Hiking Mt. Sunapee in Newbury, NH

Although I have been skiing at Mt. Sunapee for years I had not been on any of the hiking trails until this year.

I had Friday, October 26th off from work and decided to go hiking. Although the foliage had peaked the weather was perfect for hiking. One of my goals for the day was to scout the Summit Trail so that I could return later with people from one of the local Meetup.com groups that I belong to.

The Summit Trail is just one of several trails to the summit. I could get to the trail either from the Mt. Sunappe base lodge or the trailhead on Old Province Rd. I chose to start at the Old Province Rd. trailhead for this hike.

I made a couple wrong turns (and ended up on the ski trails) but eventually made it to the summit. As usual the view of Lake Sunapee was fantastic. When skiing I usually don’t have my good DLSR camera so this was an opportunity to get some better photos than I can get with a phone camera.

The photo below was taken from the top of the Skyway Ledges ski trail.

Hking Mt Sunapee October 26 2018-2

I also made a panorama photos from the top of the Wingding trail.

Hking Mt Sunapee October 26 2018-12

I switched to my 300mm lens and was able to get some shot of the White Mountains in the distance. The photo below is looking past the wind farm in Groton, NH towards an area of the White Mountains known as the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

Hking Mt Sunapee October 26 2018-3

Below is a photo looking past Mt. Cardigan (the first range on the left had side of the photo) with the snow covered mountains of Franconia Notch in the background.

Hking Mt Sunapee October 26 2018-5

It took a little longer than I expected to go back to Mt. Sunapee with the Meetup group. I was not able to schedule a hike until November 17th. By that time we had some early winter storms and had 5 inches of snow at the bottom and 7 to 8 inches at the summit. It was also cold and windy so I only took a few photos before getting out of the wind and heading back down the mountain. Although there was heavy cloud cover over the lake during my first few photos, I was lucky to catch a moment when the sun broke through to shine on Great Island down on the lake.

Hking Mt Sunapee Nov 17 2018-3

Lobster at Fort Stark in New Castle, NH

For the September 8th  Atlantic Aquasport shore dive we ended up at Fort Stark in New Castle, New Hampshire.

We saw several American Lobster during the dive. One of them even tried to grab my camera with its claw.

We swam east into the Piscataqua River to get a little distance from the shore and depth and then turned south. The bottom was thick with hooked week, sea lettuce and green hair weed, giving the Lobsters lots of places to hide.

Lobster in Sea Lettuce at Fort Stark

Lobster 2 at Fort Stark

Towards the end of the dive I came upon an interesting scene. A Lobster was doing something with a crab or crab shell (I did not see any claws so it could have been just a shell) that was tucked up under a clump of seaweed.

The University of Maine Website tells us, “Lobsters like to eat crabs, clams, mussels, starfish, smaller fish, and sometimes even other lobsters.” So the the crab could have been killed by the lobster. If so, that must have been quite a battle.  Perhaps the lobster had eaten some of the crab and was hiding the rest for a later meal.

Resources

Sea Raven and Flounder at Nubble Light

I finally got back into diving in New England after more years than I care to admit. Back in 2015 I got a new Waterproof W4 5mm Wetsuit but never got to use it in the ocean, until now. I must say, it’s the best wetsuit that I have ever owned. It’s easy to put on and take off plus it’s actually comfortable to walk around in. So far, the combination of dive skin and 5mm wetsuit has kept me warm enough.

I have been attending the Saturday Morning Shore Dives at Atlantic Aquasport in Rye, NH. As they often do, we went up to Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick in York, Maine.

On the August 25th dive I crossed the channel with my dive buddy and went north along the island at around 20 feet deep. Several of us Aquasport divers were lucky enough to see a beautiful Sea Raven. As the Maine Guides Online website says, “Sea ravens may vary in color from blood red to reddish purple to yellow brown.” This one was a beautiful shade of yellow and a pleasure to watch!

One of the more common fish to see while shore diving in New England is the Cunner. The Maine Guides Online website tells us, “their usual size is between 6 and 10 inches in length and less than 3 pounds weight.” I got the camera out for the one below since it was one of the larger Cunner I had seen so far and it came in pretty close.

On the September 1st shore dive I did the same dive plan of crossing the channel and swimming along the west side of the island about 2o feet down. I saw lots of Cunner and a few lobster in the way out. On the way back to the shore I spotted a small Winter Flounder (pronounced Flounda in Maine) near the turn point to cross the channel. The Maine Guide Online site says, “Their color, which varies with the substrate they occupy, can range from reddish brown to olive green to almost black.” It also tells us, “Their eyes are located on their right side, thus making them a right sided flounder.”

I hope to go back for at least one more dive during the 2018 northern New England wetsuit season.

Sea Turtle encounter on Molasses Reef

I had a difficult time getting good video footage of sea turtles during the July 2018 trip until my last day of diving on Saturday, July 14th. We were on Molasses Reef towards the end of the afternoon dive when we watched a small sea turtle swim to the surface for a breath. I knew enough to be patient, let the turtle get some air and come back down to the bottom before getting some video footage.

Have no doubt, turtles are one of my favorite wildlife encounters! This poor turtle also looks like it has some damage on the back of its shell. I suppose it could have got hit by a boat or attacked by something. 😦

Resources

Lobed Star Coral at Horseshoe Reef

On July 11th, 2018 I was on a dive to Horseshoe Reef, which is up the coast from Key Largo. We got to see some interesting sea life plus some examples of healthier coral than other places in the marine sanctuary. During the dive it occurred to me that I should slow down a bit and get some video footage of the Lobed Star Coral I was swimming by.

 

One thing to notice is how lots of other species of coral, algae, tunicate, sponges and fish make their home on the coral mound. The Bi-colored Damselfish got a little angry with me when I crossed into its territory. It attacked my camera until I had moved on past. 🙂 Learn more about Lobed Star Coral by visiting the links below.

Resources

NOAA Fisheries Lobed Star Coral

Reefguide.org Lobed Star Coral

 

 

 

A day with the Coral Restoration Foundation

On Friday, July 13th I spent the day as a volunteer for the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida. I had done this once before back on Earth Day in 2011. I really believe that this organization is making a difference (perhaps small in the grand scheme of things) but at least they are taking direct action to change things.

During the morning the volunteers received the training necessary for the afternoon dives. As I would expect, there was a noticeable improvement in the morning training session since 2011.

Coral Nursery

For the first dive of the afternoon we went to the coral nursery off of Tavernier, Florida. For this particular trip the boat and dive guide service was provided by Rainbow Reef Dive Center.

As volunteers, our job was to clean algae, sponges and fire coral that was growing near the young coral fragments. Back in 2011 I also worked in the nursery. Our job then was to clean PVC pipe stands arranged on the ocean bottom on which the coral fragments were growing.

Pipe and Cap system

Since then they have changed most of the nursery to PVC pipe “trees” that are suspended in the water. They hang fragments of live coral from the branches of the trees. They found the fragments grow faster hanging on the trees than placed upright on a PVC pipe base like a plant.

CRF Nursery

However, using “trees” did not change the need to clean around the young coral so it does not get covered in algae, sponges and fire coral. Cleaning now takes a little more skill since you need to have good buoyancy control in order to hover beside the “tree” while gently scraping the thin “branches” of the “tree” clean of stubborn growth.

While we were cleaning the trees the CRF interns were collecting Elkhorn Coral fragments from another part of the nursery to “re-plant” on Pickles Reef.

“Planting” the Coral

The goal of our second tank dive was to “plant” the coral on Pickles Reef off of Key Largo. The process involves using a masonry hammer to scrape an area on the reef bottom free from algae for the new coral to be placed on. This allows the adhesive putty to bond to the reef base. We arrange the coral fragments in a circular group so they eventually grow together like a cluster of bushes. The underwater adhesive I mentioned is like a soft putty at this point. We have to use enough putty to secure the coral fragment enough to pass the wave test. We wave our hands over to coral to move the water enough and ensure the coral will stay firm in the adhesive putty long enough to harden despite any current and water movements that my occur.

I hope I can build on my experience, volunteer for them again and improve my skills.

Small Goliath Grouper on the Benwood

On July 12th I had the privilege to see a small Goliath Grouper on the wreck of the Benwood. The dive guides told us it had been hanging around near the bow of the ship so I was hoping for some good video footage.

The Goliath Grouper is one of my favorite fish. Ever since I watched them hunt using our dive lights back in 2014 I have a new appreciation of their intelligence. If you are interested in learning more about Goliath Groupers visit the links below.

Goliath Grouper Resources