Friday, September 20, 2013

Mt. Pisgah, Durham

Hiking season has arrived! Time to finish up NET spur.  I parked at the very end of Cream Pot Road, which has been extended recently in the form of a gravel road which has new houses under construction off of it, shortening the walk along the red/blue access trail. Picking up the blue blazes northbound (southbound takes you to Pyramid Rock), the trail quickly heads downhill to follow Chalker Brook along the bottom of a deep ravine, which was mostly dry during the hike. 

An area of old stumps in the ravine -- hemlocks?
After crossing the stream, there was an area with many large, rotting stumps surrounded by beech trees. I suspect these were once hemlock that the whooly adelgid killed off. 

Elmo "Get Well" Balloons
The trail was wonderfully quiet and peaceful all the way up to the top of Mt Pisgah. There is a short trail to an overlook part way up, but it turned out to be a seasonal view. Continuing on to the top I saw a bright red metallic object through the trees maybe 75 feet off trail. Exploring, I found a large set of metallic mylar balloons, the biggest set I've ever found, complete with a giant Elmo, and still partially inflated with helium *deep sigh*.  I imagine the ridge is pretty good at intercepting low-flying balloons. It must be, because I found two more sets of balloons near the top before the hike was through, including the remnants of a latex balloon and string alongside the trail. The latex eventually breaks down, although it can take a few years, and the ribbon takes longer. I picked up the litter and stuck it in my pack. The larger balloon set was too big to fit in my pack, so I left on the trail to pick up on my way back. 
According to the balloon industry, this is not litter.
According to the balloon industry, if something eventually biodegrades over a few years, and you throw it into the environment, it's not "littering."   So I guess I was picking up non-litter. 
Reaching the dry hilltop of Mt. Pisgah
The bald top of Mt. Pisgah was a real treat, with a great view to the north and west across the Connecticut Valley to the Metacomet Ridge. The mainline New England Trail pretty much follows the entire ridgeline in the distance. 
Biscuit's backdrop is the traprock Metacomet Ridge on the horizon. 

In the photo above, Beseck Mountain is to the left, then there is a little notch directly over Biscuit's head, where the Hanging Hills of Meriden can be seen in the far distance, then to the right is Mt. Higby.   

Reed's Gap with the heavily quarried Trimountain to the left.

I was able to quickly identify the features in my photos thanks to a Connecticut Environment Review Team report for Mt. Pisgah conveniently uploaded to the Internet, which included the nicely labeled photo below. The inventory report of the Mt. Pisgah Open Space was prepared for the Durham Conservation Commission.   The report has some interesting maps as well as little tidbits such as the top of the mountain is composed of a pegmatite. 

Screen shot from the CT ERT Study. 

The first acorns are falling
Continuing north from the top, there's a pleasant plateau hike before dropping down towards Route 79 (where I found another brightly colored mylar balloon). Shortly after sitting down at one point for a break, a large branch began to fall, crashing through the top of a tree, then seemed to get hung up. Suddenly the falling "branch" spread it's enormous wings -- it was a remarkable clumsy Turkey Vulture who was perhaps unnerved by my presence. It made quite a commotion trying to get out of the tree top. 

As soon as the trail began to really drop towards the East, I started hearing trucks on the highway. It was a quick hike down to Pisgah Road and back up again to retrace my steps.  

Nicely camouflaged Gold-Striped Leaftier Moth. See it? 

Biscuit has no idea there is a garter snake at her feet

On the way back, Biscuit stepped over a half-grown garter snake without seeing it. She does that a lot with snakes, even big ones. They freeze up, and she never sees them. 


I stopped to take a photo of the frozen snake, and Biscuit came on back and started sniffing the ground. She still did not see the snake, even though it was right under her nose, keeping perfectly still. Then Biscuit got too close, and the little garter snake went on the attack, chasing a very surprised dog down the trail a few steps, and striking several times, before heading into the woods. 

Snake goes on the attack! 

Biscuit wonders what just happened as the snake crawls away.