Saturday, November 6, 2010
Warming Up for a Paddle
"What am I doing here?" I muttered to myself as I stared at the cold grey Hudson and leaden sky. I had promised myself at least one more paddle before I stored my canoe for the winter, but I almost threw my boat back onto my car, the river looked so unwelcoming today. "Ah well, we're here," I sighed, as I pushed off into the chilly wind, drawing my polarfleece hood up over my ears. But it only took two or three strokes to remind me how much I love to paddle this river. Smoothly, silently, moving in close to the banks, I ducked under low-hanging hemlocks, surprising a pair of Slate-colored Juncos scratching about in fallen leaves near the shore. A tiny rivulet, freshened by this week's rains, tumbled over moss-covered rocks and spilled with a cheerful tinkling into the river. Then passing under a steep-bouldered bank, I spied a thick cluster of bright-berried Wintergreen, sprung from whatever soil it could find in a seam of the rock. "Ah yes," I smiled, as I stretched out my legs and relaxed against my boat's backrest: "Home!"
Whatever the season, I always find something amazing along this river, and today was no exception. Passing under a thicket of alders, I spied this clump of fluff on a twig and remembered finding the same thing here last year: a colony of Wooly Alder Aphids in their sap-sucking stage, exuding these ribbons of white waxy stuff all over their bodies.
Many fallen trees protrude into the water, forcing me to paddle out and around them. Rounding this fallen log, I noticed one mushroom had sprouted deep in its hollow.
Forested mountains reach all the way down to the water along this stretch below Spier Falls Dam, with a wonderful mix of hardwoods and conifers. Here and there I pass pure stands of American Beech, whose leaves of bright bronze cover the ground and fill the forest with a glow that seems incandescent.
This abundant cluster of Wood Ear fungus shares its log with a tiny clump of green moss, their colors echoing those of the beeches and hemlocks behind.
Yes, indeed, it was the sun, for the clouds were now heading off to the east, trailing their shadows behind them as they moved over the mountains.
Soon sunlight was flooding the whole river valley, warming my face as I raised my eyes to delight in illuminated Red Oak leaves.
Sunlit beech boughs spilled their gold on the dark green water, which threw the light back in reflected ripples moving up and down the riverside rocks and trees.