Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Tale of Two Hills

So little time for blogging, I am sorry this may not be much of a tale. I have been going out every weekend since the snow melted (except while on vacation) and finding one or two rock pile sites each time.
Last weekend I was being systematic and exploring an obscure hill on the boundary of Leominster and Westminster, thinking about something else, when I stepped on a rock pile. I looked right and left and found them all around me, a lot of them evenly spaced. In a few minutes I start thinking "where is the usual large rectangular mound with a hollow that should be at the edge of these things?" and I found it, later, near the highpoint of the site.

And somewhere in there I started thinking: "haven't I been here before...wasn't I just here?". What with memory failing and all it took a moment to remember - yes - I found the same site the previous weekend, on a different hill. Later at home, looking at a map, I can see these two hills are neighbors.

If I could show you the view from Rt 2 in Lunenberg, west across the Nashua River Valley, you would see a range of hills. That is the Manoosnocs. Those are my hills. In the middle, the main hill seen behind the steeples of Leominster, is South Manoosnoc. To the right is north Manoosnoc, and to the left is a smaller unnamed hill. Still further left, further south, is a big hill with radio towers, called Rocky Hill. Even though I climbed that sucker two weekends ago, I never saw the towers, so I must have been on a sub-summit and missed seeing the main hill through the foliage.

Both sites were on the northeast facing shoulder of a hill.
This is particularly interesting because both hills are within easy eye-shot of Mt Wachusett. Yet neither site takes advantage of this view. You cannot see the mountain from them because they are on the wrong side of the hill. This seems significant, in a sort of preliminary way, because it dis-associates the mountain from the ceremony that was going on at these sites. I have more confidence in the meaning of these sites than in the unclear importance of the mountain. Anyway, here is what I saw two weekends ago on Rock Hill.
The hilltop:
I was headed down the northern shoulder, following the eastern side of the ridge and came to a big rock pile. I did not trust it at first but my confidence grew that it was what I was looking for.
  I saw that it was rectangular...
 and had a white rock at one corner.
Here it is, seen from below. A fine wall crosses the hill here.
So I went looking for other piles nearby, following the contour of the hill in one direction and seeing nothing. In the other direction I found one, then a second covered with leaves, and then maybe twenty more going down the hill to the north, right up to the back of houses. Here is the first:
 A detail of the "fin" sticking out of it:
 Another view, from across a pile covered in leaves in the foreground.
Further on, a larger pile that looks like it has been cleared of debris:
 Some others:
 What does Tim think of this one? It looks a bit like a turtle.
 Right up to the backs of houses on Peterson Rd where I had parked,
...this has been a long post already. 
The other hill is unnamed. It is south of Hobbs Rd in Princeton, south of the more prominent Wolf Den Hill. I am calling it "Keyes Brook Hill". I parked on Redemption Rock Rd (Rt 40) and had to cross Keyes Brook to get to where I wanted to explore. This brook is either a wide river or a tumbling cascade. I gotta tell you, this was a scarey brook crossing:
I had to take large steps onto pointy or slippery rocks, with confidence. And I had to do it twice. 

I walked up the gradual hill from the west, saw a few minor things, crossed a more official looking "Wachusett Watershed" trail, and noticed several places with short bits of stone wall:
I planned to zig-zag north-to-south along the slope, by starting at the norther end of the hill. So I first went north following the eastern side of the ridge [I do this somewhat unconsciously] and stumbled on one, then many, rock piles. The first one had a kind of "fin":
 Another pile that looks a bit lile a turtle.
 Some of the piles looked nice, others were too beaten down and covered with leaves
 I like these small oval bumps that are completely covered. They do not photo well:
On Rocky Hill there were maybe 30 piles. Here there were 50-100; quite densely packed in an acre or so. I was hoping to see a larger pile and did see one, too covered with debris to verify its shape or whether it had a hollow:
 Pretty vistas:

Some pretty individual piles:
 a detail:
 Hidden in the undergrowth.

 On the way back towards my car, I cross a flat area right behind the houses and under pine trees. There was another small site there, with old piles and a wall coming up from the valley ending in a couple of messy rectangles. 
Back down the hill,over the difficult brook, back to my car.


Tim MacSweeney said...

I can see a few testudinate forms in there (what's the red berry?), especially the second one with it's left foreleg beside it and the right possible foreleg that has slid off onto the ground...

Tim MacSweeney said...

And I see some smallish depressions in some of those stones. That "High Place" had many, many of these, and I conjecture that they may have been pecked out to hold a shell full of a tobacco or kinnickinnick mixture - the photo that follows the sentence " Some of the piles looked nice, others were too beaten down and covered with leaves" in particular.

pwax said...

Interesting. I did not notice.