Late Sunday afternoon my mother and I took a road trip along Route 113 through the Evans Notch section of the White Mountain National Forest. The narrow road begins in Gilead and follows the Wild River past dozens of hiking trails. In August 2011 tropical storm Irene resulted in large blow downs, damaged trails, and the destruction of the suspension bridge near the Hastings Campground. We were excited to see that crews are working on the construction of a new bridge on the site of the old suspension bridge. Although the trees in the forest are still dark green, we did see a few red-leaved maples in low-lying wet areas along Route 2.
This time of year we usually see hundreds of orange-and-black monarch butterflies emerging from their chrysalises, and then flying off to join millions of other monarchs in their migration to Mexico. Conservation groups and the World Wildlife Fund have reported that the monarch population is slowly decreasing due to destruction of the monarch’s habitat by over-logging in Mexico, climate changes, and destruction of milkweed by herbicides. In the past few weeks, two teachers have asked me to help find caterpillars for classroom projects. Many of us probably remember these projects where we watched caterpillars munch on milkweed, then create a chrysalis, and later emerge as a butterfly. I’ve searched the milkweed plants in my backyard, along roadways and railroad tracks, and in old mill yards and found no eggs or caterpillars yet this year. Wildlife experts don’t think the monarch will totally disappear, but we can help rebuild the population by protecting its habitat. In this area that means protecting the milkweed from herbicides and cutting. Milkweed is the only food that monarch caterpillars eat.
With the exception of providing a missing guardrail at the brook near Telstar, the road crews have finished work on Route 26 between Davis Park and Hancock Lumber. Work was completed in just under a month. Drivers and bicyclists appear to be enjoying the newly resurfaced road. Unfortunately, many cars and trucks are whizzing by, ignoring the posted speed limit. School starts this week, an added reason to slow down.
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