Monday, October 19, 2009
Rambling Around Spa Park
Twenty degrees this morning! Brrrr! A cascade of frozen Black Locust leaves came drifting down as I gazed out at a radiant but cold blue sky from inside my cozy kitchen. Too much housework kept me from planning a big nature outing today, but my husband and I managed to fit in an afternoon hike around our nearby Saratoga Spa State Park. It warmed up nicely into the 50s by then.
When our kids were young and we had a dog, we used to hike this park a lot, but we haven't for years, since I usually want to go someplace a little more like wilderness. This park has golf courses, swimming pools, a luxury hotel, mineral springs and bathhouses, picnic pavilions, a small theater and a large performing arts center -- and hardly any wilderness. But it's pretty, and it's close by.
The stately buildings that house park offices and a bathhouse are arranged around a reflecting pool. Not your typical rugged wilderness park, but a pleasant park for a ramble.
We started by walking around a golf course, trying not to annoy any golfers while crossing the fairways, and made a detour into the state-run tree nursery adjacent to the park. They raise native trees and shrubs for habitat restoration here, including Highbush Cranberry, among many others. The leaves had fallen and the berries were starting to shrivel, but they still looked pretty shining in the sun.
Baby Red Maples were sprouting in rows alongside rows of other sprouting trees.
Near the tree nursery stands this very old and very decrepit house. Its architecture indicates it's of early 19th-century vintage, and some years ago the state actually offered to give it away to anyone who could come up with a good use for it. Apparently, there were no takers. What a shame! It continues to deteriorate, although it still looks rather handsome, set among huge old maple trees that are probably as old as the house, if not older. I asked my husband to stand under one to give an idea of the size of a trunk. Years ago. we used to hide behind these trees to spy on a family of baby foxes that lived under the house and would come bounding out when mama fox arrived with a woodchuck for dinner.
We next made our way to the area of the park where mineral springs abound. I actually like to drink the mineral water, some of it highly flavored and fizzy, tasting of salt and iron. As this photo shows, some folks find the taste of it pretty funny.
The encrustations around the spigot indicate the presence of minerals in the water. I wonder if each color indicates a different mineral.
One spouting spring, called The Geyser, has built up quite a dome of limey deposits.
There's another large limey dome, created by a seeping spring as the water runs down the bank to a stream. I took this photo from a high bridge that spans the stream and leads to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which is closed now for the season.
Aside from a squirrel or two and a couple of blue jays, we didn't see much wildlife in the park. But then there was this dragonfly who landed on my back as I was standing in the sun.