Monday, May 25, 2009

Pawtuckaway

The long weekend culminated in a hike at the nearby Pawtuckaway State Park with friends and dogs. This 5,500 acre park has something for everyone. We always venture farther into the more remote areas to get away from the most popular spots. The Pawtuckaway Mountains within the park form a "ring-dike," the remains of an ancient volcano. The Park harbors a high diversity of rare plants and unique plant communities, a result of its geologic history and the resulting underlying bedrock, which yields lots of magnesium, iron, calcium, and other minerals.

Today we follow our usual route, starting with the hike into Round Pond. The first good swimming hole for the dogs. From there we hike along a wetland edge, where a few winters ago we spotted a bobcat hunting during the day. Today we watch several turkey vultures take flight from rocks and trees on the opposite shore. They join others soaring, a total of twelve circling overhead.
The trail leads through a boulder field; one of the largest aggregations of large boulders in the world. The boulders were plucked from the nearby mountains and dropped here by the last glacier. It is a hugely popular rock climbing spot, particularly for beginners.

The trail to North Mountain, our destination, starts its ascent just past the boulder field and climbs along the edge of a massive rock outcrop. A pair of ravens calls more raucously than usual; one adult is perched in a tree near the rock face. We spot the nest tucked into a rock ledge, by all the whitewash splattering the rock below. Four very large raven nestlings sit on a loosely formed stick nest, peer out from the crevice, and call to their parents. They look bigger than their parents and more than ready to take flight. The nest is seen in the middle of this photo.
As we continue to climb the narrow path up to North Ridge we pass blooming pink lady's slippers, rocks covered in polypody ferns (Polypodium vulgare) and rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata), and wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). One particular plant was set against some mountaintop graffiti.

We reach the highest point in our county, at 1,101 feet atop North Mountain. The view gives one the sense of a vast region of undeveloped land below, when in fact, Rockingham County is one of the more densely populated regions of the state. We look across the ring-dike to North Ridge.

Our route continues along North Ridge before we descend and follow a long loop back to Round Pond. Along the way we take note of the rich diversity of plants and a few animals.

A "lawn" of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)

Chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) seedling

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) drapped in flowers

An unusual clump of Solomon's seal (Polygonatum commutatum)

A pickerel frog (Rana palustris) far from water

Back at Round Pond the dogs slake their thirst.
We rest our feet.
Bella brings home some Ossipee mucky peat.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the nice summary of Pawtuckaway. I discovered the fire tower while exploring back roads many years ago. The ranger on duty directed me to the "most extensive field of large boulders in the world" and pointed out the "volcanic rim. I wasn't certain whether I should believe him or not, but I often bring visitors there and repeat the story.

    I am pleased that your research uncovered the same story. I guess geologists have confirmed it.

    The Pawtuckaway boulders make a great outing within a relatively short drive.

    jak, Nashua NH

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