Last sortie into the White Mountains at the magical Lost River Gorge and Caves easy access reserve. Roots make impossible overground journeys to provide trees with grounding and nutrients, water cascades down tunnels to erupt in beautiful waterfalls, boulders conceal caves, crevasses.
Boulder Loop Trail, White Mountains
Boulder Loop Trail, White Mountains
Lichen and Boulders
Following the easy Sabbaday Falls Trail yesterday, I took myself to the more challenging Boulder Loop Trail today. Four miles, four hours approximately, a massive climb, and an equally steep downhill.
The glaciers receded here 17,000 years ago, leaving huge boulders behind them. Right at the beginning of the trail, some specimens could already be seen, covered in enormous peeling lichen. I’ve never seen this type before. Another interesting phenomenon was the ”rotten rock”, or “grus” , the result of heavy erosion of granites.
Trees find all kinds of ways to live with the rocks
I kept learning: birch is the tree with the beautiful barks you can make paper out of and use for different crafts. Beech trees have smooth trunks. Spruce needles, as different from hemlock’s, cover the whole branch whorl-wise, making them easy to identify. In addition, hemlock’s needles are flat and grow along the sides of the twigs. On the underside, they are supposed to have a white stripe. It is hard to see them, though, as the trees are very tall and there are no branches on the lower part of the trunks.
Mature hemlocks can reach a 1000 years in age; they attain maturity at the age of 300… Wondrous Beings. As big as they get, hemlocks still have shallow roots. They need coolness and humidity, and are capable of creating microclimates around themselves, thanks to their dense canopy and a deep duff layer. When small, they grow in the shade of other trees.
There were also huge oaks here with amazing leaves, strange mushrooms (see pics), strange lichen, and in the animal kingdom – plump, happy chipmunks and turkeys. On the way down, we saw three large turkeys strutting, taking their time… Again I missed the chance to take their picture.
In Israel, we only have two types of pine and one type of cypress – both introductions from Europe… Our natural forests are mostly oaks and pistachios, Arbutus (Ktalav), as well as fig, olive, carob, etc. Unfortunately, over the centuries, a lot was cut down. Local wood was used to fuel Ottoman steam trains, as well as for cooking and other uses of the local population. There’s a lot for me, therefore, to learn about authentic conifer forests.
Finding Company and Getting Lost - The Ledges
Right at the start of the trail, I saw two ladies in their late thirties, who just about started the climb as well. Unsurprisingly they took off much faster. At some point when they took a rest, I caught up with them, and we started chatting. They lived in southern NH and came here for a day trip. They both had two children each. It was nice to have them for company, also for safety.
Even though they knew the basic contour of the trail, we still got lost at one point. Being the only one to have a trail map, I was of help. From the map it was clear we took an alternative path at one point, that could have led us astray. The map also showed 15 numbered spots of interest. I love these interpreted trail maps. You learn so much, and they give you a good idea of where you are.
The blunder happened when we got to the “Ledges”, a spectacular area with grand views of the various White Mountains peaks, including Osceola, and the rivers below. To get there, we had to take off the main trail into a side one with other trails branching off it, and then re-find it.
No matter how little soil has grabbed on to a rock, a tree will figure out how to root there:
And the vistas….
Mushrooms, Tribal Chiefs and Responsible Conservation
For clarification – I’ll never learn the names of all these mushrooms. Am not even trying. My interest is in the incredible variety, all these amazing shapes and forms, the proliferous creativity Nature invested in this group.
From the Boulder Loop Trail, White Mountains booklet, I also learned that Native American chiefs’ names, Kancamagus and Passaconaway, were eternalized here. They actually settled in the area only in the 1600s, whereas the Europeans showed up in the 1700s… I’m sure there was human presence here previously as well, but the booklet did not give this information.
The good news here and elsewhere is that once the government purchases land to create a National Forest and logging stops, Nature does resuscitate itself nicely. This is now called “responsible conservation”. What it means is that “harvesting” of trees still goes on, but under the supervision of biologists, with the goal of maintaining forest health and wildlife habitat. There was also information about the construction and maintenance of the trails. “The stone staircase and water bars help to protect from the damaging effects of erosion… by directing water off of the trail.” The stones were excavated by hand locally in a labor intensive process.
We made it down eventually. These are the farewell pictures.
A Taste of Mexico
The women told me I could get up Mount Washington by van for $35. I wanted to do it right away, but it started raining and was already late. I went instead to Jalisco, a superb Mexican restaurant in North Conway, and had fajitas, Spanish rice, guacamole, beans and corn tortillas. Flour tortillas are an abomination in my opinion, and I never miss an opportunity to get the real thing. That was one of the best restaurants I went to during that trip, for sure. Unfortunately, it was located in one of these characterless commercial centers…
I felt a little bit for the Mexican waitress as she served groups of white blonde kids and gangs of rough large white men. She seemed pressed and out of her comfort zone. I know how Mexicans feel. I lived there…
Reading “Don’t Call Me a Racist” at Jalisco, North Conway, as I eat this wonderful meal. Just looking at that feast, even now, makes me salivate. Ah…Good Mexican food…
The next day I went to Greeley Ponds. The weather was a challenge, and even horizontals are not really flat…