Monday, February 28, 2011

Hedgehog Mountain, NH (snowshoe trek 2/26)

During early October 2009, I had seen some beautiful open ledges from an outlook near the summit of Mt. Passaconaway, in the Sandwich Range of the White Mountain National Forest. Despite being 1500' lower than Mt. Passaconaway, the Hedgehog ledges appeared to offer excellent views from a different perspective. Karin and I had been itching to do some snowshoeing up north this winter and this loop hike (below), at just under 5 miles, fit our itinerary nicely.

The drive, out of Lincoln, along the Kancamagus Highway was pretty, as always, a Pileated Woodpecker flew overhead perhaps giving a good omen, we soon arrived at the trailhead at 9:45 AM. Nine inches of newly fallen snow set the stage for pristine snowshoe, we chose to cover the UNH Trail, to Hedgehog Mtn., in a clockwise direction. The elevation gain along the early portion of the trip was modest and the wintery scene through the forest was all one could hope for. Early on, traveling through a stand of White Pines.

A unique looking Yellow Birch, perhaps it had grown beside another long since fallen comrade?
open views through the forest and glacial boulders.
About a mile and a half in was a nice vista, with views toward the northeast where Bear Mountain stood out. The sky was clear, but it was overcast to the north and a stiff wind was blowing out of the northwest. The forest provided shelter from the wind and a steady pace would keep us plenty warm, but it was unlikely we'd linger on the summit today.
Looking north east toward Bear Mountain, from the first vista on our clockwise route.
After about 2 miles, we reached the east ledges of Hedgehog and were afforded great views of Mt. Chocorua and the eastern Sandwich Range. Mount Chocorua and "the sisters" in the distance.
Zoomed in on the Chocorua from the east ledges.
Karin making way toward the ledges of Hedgehog Mtn.

I believe these are the Moat Mountains, just west of North Conway.

Mt. Passaconaway stands at just over 4000 feet, 1500 feet higher than Hedgehog's summit.

The summit of Hedgehog Mountain, from east ledges.

Along the ledges the trail was a bit difficult to follow, but with a little zigging and zagging we found our way, always keeping a cautious distance from the ledge face. The trail then dropped into the forest for a half mile before a steep climb to the summit.

Newly fallen snow atop previous snowshoe tracks leading through a hemlock stand.

These ferns, still green, were curled up and awaiting spring.
There was was a vigorous quarter mile climb, with a few steep scambles, before we made it to the summit. From atop, views to the north, east and south were enjoyed for a few mintues until that cold/stiff north west wind encouraged us to head down.

A pose with Chocorua in the background.

Looking North, hump-backed Mt. Carrigan is just to the right of center.

A closer "zoom" of Mt. Carrigan, Mt. Lowell is to the far right.
The view east to the Tripyramids, South, Middle and North...all 4,000 footers, but the south peak lacks 160' of prominence and therefore is not considered an "official" 4,000' peak.

The 2 mile trip back decending through the fresh powder was a joy, we made it back just after 2PM. The whole loop took just over 4 hours, including several quick stops to take pictures, enjoy scenry and make minor adjustments to clothing and gear. We had plenty of time to beat the ski crowd back to The Woodstock Inn for Pemi Ale and burger before heading south.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hairy Woodpecker Displays 2/10

Two female Hairy Woodpeckers were engaged in an early season territorial/mate "face off", a behavior described as "bill-waving" which usually takes place between birds of the same sex during a "conflict". There is an excellent writeup on this behavior in Donald Stokes' Bird Behavior (volume I) .
I had first heard their calls and noticed the two birds face to face about a 100 feet away and snapped a few digi-bin photos.

A photo through the binocular.

The scenario took place over several minutes so there was plenty of time to get the scope from the car, and take some digi-scope shots for a closer perspective.

The birds would alternate raising their heads ... the right bird...

...then the left...back and forth almost like a game of tennis...

...some wing spreading...

....the left hand bird on "the charge....

...then a retreat....

...its tail fanned a bit...

...and a "frozen" still-pose.
After about 15 minutes the both birds moved on, I am not sure who today's winner was, but likely the drama will continue.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snowshoeing Norcross to Elliot Hill 2/8

Elliot Hill on the Templeton/Royalston border, has been on my mind as a hawkwatch site for the past 15 years. However, I have never stepped foot atop the hill, let alone conducted a hawkwatch. Today I took the first step and made a 4 1/2 mile round trip snowshoe trek from Norcross Hill to Elliot Hill by following the edges of fields and bush whacking through the woods.

While driving up Norcross Hill Road I spotted ~45 Snow Buntings, perched in an apple tree near a backyard feeding station.

A digi-scope image of a portion of the approx. 45 Snow Buntings on Norcross Hill Road.

After a brief bush whack through a forested area, I snowshoed the edge of a large field were I flushed a dozen Wild Turkey. In all there were about 50 to 75 present, many flushing from high in the white pines once I was back in the woods. The "patterns" in the snow are all Wild Turkey tracks.

After another woodland bush whack I got a view of the farm house, across a field, a little way up Elliot Hill. The view toward Elliot Hill, its top (to the left) obscurred by falling snow.
The snow had a firm crust with 3-4" of newly fallen snow on top, most of the time the crust would support my weight. Without snowshoes, I would have sunk at least thigh deep in most places. The walk up Elliot Hill enjoyable as the tree line sheltered me from the stiff NW wind that was beginning to intensify.
The view back toward Church Hill.
A relatively new wind turbine near Narragansett Regional High School in Templeton (center), Wachusett Mountain is to the left.
Looking NE across the field.
A forlorn juniper and ominous clouds, atop of Elliot Hill

The view SE toward Wachusett Mountain, the steady snow was subsiding but snow squalls continued.
The view North toward Monadnock as wind gusts picked up.

Mt. Monadnock was obscurred by low clouds, but one can see its base near the center of the above photo.
The view from the hill top was excellent, with open viewing from the NW, NE and to the S, perfect for a fall hawkwatch! The farm (part of the Templeton Developement Center) at the bottom of the hill did recently graze cattle in the fields, I am not sure if they still do in the summer and fall months. After enjoying the a new "perscpective" of North Central Mass. scenery and a cup of hot tea, I made my way back.

Another view toward Elliot Hill on the way back, with better visibilty. I had followed the left (west) side of the field near the tree line on my way to and from the hill top.
Springtails (Collembola) were abundant on top of the snow in the forest.

Approaching the parking area on Norcross Hill.