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Dan Newton: On a dappled moonscape

January 4, 2011

Dan Newton, of the Waterville Valley Athletic & Improvement Association (better known as WVAIA), is one of the volunteer guides for WVAIA’s Saturday Snowshoe Hikes (see a complete list of upcoming hikes at

Dan wrote about his hike to the Tecumseh Brook Ledge on New Year’s day.

An enthusiastic group of ten trampers convened at 12:30PM in the Town Square, and, after signing in, amidst a flurry of well-wishing for the new year, we departed, reconvening 5 minutes later at the Livermore parking lot. We then walked with our snowshoes in hand up the Tripoli Road. The snow cover was thin, yet ubiquitous. We continued past the Osceola Campground turn-off, and after cresting the hill and walking a short distance, we knelt, as if in prayer, to don our snowshoes.

Angling off the road, we tramped up the gentle-grade of an old logging route, moving well, as we headed into a sea of hardwoods that afforded expansive woodland views ahead of us; and, over one’s shoulder, through the branches of the trees, the Tripyramid peaks against a steel-gray sky.

To our surprise, the farther we ascended, the thinner the snow became, so that we found ourselves searching for avenues of snow among the leaf-covered pillows and cradles of the forest. It soon became apparent that we would have to amend our plans, because, as the snow receded, armies of low-slung hobble bushes, that would normally be buried in snow, began to muster their forces and hinder our progress. Turning south, we came over a rise to find more snow, and, happily, some craggy scaurs that seemed familiar to the fearless leader; and sure enough, moments later, the Tecumseh Brook ledge rose into view, signaled by a thick twisted widow-maker, bent-over at a ninety-degree angle, bridged to the top of the rock. After the ensuing chorus of ooh’s and ahh’s [who knew rock could be quite so beautiful!], we moved in next to the ledge, marveling at the healthy appearance and concomitant size of the rock tripe lichens that cover the wall. The biggest of these lichens is significantly larger than my outstretched hand!

After some munching, and the gurgle of uplifted water bottles, we noticed a nest-like tangle of branches at the top of a nearby beech tree, discovering that a bear had been up the tree some time ago, when it was full of beech nuts, and broken the branches in toward the trunk, so that he or she could eat them without “going out on a limb,” and; in so doing, get the nuts before they fall and the deer and other ground feeders can eat them. They’re called “bear-baskets,” because the broken-back limbs, plus the tenacious brown leaves of the beech, which often remain clinging to the branches well into the winter, make it look like a basket up in the tree.

Descending the near side of the ridge we had come over, we found consistent snow to bring us home, angling back in a northern direction across what came to look like a sort of moonscape of dappled white and brown terrain, until we returned to the precise spot on Tripoli Road at which we entered the woods, feeling quite pleased at the good exercise, the good conversation, fascinating flora, and the interesting sign of fauna we found on this short, moderate ramble through some of Waterville Valley’s local unknown woods.

By Dan Newton, WVAIA

About Jan Stearns

I've been living in and loving New Hampshire's White Mountains for most of my life. I moved to Waterville Valley in 1981 and quickly realized why it was dubbed a Yankee Shangri-la. Once you’ve experienced Waterville Valley, you’ll want to call it yours. The great team of Realtors at Waterville Valley Realty can help you find a Waterville Valley home that fits your lifestyle and budget.

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