Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paddling Clean Waters

 The temperature was still in the 30s this morning when Ruth Schottman and I headed up to Newcomb in Essex County, where we joined our friend Evelyn Greene and others to paddle the pristine waters of Rich Lake.  Evelyn had organized the paddle as part of the 9th Annual Clean Waters Benefit put on by the environmental group Protect the Adirondacks.  We were lucky to have such a gorgeous blue-sky day, with a bright sun that soon warmed us as we slipped along the lake's wooded shoreline.

A good part of the pleasure of our paddle was examining the water plants that flourished in these clean waters, unsullied by the presence of motor boats or lakeside buildings.  My favorite was the Small Floating Heart (Nymphoides cordata), whose dainty leaves floated prettily in the still waters close to shore.  We didn't find any of its small white flowers today, but we did find the clusters of slender tubers from which the flowers sprout when in bloom.

We were also intrigued by the flower stalks of Pickerelweed, the flowers gone to seed and the stalks curving downward to bury the seedheads in the mud.  Some of the underwater flowerheads had snagged the occasional uprooted Quillwort, a spiky fern ally that normally grows rooted in shallow water.

One of the most fascinating finds of the day was this freshwater sponge, found growing on some underwater branches.  Actually a colony of animals, freshwater sponges are often mistaken for aquatic plants or algae, and their green color comes from algae embedded in their tissues.  They are found only in waters that are clear and well oxygenated, which makes them a most appropriate find on a paddling trip to benefit the protection of clean waters.  

On our way home from Newcomb, Ruth and I decided to stop off for a walk at the Ice Meadows along the Hudson River north of Warrensburg.  After spending several hours cramped up in our canoes, we felt the need to stretch our legs, and the Ice Meadows seemed like a fine place to do just that.  We did have to watch our steps a bit, though, as we picked our way across these beautiful marble outcroppings.

We were surprised to find a bridal party, who also apparently believed this location to be a very special place.

Called the Ice Meadows because of the massive accumulations of fluid ice that are deposited on these banks each winter, this stretch of the Hudson is home to a number of rare plants that have evolved to tolerate these harsh conditions.  One of those plants is Dwarf Sand Cherry, which today looked especially lovely, with its reddening leaves arrayed against the white marble underneath.

Another plant that grows here proves that a plant doesn't have to be especially beautiful to be considered remarkable.  This is Whip Nut Rush (Scleria triglomerata), a threatened species in New York State, but one that thrives at this site.  This time of year its flower head looks like a disheveled bird's nest, with the tiny green or white BB-shaped seeds tucked in among the chaff.

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) is hardly a rare plant, but it looked especially charming today, with the textured marble setting off the sunny-yellow blooms to fine advantage.


catharus said...

Thanks again (!) for sharing your stories of discovery illustrated so well with excellent photos!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Ah - me ol' stompin' grounds! A nice visit!

Anonymous said...

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes ...

e.e. cummings

Raining Iguanas said...

I'm with hikeagiant2 & e.e.