entrance sign, 6 May 2015

The Clearest Way Into the Universe

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

― John Muir


Sometimes it’s fun to revisit a wild spot a month later and see what’s changed. That’s what I did with the Huntington Hill Wildlife Management Area in Etna, NH recently. I went there with a class on 6 May, about 2-1/2 weeks after the snow melted, and then went back with my spouse this past weekend, on 6 June, a fine spring day.

The Huntington Hill WMA is a permanently protected area, with the NH Fish and Game Dept. holding the conservation easement. (Our class leader, Jim Kennedy, is one of the landowners of part of it, some of which he maintains for woodcock habitat.) I tried to piece together the entire Huntington Hill WMA acreage from the acres listed on the National Conservation Easement Database maps and got about 509 acres, but there are other abutting protected lands like Nutt Farm and Lower Slade Brook Natural Area that may or may not be included in the Wildlife Management Area; it’s all pretty confusing to me. Suffice to say, it’s a good chunk of mostly forested contiguous land.

The brown segment is where we started from (both times), off Hanover Center Road.



During the May field trip, we also had a forester along, Jeff Smith of Butternut Hollow Forestry (Thetford VT), who has logged this property. He showed us some of what he had logged, how he chose certain trees or areas, and proper procedure for logging including protecting watersheds and cleaning up afterward.

stand with oak trees cut, 6 May 2015
stand with oak trees cut – May

We were also there to look at frog and salamander eggs in the vernal pools and to learn more about natural communities and the flora, fauna, topography, soils, etc., that indicate and comprise them. And to learn how to tell white, yellow, and grey birches apart (May and June photos):


I saw a few major differences in the intervening month:

Ticks: Not too many in May (a few people reported them), but on the June visit, spouse had more than 15 on him (none attached). But I had none? We both sprayed with DEET.

Butterflies, dragonflies, caterpillars: None noticed in May, many in June.

4-spotted skimmer dragonfly, 6 June 2015
Libellula quadrimaculata (four-spotted skimmer) dragonfly – June
Eastern tent caterpillar on entrance bar, 6 June 2015
Malacosoma americanum (Eastern tent) caterpillar on entrance bar – June
Boloria selene (silver-bordered fritillary), 6 June 2015
Boloria selene (silver-bordered fritillary) butterfly – June
common whitetail dragonfly, immature male, 6 June 2015
Plathemis lydia (common whitetail) dragonfly, immature male – June
swallowtail butterfly on ferns, 6 June 2015
Papilio glaucus (Eastern tiger swallowtail) butterfly on ferns – June
(Phyciodes cocyta) Northern crescent butterfly, 6 June 2015
Phyciodes cocyta (northern crescent) butterfly – June
Erigeron (probably pulchellis - Robin's Plantain, fleabane) and blue butterfly, 6 June 2015
blue butterfly (?) on Erigeron (fleabane) –  June


“No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.”

― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River


On the other hand, we saw salamander eggs, spotted newts, and snakes (garter) in May and not in June.

And eastern painted turtles both trips, though always too far away for a good photo.

Ferns: Suddenly, a plethora of ferns in June that weren’t here in May.

ferns galore, 6 June 2015
ferns galore, 6 June 2015


“The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse – neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension.”

― Amy Seidl, Early Spring


What’s in bud, in bloom, and awake in this place has changed.

In May, mostly yellows (click on photo for ID):

In June (click on photo for ID):



Everything has leafed out and grown up now.

>> Marked entrance back into woods, May and June:

>> Marked Huntington Hill Trail, May and June:

>> Protecting the brook from logging, May and June:

>> The pond outflow, May and June:

>> Main pond itself, May and June:


And some spots are just luminous and lovely always.

patch of club moss (May)
patch of club moss (May)
wet crossing, 6 June 2015
wet crossing (June)
unmanaged hemlock forest, 6 May 2015
unmanaged hemlock forest, 6 May 2015


Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock — more than a maple — a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Leave a Reply