Thursday, October 6, 2011

Great Day for a Trail. Or Two!

 What a perfect day to explore a new trail -- clear and cool, a bright sun overhead and crisp autumn leaves underfoot.  And what a great bunch of folks to do it with -- a group of friends called The Thursday Naturalists, whose combined knowledge of all things woodsy would fill many libraries, and whose company is just plain fun.  I don't hike with them as often as I'd like, since many of their weekly excursions take place rather far from my home, but today their plan was to hike some new trails in nearby Malta, so I jumped at my chance to join them.

We met at a parking area off Hermes Road in what once was a tract of land called the Luther Forest but which now is home to a huge electronics manufacturing plant.  Many hundreds of acres of wooded land still surround this complex, and a number of walking trails have been established here.  The first part of the trail we chose today was level and paved with stone dust, leading to a spacious gazebo provided with a ramp for wheelchair access.

This particular trail was chosen to better accommodate the needs of one of the group's members, who,  well into her 90s, still enjoys a walk in the woods and whose keen interest in things botanical adds much to the outing's enjoyment for everyone.

There were very few flowers along the trail today, but we still found much to delight and intrigue us.  Here, Ed uses his magnifier to peer at a tiny insect nestled inside the gills of a Russula mushroom.

We found a nice fat Bear's Head toothed fungus (Hericium coralloides), which would have made a delicious mushroom meal, if those browning tips hadn't indicated that this fungus had grown too old to eat.

Here's another toothed fungus we found, Purple Tooth Polypore (Trichaptum biformis).  Some were white, and others, like these, were more tan, but all had a lovely lavender edge.  Way too woody to eat, though.

I wish I could have stayed longer with my friends this morning, but I had to get back to my house to meet electricians.  When their work was done, the day was still young and still as lovely as ever, so I hurried out to enjoy a brief afternoon's walk at Bog Meadow Nature Trail in Saratoga.

Just a month ago, this boardwalk that crosses a marshy stretch of the trail was alive with the buzzing and flitting and calling of insects and birds.  Today, it was eerily silent, except for the faint trilling of tree crickets far off in the distance.  It was blissful to sit on a bench here and bask in the fading sun.

Most of the flowers have disappeared by now, even though we have yet to experience a true killing frost.  I did find one plant of Swamp Thistle, one of our native thistles, with its fluffy purple flowerheads as vivid as ever.  The color is actually more toward the magenta, but this is the color as my camera renders it.

There were still a few straggling blooms of New England Aster around, as well, which must have made this fat bee very happy, as she loads up with pollen before the autumn's cold arrives in earnest.

I had to stop at the supermarket on the way home, and there near the parking lot was a stand of Jerusalem Artichokes, the very last flower of summer.  (The Monkshood in my garden still have yet to bloom, but they don't really count as the last flower around here, since they are not native to Saratoga County and I planted them.)

Somebody else was enjoying this lovely warm day and this splendid yellow flower.  And I sure enjoyed the sight of this Candy-striped Leafhopper, which has got to be one of the most beautiful insects of all.

1 comment:

June said...

I love the leafhopper's name, not to mention the close up. (Thank you for that, too.) Sometimes the names of these things that you find are just so much fun!