Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Driving a Friend to Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake: Surrounded by mountains, home to a family of loons

For many years, my friend Elaine was a volunteer at Pyramid Life Center, a retreat center up at Pyramid Lake, in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area. That's 65 miles north of Saratoga Springs, a daunting distance now for Elaine, since illness has impaired her ability to drive. So I thought she might like to come along when I drove up there today. And yes, she certainly did. So off we went on a gorgeous blue-sky day, she to relax on the porch of the rustic old lodge, I to explore the lake in my canoe.

My wildflower journal told me that Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides) should be in bloom, and yes, indeed it was. Such a lovely pink orchid!

All around the lake I found little patches of Rose Pogonia peeking out from among the blueberry bushes and Sweet Gale shrubs, but they grew most abundantly in the marshy ends of the lake. Here fallen logs and old beaver lodges serve as nursery beds for all kinds of plants. This Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) was just about to come into bloom on a log it shared with Sphagnum Moss.

Another sodden log supported two of my favorite marsh-dwelling plants, shiny dark-red Marsh Cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris) . . .

. . . and tiny blue Marsh Speedwell (Veronica scutellata).

This Lesser Bur Reed (Sparganium natans, a threatened species here in New York) didn't need any fallen logs to support its little white puffs, which grow directly out of the shallow water. Water Lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna) was growing there, too, but the wind was blowing their slender stalks and I couldn't get a good photo of them.

After lunch, the wind died down a bit, so I ventured out on the open lake, paddling to where a mountain appears to have tumbled down in sheer cliffs to the water's edge.

Here among the fallen boulders I found showy spikes of Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) reaching for the sun.

Every year, one pair of loons returns to Pyramid Lake to rear their chicks. Loons lay two eggs in a clutch, but it appears that only one of the chicks has survived this year. I watched this family for quite some time -- mom, dad, and one brown fuzzy chick -- and never saw a second chick. I felt really privileged to have seen this one.

I also feel truly privileged to have access to such an exquisite place of retreat as Pyramid Life Center. May the healing power I sense here benefit my friend Elaine.

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