Mount Major Spring Break Excursion

Over my spring break, I went (finally) on a spring hike up to a false summit of Mount Major in New Hampshire. Itching to get outside, I was able to convince a friend to join me on a quick three hour hike up and down the mountain. While the ice kept us from reaching the peak safely, we were able to enjoy some time in the woods, and all the while I talked his ear off about all that I’ve been learning in this class, (ie. what the type of tree we were looking at was, what trees do best going up the gradient, and we even spotted a woodpecker within feet of the trail, which I took a video of and have posted below). Additionally, we heard the calls of crows and chickadees near the base of the mountain.

Truthfully, I was unsure and unable to identify many of the species I spotted on this trip up the mountain. There were quite a few cedar and beech near the base of the mountain, though as we went up the incline, my ability to identify the plants and tree species dropped dramatically. I noticed some pine near the false summit, as well as some paper and yellow birch, but required some research to learn the rest. The alpine and sub-alpine species include mountain ash, cotton grass, sheep laurel, mountain sandwort, and the mountain cranberry. Lower elevations of Mount Major are covered in northern hardwood forest species, and the middle elevations show plenty of stands of red spruce.

As opposed to my sit-spot in Vermont, this was a drastically different environment. A mountain landscape yields far different ecosystems than a floodplain does. And I found it quite interesting to hike while paying attention not to my own exercise, but rather to the area around me, while taking mental notes of differences in this ecosystem than mine here. This area was dry, rocky, and with a far less intense and thick understory than the floodplain, and with a lot more that I couldn’t identify than a Vermont forest. Being only a state away, I assumed I would have little to no difficulty applying my knowledge to New Hampshire, but it amazed me and challenged me to realize how much I have yet to learn. Looking forward, it was a welcome eye-opener, and a clear sign that I just might have to take dendrology in the coming semesters.

Another visit (plus some research)

After some research, I would classify my phenology spot as a Silver Maple-Sensitive Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest. According to Wetland, Woodland, Wildland, these forests occur in the floodplains of rivers. In these forests, silver maple is the dominant tree, but green ash and (what was called though I couldn’t identify) “swamp white oak” may be present. It was also noted that soils are moist, typically mottled, silty alluvium. Most of the trees in my spot are silver maple, with a few cottonwoods and green ash trees spread sporadically through. Additionally, sensitive fern grows around, which is another key matching characteristic noted in the reading. This spot characteristically is a stomping ground for otter, mink, muskrat, and beaver, and the mink and muskrat I found tracks of during my last visit. It was also noted that there are plenty of birds that can be identified as inhabitants of this spot, though truthfully, I can’t identify many birds by their call, so this wasn’t much of a factor in my classification. I do remember a frog that I found on a fallen tree in the fall, and I was reminded of this moment I had with him/her when I read that amphibians are common in these types of spots.

Since my last visit, the snowmelt has caused my sight to be wetter than it was the last time I saw it, and in the cold winter months it feels grayer than I remember it. There’s something about the cold that sucks the color out of life, and as I took some time in my spot, I grew more and more excited to see it all in fresh in the spring. However, not much has changed. Luckily, my tree is still standing, growing almost paler with time, but hasn’t cracked completely. And after checking BioFinder to learn more about where I’ve been visiting this past semester, I felt a sort of pride in my spot. My spot is home to high priority connectivity blocks, interior forest blocks, and surface water and riparian areas. Additionally, it is a class 2 wetland, exemplary surface waters, rare and uncommon animal species, and uncommon palustrine natural communities. I was surprised to know that there was so much going on in an area I’ve spent so much time in that I haven’t had any clue of until just now. I was also happy to know that I’m, in a sense, checking up regularly on an area with so many important natural treasures that need protection. I feel as though after all this time, I’m gaining such a fondness and appreciation for this land that I would be willing to go the extra mile for its protection if something were to happen that would put the Intervale at risk. It’s becoming not only a way for the furthering of my ecological knowledge, but it’s becoming a piece of my heart and my college story. I’m realizing that, while Dr. Kimmerer spoke in depth about just this, that the best way to preservation is to get people to carry about the land. I grow more passionate about my major with each visit to my sit spot.

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