Saturday, August 28, 2010

Up the Mountain, Along the Creek

Yesterday, my friend Sue showed me Grass of Parnassus, a flower I had never seen. Today it was my turn to show Sue some flowers that she had never seen. Our first excursion was up a mountainous trail in Moreau Lake State Park. Our goal was a high rocky ridge overlooking the Hudson River far below, but we had to stop at an open meadow about halfway up to admire the beautiful Nodding Ladies' Tresses that were growing abundantly there. I've never seen so many growing in one spot. I counted 70 of these dainty white orchids in bloom today, and I'm sure there are many more.

Along the trail heading up, we came across a group of Common Mullein that caused us to stop in our tracks. Why on earth would we stop for a second look at such a common roadside weed? Well, these mullein flowers were colored white, a most unusual color for a flower that usually is yellow. I know that the related Moth Mullein comes with both yellow and white flowers, but I had never seen a Common Mullein colored white.

We also stopped at a rocky outcropping where I'd found a delightful tiny pink lichen last June. Called Pink Earth Lichen (Dibaeis baeomyces), it looked exactly the same as it had in June, which is one of the wonderful things about lichens. You can look for them at any season, and they will look much the same. For comparison, you can check my photo of these lichens on my blogpost for June 21.

What a splendid day it was for a walk in the woods, not too warm, with the sun casting dappled shadows through the still-green trees. We especially loved it when the path leveled off, so we got a little easy walking after a couple of steep climbs.

Once we reached the overlook, we stopped to gaze out over the river below and mountains beyond. And to rest our feet.

Descending to our cars, we next headed off to Orra Phelps Nature Preserve in Wilton, where I hoped to show Sue the beautiful Fringed Gentians that were just budding out two days ago. And wonder of wonders, they were in full glorious bloom today. Sue was so thrilled by their beauty, I felt as if I had given her a chest full of jewels, not simply showed her a field of sapphire flowers.

But Sue's delight didn't stop there. She was equally thrilled to discover the beautiful sun-dappled rushing creeks that run through the Orra Phelps Preserve. One of the creeks was floored with flat expanses of shale, allowing us to walk right out in the streambed and cross easily from one side to the other.

A radiant cluster of Great Lobelia had found a happy home along the creek.

The two of us spent a long time just poking about in the creek, scaring up frogs and watching the shimmering ripples and burbling eddies around the rocks. How happy I am to have such a friend who delights in messing about in the woods like this! We both felt as if we had been transported back to our backyard-wilderness-exploring childhoods, when muddy knees and mosquito bites were a small price to pay for all the fun we were having.

Here's one of the frogs we scared up. Actually, he didn't seem very scared at all, but sat on this rock for the longest time while we both took many pictures. Sue says that this is a Green Frog.

We found lots of other neat stuff, as well, including several Indian Cucumber Roots that still had their berries on them.

We walked on a path that was littered with Wild Black Cherries, including this one that had fallen so prettily on a fern. I've never seen such a fruit-fall before, since birds usually strip the trees before the fruit is so ripe. These cherries were so ripe that their sweetness overwhelmed their bitter edge. (Yes, I tasted one.)

We also tasted the sweet-tart fruit of Red Currants, which, lit by the sun, were shining like rubies where they dangled on their canes.

We didn't taste this tiny orange mushroom, though. I never eat a mushroom I don't know the name of. It wouldn't be much of a mouthful, anyway.

Then there were these black knobby things, resting on moss and mud in a seepy area near a stream. I would never have guessed what they were, except that we found them where I know that hundreds of Skunk Cabbage plants fill this area earlier in the year. These must be what's left of the fruits.

As I said, lots of neat stuff.


Louise said...

I didn't realize that skunk cabbage fruited like that. I'll have to find a way back into the woods behind my house to see if I can find some.

Those fringed gentians are so beautiful. I need to do some research to find out if any grow around here.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Louise, it's always good to hear from you. It's funny that for all the years (my whole long life!) I have lived around Skunk Cabbage, observing it in every season, I never before saw those black fruiting blobs. Just goes to show, there's always something new to find out there in the woods.

catharus said...

'Sounds like living to me!!..."How happy I am to have such a friend who delights in messing about in the woods like this! We both felt as if we had been transported back to our backyard-wilderness-exploring childhoods"
That's simply fantastic -- to have such day-to-day joy (and of course, I relate to it when it comes from experiences of the outdoors).