Green-up day

Our annual ritual.

Every year, since the children were small, we walk up River Road in early May, scanning the roadside brush for trash and debris as part of New Hampshire’s “Green-up day.” It’s a perfect time to do this – after the snow melts and before the undergrowth reappears. (Most importantly, before the poison ivy emerges.) Our kids were always eager participants, scampering down the roadside banks to fetch a soda can or a beer bottle, a cigarette pack or a shopping bag. It was a great lesson in the importance of community service, and the callous disregard of those who feel it is somehow appropriate to toss their fast-food bag and beer bottles into the roadside brush, perhaps imagining the river would wash it away. Today I ended up filling two large trash bags, of the special blue variety designated for this day; read on.

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First river outing

Time to get out on the river!

With the warm weather this weekend, it’s finally time to get back onto the river. I pulled out the kayak and headed downriver to the mouth of Hewes Brook. On a tiny island, inches above the level of the river, I found a Canada Goose guarding her nest.

Shortly downriver, another goose hesitated until I was near, then launched out of the water and into the air.

On that island, a bit bigger, is a beaver lodge dating back several years.

Is it still occupied? I’ll check again another day.

See the full-resolution gallery for more/better pictures.

Snow line

Winter and spring in one scene.

Early spring (late winter?) storms sometimes give one the opportunity to see the dramatic difference elevation makes. It rained yesterday afternoon, hard at times, for many hours. When I hiked up to the top of the Lyme Pinnacle this afternoon – it’s really just a grand hill, not really fair to call it a small mountain – I enjoyed the broad views into Vermont on the west and the hills of Lyme to the east. Most prominent, today, was the vast bulk of Smarts Mountain, with its level summit ridge and its fire tower rising above the trees – all coated in a fresh dusting of snow.

Smarts Mountain – dusted with snow – from the Lyme Pinnacle.
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Blowdowns and pools

Vernal pools appear.

My weekend wanderings through the woods near home allowed me more glimpses of the white-tailed deer living therein – emphasis on the white tail, because I only tend to spot them after they’ve chosen to bound away from me, white tail flashing and leaping through the trees until they fade into the distant brownness of the tree bark and leaf litter. Yesterday I saw them three times, though never with enough time to capture with a camera. Saturday I also saw a big ol’ turkey waddling off into the bushes.

Several of my favorite paths pass by vernal pools – intermittent shallow pools formed by spring rains and snowmelt, on deep-frozen ground not yet ready to absorb the moisture. Not much spring life there yet, but I’ll check again next week. (Last year these pools became active in May.)

So, photographically, all I have to share this week is another “new” thing along my path. It was very windy last week and this hemlock snapped off at the base. When a tree like this falls in the woods; do you think the deer hear it? 😉

The deer, turkey, and coyote

Lots of traffic in my patch of woods.

Yesterday afternoon I took another walk up the hill behind our home, to revisit the curious spot where a deer had met its end (discovered last week). As I climbed the hill, a family of wild turkeys slowly tried to sneak away – not easy now the snow has melted and the crisp, dry leaves of fall cover the forest floor. I noted they were heading uphill away from me, but toward the summit that I would soon reach by a looping path. As I neared the crest, two deer bounded away, flashing their white tails. One paused and turned, curious about me. I was able to approach much closer, allowing me time to capture photographs and video.

A deer paused, after initially running away, to let me take photos and video as I approached closer.
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Ducks and beavers

New arrivals and old friends.

A stroll along River Road, just upstream, brought me an opportunity to see some of the local regulars as well as some unusual migrants – all at the mouth of Grant Brook. Although the winter’s ice has just begun to recede, the critters moved in quickly. We saw some green-headed Mallard ducks, but also a pair of Mallards with vibrant blue heads:

Unusual blue-headed (Mallard?) ducks at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

Meanwhile, a beaver zipped by, then dove.

A beaver swims at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

See the full gallery for more photos of both.

Wandering the Lyme woods

I never quite know where I’ll go or what I’ll find.

Last weekend’s hike to Holts Ledge emphasized the end of winter/snow hiking, despite the spectacular powder snow I encountered on Kinsman Ridge two weeks ago. That change, coupled with area roads swallowed under a mud season of “biblical proportions”, led me to stay close to home for my hiking this weekend: literally out my back door. It’s a common mud-season opportunity for me, while the trails remain muddy in the mountains and the river is still shedding its winter ice. Today’s outing led to two interesting finds! Read on.

Continue reading “Wandering the Lyme woods”

Holts Ledge

What a difference a week makes.

A mere five days after I went snowshoeing through winter’s glorious powder in the Kinsman Range, I went hiking with two friends … in decidedly spring conditions. Granted, Holts Ledge is much lower (elevation ~1069′ rather than 4293′) but there was much more snow at the base of the Kinsmans than there was at the summit of Holts. This week’s rain and unseasonably warm weather (close to 60º during our hike) has turned the low-elevation trails into mud, and (no doubt) the higher elevation trails are packed ice.

Ken and Dave on Appalachian Trail, Holts Ledge. Photo by Tim Burdick.

This section (and other low-elevation sections) of the Appalachian Trail is now basically done for the season, and should be avoided until after mud season.

Holts Ledge cliff overlook (near the summit). Snow almost gone!

Ironically, the view above is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway… fewer than 100m from the top of the slopes. There, skiers were still happily skiing on spring-condition snow. At least there were some views, below.

David with Tim Burdick atop Holts Ledge on a late-winter day. Photo by Ken Kaliski.
A stream crossing on Holts Ledge, with plenty of meltwater.

Sigh, we haven’t even reached the spring equinox yet.

Ice out

Spring is here, like it or not.

Tuesday morning I saw the first spots of open water along the river as I drove into town. By Tuesday evening the river had opened up a channel down the center, near home. By Wednesday evening, below, the water was widely visible, the ice slowly dissipating and breaking up. I don’t have good records, but this sure feels early…

Smiles and skis

Fresh snow brings out the smiles in everyone.

Friday brought us a wonderful snowfall, 6″ of super-light fluffy powder. Then Saturday and Sunday brought us blue skies and moderate temperatures. Each day I drove out to the edge of town, where a generous landowner maintains (and grooms!) a vast network of cross-country ski trails. The beautiful weather and fresh conditions brought out many other skiers, eager to be back on snow after two weeks of warm weather and (gasp!) rain ruined the skiing. The sky was blue, the wind calm, and the sun glinted off the sharp edges of the fresh snowflakes coating every branch.

A brief puff of wind sprinkles snowflakes into a beam of sunlight.

This landowner (very generous!) even provides warming huts, with a woodstove and amenities like hot chocolate, at strategic points around the trail network.

One of the warming huts along the ski trails

The trails – and parking lot – were busier than I’ve ever seen them, with dozens of people out and about. They ranged the gamut – from young families with eager children, to middle-aged adults shuffling by on their classic skis, to athletic adults skating by at great speed. Everyone was in a cheerful mood, smiling and saying hello as they passed. The many dogs were friendly and excited. It’s all enough to remind you how wonderful winter can be.

Classic tracks on the left, skate tracks on the right.