Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Moreau's Many Marvelous Options

These are the days we hikers wait for all year. The air is crisp and cold in the morning, with a warming sun that coaxes us to shed our jackets by noon.  The woods are ablaze with red and gold, and the paths are covered with fallen leaves that release a sweet oaken fragrance as we hike along, neither bothered by bugs nor sticky with sweat.  And, oh, what options we have for autumn walks at Moreau Lake State Park!  If one route doesn't work out, there are many more trails to choose from.

Sue and I had planned to hike the Palmertown Mountain Ridge in the park, so we met this morning at the summit trailhead near a powerline clearcut.  But it didn't take long for us to change our plans. The parking lot was filled with pickup trucks, a sign that many hunters were up in the mountains today.  Then a gunshot booming from not far away clinched the decision for us.  Let's choose a trail somewhere in the park where we're sure we won't get shot at.  And we had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, with over 4000 acres of forest, mountains, lake, ponds, streams, and riverbanks awaiting our explorations.

First, though, we did explore the powerline clearcut a while, delighting in the rich variety of mosses and lichens that carpet the boulders here.  Low Blueberry bushes, their bright-red leaves lit up by the morning sun, glowed as if they were on fire.

Masses of Pale Corydalis had found a niche in the cracks of some boulders, their lacy blue-green foliage sparkling with dew.

While much of Moreau Lake State Park is open to hunters, the trails around the lake and close to the camping sites are considered a safety zone, so that's where Sue and I decided to hike.   We chose the Red Oak Ridge Trail, which runs midway up the mountains that stand on the western side of the lake.

It was on this trail that we earlier found the tiny orchid called Autumn Coralroot, so we searched to see if we could find it again.  And wonder of wonders, so we did! It sure would have been hard to see if we hadn't known exactly where to look.

This little mushroom, although very small (see the Hickory nut shell behind it), was easy to spot because of its luminous yellow color.

The same could be said for these blazing red mushrooms, the largest of which was only a little bigger than a pea.

More little mushrooms and a couple of golden Bigtooth Aspen leaves.

Several little streams tumble down the mountain to cross the Red Oak Ridge Trail, most of them reduced to only a trickle this time of year.  But this one actually contained enough water to splash and shimmer along its way.

We lingered a while to enjoy its lively music and enchanting reflections.

Near the stream we found this moss-covered log adorned with clusters of Wolf's Milk slime mold, which is peachy pink when young but turns gray like the clump on the right as it ages.

Sue had to leave for work by noon, but I lingered on, reluctant to leave the woods on this glorious day, and headed next to Mud Pond, another beautiful area of Moreau Lake State Park.

Sue had told me about a cluster of Pinesap she'd seen, dressed in its autumn scarlet, that stood along one of our "secret" trails, so I went to see if I could find it.  And I did.  How could I miss it, lit by a ray of sun and glowing in the dark woods?

This little Red Maple didn't need to be lit by the sun to glow in the woods.

Witch Hazel was fully unfurled today, and I pressed my nose into its flowers to breathe in its delicious fragrance, very subtle, slightly sweet and faintly citrus, reminiscent of clean laundry that's been dried outside in the sun.

There were still more areas of the park to explore, and more hours of the day left to do so, so I headed next to Spier Falls Road to walk along the Hudson River.

WOW!  Most of our Red Maples have wimped out this fall, dropping their shriveled and browning leaves before  turning their customary glorious red, but here was one that was living up to its reputation for autumn splendor.

And here was another, backlit by a lowering sun, leaning over the calm blue river.

Instead of taking the highway home, I chose Old Saratoga Road, a  scenic route through fields and forests and mountains.  As I stopped to marvel at this mountainside ablaze with chrysanthemum colors, I recalled that Moreau Lake State Park was in the process of acquiring this very tract.  Imagine!  There will someday be even more trails, cut through these beautiful mountainous woods, providing ever more options for hikers and hunters alike.


The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Ah!........What a wonderful walk we had this morning.

June said...

The "backlit" photo is stunning. Very Zen.

Benj said...

I had no idea Moreau SP was expanding...That is beautiful countryside just south of the park along Saratoga Road. I can't wait to see what new trails they blaze.

suep said...

Hi Jackie, another great morning walk, sorry to have missed the rest of the day.
I used to live very near where you took that last photo, and it was something to just sit in the yard and look up at the sheer rise of that mountain!