Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Good Report for Lake Lila

Lake Lila's a pretty big lake, as Adirondack waters go. Yes, I know, compared to such giants as George and Champlain, Lila is just a dot on the map up there in Hamilton County. But when the wind is whipping up whitecaps, slamming waves over your gunwales, and nearly wresting your paddle out of your hands, its 1400-acre expanse can feel like the wide open sea. Especially when paddling a tiny Hornbeck solo canoe, with only about six inches of freeboard on a quiet day. This photo shows the quiet end of the lake, revealing little of the choppy waters awaiting beyond those islands. But aside from that little difficulty, it sure was a gorgeous day to join my friend Evelyn Greene and her friend Anya on this wilderness lake in the west-central Adirondacks. And it was all for a good cause.

Evelyn (pictured above in her boat) volunteers for a group committed to monitoring invasive species throughout the Adirondack Park, so each of us set out to explore a different part of the lake, searching for alien invaders. And I'm happy to report that not a single one was found.

I do admit to a moment's pause, however, when I noticed this plant floating just under the water, its fine-fanning leaves appearing, at first glance, like those of the dreaded Eurasian Milfoil. But a closer look revealed tiny sacs embedded among the leaf structures: this is a bladderwort. Which kind, I'm not sure, but I do know it's a native plant. And hardly invasive, since this is the only one we found in all our searching.

Evelyn told me those curious green blobs at the ends of the bladderwort stems are called "turions," a kind of winter bud. When the rest of the plant freezes and dies away, these turions detach and sink to the bottom, where they spend the winter under the ice. When spring comes, they rise again to the surface and start new growth.

Another plant with an interesting mode of reproduction is Yellow Loosestrife, also known as Swamp Candles because of its spike of yellow flowers in summer. Prolific along the shores of Lake Lila, these plants produce both seed pods from the flower heads and also put forth those little red wormy things that grow from the leaf axils. Called bulbils, these growths fall off and get buried in the sand, and, come spring, they will sprout new plants that are clones of the originals.

Along with the loosestrife and Watershield and Pickerelweed, these rushes (reeds?) were the common native plants that lined the shore.

White Pine and Black Spruce are the dominant trees around the lake, and they also crowd the several rocky islands.

Red Maples blazed against a blue, blue sky, a foretaste of the magnificent autumn color yet to come.

Lake Lila lies within the Wm. C. Whitney Wilderness Area, its shoreline completely state owned and off limits to all motorized boats or any kind of development. It's really rare to find a lake this size so totally free of power boats, which helps, no doubt, to keep its waters pristine. Primitive camping is allowed and sites are established, but it's not that easy to put a canoe in the water here, requiring a six-mile drive over a nearly impassable road and then a nearly half-mile hike carrying boats through the woods to the shore. We were lucky that Anya had a truck to carry our three canoes and negotiate that road. And fortunate, too, to have those lightweight canoes. It was easy to carry them. Even if the wind did make them a bit hard to paddle.

(A qualification to that last statement: Evelyn claims she had no trouble at all while paddling in all that wind. And that's probably true; she wouldn't. I do believe that woman was born with a Hornbeck affixed to her rear, she is so at one with her boat when she's on the water.)

1 comment:

Louise said...

What a beautiful place. And, I'm very impressed that you didn't find any invasives. I'm glad that it is protected, and will never be spoiled. And, I'm glad to have had the chance to see it, through your camera lens.