Roaring Brook Falls

Roaring Brook Falls is another great piece of conservation land in Cheshire CT. Access is found at the end of a neighborhood on Roaring Brook Rd, which is off Mountain Rd. I visited the Roaring Brook property a couple of times, including the last at the end of September, before leaving for Louisiana. As is typical this time of year, the stream was very low when I visited . Oftentimes the cascading waterfall is quite impressive.

the remains of an old mill are on site

Brooke Memorial Preserve and Fresh Meadows Preserve

I have been visiting as many of the conservation properties in the area as possible. So yesterday after work I explored Brooke Memorial Preserve and Fresh Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Cheshire, CT. I took Kermit and my little point-and-shoot camera, which is less versatile, but more portable than my DSLR. 
The trail in Brooke Memorial is growing over and reminds me an old logging road, common throughout New England 
Kermit was happy to pose

A lone sugar maple tree is turning
The trails at Fresh Meadows cut through forest and shrubby meadows
There are many thickets of autumn olive on site, a highly invasive shrub with edible berries 

catalpa- invasive?

I spotted this very small deer about sixty meters in the woods. It was tough to get a halfway decent shot with the point-and-shoot.

Kill site?

Fresh Meadows borders the property of Edward Tufte, a famous statistician who taught at Yale. I had the chance to see him speak at the Foellinger Auditorium while at I was at the University of Illinois. His property has many large sculptures, one of which is visible from the east side of Fresh Meadows.

Quick trip to Sleeping Giant

I recently went for a short walk in Sleeping Giant State Park, up along some of the red and blue trails. 
The invasive insect hemlock woolly adelgid is wrecking havoc on hemlock trees in Sleeping Giant and throughout southern New England. The insect feeds on the stored starches in the tree, severely weakening it, usually resulting in death 4-6 years. In many ways the hemlock is a keystone species, that creates unique environmental and ecological conditions. Researchers are studying the factors that limit and control the spread of the insect, and why some trees are more susceptible than others. 

Kermit always enjoys exploring the woods!

A farm in the foothills of the Catskills

This past weekend I visited my best friend at his farm in Jefferson NY, a small town in the northern foothills of the Catskills. It is a beautiful piece of property (~100 acres) of open pasture land and forest. While I did not grow up on a farm, we did have chickens, which has since made me a bit of an egg-snob. As a kid and then at the University of New Hampshire I had the opportunity to work on two vegetable farms, which were great experiences.

It was interesting and exciting to visit my friend’s young farm. In a way he is bringing a very old farm back to life, the land has not been in agriculture for a few decades. Farming is certainly more than a job, it’s a way of life, and it seems to suit him perfectly.

The northeast is dotted with small farms, and their historical remnants. My grandparents grew up on farmland in New Hampshire which are now housing developments, but much of the historical agricultural land in New England converted back to forest when farmers headed to factory jobs in the city, or to better soil conditions in the Midwest. The property I grew up in Springfield NH was an old homestead. Besides the standard stonewalls found throughout the Northeast,  the stone foundation from the house, a stone slab where the barn was, and the old stone-lined well is all that remains. While wandering in the woods, my twin brother and I would occasionally find remnants of the old farm: such as gnarly old apple trees, metal wheel rims, and rusted-out steel buckets. [The photos below were taken by my wife.]

They have sheep, goats, chickens, and bees. 

A poem by Wendell Berry

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”
from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

The Green Mountain National Forest- Grout Pond

For the long weekend, I took Friday off and headed (with Kermit) to the Green Mountain Nation Forest, in Vermont. I have done very little hiking or exploring in the Green Mountains, so I was excited to check it out. Because of a minor injury in my foot, I did not want to do any strenuous backpacking or hiking, but I did not want to just car camp in a packed National Forest or state camp ground. Grout Pond Recreation Area seemed like the perfect fit for what I was looking for. A five-mile long trail circles Grout Pond, and within the first two miles there are several primitive camp sites along or near the pond. Additionally, there are several more miles of trails in the area around the pond. There is a small public access area to the pond, however, there is no boat launch, and motorized watercraft are not permitted.

The forest in this area is characterized by mixed hardwood and coniferous trees. To me, it seems like a semi-boreal forest, with some areas dense with fir, spruce, yellow birch, and the occasional mountain maple. Needless to say, it is very thick, and difficult to bushwhack through. However, we spent a significant amount of time exploring and bushwhacking off-trail.

Jewel weed (Impatiens capensis) is abundant along near shore and in the wet areas of the forest
Normally when I backpack I sleep under a tarp, but since it was not too far of a walk in, I chose to bring a tent, along with plenty of other items that I would not typically drag out on a real backpacking trip. 

Kermit was happy to rest after spending hours walking through the dense forest.
Some leaves are beginning to change 
I used a spruce twig bundle to start the fire. The first night it took me 2 matches (out of practice?), but only 1 the next day.

It’s always great to be out in the middle of the woods, by a fire at night. On nights like those, as I lay down by the fire, and stare up at the stars, a quiet calm settles over me, it is similar to the comfortable sensation one has after meditating.There is something ancient and primal about laying down by a fire and staring up at the stars. It’s an activity that connects us back to our ancient ancestors. Surely as long as humans and other related species have used fire, they have stared up into the cosmos, considering their place in the universe, and wondering what tomorrow will bring.The night sky in rural Vermont was incredible, as clear as the view is Springfield New Hampshire, where I grew up. I was able to see two comets streak across the sky, along with two satellites steadily float by. It was great!
Saturday morning I was up before sunrise, so Kermit and I headed down to the pond to see the calm morning water and watch the day begin.  

The first night and morning were pleasantly chilly (a low in the high 40s)
Kermit waited patiently as I explored the pond during sunrise
A view of the trail around Grout Pond, along a wet portion. 

On the second day, I walked the loop trail around the pond and explored along the shoreline. The trail cuts through several wetland patches, which is where I found this beautiful flower. I was taking photos to ID it, when this energetic bee stopped by!

Fantastic weather
A beautiful fungus 
Gold thread (Coptis groenlandica)

Some of the hobblebush, or moosewood, (Viburnum lantanoides) is beginning to change colors to an incredible deep-purple. 
Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) is one of the plants I never encountered while was in Illinois. Unlike many edible plants, indian cucumber root has a decent-tasting root. 
Indian pipe! Such a cool little plant
Great-looking shelf fungus on a dead beech tree
I found this beautiful spider while I was out collecting firewood. As you can sort of tell in the photo, I accidentally damaged its intricate web before I noticed it, when I was dragging a dead sapling I cut down.
Even if you’re only able to stop by for a day, I recommend checking out Grout Pond. I certainly hope to make another trip this fall, but with a canoe. 

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.

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.

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!

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