Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Walk on the River Road

All that new snow that fell over the weekend was washed away by yesterday's unrelenting rains. Today, the first day of March, dawned springtime bright and clear, although the air was still winter-cold. Where should I go to get under that clear blue sky? Since I'm frankly growing a bit weary of snowshoes, I decided to walk on Spier Falls Road, a beautifully scenic, gently curving road that runs along the Hudson River at Moreau. The river today was still solidly frozen over, and the woods that climb the mountainsides here still lay deep in snow. But the sides of the road were clear for easy walking.

My son Philip joined me today, and after parking my car at the spring trailhead, we walked toward the Spier Falls Dam about a mile downstream. Although I don't know how this dam ranks today, I have read that when it was built in 1903, it was the fourth largest dam in the world and the very largest built to generate electricity. And it continues to generate electricity to this day, around 47,000 kilowatts.
The dam remains an impressive structure, standing 157 feet high and 1,570 feet long. It was constructed with rocks that were blasted out of the nearby mountains, and the mostly Italian immigrants who laid the stonework created an edifice so well built that it has never required repair.

You can still see the gouges blasted out of the mountains, creating tiers of rocky cliffs that in winter are covered with blue-green falls of cascading ice.

We were able to walk up to the foot of the cliffs today because groups of ice climbers have made a well trodden path to the site. You can make out their footprints in the deep snow at the foot of the first ice cliff.

There were many impressive ice falls among the boulders that lined the road, but what caught my eye today, and lifted my spirits, were these drizzles of melting snow creating thin pencil-lines of damp on the face of the sun-warmed boulders.

And oh, how sweet was the sound of this little rill, its streams of droplets drip, drip, dripping down, to splash on the mossy rocks.

This stand of Scotch Pines was gilded by the late afternoon sun, lighting up the orange bark that distinguishes these trees from other conifers.

Here's another conifer that stands along Spier Falls Road, right across from the dam parking lot. It's quite a big handsome tree, and the texture of its bark and the shape of its needles suggest to me that it's some kind of spruce. But I don't know which one.

The boughs don't droop down like a Norway Spruce's, and the color's wrong for Blue Spruce. So is this a White Spruce? Or maybe a Red?

I'm hoping some of my readers will recognize this tree right away and be kind enough to leave a comment telling us what it is.


Louise said...

What a fantastic piece of construction that dam is! Imagine, all those years ago and it is still as solid as the day it was built. Today, it seems we build something and expect it to fall to pieces in 20 years.

No help with the spruce, except to say that it is a beautiful tree.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Are you sure it isn't a balsam fir? The needles look too long for the spruces, and don't look anywhere near pointy enough. Were you able to handle it? Were the needles sharp and pointy? Red spruce has very short, sharp needles, and white spruce smells like cat pee when the needles are crushed. These needles look more rounded than pointed, but it's always so difficult to tell from a photo.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for stopping by, Louise and Ellen. Regarding the tree, as you probably know by now, I have ID'd it as White Spruce, which has longer and more pliable needles than Red Spruce. Thanks to your query, Ellen, I returned to the tree to gather some needled twigs and hauled out my best tree books.