Monday, February 8, 2010

A Solitary Ramble at Lincoln Mountain

It's hard to find new stuff to blog about this time of year. I visited all my old haunts today: Mud Pond, Spier Falls, the Sherman Island boat launch, the Hudson near Rippled Rocks Point. Ho hum. All quiet. Nothing new. Maybe I'll try someplace different, I thought, and headed over to Greenfield to visit the Lincoln Mountain State Forest.

Lincoln Mountain is a very quiet, off-the-beaten-track kind of place, over 900 acres of mixed hardwoods and conifers, hilly, with three creeks that drain into a sizable marsh. There's a narrow snow-covered dirt road that takes you well into the heart of the forest, and I bumped along it as far as I dared in my Toyota Corolla, not having four-wheel drive. I stopped where the road dipped steeply down, figuring I might not make it back up if I ventured further. Time to get out and walk.

Well, it was very quiet back there. Not a soul around, nor any sign that a soul had been by in some time. I'd better not break a leg back here, I said to myself as I slipped on an icy spot, which reminded me to put on my Yaktrax. I patted my camera bag, feeling to make sure I had my Trak phone. Oops! I'd left it at home in my purse. I decided to be extra careful. I hadn't told anyone where I was walking today.

Maybe I should have stayed on the road, but the animal tracks in the forest drew me in. Especially one well-trodden deer trail.

I followed that trail for a few hundred yards, not seeing any deer (of course), but I did find a spot where they'd pawed up the snow and searched in the oak leaves for acorns.

Lots of other tracks crossed the deer trail, so I made a few detours, curious to see what these other critters were up to. I followed these tracks -- I believe they are fisher's -- for quite a while, until I decided I'd better get back on the road and not stray too far into the forest.

I walked the road until it came to an open swamp, where I saw this fox trail heading across the snow-covered ice. I started to walk out onto the ice, then remembered my plunge-through yesterday, and changed my mind.

Walking back to my car, I was charmed by the sparkling snow. For some reason today, it was sparkling in Technicolor, flashing red and blue and gold and green in addition to dazzling white. Here's a photo of what I was looking at. Pretty hard to capture that color on camera, I thought.

In this photo, I've enlarged the most colorful flashes, then boosted the saturation. Click on the photo to best see the colors. As pretty as Christmas lights!

And here's something lovely in pure black and white: a branch of a Tamarack tree, with its cute little peg-like buds.

Lincoln Mountain State Forest is home to some of the oldest trees in New York State. There are Black Tupelos growing back here in the swamp that are possibly 800 years old. I had thought I might search for them today, but I lost my nerve when I discovered I had no phone, and I didn't want to go wandering around all alone. But for sure I'll be back on February 28, when Vince Walsh will be leading a trek to visit these ancient trees. A highly skilled tracker steeped in the lore of the forest, Vince is a truly engaging teacher and guide. He brought me to see the tupelos here last winter, an experience that felt more like a pilgrimage than an ordinary hike. We even found Great Horned Owls nesting in an abandoned Great Blue Heron's nest. Anyone who'd like to join us this year should check the details at Vince's Kawing Crow website. Click on the "Courses and Workshops" to find the schedule.


Paul said...

As always, your pictures, observations and prose call for publication. thanks so much for sharing and for using your good common sense to not risk injury so you can keep on posting.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Oooo - the ancient trees - I've dropped Vince a line to see if there's still room.

Happy Hiking!

Woodswoman Extraordinaire said...

It may be hard for most of us to find good things to blog about this time of year, but as usual, you've found lots of great stuff. I love the fisher tracks, and got goose bumps thinking about 800 year old trees. How much they've seen!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Dear Paul and Ellen and WoodswomanX: Thanks so much for your comments. When I go on my walks, I imagine friends like you walking along with me. I wish I could take you all to visit those ancient trees. Just imagine, they were growing here while the Crusades were going on across the sea, and were already 300 years old before any Europeans could have laid eyes on them.