Mount Lafayette

Kermit and I on the way up Mt. Lafayette

Kermit needed several breaks along the way! 

As part of my vacation, I headed to the White Mountain National Forest in NH, with Kermit for a few days. For Kermit’s first real hike, we went up Mt. Lafayette (5,249 ft). Lafayette is the highest peak in the Whites outside of the presidential range. It was a good test for him, and for not having much hiking conditioning, he did a great job. Living in Illinois for a few years killed my hiking legs, so I think we were both a bit sore the next day.

Eagle Lake, along the side of Lafayatte

The Greenleaf AMC hut

It was a bit windy and chilly (as expected) in the krumholtz and alpine areas
I took this photo off Bear Notch Road, heading to the Kancamagus. Bear Notch Road cuts through Bartlett Experimental Forest, where I did a great deal of field while working at a lab as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire. There are several of cutoffs along the road, with great vistas like this. Occasionally we would get to eat lunch at one, while en route to another study plot in the forest. 

When I stepped out onto the first ledge with a vista, I found the enormity of the view to be a little overwhelming. While living in Illinois for almost three years, I did not forget what the Whites looked like, but seeing them up close and personal is much different experience.

The view from the Greenleaf AMC Hut. You can see the summits of Lafayette, Lincoln, and Little Haystack.
One of the great views along the Bridle Path

Another vista off the Bridle Path
(looking south) The Old Bridle Path follows the ridge line up Mt. Lafayette. Interstate 93 is visible.
The Old Bridle Path, a very rocky and steep trail, typical of the White Mountains
One of the tough spots on the trail for Kermit, slippery and sharp rocks. He did great though!
Kermit was happy to rest on my lap for a few minutes on the way down
Dinner was cooked using my homemade cat food can stove.

It feels nice, albeit a bit odd to once again be driving on the curvy forested roads of New England, after a few years of driving on the straight roads in the wide-open landscape of Illinois. But I will miss the under-appreciated beauty of Illinois. One of my favorite things about Illinois is the large open sky, it’s beautiful, and it can be quite incredible to witness thunderstorms in such a spacious landscape.

That night we car-camped off the Kancamagus, at the National Forest Hancock Campground. I opted not to back-pack this trip, since Kermit is still getting used to hiking mountains (but really…both of us need better conditioning!). We fell asleep to the pleasant rush of the Pemigewasset River.

Another hike through Sleeping Giant State Park w/Kermit

Kermit and I were back at Sleeping Giant the next day, and we went up the blue square trail, which is considered the most difficult trail in the park. The steep and rocky path reminded me of a typical trail in the white mountains. The views along this hike really surprised me, I did not realize how beautiful Connecticut is, apparently there is a fair amount of open space and conservation land in the state. 

This hike was a good test for Kermit before heading to the White Mountain National Forest.

More exposed rock along the trail. 
The trail follows the ridge line along the right. 

Giving Kermit a rest on the way up, and admiring the view. 

Kermit never experienced a slope like this in Illinois!

There are some nice vistas on the way up. 

Lots of exposed rock on the trail

This plaque is off the tower trail
The blue square trail 

Sleeping Giant State Park

Our first weekend back in New England, I hiked in Sleeping Giant State Park, in CT. We took the tower trail for a little bit, but it felt like I was just walking up a gravel road, so I explored some side trails en route to the stone tower.  
Me and Kermit on one of the side trails (green?) heading to the tower

The sloped cavernous corridors leading to the top are interesting

The stone tower was built by the WPA in 1936
There are some beautiful views from the top

Forest Glen Preserve with Kermit

A few weeks ago I went for a day hike at the Forest Glen Preserve, in east-central Illinois. It is one of the nicest natural areas in that region, with beech-maple and oak-hickory forests. Beech occurs here, on the western edge of its range. It was great getting to see beech trees again, it reminds me of the northeast. Beech-bark-disease (BBD) does not occur out there yet, so there are some very beautiful, large and healthy trees. 
One of my favorite sights in northeastern forests– sunlight streaming through beech leaves

Kermit liked laying in the creek. 

Kermit was afraid of walking all the way to the top of the Fire Tower, so some Boy Scouts at the bottom watched him for me while I quickly checked out the view. 
This photo is very grainy, because I took it with my cell phone. This was taken from the top of the fire tower in Forest Glen. 

Wetland field work in Southern Illinois

Here are some photos from field work this summer in Illinois, with the Matthews Lab, at the University of Illinois. 

Mitigation bank in Franklin County, Illinois. 

Dusk at a mitigation bank in Franklin County Illinois

One of the several box turtles I found this spring and summer

Juvenile spring peeper at a wetland mitigation site in Saline County

Really impressive-looking spider protecting its egg sac, climbing on a silver maple. At a wetland mitigation site in Saline County (Illinois).

Heading out at dusk, just before a storm rolled in. 

Hyla versicolor: the eastern gray treefrog

During the spring and summer this year I was conducting frog call surveys as a part of my graduate research. I found this little juvenile gray tree frog at a mitigation wetland in Whiteside County around 11:00 pm at the end of July. Gray treefrogs have a very distinct call, check it out here. There are actually two species of gray treefrogs in Illinois- the eastern gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) and Cope’s gray treefrog. However, they are morphologically identical, and can be very difficult to distinguish in the field. Read more about the two species here.  

The beautiful cicada!

A few days ago I was laying on the hammock reading, and I found this cicada in the process of molting and   emerging from its nymph stage. About a meter from the hammock I have a stake in the ground with some cord attached to it, which we use to swing on the hammock. My dog, Kermit, usually stares up into the trees watching the squirrels (perhaps waiting for one to fall?) but he was instead staring at the stake in the ground, indeed, he noticed the odd protrusion near the top of the stake before I did. 
The cicada didn’t appear to be moving at all, leading me to believe that it was actually dead. I was a little saddened but this, but also glad that I was at least fortunate enough to see part of this amazing process. However, the next morning when I went to mow the backyard, I immediately noticed the cicada was no longer on the stake. This didn’t surprise me, I thought it was likely that something would find it and eat it during the night. But to my shock, I found it alive and well on the ground, a few feet away from the stake. Its wings were fully out and it was moving. I snapped a few photos and carefully placed it on one of the large silver maples in our yard, before cutting the grass. 

Day two:

I am not completely sure what species it is, so if you have some ideas please comment below. I think it might be a Tibicen tibicen,but I am not positive.  
We live in an older neighborhood in Champaign, so there are more cicadas around than in the newer subdivisions, where the top soil has been disturbed and removed. When we first arrived at the end of July in 2011, one of the 13 year broods had just emerged, and the cacophony of cicada singing was deafening, but beautiful. From what I have read online, different broods from various 3-5 year cicada species emerge each summer in Illinois. I enjoy and welcome the sound of the cicada song at night, it makes me feel less like I live in the middle of an urban area, and strangely enough, but perhaps for that reason, it reminds me of New Hampshire. As far as I know, there are no cicada species in NH. In rural New Hampshire, the primary sound from my bedroom window was the wind passing through the forest, rustling the leaves and causing trees to creak. 
Listening to the cicadas as I type this post, while I reminisce about NH, I am reminded of one my favorite poems: 

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

I am still around!

I have neglected this blog for some time now, since I moved to Illinois in August of 2011 (with Jacqui! Who moved out here with me, and I am very grateful to her for doing so!) for graduate school at the University of Illinois. I have a great deal of back-photos and things to share and explore about life in the Midwest and central Illinois (the pancake-flat corn desert!), so check back again very soon! Thanks!

On a transect at a wetland mitigation site in Ogle County Illinois along the Rock River.
Check out the huge amaranth!