Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Beaver Activity on the Lamprey River Floodplain

After exploring Rock Rimmon Hill on Tuesday, I took a quick detour before going home. There is a small parking area off from Route 87 in Epping, right next to its junction with Jacobs Well Road. The parking area meanders down next to a bridge over the Lamprey River. For years, I thought this parking area was for fisherman to use as a mini boat launch for canoes and kayaks. However, recently, I've noticed a small trail that runs parallel to the river when I drive by. Again, I figured this was just a small foot path for fisherman, but figured I would check it out anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually a path put in place and protected by Southeast Land Trust and the Lamprey River Watershed Association. 

 The Kiosk at the Parking Area

The Path

The kiosk at the parking area was pretty informative and gave some information about the ecosystem that took residence in this specific floodplain. There were two small, wooden boxes which looked like they held pamphlets or maps for visitors, but there were none there. I headed up the path and it seemed to follow the Lamprey River's winding banks. It wasn't long before I saw a ton of beaver activity. There were pointed tree stumps everywhere and there seemed to be many trees with fresh teeth marks. I'm not sure why, but I love finding beaver wood chips. I know they can be a nuisance, but I find these small creatures to be delightful. I've never run into one in nature before, but hope to someday. 

The Lamprey River from its Banks

One of the five stations...#2

Some Berries

Along the path, there were five station markers (marked 1-5) which I'm assuming went with the pamphlets or information that was originally provided at the kiosk. I can only imagine that this information explained the mechanics behind the floodplain terrain and possibly explained some of the vegetation in the area. I looked online for a bit to see if I could find an older PDF of what may have been supplied, but came up with nothing.

Beaver Activity

More Beaver Activity

Cool fungus growing from an old tree branch on the ground

Along the way, there were small pools of water that had frozen over, even though the river was running free. I was able to see a couple Eastern Bluebirds playing (not sure why they aren't south now!) and a few woodpeckers looking for a meal in some dead trees. I also noticed footprints over some slushy ice, most likely a chipmunk or squirrel I assume.

They Lamprey River from its Banks

Eastern Bluebird Playing

Finally, on my way out, I spotted some green near the path. These green leaves appeared to be a violet plant. I'm not sure why a plant like this is still green and seemingly, doing well in the colder weather.

An old beaver stump with scrub growing up it

What I believe are squirrel or chipmunk tracks

What I believe is a violet plant, still green in the cold weather

I thought this was really a cool little find. It was by no means a "hike", as the path was only 1/4 mile long at best. But there was a lot to notice, even in this winter month. I can only imagine how beautiful and vibrant this ecosystem is in the spring and summer months. I assume it is filled with wildflowers and birds. I will surely head back to check it out in April or May.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Exploring Rock Rimmon Hill - Kingston, NH

I’m on vacation this week and had some free time on Tuesday. I decided to stay in the seacoast region as I didn’t feel like a long drive up north. I headed over to the Danville-Kingston area to explore Rock Rimmon Hill which is located in New Hampshire’s Rock Rimmon State Forest. The hill is 345 feet at the summit and is a pretty steep drop off or cliff on the southern side. It can be accessed from both Kingston and Danville depending on where you are coming from.

Based on my findings, there is really minimal information out there on the short hike to this summit. The AMC Southern New Hampshire Trail Guide (2nd Ed.) has an outdated explanation on the trailhead description…and I’ve heard through the grapevine that they have removed it from AMC’s 3rd Edition all together, although, I cannot confirm this. A fellow VFTTer gave me pretty detailed directions on how to access this hill from the Kingston side, but also warned me that where you leave your vehicle is pretty susceptible to break-ins, so that way was out for me. I found on another blog a way to get to the trail network from Danville, so I opted to go that way!

I parked on the corner of where Emerald Drive and Opal Drive meet. At this corner, there is an old Jeep road that heads into the woods…you can’t miss it. Just as an aside, the USGS maps do not show this corner, as (I assume) the area was not developed at the time they were mapped out. It looks like Emerald Drive may have actually been an extension of the old Jeep road at one time.

Old Jeep Road at the corner of Emerald and Opal Drive

Since there is no good trail maps or trail descriptions of the area, I was pretty much winging how to get to the top. I knew I was in the right area, and if whatever way I chose to go ascended, I figured I must be going the right way. After heading down the Jeep road for about 50 feet, I hung a right. This trail was also wide enough to be an old Jeep road. I passed through some boulders blocking the road and soon saw a small swamp to left. The trail curved to the left, right after the swamp area and started to climb gently. I noticed while climbing, there was a foot trail that crossed the trail (or Jeep road) I was on. I figured I better stay in the direction I was headed and would explore this trail on my way back down.

Gate on the old Jeep road to the summit

 Small icicles forming on some rocks on the banking of the trail

Further up, I found an old gate that looked like it hadn’t been closed in years. I also found some recent deer rubs on some small trees off to the side. There was a lot of standing water that had frozen over higher up on the trail and I need to bushwhack to the side of the trail for much of the way. Soon, the trail turned to rocky slabs and the view opened up. The view to the south was very nice. Long Pond was easy to make out and I’m sure if it had been a clear day, I could have seen quite a ways further. I noticed right away that the area had been quite abused. There was broken glass and spray paint markings all over the ledge. There were also quite a few empty beer cans. I hate seeing such a nice place littered so badly.

Fresh buck rub on a small tree on the trail

 Walking onto the summit of Rock Rimmon Hill

View to the south, with Long Pond in the center through the trees

More views

After taking in the views, I headed over to the western part of the ledges where four fire tower foundation pillars were still securely in place. The foundation pillars still had the steel flange brackets that secured the legs of the old fire tower. The fire tower that stood here was in service from 1928 to 1982 and was removed in 1989. Below is an old photo of this tower standing on Rock Rimmon Hill and it was taken from FireLookOut.org.

 Rock Rimmon Fire Tower, 1928-1982, courtesy of FireLookOut.org

Old Fire Tower Location on the summit

Fire Tower Flange, still mounted to pillars

What I think is an old guide wire eyelet for the fire tower

On the west side of the fire tower location, I found what appeared to be a foot trail leading off the hill. It was steep and somewhat easy to make out for a bit. I soon came to a small rock cave where the trail appeared to end. I could not figure out for the life of me where it continued after exploring for a bit. I took a quick rest at the rock cave and heard an odd sound. It sounded like small rain drops on the fallen leaves just before a shower hits. But, there were no drops coming from the sky. I looked down and saw millions of snow fleas starting to migrate for the winter. It reminded me of the many winters I used to see these same types of snow fleas in my backwoods at my home in South Hampton while growing up. I observed the snow fleas for a bit and then headed back up to the summit.

 Small rock cave on the west side of the hill

Look closely...Snow fleas!!!

Back at the top, I headed north and back down the old Jeep road I ascended from. Around the old gate that I had passed on the way up, I noticed a foot trail, blazed in orange, to the left. I decided to take this path to see where it went. I continued down the hill, through a beech wood forest, and came to an area in the woods that looked awful. It had been ridiculously blazed with blue, orange and pink paint and flags. Now, I understand the need for trail blazes and boundary markers, but this was ridiculous. It completely took away the natural look of a beautiful forest. The foot path soon crossed the Jeep road, at the spot where I had noticed a trail crossing during my ascent.

A very ugly portion of the woods, blazes and flags everywhere...all different colors

 I finally came to the swamp that I had passed on the way up, but this time, it was on my left. It was a very nice maple swamp, frozen over with white ice. It had a small foot bridge which was a bit altered and disfigured due to previous winter’s ice movement. I really thought this spot was peaceful, but I’m really not sure why. Again, I think this area reminded me of the maple swamps behind my folks house, where I spent a lot of time, cutting wood and walking through the forest with my father. I snapped a few shots and continued on.

Nice looking maple swamp!

Bridge through the swamp

Finally, the trail dumped me off at the original old Jeep road, a bit further up than where I turned in at the beginning of my trek. I noticed that there was a trailhead sign which said Rock Rimmon Access Trail. I assume this is the “official” trailhead for Rock Rimmon Hill. At this point, I noticed some nice, old stone walls off to the side. I explored them a bit, snapped some shots and headed back out to where my truck was parked.

Rock Rimmon Access Trail Sign

Information regarding the trail and landowners

Some nice stone walls

All in all, I’m guessing I only covered a mile or two, but I had a fun time not really “knowing” where I was going. I felt a bit blind, but it made the exploration more enjoyable that way. I still had more of the afternoon ahead of me, so I decided to head to the Lamprey River Floodplain to check out some beaver activity. I’ll save that trip report for my next posting!


Monday, December 19, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life!

Lately, I find myself in a rush all the time. There always seems to be something that needs to be done. The mornings are hectic, filled with chores that my wife and I split up to get ourselves ready for work, the baby ready for daycare and simply get out of the house and on our way. Once on the highway, I struggle with the rat race. People are always going too fast or too slow for me, and are no doubt, mindlessly going to work as I am. Once in the office…well, there is no shortage of work to do. Meetings and daily fires make the time pass quite quickly and before I know it, I’m late for lunch!

Lunch has turned into a one hour period where I run errands. Today for instance, I had to go to the University to a buy an overpriced, used (pretty much falling apart) book for my upcoming Financial Management class. Getting there is a major struggle with traffic and lights, and takes three times as long as it should. Parking is an even bigger nightmare. Once I find a spot to sneak my full size truck into, I have to rush to the bookstore and back as quickly as possible so I won’t get a parking ticket. Once I am through with the bookstore, I head to the mall. Again, traffic, parking and lots of people push my buttons. I find what I’m looking for, but continue to stress out about getting the “perfect” Christmas presents for the ones I love.

Back at work, I continue the day with more meetings and yes, more fires to put out. I’m lucky to cross off one thing from my ongoing task list in a day. When I’m heading home, yes you guessed it, more traffic. The traffic has been worse as of lately due to the holidays. Once home, Jill and I get to work quickly doing our nightly chores to make sure Lylah is all set for the evening as well as the next day. One of us feeds her while the other cleans her bottles and prepares her lunch for the next day. Every other night, she gets a tubby (she loves tubbys) just before her nightly bottle. After her nightly bottle, we get her jammies on and settle down with a few books. As she’s getting older, she’s getting more playful and curious of the books, so it takes a bit longer before she is tired enough to be put down. On a good night, we’re done with our chores around 8:30pm. At this point, Jill and I can start focusing on what we need to do. Sometimes, it’s more work (I have conference calls with Asia on a regular basis). Lately, it’s present wrapping, checking addresses for Christmas cards and stuff of that nature.

Now, it may seem like I’m complaining here, but I promise, I’m not. I decided to write about this because I came to a realization today. On my way back from the University at lunch, pretty aggravated and annoyed at the traffic at that moment, I really questioned how my life became so hectic and stressful. In this life, I would be so happy if I could pack Jill and Lylah up, buy a house up in Jackson, NH, nestled in the beautiful White Mountains, and move up there. In that perfect world, I would I get a job doing something outside…maybe a New Hampshire Fish & Game Warden or do something for the U.S. Forest Service…low stress! Money wouldn’t be an issue because we would have each other and that is all that matters. We would be able to look at the mountains from our front porch and know that beauty is always around us. I dream of this often, especially when I’m in an aggravated state and the rat race has me all strung out. But, as that dream often does, it ends abruptly and I realize that it is nothing more than pipedream. I don’t believe I will be able to move us up there anytime soon. There are much more important things like making sure Lylah grows up in a loving home, in a bigger house (with siblings), has the privilege of a good school district, etc. to make sure happens. For now, my rat race is the best means I have of providing that for her.

So again, like I said, I’m absolutely not complaining. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life the other night. Like George Bailey, I will always want to live where my passion is. For him, it was exotic traveling...for me, it's the mountains. Of course, I wouldn’t give up the people in my life, ever, nor is anything worth that… I’d just take them all with me :). Ensuring that the people I love are well taken care of is well worth the price to not living up north. The next time I get stuck in the rat race commute (which will undoubtedly be tomorrow morning!!!), I will not get aggravated but instead think of how I have a Wonderful Life too! Sure, I don’t get to stand on a mountain top every day or go in search of wildlife on a regular basis, but I do get to come home to a raspberry blowing baby whose smile lights up the room. I get to curl up on the couch with the wifey and drink hot cocoa every night (you can’t put a price on that)! I don’t need the mountains for these precious moments.

Now, our latest plan is to possibly buy a small cottage or summer home in Jackson sometime in the future, hopefully the near future. We will work on adapting that into an all season home that Jill and I can retire to full time when all the kids have graduated. Until then, I’ll continue day hiking with Jill and soaking in as much of the outdoors as my busy schedule allows. I will continue to write about my passion for the mountains here, as an escape from the rat race when needed. As John Muir said, “Going to the Mountains Is Going Home”. For me, I hope that will be a permanent reality…someday!

In order to get through tough days at work, I have a few tools to help me. I thought I would share them with you. Here are some snapshots of my office! 

White Mountains maps on my wall! Great to plan out my adventures at lunch.

 My desk calendar that Jill made me last year which reminds me of all our great hikes so far!

 My White Mountains calendar, coincidentally has the Jackson Covered Bridge highlighted for December!

 The Old Man, hanging proudly on my office wall!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Cutting Down Trees!

Last weekend, Jill and I headed to Tonry Christmas Tree Farm to cut down the Christmas Tree that we had recently tagged. It was a Fraser Fir and perfectly shaped, in our humble opinion. It had plenty of room between each branch, which is what I like in a tree. It allows you to hang bulbs not only on the outside, but also the inside of the tree. I'm sure it looked a bit bare to most, but to us, we knew it would shape up to be the perfect tree!

I brought my own bow saw and it only took a few minutes to saw through the trunk. I forgot to yell timber and the tree literally almost fell on Jill while she was pulling the ribbon decorations off. Dragging it up to the netting station was the most laborious part of the day. I didn't realize it when we tagged the tree...but it was at the bottom of a big hill! That tree was pretty heavy by the time I got it to the top.

Once home, we set it up and admired it for a bit. It really smelled great. My goal this year was to make a more "old time" or "traditional" tree. One that looked like it came from a few generations prior. I got this idea from my good friends, Tim and Robin, over at Appalachia & Beyond. They did this last year, and I thought it was a great idea...so I recruited Jill to help me do it to our tree this year.

To accomplish this, we did a few things. Jill and I stayed up a few late nights (watching Rescue Me on DVD...great show BTW) and strung popcorn and cranberries. We utilized all of our antique Christmas bulbs, which I have my Mom to thank for. She started collected them for me when I was just a kid and today, I have so many antique bulbs, we can't even fit all of them on the tree. And to top it all off was the star. You see, when I was very young, my Dad brought me down cellar one Christmas season and said, "we're going to make the star for the tree"! He pulled out an old cardboard box, drew a star and cut it out with scissors. He then proceeded to wrap it in tin foil, of all things. When he set the star up on the tree, I remember thinking that it was the biggest, shiniest tree top I had ever seen. He told me that they used the same kind of star when he was a kid as well. I've duplicated my father's star and have topped our tree with it too.

I'm really happy with this tree. It is definitely my favorite Christmas Tree to date. It is the first tree that Jill and I (and Lylah) went out and walked around a field to pick out. We used to just stop on the side of the road and pick one quickly. I feel like we have more of a vested interest in this particular tree for that reason. This is also the first Christmas Tree that my beautiful daughter has been able to set her eyes on. She really loves looking at the bulbs and lights with curiosity. Most of all, I really love how we approached the decorations. I look at the tree everyday and it reminds me of simpler times. When people didn't need to buy expensive decorations to make a wonderful tree and have a good Christmas...yes, that's my favorite part! It's the same feeling I get when I head north, to the mountains!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble

I hope everyone has a safe, happy and fun Thanksgiving! Eat lots of food and relax a bit!

Below, are a couple turkeys I saw this past April on the Moat Mountain Trail, near the trailhead on Passaconaway Road. I hope they fared well this Thanksgiving and did not end up on a dinner table!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Walking Among Some Trees...Christmas Trees!

Jill and I brought Lylah for a walk through some trees recently. Christmas Trees that is! We typically get a tree from the side of the road and always seem to pay too much for it. This year, we decided to put that money into a tree that we can actually fresh cut ourselves. We decided on Tonry Farm in Hampton Falls to locate the Searl Family Christmas Tree.

Tonry Farm

When you pull in, you drive down this long driveway and it drops you off at a farm with fields full of Christmas Trees all around it. We were given a map and told that the types of trees were fairly mixed throughout the fields and we would have to identify the species of trees ourselves in order to know what we were tagging.

 Eastern Bluebird!

Eastern Bluebird again!

We walked for what seemed to be a mile, in and out of the different rows. It seemed every “good” tree had been tagged by previous customers. I was amazed at the different shapes and sizes of all these trees. I always assumed these tree farms trimmed the trees to be the perfect, full cone shape. However, on this tree farm, it looked like they allowed them to grow into a natural shape, which I liked. I’m a big fan of “Charlie Brown” Christmas Trees. I like crazy branches and holes to hang large ornaments.

 Behold...The Searl Family Christmas Tree!

Our Tag!

There were many trees that I liked, but Jill didn’t and visa versa, until we came to the perfect tree for us. It was traditionally shaped like cone but also has some irregularity to it too. It had really sturdy branches for heavy ornaments and was just tall enough for our living room. I’m fairly certain it is a Fraser Fir. It was the perfect Searl Family Christmas Tree. Jill decorated it by putting a large “S” at the top and some festive ribbon.

Jill's "S" on the top of the tree
Our decorated tree in the field!

It was really a fun day at the tree farm. We got a little bit of exercise in as well as spent some time outside. We even encountered some wildlife as an Eastern Bluebird followed us around the farm for a while. I can’t wait to get this tree home. We plan on cutting it down this weekend coming up. This year, we’re going to string popcorn and cranberries in an attempt to create and old fashion looking tree. I’ll be sure to post some pictures of it once it is up and lit!