Friday, November 27, 2009

11-27-09 Happy Thanskgiving!!

Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, Liz and I hiked up to Lonesome Lake in the dark, in the rain, and in dense fog that reflected our headlamp beams back into our eyes in a really annoying way. We arrived just in time for dinner with Hillary Gerardi, Lonesome Lake Fall Caretaker, Lauren, her mom, and River, their chocolate lab (family dog). A warm fire flickered in the stove and the hut was surrounded by a deep silence. After dinner Hillary and Lauren took River for a walk around the lake in the rain and a while later Hillary returned in high spirits with this half-eaten torso of a snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) they'd found on the trail near the hut.

Hillary's enthusiasm and curiosity was sparked when she rrealized the upper half of the torso was missing, chomped off by a large predator. The chomping had occurred just before they discovered the carcass as it was still warm which meant there was/is a large carnivore foraging close to the hut. We guessed it was a bobcat (Lynx rufus) or lynx (Lynx canadensis). Both "cats" are common in the White Mountains. The smaller of the two, the bobcat, is at the northern edge of its range. The lynx is at the southern edge of its range so they overlap here. Bobcats like swamps and there's a lot of swampy areas in this glacial "bowl" between Cannon Mt., North and South Kinsman, and the height of land at the edge of Franconia Notch to the east. It's actually ideal habitat for both animals. (Hillary returned the carcass to the place where they found it and discovered at dawn that it had been completely eaten with the exception of some intestines.)

Hillary made me a bit envious three weeks ago when she told me that while bushwhacking on Cannon Mt. she had the extraordinary luck to see a snowshoe hare that was midway through its seasonal color change: half of it white in preparation for winter, the other half still brown from the summer. For ages I've wanted to photograph this transitional stage in the hare's protective coloring. This seasonal adaptation is a strategy to help the snowshoe hares blend into the background as an advantage against predators that include several birds (owls and hawks) as well as mammals. At any rate, I've never seen a hare that was halfway through its seasonal change of clothes, so to speak (a two-piece ensemble), but in this mild, snow-less fall that we're experiencing, it's working against the hares who now, with their coats being all white, practically glow in the dark. Without snow on the ground the predominant colors in the woods are dark, shades of browns, dark greens and grays, and the hares' white coat is a life threatening liability.

You get to sleep late on Thanksgiving!

Liz and I slept in a bunkroom that was refurbished recently with fancy pine paneling and new mattresses!

Lonesome Lake Hut was remodeled three years ago when it was retrofitted for winter use including new windows, a closed in basement, some insulation, and new siding. It's one of the more unusual looking of the huts. It was originally built in 1964-1965 by the State of New Hampshire because it's located on state-owned land in Franconia State Park. It replaced an old hunting and fishing lodge on the northeast side of the lake.

The original hut consisted of all those buildings you see across the lake. There was a barn, used as a bunkhouse, a large house with a kitchen and living room, and another addition that was also used as a bunkhouse. There was a boat house, too, that's at the far right hand edge of the picture. When it operated as a sportmens' camp it was reached by horse and wagon via what is now the Cascade Brook Trail and that in the early 1900s was a corduroy road. The AMC first leased the cabins to use as a hut for hikers in 1929 from the State of New Hampshire. Having a hut at Lonesome Lake complimented Greenleaf Hut across the notch on Mt. Lafayette (4.2 miles away) that was completed for full service use in the summer of 1930. Galehead and Zealand huts were completed in 1931-1932 to complete a chain from Lonesome Lake to Crawford Notch and the Presidentials. (The above photo is from an old 1940s-era AMC postcard.)

Mt. Lafayette on Thanksgiving morning from the porch at Lonesome Lake Hut.

Looking at Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln across Lonesome Lake


During the morning several hiking parties came through including this group of folks who all lived down Route 3 in Woodstock, NH, close to the trail head, and were enjoying some camaraderie as well as pre-Thanksgiving dinner exercise.

Just before noon the valley got warm enough to push the mist towards us and for an hour or two we were in the fog.

Lauren, Hillary's mom, was finding that spending an off-trail day in a hut is a lovely way to re-explore the wonders of leisure time, particularly finding time to read.

Liz, too, actually picked up a book and read for a while which is a rarity for her.

Then, of course, there's crossword obsession

and cooking which got done in microbursts of activity.

There was chocolate cream pie a la Hillary,

chocolate chip cookies, and cinnamon rolls, and a little later green beans, mashed potatoes and squash. The turkey was in the oven most of the day.

I took a mid-day walk down to the lake where it was inordinately quiet. Franconia Ridge was still in the clouds and for awhile there were no sound at all.

This hiker was one of a pair that appeared suddenly, took a quick glimpse and some photos of the lake and hut, and went off down the trail again as quickly as they appeared.

A little after noon the clouds began to break up and slowly rose up towards us,

moved slowly across the view of Cannon Mt.,

obscuring the summit for a few minutes,

and then seemingly evaporated.

While I watched the clouds disperse this small contingent of kids arrived and instantly became enthralled by the lake. Water's such a cool plaything when you're young!

They could hardly sit still long enough for a portrait.

Then there were nine!

Mountain simplicity.

Lauren began carving the turkey

followed by Lenny Gerardi who finished the task with blurring speed.

This is River being as hopeful as ever that one, just one morsel, a drum stick maybe, will perchance fall his way.

The full, sleepy feeling.

Dusk across the lake looking west towards the Kinsmans. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it's a deep pleasure and special treat to be able to spend it in the mountains at either Lonesome or Zealand in the beauty and stillness this photo evokes.

I lightened this photo in photoshop because it was so dark. There was just a smidgen of light left from the day for Liz and I to use as we hurried back down the trail to the car. This is a frequent mountain experience, the run down the trail racing the descending darkness, for who wants to leave?

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