My last meeting ended early and there was some remaining daylight, so returned to the meadow where I saw a coyote yesterday morning. I knew it would be incredibly unlikely the coyote would be there again – perhaps ever, let alone when I happened to stop by. But I grabbed my camera and long lens and drove up to the site, parking before the road bent and the meadow was visible, then walking quietly up the road and into the crunchy leaf litter beside a crumbling stone wall. I waited.
I’ve never been a hunter, and don’t think I’ll ever have the patience to be one. I find it difficult to stand and do nothing, and yet stay alert, perhaps for minutes or for hours. And yet, as I leaned on the crusty bark of a sugar maple, enjoying the way the last rays of the mid-October sunshine made the yellows and golds and oranges of the nearby trees glow, I found myself tuning into the environment around me. A nearby rustle signaled a chipmunk scurrying under the stone wall and through the leaves to scrounge for acorns. The flash of a grey tail behind a tree – is that a coyote? – no, just a squirrel. The stare of a brown cow, far across the meadow in the adjacent pasture. The distant coo of an owl, far down the road. The clear rings of a Vermont village church bell from across the river, reminding all that it was 6pm and sun would set soon. Even the falling autumn leaves made noise, a quiet ‘click’ as they touched down on stones of the ancient wall.
No coyote today, but a worthwhile outing nonetheless.
The coyote stopped in his tracks, right in the middle of the meadow. His ears were on full alert, watching me closely from about fifty meters away. I had spotted him out of the corner of my eye as I drove a quiet road on the west side of Lyme, and quickly pulled to a stop. It being early on a Sunday morning, it was no problem to stop in the middle of the road and just stare back at him for a while. Although I was on my way out to do some photography, I had plans for landscape (waterfalls) and did not have any big glass with me. Curses! The coyote turned and trotted back to the edge of the woods, then paused to look again to see whether I might move along. I edged forward for a better look, and he moved further into the woods.
It’s not like I was going anywhere soon. After I stopped to watch the coyote, a family of wild turkey decided to cross the street in front of me. They were headed toward the coyote; it’s not clear whether either predator or prey were yet aware. Between them and beyond in the next meadow, a pasture full of sheep grazed peacefully as the morning fog began to rise. This coyote seemed to have several options for his breakfast, and it would have been fascinating to find out how all this ended. I had places to go and things to do, so I nudged the turkeys into motion and made a promise to return to stake out this location another day.
A longtime friend put out the call by email, earlier in the week. Saturday morning, bring your favorite hand tools, park in the big field behind the house. A dozen or more hardy souls turned up, wielding axes, loppers, pole saws, and more. The dogs played with a stick, chasing each other across the field and through the pond. The hardwoods were showing their true colors, on this warm but cloudy October morning.
We were here to brush a trail from the end of a gravel lane on the west side of Lyme, up through forests and former pastures and over century-old stone walls, to a pretty vista looking out into Vermont. This informal network of trails, criss-crossing low forest hills owned by a patchwork of landowners, is used by walkers, hikers, bikers, horse riders, hunters, skiers, and snowshoers – not to mention deer, coyote, and more. The trails are known only by word of mouth, a generous gift from the landowners to the community. Today, that grateful community turned out to return the favor.
After a round of introductions, with many explaining how their own land connects to this trail network, and how much they enjoy biking or skiing the trails year-round, we set off across the field and into the woods. It was mostly light work, clipping the saplings and brambles accumulated in recent years. The trail weaved its way up and down hillsides, in and out of hardwood and hemlock forests, as the conversation wove through stories of children growing up, grandchildren arriving, careers in transition, and news about neighbors in town. It was clear to me today as it was decades ago – the bonds made while doing physical labor alongside other people, building a community trail, build community bonds far beyond the trail itself.
As I carried my rowing shell down to the river side this morning, a warm October morning with the river so calm it looked like a mirror, and light wisps of fog clinging to the riverside trees, I tried to remember when Duck season was set to begin. I knew it was somewhere in the first week of October.
So it was not too surprising, as I sculled past the Wilder Wildlife Management Area, a half kilometer upriver, that a gunshot rang out. Close by! I looked toward the sound and saw a duck falling from the sky, and a puff of gunsmoke hovering over the wetland I knew was behind the row of riverside bushes. I paused, listened closely, and could hear the murmur of conversation a few hundred meters away, where the duck hunters were celebrating Opening Day.
Good thing I have a bright red shell and wear a bright red jersey when I row. Still, I think I’ll head downriver next time.
Months ago I planned to do some hiking in Franconia Notch with an old friend. When the day arrived, however, it was gray and drizzly, with all the summits deeply ensconced in clouds. So we avoided the trails to the high peaks and chose instead to hike up to one of the area’s hidden gems, Georgiana Falls.
With the fall colors beginning to emerge, and the leaves damp from the rain, it was a great opportunity to experiment with waterfall photography. My favorites are in this gallery, full resolution.
It was another pleasant fall day, with moderate temperatures and intermittent sunshine. I took the opportunity to hike with an old friend, Lelia, and to visit another old friend – the Appalachian Trail on the north side of Moose Mountain.
I remember spending many chilly afternoons in the fall of 1982, scrambling through the Hanover forest with other eager first-year undergraduate students, clearing a new route for the Trail on the steep slopes of Moose Mountain. I learned to fell trees, build sidehill cribbing, and build rock steps from huge boulders using nothing but rock bars, strong arms, and the seemingly limitless enthusiasm of 18-year olds. We were pleased to those steps have held up after nearly 40 years and thousands of thru-hikers.
Today was a beautiful fall day, with blue skies and a hint of oranges and reds scattered through the hardwood forests on the slopes of the White Mountains. I had a slow start to my morning but wanted to visit a new place, so I selected Hedgehog Mountain from the list of “52 with a view”. I’m surprised I’d never heard of it before, though it is located in the center of the Whites and is a close neighbor of some of the better-known four-thousand footers.
For my hike this weekend I decided to return to a peak I had not visited since the early 1980s – Mount Abraham, which is one of the five 4000-foot peaks in Vermont and one of only three Vermont peaks with an alpine-zone summit. My notion was to scramble up there in the morning and to stop by the Tunbridge World’s Fair on the way back, which would give me ample opportunities for lunch of both the healthy and unhealthy kind. Read on!
The Appalachian Trail passes right through the town of Lyme, where we live. It wanders through the forests, across the brooks, and over the hilly terrain of Moose Mountain, Holts Ledge, and Smarts Mountain. Last weekend I had a little time for two quick hikes along the A.T. On Saturday I scrambled up Lambert Ridge, a shoulder of Smarts Mountain, to a ledgy outcrop that has expansive views to the east. Along the way I listened to the acorns dropping from oak trees all around… and startled a chipmunk, holding one of those prized acorns in his little paws. After a brief standoff, he scampered away.
On Sunday, I returned to the area and climbed up to Holts Ledge, which has wide views to the south. Here, a chain-link fence keeps hikers away from the edge, not just for safety but to protect the endangered peregrine falcons who nest on the cliffs. This cliff is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway, allowing a nice loop hike by strolling down the grassy ski slopes.
The amazing thing is that both of these hikes are only 15-20 minute drive from my house, and can be completed in less than an hour of hike time, so they’re a great opportunity for a break from a busy weekend. See the small gallery.
On this holiday long weekend I did not want to jostle for a parking space at the popular hiking spots in the White Mountains, so I decided to head south to Mount Kearsarge. It is also very popular – too popular, as its worn, eroded trails will attest – but at least its broad, open summit allows the crowds to spread out. I was last up there in November, with a bit of early snow and ice visible; on that day I had foolishly typed “Mount Kearsarge” into my nav system and ended up on the far (southern) side of the mountain, in Rollins State Park – where the road climbs far up the southern ridge to a parking lot less than a half mile from the summit. So this time I was more careful, parking in Kearsarge State Park on the northwest side – allowing a 1.1 mile climb of the rocky Winslow Trail and descent via the 1.8 mile Barlow Trail.