Thursday, June 06, 2013

East of Watatic Pond in Ashby

I took a walk last weekend that was deeply satisfying because of the success of my plan and exercise of skills. But it was hot and I exhausted myself.
I was looking over maps Friday afternoon and noticed this place north of Blood Hill. We are up against the border of New Hampshire here, more than 1/2 way to Mt Monadnock, and an hour's drive from home. But the area looks ideal for rock pile hunting: lots of small hills and swamps and an old road going through there (the dashed line above B). I planned to park at A, head in towards the old road, and explore along there. 
When I parked, I stepped into the woods on a hillside, and walked along with feet and muscles complaining. And my feet tried to pull me uphill but my mind told me to stay to the left and head for the wetlands. 
I got off the hill, stepped across a brook at the head of the marsh, and stopped to consider. Which way to the old road? I thought it would be north and to my right. But it was ideal site topography to my left with rocky land coming down to the opening of the marsh. So I changed plans and took no more than a few steps when I saw a big bump of vegetation. Could that be a rock pile? I already said it:
As  I  looked around, I saw there were three others (later I saw one more) around a small vernal pool-now dry and brown,with a layout a bit like this:
The pictures do not show well because of the bright sunlight and because the piles are very thoroughly covered with vegetation. I see this as a sign of greater age than usual.
Here is a second one. It is more than 5 feet tall, and maybe 12-15 feet wide. That's a pretty big pile.
A third:
seen from above:
 and a fourth:
This is a familiar shape, a square "U", or perhaps a "crescent". In the picture, the U opens to the right. 
These piles are an intermediate size in the overall spectrum; they are old and, to the extent that structure is visible, it is an early form (the U). A bit like at Brown Hill in style but much bigger. And now we are in the Souhegan watershed. Is it a new style? Not sure. In any case the piles seemed deliberately placed around the wet spot. 
So I took pictures, and continued southwest along the verge of the marsh. I crossed a wall and came to another wet place with other piles, or I should say other wet places and other clusters of piles. Because as I walked along I saw several clusters and lost count. The pictures are not clear enough for distinct memories. 
One place:
 Another place:
This is a small double chambered mound. I saw another a few hundred yards away further along the verge.
These are small rock piles with tails- again an early form like the U. You almost never find piles of this shape looking any fresher. 
Here is a really simple arrangement:
Two lady-slippers decorate it. Is that a cup holder in the foreground?
Then I crossed another wall, and got to another wet spot and saw another group of rock piles around it. But this time, small piles under the ferns.
 Note the feather:
And here, if you click in, you may be able to see another large, oblong enclosure shaped rock pile:
So yes, the piles do fit into the framework of rock piles with hollows that I have been seeing and which I looking for. It is what I am hoping to see when I go out. Now in the walk, these seem to alternate with small groups of smaller piles around a wet spot:
Then I came up to the back of houses where the mounds looked more recently manipulated, so I turned off to the side, and came up to the old road I was going to look for. Followed it uphill to the west, and then climbed up and over to "C" where I saw that strange structure built into the cliff. 
Looped around and down into another valley, without any more rock piles except one isolated "table" and I started thinking of extracting myself from the woods. By now I was pretty tired. Aching legs had given way to being out of breath and having a tired back. Heading south, I still had to climb the hill I skipped at the beginning. It was a waste of breath. When I got back to my car I was so tired (it was 93 degrees out) it took me most of the drive home and a cold coke to begin to recover.

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