the night before to show you a June day in December with sunshine, blue skies, and green grass, so I had to come up with a plan B. If there’s one thing you learn as a nature blogger it’s that you have to be flexible and take what nature gives. Make all the plans you want, but nature will do as nature pleases and you’ll either go along or be left out of the game. Anyhow, in a pinch I thought I’d climb one of our many hills to see if I could get above the fog. When I reached the bottom of Hewe’s Hill in Swanzey I was presented with the view in the photo above.

5. Frosted White Pine

This white pine (Pinus strobus) at the trail head really was white, but with frost.

6. Trail

The trail was wet but easily climbed. This is a quick, easy climb and that’s why I chose it. I was afraid the sun would come out and burn off all the mist before I could get up above it, which is exactly what happened when I tried this last year on Mount Caesar in Swanzey. It’s a bit of a letdown to climb as fast as you can only to finally reach the summit and huff and puff as you watch the last wisps of mist disappear before you can even turn your camera on.

7. Spider Web

I didn’t expect to see any spider webs because I thought any sensible spider would be doing whatever spiders do in the winter like maybe sleeping, but there were spider webs to be seen. They looked more like someone’s kite string had tangled in the bushes than the beautiful crotchet like spider webs you’d see in the corners of the Addams Family mansion but there they were; strings of ice.

8. Tree Skirt Moss

The trees wore long stockings made of tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates.)

9. Turkey Tail

Blue turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) decorated the logs and fallen branches.

10. Sun Patch

A slice of bright sunlight made me think that I had spent too much time dilly dallying along the trail and had once again lost my chance to get above the fog.

11. Sunshine

In fact my chances weren’t looking at all promising. The mist I saw from the top of Mount Caesar last year burned off quicker than I ever would have believed it could.

12. First Glimpse

But finally there it was, and this was the first glimpse. I had made it, but only just in time.

13. Mist

Is this what a forest fire looks like from above, I wondered?

14. Mist

The cloud was beautiful as it washed through the valley like a stream but silently, without even so much as a sigh.

15. The Edge

Careful, we don’t want to take the fast way down. It would most certainly be our last step.

16. Toadskin Lichen

I visited with my friends the toad skin lichens (Lasallia papulosa) while watching the mist roll on. They’re very shy and only grow on hilltops, but since I always lean on their rock when I come here I’ve gotten to know them well. They were being woken by the first rays of the sun and that made me wonder how much light a lichen needs. I know that they produce their own food through photosynthesis but beyond that I know very little about their light requirements.  I think this one is one of the most unusual and beautiful of our lichens.

17. Mist Breaking

All too soon the mist started to yield to the power of the sun and evaporate.

18. Mist Gone

And then it was gone, just like that, with nothing left but a soft haze, and I sat beside the toad skin lichens wondering about all of the people who had missed it. I wondered if they knew how peaceful it was up here, and I wondered how many knew that most of their troubles and fears would vanish like the mist had if they just spent more of their time in places like this one.

19. Smiley

I knew how the person who blazed the trees must have felt when he or she painted this smiley face because I had smiled myself all the way down the trail. And who wouldn’t, after such an interesting and beautiful morning?

20. After the Climb

This is the same view that appears in the 4th photo in this post just two hours later, so I am able to show you a June day in December with sunshine, blue skies, and green grass after all.

Glance into the world just as though time were gone: and everything crooked will become straight to you. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

 

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1. Field

Early last Sunday morning I set out to climb Hewes Hill is Swanzey, which takes you to Tippin Rock. I don’t know what I was thinking but I wore sneakers instead of my hiking boots and by the time I had  crossed the field to get to the trail head my feet were soaked from the heavy dew. One unusual thing about this photo is that there is a cloud in it. That’s been a rare sight around here this summer.

2. Frosted Clover

Dew wasn’t the only thing in the field. The red clovers saw their first frost of the season.

3. Frosted Clover Leaves

Each leaf was covered in ice crystals, but it wasn’t enough to harm them. By the time I had come back down the lone cloud had disappeared and the sun was full on the field, but there wasn’t a sign that anything had been damaged by frost.

4. Trail

The trail was shaded and much cooler than I expected. The steady climbing kept me plenty warm enough though.

5. Mossy Stump

Mossy stumps tell the logging history of this place but it’s still very hard to picture these hills barren of trees as most of them were a hundred years ago.  One very unusual thing about this particular piece of land is its lack of stone walls. I was looking for them but didn’t see a single one. I didn’t think it was possible.

6. Greater Whipwort

You have to look closely at those mossy stumps because not all that is green is moss. I saw several stumps covered with greater whipwort liverworts (Bazzania trilobata.) The trilobata part of the scientific name refers to the three tiny lobes at the bottom of each leaf. Though its common name includes the word greater this is a very small liverwort, but the fact that it grows in large colonies makes it easier to see.

7. Blaze

This trail is well blazed but many aren’t. I’m not sure that those who maintain trails understand how important blazing is, especially at this time of year. Though well-worn trails might seem obvious to those of us who follow them regularly, when the leaves fall they cover them-often to the point where they can’t be seen. Without blazes on the trees it’s very easy to lose your way in the fall and I’ve had several people tell me that they won’t go to one place or another because the trails are so poorly marked. I think that people who are unfamiliar with a trail should help blaze it, or at least have a say in where the blazes appear.

8. Face

Sometimes trail blazers get a little carried away, but not often.

9. Bent Tree

This tree started down a crooked path but finally decided to straighten up. Much like a few humans I know, I thought as I continued on up the trail.

10. Tippin Rock Sign

In the past when I’ve done a post about this place I’ve mentioned how “Captain Obvious” must have put this sign up, but I can’t get a good shot of both the sign and the rock it points to to prove it.

11. Tippin Rock

The sign is mere feet from this 40 ton glacial erratic boulder, which would be real hard to miss even in the dark. The boulder 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. Someday I’ll meet a group of younger people up there who’ll be frantic to make it tip.

Meanwhile though, I think I’ve finally solved a mystery about this rock that has bugged me for quite a while. A photo from circa 1900 show this face of the boulder covered with lichens, but as you can clearly see in the above photo there is hardly a lichen on it.

12. Old Photo of Tippin Rock

Here is the photo that I’m speaking of. This is the same face of the boulder as that seen in the previous photo and it’s covered with rock tripe lichens (Lasallia pustulata.) The mystery was, how did they all disappear in 100 years? Lichens don’t do that; there should be more of them, not fewer.

I’m not sure who the lady in the photo is but she illustrates very well how big this stone really is. I’d guess that it’s about 8-9 feet high, 18-20 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.

13. Wire Brush

Anyone who has worked in a park or a cemetery knows that the easiest way to remove lichens from stone without harming the stone is with a wire brush, and here is one tied to this tree just a few feet away from the boulder. Really, I wondered, someone has that much free time? I appreciate their efforts and I know their heart is in the right place but a naked rock looks a little out of place and unnatural when all the other rocks in the neighborhood are wearing lichens.

14. Rock Tripe

Rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) is a large green lichen that fades slightly and turns crisp like a potato chip when it dries out. It sticks itself to stone by way of a single, navel like attachment point. The rest of this lichen hangs from this central point and when wet enough feels like a cooked egg noodle. I can imagine that scrubbing them off stone with a wire brush would be challenging.

15. View

I came here early in the morning because last year I climbed in the afternoon to take photos of the fall foliage and I was disappointed that the bright sunlight didn’t let the colors come through very well. If you stand where I was standing when I took this photo the sun shines directly at you in the afternoon and the camera doesn’t seem to be able to cope with such blinding light, even if I underexpose. This morning light from the left is gentler on the eyes and colorful foliage should be much easier to see.

16. View

For now we’ll have to imagine the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. And if we’re real lucky a purple might appear here and there.

17. Rock Outcrop

There are some amazing outcrops of stone up here, with cliff faces so high and sheer that rock climbers come here to climb. The one pictured was small compared to the one the rock climbers use, and it was as big as a 2 story building.  That’s a full sized white pine tree standing there; I’d guess 50-75 years old.

18. Scattered Rock Posy

The rocks have lichens like this scattered rock posy (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) all over them. I was surprised to see the orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia) considering how dry it has been here. This is a small lichen that looks completely white or grayish unless you look closely.

19. Toadskin Lichen

I couldn’t come up here without stopping to say hello to my friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) They’re beautiful, interesting little lichens and I like to visit them when I can but they don’t make it easy; the only place I’ve ever seen one is on top of a hill. They are a cousin of the rocktripe lichens and the two often grow side by side. I think of them as rock tripe lichens with warts. They fasten themselves to the stone in the same way, and you can see the navel at the top center of this example. The tiny black dots are their spore producing structures (Apothecia) which they seem to have year round.

I don’t want to be the one who says life is beautiful. I want to be the one who feels it. ~Marty Rubin

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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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1. Path on Bedrock

Since I couldn’t remember the last time I had climbed Mount Caesar in Swanzey I thought it was probably time that I did. I had two objectives in mind: I wanted to see the toadskin lichens that grow on its summit, and I wanted to see the arrow that is carved into the granite on the summit, supposedly by Native Americans. It is said that it points the way to Mount Monadnock. In fact it is said that every hill in this area has an arrow on its summit which points to Monadnock. As you can see in the above photo, the trail starts out as granite bedrock covered by a thin layer of pine needles.

2. Blowdown

What soil there is here is a very thin layer on top of bedrock, as this blown down white pine shows. When it fell it took the soil in its root mass with it, revealing the granite underneath. It’s hard to believe that such a big tree would have a root system no more than 6 or 8 inches thick but this one did.

3. Fern Christmas Tree

A fellow hiker pointed out these small ferns growing on the underside of the blowdown’s rootball. “Christmas ferns in the shape of a Christmas tree,” he said. And so they were.

4. Fallen Tree

Yet another fallen tree had a tangle of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) vine in its topmost branches. This invasive vine climbs trees, strangling them on the way, to get to the most sunshine. Between their strangling habit and shading out a tree’s crown, the vines weaken the tree and it eventually falls, just like this cherry did.

5. Blue Gray Lichen

Blue is a tough color to find in nature especially in the world of fungi and lichens, so I was surprised when I saw several of these blue gray crustose examples on a stone beside the trail. Crustose lichens grow like a crust and usually can’t be removed without damage to the substrate. I haven’t been able to identify this one.

6. Running Club Moss

I don’t remember ever seeing running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) on Mt. Caesar but here was a large colony of it. This plant gets its name from the part that isn’t seen in this photo; a long, running stem (rhizome) under the leaves from which the upright parts that are seen here grow. Though this example had no fruiting members (called strobili), the spores that they produce were one collected, dried and used in photography as flash powder before flash bulbs were invented.

7. Teaberry

Teaberries (Gaultheria procumbens) grew right alongside the running clubmoss. If I had to go back as far as my memory could take me and search for the first plant that I ever got to know well, this one would have to be it. My grandmother called them checkerberries and loved the minty taste of the berries. She used to take me into the woods to find the plants when I was just a very young boy. While searching for the plants I would see other plants and ask her what they were, and that’s how my woodland education began. I’ve wanted to know the name of every plant that I see ever since. Teaberry is one of our native wintergreens and is also called American wintergreen.

 8. Bark Patterns on Red Maple

I wondered for a long time what caused these circular patterns in the bark of red maples until I finally found out that they are natural markings that the tree eventually outgrows.  I don’t see them often but every now and then a single tree will be marked in this way. Now I wonder why a certain tree will have them when all of the others around it don’t. If you know anything about it I’d love to hear from you.

Note: Thanks very much to Kathy Schillemat, Josh Fecteau and Al Stoops for identifying this unusual bark pattern as target canker that affects only red maples. The bark pattern is actually caused by the tree defending itself against the canker. Al also sent me an excellent article about how and why Michael Wojtech wrote the book Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. It’s very much worth a read and can be found by clicking on the word HERE.

 9. Branch Collar

There is a huge old log lying parallel to the trail that always tells me three things:
1. I am very close to the summit.
2. I’m not as young as I used to be.
3. It’s time to stop and pretend that I’ve seen something fascinating while catching my breath.

Only this time I really did see something fascinating; a perfect example of a branch collar. If you do any tree pruning you would do well to read all you can find about branch collars, because if you prune off a branch while ignoring the branch collar you could be slowing down the healing process and inviting any number of diseases to come and visit your trees.

10. View

It wasn’t a great day for looking at the views but it didn’t bother me because that wasn’t what I came here for. It seemed very hazy on this day but it was warm and spring like, so I couldn’t complain. I chose this photo because it shows one of the cliff edges found here. Since I fell out of a tree and shattered my spine in my early teen years heights and I haven’t been the best of friends, but I got close enough to this edge to make the fluttering butterflies in my stomach become soaring eagles. Doing so isn’t something I make a habit of.

 11. Toadskin Lichen

This is what I came to see; my old friends the toadskin lichens (Lasallia papulosa.) I’ve only found them in two places and both are on mountain tops. I was surprised to see their grayish color because that meant they were drying out, even after all the rain we’ve had. When wet they are pea green and very pliable, but apparently it doesn’t take them long to dry out and become crisp like a potato chip. I took many photos of them but I chose this one to show you because the lighter gray area shows how they attach their undersides to the stone at a central point, much like a belly button. That is why they are classified as umbilicate lichens. I like their warty-ness.

 12. Carving on Summit

I paced back and forth over every inch of exposed bedrock on the summit but I couldn’t find the arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock. Instead I found this, which I I’m not fond of seeing. Defacing mountain tops has been going on for a very long time but that doesn’t make it right. Even Henry David Thoreau complained about it when he climbed Mount Monadnock back in 1858 and found a name that had been chiseled into the granite in 1801. The date of this example looks like either 1936 or 1986.

I think the very bright sunshine might have had something to do with my not being able to see the arrow, but I know it exists because I’ve seen photos of it online. It really looks more like a “V” than an arrow. It wasn’t a total loss though because I found toadskin lichens growing in 2 more locations that I didn’t know about.

 13. Split Granite

I also found this while I was looking for the arrow. One of the ways stone was split in colonial New England was by drilling a row of holes in it and filling them with water in the winter. When the water froze and expanded it would split the stone along the path made by the holes. Such is the power of ice, and though man had nothing to do with it I’d guess that ice is why this large piece of granite originally split in two. Over the eons-how many is anyone’s guess-the part on the left has been sliding down the mountainside and one day, most likely with an earth shaking roar, it will probably go over the edge.

14. Sign

Well, in the end I did find an arrow pointing to Mount Monadnock but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I had to laugh though, because I’ll bet that I’ve walked by this 50 times without seeing it. So much for my great powers of observation. It’s good to be humbled once in a while when we get too big for our britches but that doesn’t stop me from hoping someone will write in and say that they just tacked it to that pine tree last week.

 15. Monadnock

In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering what the hubbub over Mount Monadnock is all about, here is a photo of it. At 3,165 feet it’s the highest point in southern New Hampshire and is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. The word Monadnock is thought to originate with the Native American Abenaki tribe and is said to mean “mountain that stands alone. “ It’s hard to get a good feel for its elevation from this photo but it is 2203 feet higher than where I stood when I clicked the shutter.

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. ~Ansel Adams

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