Saturday, October 3, 2009

Misty Vistas, Mountain Trails, and Moose Poop

A misty morning on the Hudson at Moreau, just before we started our climb

It was good to be back on my home territory today, giving my friend Jackie a tour of some of my favorite parts of my beloved Moreau Lake State Park. Another friend, Laurie, also joined us. She called this morning to tell me about moose tracks and scats she had found in the park, so I asked her to show them to us. But first we all climbed to the Spring Trail Overlook, one of the prettiest spots in the park, and I dare say, on the planet.

On the way to the overlook, we approach the foot of high cliffs.

I've hiked that trail so many times I know it by heart, but today Laurie showed us a new and far more adventurous way to the top. We left the trail at one point and scrambled through brambly woods to where sheer cliffs begin. And it was awesome! Towering temples of stone loomed above us, rising from heaps of jagged boulders adorned with mosses and lichens.

We hoisted our weight up a few tiers of ledges, carefully placing our feet among slippery rocks. We then edged our way around to where the woods began again, then pulled our way up the grassy slope by grasping at trees, finally joining the trail just before it led out to a rocky outcropping that overlooks the Hudson River where the river takes a sharp turn to the northeast.

Because it was overcast today, and our climb had brought us into the actual bottom of a cloud, I didn't expect the view to be that spectacular. But it did not disappoint. Far below us, the river lay still as glass, reflecting the forested banks as if in a mirror. Mist floated in diaphanous curtains around us, shrouding the faraway mountains from view, but outlining the profiles of nearer hills where pearly light lay in the valleys. In the surrounding forest, the autumn reds and oranges and golds seemed to glow as if incandescent in the shadowless light, appearing even more radiant than if they had been bathed by brilliant sunshine.

It was hard to leave, but that moose scat and sign -- and the chance we might spot one -- were calling, so down we went and off we drove to hike the edge of Mud Pond. Here, in the sandy path that rings the pond and continues under the power lines, Laurie pointed out where a moose had walked, leaving hoof prints as large as a human hand. (Unfortunately, recent heavy rain had so diminished the prints, no photo could capture them.) She showed us where a huge heavy body had crushed the tall grass where it lay, and pointed out the stripped tops of poplar and hazelnut shrubs where a very tall ungulate had recently grazed.

But the crowning prize of the day -- and absolute proof that the passing animal was really a moose -- was this shiny pile of ovoid droppings. Somebody once told me that moose scat has a distinctive musty smell, but I forgot to sniff it. I did put my hand down near it, though, to give a sense of its size.

So! Quite a day! From steep thrills through the cliffs, to spectacular vistas enveloped in mist, to exulting over a pile of poop in the grass. And all in the company of two fine friends. Days don't come much better than this. Well . . . maybe if we had actually seen that moose!


Diesel said...

Oh, now that's some fine poop. Thanks for the picture Jackie. I'm pretty close to the ground on a hike so that cat's eye view was very helpful. But next time, for my sake, take a whiff...I follow my nose a lot so a few extra tips/impressions wouldn't hurt.

Your friend in fur, Diesel

Ellen Rathbone said...

Well, you're one up on me now - I have yet to find moose scat. I've seen tracks, I've followed tracks, I even heard a moose calling once, but I've never seen one or its scats. I do, however, have a pair of moose scat earrings that our maintenance man made for me one year! :D