Thoughts On The Out-Of-Doors: Celebrating New Years On Tucker Mountain

Twenty people and nine dogs celebrated the New Year with a toast on Tucker Mountain. From left: Newbury residents Rowe Williams, John Ninninger and Caroline Ninninger. (Courtesy photo)

It was not the annual New Years Day hike up Mt. Moosilauke but it was a most enjoyable hike on a beautiful clear day. I only hope it forebodes what the new year will bring.

When my two hiking companions and I reached the summit of Newbury’s Tucker Mountain via the Putnam Trail we first encountered John and Caroline Ninninger, two of the people who have devoted so much time and effort to trail building, clearing of the summit and creating wonderful kiosks.

They are two Moosilauke regulars and as soon as we saw each other we exclaimed, “Why aren’t you on Moosilauke?” Within minutes others, including those who usually climb Moosilauke, arrived from various directions and soon it became a joke, “Why aren’t you on Moosilauke?”

The view of Mt. Moosilauke to the east was clear and I am sure each of us was reminded of past years when we would meet on the mountain. For a variety of reasons, including Covid, age and infirmities, each of us had decided to forgo our annual hike where we see so many of the same people whose names we don’t even know.

Within about fifteen minutes there were 20 of us on the summit of Tucker Mountain and nine dogs who ran around playing and seemingly enjoying the time as much as we did.

Several of us had brought bottles of champagne as is our New Years tradition and small cups were filled as we raised a toast to the new year and a second to those no longer with us.

It was different this year. Our hands did not freeze, the sun was bright and we could see for miles in all directions.

My party wished all a “Happy New Year” and headed off to Woodchuck Mountain, the highest point in Newbury. We did the Woodchuck Loop Trail and then headed back to our vehicles on the Tucker Mountain Road in West Newbury. Along the way we met two groups heading up, each time stopping to chat and parting with “Happy New Year.”

It wasn’t Mt. Mooslilakue and it did not take eight hours but it was a wonderful hike and a chance to celebrate the new year with old friends and new ones.

I heard from Pike resident and good friend Doug Teschner who did make the climb on Moosilauke who said he missed us. I told him we waved to him from Tucker. It was his 26th New Year’s Day hike on the mountain since 1988.

Doug wrote, “Exceptionally nice weather today for winter in the White Mountains. My records indicate that perhaps only 1992 was milder.”

He mentioned meeting some old friends and missing several others, many of whom were on Tucker Mountain. “But there were mostly people I don’t know and lots of them (33 cars when I departed the parking lot at 9:21 am.) Has the torch passed to a new generation?”

I have mixed feelings about not climbing Moosilauke this year. There was vey little snow and wonderful weather, but I think it was the right decision for me.

I got home by 4, at least two hours earlier than usual, tired but not exhausted. I was able to take Oak, our St. Bernard with me, something I would not have considered had I hiked Moosilauke.

A couple of mugs of hot mulled cider while sitting by the fire followed by Linda’s cheddar cheese soup made with the sharpest Cabot cheese available and a bottle of Magic Hat #9, and a couple slices of bread she had baked while I was hiking made for a wonderful way to relax while recounting the hike to her.

It was then off to the cellar for a soak in the hot tub to let the heat and the jets massage my old body and totally relax me. If only the rest of 2021 could end so well.

Bits and Pieces

The Vermont archery season harvest, which will be close to 5,800 deer, will be a new all-time record for that season. The Fish and Wildlife Department explained, “Several changes to archery hunting regulations took effect in 2020, including a longer season, allowing the use of crossbows by all archery hunters and an increased bag limit. These changes were intended to increase archery participation and the harvest. However, some of the increase was likely due to a spike in participation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Department says that, “The final deer harvest numbers will not be available for a few more weeks, but the final tally will be around 18,000 deer, the second highest total since 2000.”

However, hunters weren’t quite as successful during the regular firearm and muzzleloader seasons, but final harvest numbers for those seasons are predicted to be close to or above average for the past 10 years.

“Fewer bucks were harvested than in the previous four years, but the final number will be near or above the 10-year average of 8,857,” said Nick Fortin, the department’s deer project leader.

“Hunting conditions were challenging this year. Weather conditions, food availability, and possibly other factors limited deer movement in November and December and made it difficult for hunters to locate deer. The new one buck annual limit likely also contributed to the lower buck harvest.”

The primary goal of Vermont’s deer management strategy is to keep the deer herd stable, healthy and in balance with available habitat.

“Maintaining an appropriate number of deer on the landscape ensures deer and the habitats that support them remain in good condition and productive,” said Fortin.

The 2020 White-tailed Deer Harvest Report with final numbers will be on Fish and Wildlife’s website in early March. Beginning in late March, department biologists will be holding informational hearings to share biological information and to listen to any information people wish to share.

***

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is asking the public to report wild turkeys sightings this winter by participating in the 2021 Winter Turkey Flock Survey at www.wildnh.com/surveys/turkey.html. The survey begins January 1 and runs through March 31. Information about the status of wintering wild turkeys is very important because severe weather and limited natural food supplies can present serious challenges for turkeys.

The Department continues to monitor the prevalence of two viruses that are present in the wild turkey population: Avian Pox and Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV). The public is asked to keep an eye out this winter for lesions or wart-like protuberances on the head or neck areas of turkeys they see and report these observations through the online survey.

Wild turkeys disappeared from New Hampshire’s landscape for more than a century because of unregulated hunting and habitat loss from extensive land clearing in the 1800s. Their recovery in the state began during the winter of 1975 when 25 turkeys were trapped in New York and transferred to Walpole, NH. As that initial population grew, turkeys were trapped and transferred to different locations around the state up until 1995. Now, New Hampshire has a robust turkey population estimated at around 45,000 birds statewide. Wild turkey management and research is made possible by the federal Wildlife Restoration Program which is funded by an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.

***

Beginning this month, the NH Fish and Game Commission will now meet on the second Tuesday of each month, instead of the second Wednesday of each month. Therefore, the first meeting of 2021 will be on January 12 at 1 p.m. Details for this meeting will be announced in the near future.

Meetings of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission are open to the public. As they become available, meeting agendas and minutes are posted at www.wildnh.com/about/commission.html.

***

Mark Breen reports in the Fairbanks Museum Skywatch Almanac that on January 1, 2018: “Record cold start to the year; -25 in Woodstock, VT, -32 in Saranac Lake, NY.”

It was some different this year and celebrating outside much more pleasant.

Mark reminded us that on January 2, “The Earth was at perihelion, its closest point to the Sun, at 91.4 million miles.”

The records at the museum show that on January 5, 1835, “Severe cold; mercury congealed (colder than –40 F) in Montpelier and White River, and Franconia, NH, -32 in Hanover at Dartmouth.”

Parting Shots

Linda received a little sign for Christmas from a friend that says, “If our dog doesn’t like you we probably won’t either.”

Like all dog lovers, I could not agree more and I bet Pat Jauch and the volunteers at Caledonia Animal Rescue, Inc. do too.

***

Perhaps the most valuable result of education is the ability to educate yourself to do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. This is the first lesson to be learned.

— Thomas Henry Huxley

Syndicated columnist Gary W. Moore may be reached by email at gwmoore1946@icloud.com or at Box 454, Bradford, VT 05033.

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