Last Saturday, Beth and I went back to the Richard Smart Conservation Area to visit Devil’s Den. The trails were covered in ice, and the steeper parts were pretty slick. As a result, we walked to the side of them in the snow where the footing was much better.

We set out on this hike a lot later than I had meant too, due to a much needed nap that I had taken earlier. But it was worth it. 🙂

This is one of the things I saw:

Hemlock stump

Hemlock stump


This is the stump of a hemlock tree. In most trees, the bark decays before the wood does, but with hemlock, the reverse is true. So they leave stumps like this with an outer sheath of bark standing up higher than the rest of the stump.

I didn’t get a lot of photos as the light was failing fast. I had taken my flashlight out of my camera bag the previous week and loaned it to Beth, and I had neglected to get it back from her. Therefore, we really needed to hustle to get back to the car before it got dark, so all the shots I attempted of the woods at sunset were too rushed. Here’s one:

Racing the Sun

Racing the Sun


The trail here winds around in a very serpentine pattern. I think the intent was to make a longer more enjoyable trail in the limited space available. I was tempted to leave the marked trail and cut through the woods to shorten our hike, but resisted the temptation. That would have been a good way to make our trek even longer, and almost would have guaranteed we’d still be there when it got dark.

There was hardly any snow on the ground, which is the big story of our winter this year. The winter that was not. Maybe we’ll get some snow before the season is over, but I’m starting to resign myself to a snowless winter.

Tomorrow will be a busy day as it is Pathfinder Sabbath at our church. The club will be responsible for the entire church service. We are doing a three-act skit, most of which has been pre-recorded. Our video enthusiasts have been working pretty hard all week to get the video editing done, and last night the live actors were able to rehearse interacting with the video segments. That went pretty well I thought. Yes there is some less-than-optimal acting involved in the pre-recorded segments, but we work with what we have. And everyone had fun, so I count this as a success. I believe someone was planning to record the skit (the live and pre-recorded parts together) – if they’ll upload it to the innerwebs, I’ll link you to it.

After the church service we will eat lunch, and then the Bible Bowl starts. Bible Bowl is something like a quiz game. I don’t know how much the kids have been studying 1 & 2 Corinthians, but I have reminded them every week for about two months. The rest is up to them.

When that’s over, we will have dinner, and then the Pinewood Derby starts. I did not have time to build a car this year, but Beth made a pretty nice one – it looks like a rabbit. Only when hers nearly finish did I finally get an idea for a car of my own – a tortoise. What better competitor to her hare? But by then, it was too late for me to execute, so… no car for me this year. I’ll take some pictures of her car for you tomorrow during the race.

A little while ago I found out about a hiking trail in Northfield. It looked interesting, except that it borders I-93, and I don’t generally like spending time within earshot of an Interstate highway. However, the other side of the trail was bounded by the Winnipesaukee River, so I thought it might be worth checking out. Beth and I took Penny there yesterday.

The trail winds through a lush hemlock forest that very much made me think of a rain forest in the Pacific Northwest (though I have never been there).

Dick Smart Conservation Area

Dick Smart Conservation Area


Parts of the trail cross a wetland. I think this trail is best used when the ground is frozen, because there are no walkways or bridges. If the mud had not been frozen, I don’t think it would have been a very pleasant walk at all.

Beth hops a stream

Beth hops a stream


I lost count of the number of streams we crossed, but there were at least a half dozen. None were very wide, and I easily hopped over them. Beth had to find a narrower place to cross one of them though.

Stump Seat

Stump Seat


Beth really liked the way this stump had been fashioned into a chair. I don’t think it was part of the original trail plan, since the log that came from this stump had a trail blaze painted on it.

Speaking of trail blazes, the trail was not obvious in many places, and the blazes were critical in staying on the track. There were several times when I couldn’t see a blaze at all, so we would go back 10 yards to the last one we saw and scan for another. Sometimes it took a bit of effort to find the next blaze. Usually at those places, the more obvious path was not the trail at all.

Ferns

Ferns


Between the hemlocks and ferns, the trail was very green, even for December 31. There was also a lot of moss everywhere. Some tree trunks were green with moss for 20 feet or more. I’m not sure, but these might be Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides). I learned about those from a fellow blogger last month. I am slowly learning to recognize various ferns, and it’s nice to add this one to my repertoire.

Beech Nuts!

Beech Nuts!


I was delighted to find beechnuts on the ground. Actually, there were very few nuts, but lots and lots of hulls. There must have been tons of nuts here in October though. I came to love these when we camped in a prolific beech grove in October. I still need to develop a way to conveniently shell these nuts in quantity.

Since camping under the beeches in October, I have found two beeches nearby that make a lot of nuts. One is in downtown Concord, but it’s in someone’s yard. I don’t think I should gather their beechnuts. The other is right here. It’s not as convenient as Sandogardy Pond would be, but it’s way more convenient than Russell Pond. I have walked through the woods around Sandogardy in search of beechnuts, but haven’t found a good source there yet. There are lots of beech trees, but not much in the way of nuts.

But the highlight of the trip was when we found the place that the map calls “Devil’s Den.”

Devil's Den

Devil's Den


There was a nice jumble of rocks here, and they made a lot of little dens here and there. I checked this one for bears, and finding none, went inside.
From the inside

From the inside


Penny didn’t care anything at all about Devil’s Den – all she was concerned about was whether I would throw the stick she brought for me. I obliged.

Ice necklaces

Ice necklaces


Beth liked these ice necklaces that she spotted in the river. I liked them too, so I tried my hand at capturing them photographically. I did not do them justice though.

We hiked back up to the car again. The total round-trip hike was 1.5 miles. I’m pretty sure we will be coming back again.