Moosilauke

Spring conditions!

Although I’d already been up Moosilauke twice this winter, in late November and early January, I could not wait to get up there again before the season ends. I always enjoy visiting in late winter when the snowpack is incredibly deep, yet the valleys are starting to experience spring. So I’ve been watching the weather for the past two weeks and, finally, today offered me fantastic weather and an open calendar. I jumped at the chance. Read on, and check out the gallery.

David on the summit by 9:20am, in conditions warm enough for short sleeves.
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Spring equinox

Spring is here in the valley.

Today is the vernal equinox – the spring equinox – when the length of day and night are equal (equi = equal, nox = night). Actually, “They are not exactly equal, … due to the angular size of the Sun, atmospheric refraction, and the rapidly changing duration of the length of day that occurs at most latitudes around the equinoxes” [Wikipedia]. Here in New Hampshire, Sunrise was at 6:51am, Sunset at 7:01pm.

For those who welcome the arrival of spring, today is when we are adding more minutes of sun per day than at any other time. We’re on the steep part of the curve! This is great news for our solar tracker, which put in a banner effort today under nearly clear skies, with a total production of 45.57kWh:

Technically, the equinox is “the instant of time when the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the geometric center of the Sun’s disk” [Wikipedia]. This year, that occurred at 0937 UTC, or 5:37am here in Lyme, which happens to be about when I got up this morning.

Interestingly, it has long been noted this is the “day when the Sun rises due east and sets due west, and indeed this happens on the day closest to the astronomically defined event.” [Wikipedia again].

On cue, the Connecticut River decided it is also ice-out day – the day the winter’s ice breaks up and the river begins to visibly flow. I’m pleased to see open water, because it means that bald eagle might be seen more often in our neighborhood once again, now that it has an opportunity to fish.

ice-out on the Connecticut River, in front of our house

The forecast shows nothing but clear skies, warm days (50-60º) and cool nights (20-30º). Great weather for sugaring! More on that to come…

Snowflakes

Snowflake photography is hard.

It’s snowing lightly this morning, quite a change from the 50-degree sunny weather that has worn hard on the snowbanks this past week. It’s a welcome opportunity to pretty-up the view of the nearby hillsides and to coat the dirty old snow in a fresh coat of white.

I recently read a New York Times article about the amazing snowflake photographs produced as a hobby by Nathan Myhrvold, a retired Microsoft executive, like the one below.

Image copyright Nathan Myhrvold, from the New York Times.

I decided to dash outside and give it a quick try. Needless to say, my attempts – photographed in about five minutes using a handheld Nikon camera and a routine lens, of flakes freshly fallen onto a microfiber cloth – are not even worthwhile saving. Myhrvold’s work has taken years of experimentation, custom-designed equipment, travel to remote locations, and incredible persistence. It’s beautiful work, and I highly recommend a scroll through the photos in the article.

Who knew microfiber cloths have such texture?

Mount Roberts

What a difference a week makes!

It’s Thursday, and that means it is time for another outing. I was constrained today by a need to be home in time for a meeting at noon, so I selected one of the New Hampshire “52 with a view” peaks that is new to me and yet not too-far of a drive: Mount Roberts. It turns out to be a great destination… and the conditions were radically different than last week. Read on…

The summit of Mount Roberts includes grand views of the White Mountains, including Mount Washington in the center distance.
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Woodpeckers

They keep busy!

Despite the winter season there are plenty of birds around here – chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, crows, ravens, owls, and even a bald eagle. The woodpeckers are still here too, and keep quite busy. One of the most impressive woodpecker projects is a pine tree I pass often on my walk through the local woods. It’s impressively deep, and hints at a tree that may be rotten at the core.

Welch & Dickey

A perfect day for these two popular peaks.

One never hears of anyone climbing Mount Welch, or Dickey, or Dickey & Welch. It’s always Welch & Dickey. These twin mountains are a popular pair of small peaks in central New Hampshire, on the south edge of the White Mountains. Part of their popularity is the loop trail that goes over both peaks, making a far more interesting hike than the usual out-and-back route one might use to approach a single peak. Today, a brilliant late-winter day, Andy and I followed the classic route and enjoyed perfect trail conditions, blue skies, and crystal-clear views. Read on and check out the photo gallery!

Mount Dickey (left) and Mount Welch, White Mountains of NH.
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Al Merrill Loop

A quiet, snowy day for a snowshoe.

As I rounded the corner on the broad turn east of Orfordville I could see that the summit of Mount Moosilauke was in the clouds, consistent with the mountain forecast. The NH summit forecast was for clouds, plummeting temperature, and hurricane-force winds, so I’d chosen instead to snowshoe the Al Merrill ski loop on the east side of Mount Moosilauke. It turned out to be an excellent choice – with plenty of untracked powder and not another soul in sight. Read on and be sure to check out the gallery for full-size images and more.

Ridge trail, upper bridge over the Baker River.
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Mt. Pemigewasset

A gorgeous day for a hike.

Andy and I climbed little Mt. Pemigewasset this morning, striding up a well-beaten path to the granite outcrops that provide grand views to the south and some between-trees peeks at the high peaks of the Franconia Range. There was a fluffy inch of fresh powder on top of last week’s crust, and another foot or two of older powder below the crust. As long as we stayed on the beaten path, our footing was fine (with microspikes)… but whenever we stepped off the path, we broke through the crust and sank to our knees. And step off we did! because we passed hikers by the dozens (my guess is 80-100 people) on this popular two-mile trail. A Sunday with bright sunshine and warm temps (20ºF), on a short easy trail to a spot with grand views, is bound to draw the crowds. Indeed, we were lucky to even find a parking space at the base.

David and Andy on Mt. Pemigewasset, Franconia Notch, NH.

There are a few more photos in the gallery. Compare with my visit to Pemigewasset last August.

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 1h50
Gain: 2552′

Icy soap bubbles

Not easy!

Inspired by a photograph I found online, I’ve experimented with soap bubbles in freezing conditions… they can turn to ice and persist quite a while. It’s harder than it looks! Here is my best early attempt – check the gallery for a slo-mo video too.

Soap bubble in freezing conditions.

I made bubble solution with water, Dawn dish soap, and an extra dose of glycerin for resilience. I found a fat straw and used it to blow bubbles directly onto a surface of snow – here, the railing of the deck. This photo is with my iPhone; last week I tried some with the Nikon D500 but, for now, I’m still learning the mechanics… blow a bubble, quickly set down the straw, pickup the camera, get into position, and snap a few shots before the bubble bursts. Repeat many times!

I need to find a better location – out of the wind, with a less-busy background, and where I can stand but not have myself (or the camera) reflected in the bubble.

Last week I tried this in colder temperatures (6ºF) and some bubbles would freeze (turn to ice) and stick around for 10 minutes or more, like those below.

Soap bubble in freezing conditions.

Coyote party

A graphic reminder of the circle of life.

This weekend I woke in the middle of the night to a loud party just up the river. It was clearly a pack of coyotes, howling and yipping excitedly, and continued for perhaps ten minutes. Clearly, something big had happened in the coyote world! So the next day, as I was driving down the road, I looked out across the ice and saw what I expected: a large group of crows picking at a deer carcass, whatever was left after the coyotes had had their fill. Today, there was little left (below, and two more photos here). No scavengers were out there today, so I presume all the edible parts are gone.

Deer carcass out on the river ice – killed by coyotes and picked clean by many scavengers.

The site was perhaps 10 meters out from shore, right in front of one of my neighbor’s houses. She happened to be out shoveling snow as I walked by today. “Yesterday was a pretty dramatic scene,” she said, “as various scavengers competed for access to the remains. Murders and murders of crows* came by; even the local bald eagle tried to elbow his way in for a piece of the action.” She said she had snowshoed out onto the ice for a closer look; I chose to stay on shore and use my 500mm lens to snap my photos.

* yes, a “murder of crows” is the collective noun for a group of crows. [Wikipedia]