Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30, 2011

Thursday night's snow was just a prelude to what Lake Wicwas and the rest of the northeast received on Saturday night.  A strong nor'easter coming up the coast dumped from 10 to 20 inches of October snow on New Hampshire, with amounts of around 15 inches in the lakes region.  The amount collecting varied greatly over a very short distance depending on the surface temperature of the ground.  On our road it ranged from 1" of wet snow where the ground was still warm, to 12" of dry snow where it was more open and cold. 

It was a very disorienting sight, with deep snow covering yellow leaves around open water, and the flowers still blooming.

The storm set records just about everywhere, and allowed my first-ever skiing in the month of October.  I was able to complete my favorite short loop with no problem at all.  (Although I did have to use my special cyan wax that works on leaves!)
Skiing in October!
On my circuit I found fresh animal tracks everywhere - a sign that the wildlife is still very active and working to build up their winter stores.  There were deer tracks all over the fields and the woods, fox tracks in the denser woods, and even some otter tracks near the water.  The new snow also provided an unusual background for the bright maple leaves that continued to fall on top of the fresh blanket.

The only animals I actually saw were ducks on the lake, including a group of eight, which I think are ringed neck ducks.

On our walk up to see what's new at Child's Park, we saw an interesting phenomenon on the front yard of the Meredith Center Fire Station:  dark leaves soaking up the heat of sun and melting their way down to find their proper resting place on the ground.
Meredith Center Fire Station

At the part itself, the new building is now completely sided and the electricity and plumbing are coming along.
Child's Parl

The best news of the day, however, is that we, unlike about half of the people in the state of New Hampshire, didn't lose our power.  High scores to the Electric Coop!
October 30, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28, 2011

Lake Wicwas experienced a quick transition from fall to winter yesterday; or maybe it was just that winter encroached on fall.  There was a decent little snow storm last night, although with the warm water in the lake, it didn't amount near the lake.  It was quite interesting to see rather heavy snow just a short distance from the lake, but very little near the shore.  The difference was very evident in the morning, as there was snow on the still-yellow trees in the distance, but nothing close to the lake.  It is clear evidence of the micro-climate around even small lakes, which is much greater around the larger lakes, and shows why vineyards are planted on the hills around water.
With the cold night, in fact the first night cold enough for a killing frost, we had the first ice forming on the lake in the protected marshes with open exposure to allow radiational cooling.

But the geese haven't decided that summer is over; they are still hanging around (as is our immature loon, although its parents seem to have left for warmer climes).

It sure is unusual to see snow on the leaves.  I can't wait to see what Sunday brings, with another forecast for October snow!  (On another note, the Cardinals just won the World Series.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23, 2011

Fall hasn't completely abandoned the Lakes Region, but it's getting closer every week.  There is still nice color in the trees, but it's mostly yellows on  the beech and oak.  This morning I took a ride at sunrise (it seems like it's getting later every week) down to the boat landing to get a look at Crockett's ledge, and it is still quite spectacular.
Sunrise from the Boat Landing

The sight of the ledge was so nice that I rode up to the yellow trail, left my bike, and hiked up to the top of the ledge.  The view was equally spectacular, but diametrically opposed.  Where from the east the sun reflected brightly off the trees, from the west, I was looking at the shaded side of everything, with the light reflecting off the water and the valley fog.  As I watched in the still morning (it was so quiet I could hear the geese arguing with each other way up at the opposite end of the lake) I reflected as well - on how perspective has such a great impact on how differently people can experience the exact same event.
Sunrise from Crockett's Ledge

Returning home, this bright white birch, which has lost all its leaves, stood out against the yellow beech trees. 
White Birch Amongst the Beech
Earlier, on the way out I had caught a beaver swimming in the cove along Chemung road, and also saw the mist rising up from the swamp in the Chemung Forest. 
Chemung State Forest

There has been a lot of beaver activity as they, like all the animals, prepare for winter.  Their lodges are growing with fresh wood, and there are many new tree-cuts all around the shore as they collect food for their winter.  They cut the small, tender trees and drag them under their lodge where they stick them in the mud, and will later eat their bark during their long winter season.
Beaver Lodge

One afternoon this week I had two avian encounters.  First I heard a wild flurry of birds squawking and calling - the tell-tale sign of bird-of-prey in the vicinity.  It didn't take long to find the source of the commotion, as red-tail hawk moved from one tall tree to another with only two flaps of its tremendous wings.  But its tormentors weren't satisfied, and soon the hawk flew off with an entourage of jays, crows, and myriad smaller birds following along like annoying paparazzi.

The second event was more startling.  While I heard the hawk scene from a good distance, the ruffled grouse made me jump when it took off just a few yards from the trail with its loud flurry of wings beating the air.  As kids we called them "helicopter birds" because that's what they sound like when they take wing.

We also stopped by Meredith Center to check out the progress there.  The new building is now roofed and sided, but there was no activity today.
Child's Park

On the way we stopped by the dam to check on the water flow - it is still a rushing torrent.  There was also a family there fishing, and a pretty maple visible from the road.
Lake Wicwas Dam

We haven't seen any unusual migratory birds yet, but there is a continuous flow of mallards going by.

And here's perhaps the last view of the bright side of Lake Wicwas for 2011.
Crockett's Ledge

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16, 2011

Lake Wicwas is in the heart of the autumn season. The foliage is peaking, and the weather is fall-like, with highs around 60 degrees, intermittent showers, and brisk, gusty winds stripping the leaves from the trees - a stark contrast to last week. Some of the early-turning trees, especially those with their roots at the shore of the lake, have already lost many of their leaves, but most are still quite vibrant. The colors are so intense along the western shore of the lake that they appear artificial – but these photos are un-touched by anything other than the rays of the early morning sun just sneaking over the hills east of the lake.
Looking West Across Lake Wicwas

North of Lake Wicwas

With the leaves starting to drop, forest floor is collecting its new carpet of soft pine needles punctuated with bright maple leaves.  It makes for wonderfully soft and quiet walking.   
We took a hike up to Crockets Ledge and the White Mountain Ledge on the Hamlin-Eames-Smyth conservation area, and were treated to a sunny moment where the trees seemed to light up for us.
Crockett's Ledge

The colors from the White Mountain Ledge are not nearly as colorful; it’s interesting how in this direction there are mostly white pines, while on the western shore of the lake they are mostly deciduous.  Perhaps it’s due to logging, or just the different exposure and soil conditions.  But there were a couple of bright red maples in the mix.
White Mountain Ledge

We found many fungi still growing well, including this group growing right out from under the bark of a tree.

And some of them are huge!
Back closer to the lake I came upon a deer who moved quickly off into the forest, but I soon found this fresh scat that likely belonged to it or one of its colleagues.

Late in the afternoon a small rainbow appeared over the Chemung Forest during one of the quick showers.
There are still plenty of migratory ducks around - the hunters didn’t get them all (and I heard no discharges this weekend).  A flock of nine mallards stopped by in the mid-afternoon.

Today we took a walk up to Meredith Center to see the work on the new playground and park.  There was a lot of progress this week, and there was a crew working, even on a Sunday.  It’s going to be a really nice addition to the area.  Thanks are due to the very generous donations of the people who made it possible.
Meredith Center

There was also a baby shower taking place at the Wicwas Grange.
On the return walk we found an abundant crop of winterberry, with their bright red berries in clumps right beside Meredith Center road, as well a stand of sumac, turning orange-red.

This week we also enjoyed the apples we received last week, including one of the best apple pies ever!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 9, 2011

The color on the trees is starting to get brighter.  It is probably at its peak intensity right along the shores of Lake Wicwas, but it still has a ways to go pretty much everywhere else.  The turn seems to be later than usual this year, perhaps due to lots of rain in the summer and now warm weather in the fall.  Today the temperature hit 77 degrees, with a strong, warm west wind.  We both got in quick swims, but it was pretty chilly.
Sunrise on Lake Wicwas
Maples along the Shore
Not Much Color Away from the Lake  (North from the "White Mountain Ledge")

Even with warm days, it still cools off very quickly as soon as the sun goes down, and by morning the temperatures have been in the 40s, but that didn't stop these fishermen from starting out early.

There were also duck hunters out this weekend, with their shots being heard right at 30 minutes before sunrise when the regulations allow it.  Lots of loud booms, and with all ducks around, I expect they some success.  It's hard enough getting a picture of them, as they are so easily flushed.  I guess that's why the hunters are out in their boats and in position well before daylight.

The booms didn't seem to bother the deer, as I heard one snorting at me as I went by a field, and certainly this red squirrel was more annoyed at my presence than the sound of a shot gun.

Later in the day when Linda was out working in the yard she had another deer snorting at her.  Perhaps they are males staking out their territory;  guarding their mates.

By the time the sun was in full force, there was a swarm of bees all over the fall blossoms - yellow jackets, honey bees, and of course the bumble bees.  This one had a good harvest of pollen attached to its hind legs.

I also came across several of these unidentified beetles in the warm sun, this one hanging onto our window screen.

We received a generous invitation from some new friends who live on Arbutus Hill to come up to enjoy some fresh-made apple cider, beautiful views, and great conversation.  We also came home with an assortment of fabulous apples grown in their own orchard right here between the shores of Lake Pemigewasset and Lake Wicwas!  (We've already sampled some of each!)  We're looking forward a return visit soon!

Just after sunset, a couple of jet liners came overhead on their routes from Europe, leaving an "X" to mark the spot where Lake Wicwas enjoyed a fantastic fall weekend.  I hope everyone got out one of these past few nights to enjoy the bright, near full moon, illuminating perhaps the last warm weather of 2011!
"X"  Marks the Spot