My friend, Ann, and I spent today focused on points close to us, while those in the distance also drew our attention.
Our chosen trail to accomplish such, Mt. Willard in Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire. We began on the Avalon Trail and then turned onto the Mt. Willard Trail. I kept thinking I’d last travelled this way in the early spring, but now realize it was last November that my guy and I ventured forth on a Top Notch Mondate.
Ann had in her mind that there were several varieties of birch trees along the way. We did marvel at pastel colors revealed by the paper birch.
And the golden ribbony peeling of the yellow birch. But those were the only two birch species we saw over and over again. It had been a while since she’d last hiked here so the forest had changed.
The trail has also changed. Somewhere stuck in my memory (despite the fact that I hiked here ten months ago) is a fairly flat, graveled carriage path. Um . . . I truly think that was the case years ago, but perhaps funding means it’s no longer maintained like it once was and stormwater has washed the trail out.
The carriage road was built in 1845 by Thomas Crawford, owner and host of the Notch House in Crawford Notch. Daniel Webster and Henry David Thoreau reportedly slept there. Crawford wanted to provide his guests with an easy excursion to the summit of the mountain. Old culverts and stone diversions still mark the way.
One of the most predominant plants from beginning to end is the hobblebush shrub, so named because its horizontal growth pattern trips hikers, causing them to hobble through the woods. This shrub wows us in any season and right now it’s displaying its late summer colors.
On a few, we even found some fruit. I especially loved the new buds posed together like praying hands beneath the berries.
And leaf displays that led to vanishing points.
We chuckled to ourselves as others passed by, sweating in their efforts to reach the summit quickly. Our purpose–a slow and steady climb filled with opportunities to notice, like the funnels of water that dripped from rock to rock.
One of our favorite stops–Centennial Pool, where water mesmerized us as it cascaded over moss-covered rocks.
And a chipmunk darted about, surprising us with its close proximity–until we looked up and saw a couple with a dog. Perhaps we looked like we’d offer a safe haven.
We spent a lot of time wallowing in ferns because Ann has developed a keen interest in them this year. One of our fun finds was the narrow or northern beech fern, which portrayed its natural habit of dripping downward. We loved that we could ID this one by beginning with its winged attachment to the rachis or center stem.
Fungi also drew our attention. The mountain had been in the clouds as we approached, so it was no wonder that dew drops decorated this artist’s conk.
Among our fungi sightings–a false tinder conk.
And among my favorites–a fairy ring.
Though the flowers were few, we did spy some purple asters.
And then there were sculptures that caught our attention, like this paper birch artwork framed by moss-covered trees.
And a yellow birch offering its own message to the universe.
Some tree roots also begged to be noticed. So we did as we acknowledged the resident faeries.
At last we found my carriage road. Or at least something that slightly resembled it.
And then the tunnel.
And a glimpse of the world beyond.
Within seconds, without a drum roll, the jaw-dropping view of the Notch enveloped our focus.
As we ate lunch, another human-savvy critter came closer than is the norm–a red squirrel. We think he coveted Ann’s lunch–a peanut butter and blueberry sandwich with whole blueberries. Who wouldn’t?
Mountain summits in these parts often feature Mountain Ash trees. Today, I paid attention to the pattern, including the six finger splay of its leaflet.
And I couldn’t resist the contrast of color it offered against the mountain backdrop.
Though we didn’t see any Mountain Ash berries, each individual leaf presented its own point of view.
At the beginning of our hike and again at the summit, we kept hearing a helicopter. Mount Washington was obscured by cloud cover, but with her binoculars, Ann observed a helicopter with a litter. It seemed to follow the same route again and again.
Our hope was that it was practice over mission. We had no idea of the purpose.
At last we hiked down. One of the best parts about following the same path is that new stories await–when you can take the time to look up. And our pièce de résistance–an old snag. A beautiful old snag. Notice its vertical lines intersected by horizontal lines. We spent a long time studying and caressing this natural sculpture.
Though it appeared to be dead, life reigned.
I know my mentors will correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe this is Pholiota squarrosa, commonly known as the shaggy scalycap, the shaggy Pholiota, or the scaly Pholiota. Whatever you want to call it, it seemed to have its own vanishing point.
Much the same was true for the train tracks we crossed that head north toward Breton Woods.
And those that lead south from Crawford’s Notch.
Thanks to Ann for today’s hike into the vanishing point, a disappearance into the woods for a visual exploration.