Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sunny-day Sojourns

Finally!  A whole day of rainy weather!  Sure, the parched earth needed the rain, but I also needed a day to stay home and catch up on this blog.  We've had such a string of gorgeous blue-sky days, I didn't want to waste a minute of them sitting at my computer, and I spent them all outdoors.  Here's a quick recap of some of the wonderful places I've been this week.

Last Friday, heartsick from the news of terrible violence in the Middle East and feeling hopeless about any politician's ability to competently deal with this longstanding, horribly complicated situation, I fled to my favorite stretch of the Hudson River with my canoe.  Here I found silence and solitude, not another soul to be seen and the only sounds the drip, drip, drip of cool water from the tip of my paddle and the cheerful cree! cree! cree! of crickets along the sunwarmed banks.

 When I let my canoe just drift with the current that carries me close to these pine-scented woods,  I'm reminded that there is a great goodness that lies at the core of creation.  Hopelessness starts to lift.

On Saturday, a newspaper article announcing the opening of a new nature preserve on the outskirts of Saratoga tempted me to go check it out.   Called Rowland Hollow,  this 45-acre wooded preserve resulted from the joint efforts of Saratoga P.L.A.N. and the builders of an adjacent housing subdivision.  The city Rotary Club provided funds for signage and improvements to the trails, which Saratoga P.L.A.N. will manage.

Although this preserve is adjacent to a housing development,  I hadn't gone far along the 3/4 mile trail before I was completely surrounded by a mixed conifer/hardwood forest that included some very old Shagbark Hickories and towering White Pines.  An additional trail loop led into a wetland with access to the banks of Rowland Hollow Creek.  What a great playground for the kids growing up in the nearby houses.  Or for any of us who like to play at getting lost in the woods, without leaving home far behind.

Sunday was another perfect early-autumn day, and it worked its magic also on my husband, who agreed we should spend it together out under that sapphire sky.   While mulling over our options, we remembered fondly a time almost 40 years ago when we stayed in a quaint New England inn in Grafton, Vermont, less than a two-hour drive away.  So off we set on a Sunday drive through the lovely rolling Washington County countryside on our way to Vermont.

 Just beyond the New York/Vermont border, we found a pull-off providing access to the Battenkill, a legendary trout stream and meandering rural waterway that's also a favorite paddling destination.

Not far beyond the Vermont town of Manchester, our paved highway became a narrow dirt road shaded by overarching Sugar Maples.  We had forgotten about this route and began to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn when we suddenly entered this calendar-picture-quaint New England village, complete with an 18th-century tavern, a cheese-works, and a tall-steepled church.  It seemed that not one thing had changed since we last visited here in 1975.

 The village also contains a remarkable little historical museum, where we talked with some very friendly local folks who told us about the terrible floods that tore through the village just one year ago during Hurricane Irene.   We learned that several creekside homes had been completely washed away, but wonder of wonders, this 19th-century covered bridge stood fast while the torrents raged around it.

Monday dawned cool and clear and calm,  perfect for the paddling trip to Pyramid Lake I had planned with my friend Ruth Schottman.  Yes, the wind had come up a bit by the time we arrived at this Essex-County wilderness lake, but only enough to add diamond sparkles to the crystalline water and not enough to deter us from setting out by canoe and kayak.

Although Ruth is a well-known botanist, author, and longtime nature-studies teacher who knows just about everything there is to know about things botanical, she herself admits to having little first-hand experience exploring water sites.  So I was eager to lead her into the sheltered swampy end of Pyramid Lake where a number of rather uncommon water-dwelling species are known to thrive.  One of these is Nostoc, a cyanobacterium that collects in colonies that form little jelly-like green balls.  Thousands upon thousands of these Nostoc balls were suspended in the dark shallow waters at the eastern end of the lake.  Although many had sunk to the bottom during the chill of the night, we could easily stir up masses of them to float on the sun-warmed surface.

Small Bur Reed (Sparganium natans) is listed among New York's threatened species, but it thrives by the hundreds in this quiet corner of Pyramid Lake.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to show Ruth the fluffy white blooms that star these dark waters in July, but I was glad to find some still-emergent flower heads now gone to seed.

After eating our picnic lunches while seated in Adirondack chairs on a sun-warmed deck overlooking the lake, we next set off on foot to follow a wooded trail.

The forest we walked through was dark and still, the birds now silent or absent and very few flowers in bloom.  But Hobblebush leaves were getting a jump on brilliant autumn foliage.

Despite the dryness of the season so far, we did find a few fungi, including these odd little wrinkly brown discs firmly stuck to a rotting log.  They were stuck so tight, we couldn't remove one without breaking it into rather brittle shards, revealing a white interior flesh and a smooth underside devoid of gills or pores or teeth.  I guess that would indicate this is one of the sac fungi, but so far I haven't been able to determine which species.


Carolyn H said...

Okay, I think I'm ready for a drive to Vermont! What a gorgeous little town! That place looks like a little piece of heaven

Jeff Nadler said...

Very nice. Wish I would ahve got an invite for the S. ochroleuca .