Sunday, August 24, 2014

Boulder Knoll

This afternoon I took Kermit and my 60mm macro-lens for a walk at the Boulder Knoll conservation area in Cheshire CT, which is less than five miles my parents’ house. While I am staying in CT, I am making an effort to appreciate and explore the local natural areas, primarily by visiting conservation easements and state parks.  

For being a relatively small town, Cheshire has a surprisingly large amount of land set aside in various types of conservation easements, state parks, or other open-space arrangements  (click here for a map).

Boulder Knoll has one main path that cuts through the property. It follows along a power transmission line, through some patches of wetland (mostly phragmites and cattail), and herbaceous open areas (characterized by plants you would expect in a disturbed setting such as this- ragweed, golden rod, autumn olive etc.).  I spent about three hours along the short path, exploring and photographing some of the flora. The conservation area, which actually consists of three farm properties has an interesting history (to read about it and for a map click here).

An up-close shot of a black walnut leaf

There is a lot of golden rod on site (Solidago canadensis). It was fun (and difficult!) trying to photograph the bees floating from flower to flower. 

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata) and an unknown bee species

A shot of some of the open area. In the foreground the golden rod (mixed in with ragweed) is obvious. In the background, a large patch of Phragmites australis is visible

Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

The invasive shrub, autumn olive
The sedge Carex vulpinoidea

Kermit always enjoys getting out

I found this unknown sedge- can anyone out there in the interwebs tell me what it is? (globe sedge?)
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)

A type of joe pye weed

Some sort of lobelia?
Common dog bane (Apocynum cannabinum)

A species of Polygonum
Soft stem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani)
I convinced Kermit to pose on top of the log horse jump (“stay!”), which is found along the main path through the property.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sleeping Giant State Park

Early yesterday I went back to Sleeping Giant with Kermit. We went up the Blue Trail again, this time I found it to much quicker and easier for Kermit (and myself!), since we both have had some time to get back into hiking shape. I brought my little point-and-shoot field camera, however, the battery was low and died just after I took this one photo. It was a beautiful morning, with a clear sky and empty trails.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Basin

Before heading out of the White Mountains, I made sure to stop at The Basin. It's right off Highway 93, very accessible (a short flat path, paved part of the way), and worth a visit. Kermit, the silly dog, tried to jump in!

Monday, July 14, 2014

East Pond

The following day Kermit and I went up the East Pond Trail to East Pond. The trail is off Tripoli Rd, near the Sandwich Wilderness/Waterville Valley area of the Whites. As part of my undergrad research project with the Hubbard Brook REU, I sampled this pond back in June 2009. Steve Smith of the Mountain Wanderer, has a great blog post about the history of East Pond, which at one point was mined for diatomaceous earth.

The water was chilly and refreshing, perfect for swimming, despite the leeches

East Pond has a beautiful bluish-green tinge

We explored and relaxed by the shoreline for a few hours

The East Pond outlet stream

Kermit really enjoyed hanging out by the pond

One of the plants I've missed seeing, hobble bush!

I asked someone to take a photo of me, they only took one, and I blinked! Too bad, because otherwise it's a nice photo of us. 
Kermit waited very patiently as I photographed the East Pond outlet stream in different exposures.

Patiently waiting

Trees and moss growing over large glacial boulders is a common site in New England

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mount Lafayette

Kermit and I on the way up Mt. Lafayette

Kermit needed several breaks along the way! 

As part of my vacation, I headed to the White Mountain National Forest in NH, with Kermit for a few days. For Kermit's first real hike, we went up Mt. Lafayette (5,249 ft). Lafayette is the highest peak in the Whites outside of the presidential range. It was a good test for him, and for not having much hiking conditioning, he did a great job. Living in Illinois for a few years killed my hiking legs, so I think we were both a bit sore the next day.

Eagle Lake, along the side of Lafayatte

The Greenleaf AMC hut

It was a bit windy and chilly (as expected) in the krumholtz and alpine areas

I took this photo off Bear Notch Road, heading to the Kancamagus. Bear Notch Road cuts through Bartlett Experimental Forest, where I did a great deal of field while working at a lab as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire. There are several of cutoffs along the road, with great vistas like this. Occasionally we would get to eat lunch at one, while en route to another study plot in the forest. 
When I stepped out onto the first ledge with a vista, I found the enormity of the view to be a little overwhelming. While living in Illinois for almost three years, I did not forget what the Whites looked like, but seeing them up close and personal is much different experience.

The view from the Greenleaf AMC Hut. You can see the summits of Lafayette, Lincoln, and Little Haystack.

One of the great views along the Bridle Path

Another vista off the Bridle Path

(looking south) The Old Bridle Path follows the ridge line up Mt. Lafayette. Interstate 93 is visible.
The Old Bridle Path, a very rocky and steep trail, typical of the White Mountains
One of the tough spots on the trail for Kermit, slippery and sharp rocks. He did great though!
Kermit was happy to rest on my lap for a few minutes on the way down
Dinner was cooked using my homemade cat food can stove.
It feels nice, albeit a bit odd to once again be driving on the curvy forested roads of New England, after a few years of driving on the straight roads in the wide-open landscape of Illinois. But I will miss the under-appreciated beauty of Illinois. One of my favorite things about Illinois is the large open sky, it's beautiful, and it can be quite incredible to witness thunderstorms in such a spacious landscape.

That night we car-camped off the Kancamagus, at the National Forest Hancock Campground. I opted not to back-pack this trip, since Kermit is still getting used to hiking mountains (but really...both of us need better conditioning!). We fell asleep to the pleasant rush of the Pemigewasset River.