Saturday, September 29, 2012

Drizzly Day, Dazzling Colors

It wasn't the nicest day today to hike the Ice Meadows north of Warrensburg:  dark and damp and chilly,  with a drizzle that stopped and started but never completely let up.  But it promised to be with the nicest of people, a group of Adirondack Mountain Club members, led by my friend Evelyn Greene.  Evelyn, who lives nearby in North Creek, probably understands better than anyone else the natural forces that combine to make this stretch of Hudson River banks the remarkable habitat that it is.  I know that I never miss a chance to visit this place of amazing botanical diversity if Evelyn's going to be there.

I arrived a bit late, having forgotten about the massive traffic jam that stalls passage through Warrensburg during their annual town-wide garage sale this weekend.  But I knew I'd be sure to catch up with the group, who were moving at a typical botanizer's pace as they explored every nook and cranny of the rocks that line the Hudson shore.

 We had to pick our way rather carefully among the rain-slicked rocks.  It was really more of a gentle mist than a pouring rain, and I stopped to admire how the pinky-purple leaves of Marsh St. Johnswort held the water in beaded-up droplets.

Except for a few asters and goldenrods, most of the flowers that thrive here during the summer had long gone to seed, but there was still plenty of beauty supplied by vividly colored leaves and such bright berries as those on this tiny Winterberry shrub, set among Low Blueberries.  Because of immense heaps of ice that pile up on these banks during winter, all of the shrubs out here remain dwarfed and never attain typical height.  These Winterberries, as well as nearby Shadblows, Dogwoods, and Alders, were hardly more than 18 inches high.

Many different kinds of berries could be found today, including these dark blue fruits of the Carrion Flower, set off so prettily by the various colored leaves that surrounded them.

Bright-red Large Cranberries were just about ripe for the picking.

Here was a striking little White Puffball (Lycoperdon candidum), with a spiky white coating that will later slough off to reveal a chocolate-brown interior.  My mushroom guides tell me that this is an edible fungus, but I've never found enough of them to gather for a meal.

There were little green splotches clinging tightly to the sand -- this one was maybe an inch across -- that Evelyn identified as a liverwort called Blasia pussila.  It has a rather frilly appearance, with turned-up edges that are dotted with fruiting bodies. 

A closer look reveals tiny dark spots within the leaves that are little balls of cyanobacteria, a chlorophyll-containing organism that feeds the liverwort via its nitrogen-fixing capability.

After our hiking group dispersed, I decided to return to Saratoga via Stony Creek and Lake Luzerne, in order to avoid the street-clogging traffic in Warrensburg.  It took me quite a bit longer to get home, but what a beautiful drive it was, with the trees just beginning to glow with their autumn colors.  Here's the creek that gives the village of Stony Creek its name.

Coming into Hadley, I pulled over to admire this splendid patch of Jerusalem Artichokes, a native sunflower that's one of the very last flowers to bloom up here in northern New York.

Here's a closer look at the flower, where a little Hoverfly was taking a rest.

Coming down over Mt. McGregor in Wilton, I turned onto Parkhurst Road, where I passed this meadow aglow with a patch of golden plants.   Stunned by the beauty of the scene and overcome with curiosity about what kind of plant could be that remarkably YELLOW, I parked by the road and walked out past lavender asters and rusty ferns to see if I could put a name to this golden glow.

Well, that sure looks like some kind of Dogbane, although I'm not sure of the species.  Isn't it beautiful, with those golden leaves and deep-red stems?

Standing out in the meadow, I could see into a woods that was out of sight from the road, and it looked so lovely over there I strode through the waist-high, rain-dampened plants -- saturating my pants and my shoes as I went -- to get a better look.

Oh my, what a lovely little pond!  I could enjoy sitting here for quite a long time.  In fact, there was a chair set up under a willow tree by the shore, which, rather than inviting me to sit a spell, reminded me that I was actually trespassing on somebody's land so I should probably turn around and leave.

So I did leave.  Just not too quickly.  Striding through this patch of Panicled Dogwood and Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint I slowed my steps to delight in the riot of colors and breathe in the exquisite fragrance of the mint.  And then breathe out a prayer of thankfulness for this world so stunning in its loveliness.


June said...

You certainly got the colors and the mood in these photos!
I was out taking moody misty fall pictures yesterday too, but I'm afraid they don't hold a candle to yours.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you, June. I admit that I had a lucky day with my little camera (which doesn't always give me the photos I hope for). But even if our photos turn out awful, the experience of getting out and walking and looking is usually reward enough.

catharus said...

It's great to "see" the Ice Meadows in so many seasons and times; always something different! Thanks!

hikeagiant2 said...

Wonderful collages of striking colors!

Patrick Fitzgibbon said...

These vivid colors really catch the eye and enchant. You did well at capturing the beauty of nature. I love them all. The picture of the berries made my mouth water. It has been a while since I had a taste of these wonderful stuff. Fresh compared to frozen ones I mean.