Thursday, September 24, 2009
Up,Up,Up to Harrisburg Lake
The New York Times crossword was extra hard today, so when Evelyn called about 11 this morning, she caught me on my third cup of coffee and still in my pajamas. "What are you doing home on such a beautiful day?" she exclaimed, wondering if I'd come join her and another friend named Bonnie for a cranberry-picking paddle on Harrisburg Lake. She sure didn't have to ask twice.
I met Evelyn and Bonnie in Stony Creek, a tiny village 10 miles north of Hadley, and we proceeded another 10 miles or so north and east. I knew we were climbing up and up, for my ears were popping and the stream that our road criss-crossed several times was tearing white-watered downhill. Church-steeple spires of Black Spruce lined the road, and after what seemed a long, long drive through ever remoter boondocks, the paved road turned to dirt and ended right there at the lake. Sun-warmed and still, the water reflected a blue, blue sky and the brilliant autumn colors climbing the mountains surrounding the lake.
Canoes unloaded, we soon were off to circumnavigate the lake.
Harrisburg Lake is very shallow, and at times we had to pole our boats through tight spots among floating mats of water-lily roots and and boggy sphagnum islands strewn with ripe cranberries.
Bonnie spied these tiny Humped Bladderworts (Utricularia gibba) studding a black muddy mat with minute yellow blooms. When I climbed out onto the mat to try to get a photo, the mat promptly sank beneath the water, so I scrambled back into my boat and settled for this not-so-perfect shot.
I found one slightly battered bladderwort bloom close enough to the edge of the mat to take its close-up.
On another, more sphagnumy mat, we found this Arrow Arum seedhead burrowing its way down into the moss, where it will start a new clump next year.
On another mat, this Bog Lycopodium sprawled across the mud, sharing its turf with Spatulate Sundew and Marsh St. Johnswort.
And under the water, these streaming green water plants waved gracefully in the current. I don't know the Latin name, but I'd give this plant the common name of Mermaid's Hair.
A few Fragrant Water Lily blossoms still floated on the surface, but by this time of year, the lily pads surely rival the flowers for beauty.
By the end of the afternoon, Bonnie and Evelyn had picked bags full of ripe red cranberries. (I didn't bother to pick them since my family doesn't like them and I don't want to eat the amount of sugar it takes to sweeten them up.) The payoff for me -- aside from a gorgeous paddle on a spectacular Adirondack lake with two smart and amusing companions -- was a mind cleared to tackle the rest of that crossword puzzle. One glance, and the answers just fell into place. See what a day outdoors can do for increasing brainpower?