Monday, June 17, 2013

6-15-13 Ammonoosuc Ravine, Lakes of the Clouds, Mt. Washington, Alpine Flowers, Lapland Rosebay.

A few Red Trillium (Trillium erectum L.; the larger, symmetrical plants with three leaves) at the trail head of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail a little worse for wear after several days of harsh weather including a lot of rain. They blossomed well before my birthday, closer to the first of June, and earlier than I predicted. On my last trip in April (4-27-13), six weeks ago, there was still snow on the ground where these plants are. Blossoming happens quickly and early in these cooler mountain regions that are prone to sudden frosts.

I repeat this photo frequently whenever I hike the Ammonooscuc Ravine Trail, or "Ammy" as it's affectionately called. The photo is from the bottom of the trail. The Ammy is 98 years old this year. It was officially opened as an AMC trail in September 1915 by Charles Blood, Nat Goodrich, Nat's brother, and a fourth man, who spent three days "standardizing" it. They used Lakes of the Clouds as their base. The first recorded use of Ammonoosuc Ravine as a means of descent from Mt. Washington was in 1742 by a small British militia unit that had climbed the eastern flank of the mountain as training. It had gotten very cold while they were on the summit and they retreated down Ammonoosuc Ravine. It was used by many others on a regular basis, including botanist William Oakes in the early 1800s,  and referred to as "The escape glen" as it was a good, fast way off the ridge when the weather turned for the worst. It's purely conjecture what the exact route was in earlier periods of time. Nat and Charles must have followed it to some extent as they adjusted the trail for regular foot traffic.

Saturday was a lovely day; a little brisk with wind and temperatures on the summit in the low 30s, but there were lots of people on the trail.

The Ammy itself. I'm not sure of the amount in inches but an enormous amount of rain has fallen on the White Mountains in the past month or so and the river was still pretty high even though all of the snow in the ravine has melted.

Things to come. The lance shaped leaves are Clintonia borealis which will bloom in a few weeks and the cruciform plant, with four leaves, is bunch berry, or Cornus canadensis, a member of the dogwood family. It will bloom soon with its bright, snow-white petals followed later by a bright red berry.

This is the bottom of an old slide track that came down off of Mt. Monroe in the late 1970s and is filling back in nicely. I have photos of the raw track, right after the slide and will insert one in here as a comparison (when I find it).

Another couple thrilled to be hiking on such a beautiful day. I wonder sometimes if those of you who read this blog wonder why I put so many photos of people in the blog. I do it for a couple of reasons. One is because I like the photos. Catching people informally brings out something in them. They're relaxed, present, and without defenses. A second reason is I want to show that we're inseparable from nature: that we're literally from nature and are best when we're close to it, in it, surrounded, enjoying the raw, simple beauty of nature.

Residual damage remaining from the massive snow avalanche that tore down through here in late January 2010. Many of the trees that were bent down are still producing leaves. 

Lizzie balancing on a tree that the avalanche plucked right out of the ground roots and all.

Looking up the avalanche track towards the headwall of Amonoosuc Ravine and the summit.

A couple starting up the steep section of the trail just above Gem Pool. The grinning, other handsome guy behind them in the photo is Arran Dinsdorf who is the Hutmaster at Lakes of the Clouds hut for the 2013 summer season. Those who read the blog regularly will recognize him from past summers. It was good to see Arran. His dad worked in the hut system in the early 1980s and was the assistant hutmaster in 1982. His mum, Nancy Ritger, is the director of the AMC's stellar Naturalist Program.

A threesome enjoying the warm sunshine.....

and a hiker with her shy golden retriever.

The first good view from the trail at Second Crossing looking out over the Dartmouth-Mitten Range, Cherry Mountain (Mt. Martha) and towards northern Vermont and Quebec.

Liz at 24. This was our first hike together in 7 months as she's been traveling and climbing in Central and South America and came home briefly to help celebrate my birthday.

The cataract above Second Crossing looking up at the top of the Amonoosuc Ravine headwall.

Another lovely section of the trail close to the tree line.

La Summit!

Some of the 2013 Lakes Crew. Arran is missing in the photo, and I think one other person. Regrettably I only know the names of two people in the photo (so far and I apologize). In the center is Emily Leich who I've known for several years as her dad is a good friend of mine (and worked at Lakes in 1969). To the right of Emily in the dark blue pullover, is Sarah, the Hut Naturalist. Interestingly, Emily's grandfather, Harold Leich, also worked in the huts and during the summer of 1932 worked under Sal Pagliuca building Galehead Hut. Harold wrote a wonderful. hilarious story about working at Camp 22, one of the logging camps in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, back in 1928 when he was in college. The story was printed in the June 1961 Appalachia (p. 375) and it's very amusing as well as instructive about life in a lumber camp during the Great Depression.

I want to congratulate the Lakes crew for putting up this sign. It's brilliant! I hope hikers heed it.

Then it's off to Monroe Flats to look at alpine plants. Looking back at Lakes with Mt. Jefferson catching a bit of sun in the background.

This small tarn just off the Crawford Path is a measure of the large amount of rainfall recently.

One of the "lawns" around Lakes of the Clouds.  If you enlarge the photo you can see clusters of bright white Diapensia, magenta Lapland Rosebay, and Alpine Azalea.

Close up of Lapland Rosebay, Rhodendron lapponicum.

Lapland Rosebay budding.

Diapensia and Rosebay nearly overlapping. The flowers of the Diapensia are about 1/4 inch / 6 mm in diameter to give you an idea about scale. The rosebay flower heads are 2-3 inches in diameter. The rosebay and azalea are both in the Heath family.

Diapensia lapponica It is everywhere: across the broad lawns, on the summit of Mt. Munroe, growing from "cushions" of compact stems and leaves. It is a remnant of the arctic as well as an alpine. Fred Steele used to say the cushions conserved heat to help the plant survive.

Alpine Azalea, Loiseleuria procumbus, which is tiny. Here and there you can see leaves for Potentila tridentata pushing up through the Azalea leaves. They're noticeable because the top edge of each leaf has three little teeth in it--thus the Latin name. Azalea, Lapland Rosebay, and Labrador Tea are all arctic and alpine members of the Heath family, or, in Latin, Ericacea, and members of the sub-family Rhododendron. If you look carefully at the leaves in the photos of rosebay and the labrador tea you will see the resemblance to leaves of the ornamental flowering rhododendrons grown around houses and parks.

There was a brisk wind, gusting to 10-15 mph, and the temperature was hovering in the upper 30s so it was not a good day to stand around looking at flowers. But the wind, the clouds, and the light were lovely and it was great just to be there. Monroe Flats, the upper portion is in the foreground in the shadows. Even though you can see a remnant of the old Crawford Path where it used to cross the flats the area encompassing the flats is restricted to everyone as the plants growing there are extremely small, vulnerable and some are rare.

We spent an hour looking for the "station" of the dwarf cinquefoil, Potentila Robbinsiana, Oakes, without locating it. Sarah, the Hut Naturalist, reassured me saying that it had bloomed on June 1st and was still at its regular location. The plants are "very small and inconspicous", as one guide book says, with a circumference about 2-3 cm, or 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

Potentilla L. is in the Rose Family and there are about 30 representatives mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. The "L." after the name means Linnaeus originally classified it. Cinquefoil is the colloquial name, meaning "five-fingers". In the name Potentilla Robbinsiana, Oakes, the Oakes stands for William Oakes (of Oakes Gulf fame), a legendary botanist of the early 1800s (he did in 1848) who spent summer after summer on or near Mt. Washington and "discovered" the rare and tiny plant that he named Robbinsiana after his good friend Dr. James Robbins, also a botantist. Oakes and Robbins were friends with the younger Edward Tuckerman, another famous botanist, that Tuckerman Ravine was named after.

The top of the Oakes Gulf headwall and Boott Spur. If you refer back to a blog entry on 4-27-13 you can get an idea of what this area between the hut and Oakes Gulf looks like under spring snow.

Looking south towards the Moats and the Sandwich Range.


The 39 Steps.

Goldthread, Coptis groenlandica.

Long beech fern, Thelypteris Phegopteris. It's identified by the two lowest pinna, or leaflets, point down and out at a 45 degree angle, almost like a tail.

Just above Gem Pool. At this point as you're descending you can hear the cataract that plunges into Gem Pool with the most delicious sound when you're hot and still have another 1 1/4 mile to go!

Close to the bottom. A gorgeous day!