Thursday, June 3, 2010
Evelyn's Mountain Meadows and Woods
I don't know many folks as generous with their time and knowledge
-- and canoes! -- as is Evelyn Greene. A native Adirondacker and botanizer par excellence, Evelyn knows where EVERYTHING grows. And she just can't wait to show you, and will cheerfully lend you one of her multiple Hornbeck canoes to paddle there, if that's what it takes. She spent the whole day yesterday showing two groups of orchid lovers around a hidden pond on a hunt for the rare Arethusa, and when she called this morning to acknowledge the photos I'd posted on yesterday's blog, she was eager to go out again. "You mean you've NEVER seen Showy Orchis?" she marveled when I admitted that, indeed, I had not, and she promptly invited me to join her on a jaunt near Garnet Lake, where she knew that some grew. How could I resist?
We arranged to meet in Wevertown, and then Evelyn drove the rest of the way, much of it on one-lane, barely passable, winding and climbing dirt road, until we came out on expansive meadows lying at the foot of Crane Mountain. How on earth did she know how to find this place? Turns out, it was where she grew up. And where, years ago, she lived with her husband and son half the year in a cabin with no electricity or running water. So no wonder she knew where the Showy Orchis grew. And she led me right there, climbing the meadows past the old barn and flooded beaver ponds and into the mountainous woods.
As we climbed the sloping sunny meadows, we marveled at the warm wash of color that Sheep Sorrel lent to the grass.
Deep in the dark shady woods, we climbed through Wild Sarsaparilla and over downed logs where shiny orange mushrooms grew, this cluster sporting a slug as an ornament.
At first we were disappointed to find the patch of orchids with all the flowers spent. Oh well, I thought, at least I can get an idea of how the flowers grow on the stem and what their foliage looks like.
But then I heard Evelyn shriek with delight just a little bit further on: she found some in bloom after all. A little bit faded, yes, but I could still see the beautiful rosy pink inside of the orchid's throat.
These lovely orchids weren't the only unusual plants to be found in that mountainous woods made rich by marble bedrock. Evelyn introduced me to ferns I had never encountered before, including the ample-fronded, paler-tipped Goldie's Fern, seen here sharing its shady glade with the smaller-fronded, aptly named Glade Fern.
Whole woodland hillsides were set atremble with dainty-leaved Maidenhair Fern.
On another path toward a waterfall, we came upon this diminutive Oak Fern, its triplet fronds joined at the center to a single dark wiry stalk.
Another fern along that path was the Broad Beech Fern, its lowest leaflets set at a distinctive angle from the stem, so that the frond appears to end in a fan.
We made our way to a beaver-dammed pond, where dragonflies dared us to try to take their photograph, but at least tiny Smaller Forget-me-nots held still for the picture-taking.
There were many plants of Water Avens, with its dark purple sepals over paler pink petals and bushy pistils that continue to grow and persist on the plant until they become the wild and wiry hairdo seen on the bloom in the background.
Walking the sandy road back to the car, we puzzled over these sharp-toed footprints that didn't match the stride of any mammal I'd ever tracked. Here and there along the course of this trail we saw small mounds of dirt scratched up as if the critter were digging test holes. "Why, I'll bet those are Snapper tracks," said Evelyn. And it all made sense: a heavy female laden with eggs, testing the dirt for a place to deposit those eggs.