Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Walk on the Ridge

What an awful dream I had last night!  I was supposed to get to my job in Glens Falls by hopping on foot all the way from Saratoga (that's about 20 miles), but after a few blocks I just couldn't make any progress because I was so exhausted, with legs as heavy as lead.  So when I woke up, I was already feeling tired.  Oh boy, I think that dream was a message that I need to exercise more.  So I made myself go for another hike that took me up and down hills, the Red Oak Ridge Trail at Moreau Lake State Park.

This trail is probably my favorite in the park, requiring enough effort to get my heart pounding at times, but also with relatively level stretches that allow me to enjoy the walk and look around at the scenery.   During the leafy seasons, that scenery consists mostly of close-by trees and dramatic rock formations, but this time of year you can look right through the trees to the lake below and mountains beyond.

I had planned to keep up a good pace on this hike, not expecting to find much along the trail to interrupt my stride.  But I did have to stop to take a closer look at the abundant growth of mosses adorning these rocks with different textures and colors.

One of those "mosses" (the one on the right side of this photo) turned out, on closer inspection, to be not a moss, but a liverwort called Scapania.  This is one of the very few liverworts I know the name of, thanks to my friend Evelyn Greene, who first showed it to me.   The moss on the left I believe is one of the Dicranums, possibly Dicranum scoparium.  Liverworts and mosses are related, both being bryophytes and lacking in vascular tissue, but I would be very hard pressed to give a simple explanation of how to distinguish them from each other, other than what they look like. Something I need to study up on.

Here's a closer look at that liverwort, showing its individual leaves.

During this season of dull browns and grays, the vivid green of the moss on these boulders certainly catches the eye.

A closer view of that vivid green moss, most likely Dicranum scoparium.

Lots of different mosses can be found along this trail, including this delicate fern-like moss.

And these cute little hedgehogs of spiky green.

Aha!  I found another moss I do know the name of:  these cute little green "posies" are called Rhizomnium punctatum.   Without any snow cover this winter to protect them, they look a little frayed around the edges.

Here's a photo of another, less tattered R. punctatum I took in the spring two years ago.  See how the center is filled with shiny black sperm, just waiting to be splashed out by falling rain.

One-way, the Red Oak Ridge Trail is about 1.35 miles from start to finish, where it descends the mountain ridge to meet the road that circles the lake.  But of course, that terminus is just about that far again from where I parked my car near the park office.  Since the day was growing late, I tried to pick up my pace, a difficult thing to do when descending a steep rocky trail.

While I was completing the last stretch of the trail, it began to snow, just a flake or two at first, and then, by the time I reached the beach, the air became filled with flakes falling straight down, soft and silent and oh, so beautiful!  How I have missed the experience of snow this winter, the way it softens the edges of things and absorbs all sounds!  Maybe we'll get our fill at last, I thought as I hurried around the lake toward my car.  But then, by the time I got home, there was not a trace left.  Ah well.


hikeagiant2 said...

I - obvious if you've seen my post from yesterday - couldn't stop taking photos of the mosses, lichens, and possibly some liverworts. The green was so vivid yesterday. How startling your picture of snow was - beautiful shot with the pine trees behind. Sorry it was just a tease :-)

Caroline said...

Lovely, lovely green in the brown of February! Beautiful macro shots.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comment, hikeagiant and Caroline. Yes, we are greedy for color, any color, this grey time of year, so that we notice those plants that escape our attention during more colorful seasons of the year.