Thursday, February 14, 2013
Two Riverside Walks
These pines "holding hands" seemed an appropriately loving image for Valentine's Day. My friend Evelyn and I came upon this unusual sight today while snowshoeing in the Hudson River Forest Preserve north of Lake Luzerne. It was a beautiful, almost balmy day for exploring this part of the Lake George Wild Forest that runs for several miles along the river, which at this point was flowing mostly free of ice and sparkling in the sun. We had intended to climb up a mountain to a popular site called Buttermilk Falls, but when we observed the long steep trail that followed the now-frozen creek, we decided the payoff would probably not be worth the struggle, and we ambled along the river instead. Nice!
Evelyn had come down from North Creek to meet me in Lake Luzerne, where we stopped in at the Adirondack Folk Arts School and then walked down to see Rockwell Falls before heading the several miles north to the wild forest area. The ice structures that form around the falls are always impressive.
Earlier this week, on Saturday, my friend Sue and I enjoyed another very pleasant hike along a more southern stretch of the Hudson, the powerline clearcut up on the mountainside above the Spier Falls Dam at Moreau. The snow was new and fresh and glittering, hardly deep enough to warrant snowshoes, but the crampons helped on some of the steeper parts of the trail.
When work crews return in the spring, we once again won't be allowed access to this powerline road, but for the time being I felt we could safely ignore the No Trespassing signs and High Voltage warnings and enjoy the lovely views of the river and the hydroelectric dam below. Many coyotes had also been enjoying the ease of travel along this unencumbered road. The tracks were so abundant, it appeared they'd been having a party up here. Sue is photographing a site where a couple of coyotes must have been "dancing" together.
The exposed bedrock on the mountainside is home to a wide variety of interesting plants, many of then visible even in winter. We were particularly intrigued by this mossy stuff, spiked with growths that almost looked liked like porcupine quills protruding out the ends of the tufts. I suppose they are fruiting bodies, but like none I've seen before, let along during the cold of winter. I've put out some queries to knowledgeable friends, so I hope to return later to name this unusual plant.
Update: Thanks to Ed Miller for putting me on the right track to finding the name of this moss. It is Juniper Haircap (Poytrichum juniperinum), one of the most widespread mosses in the world. I'm sure I must have seen it before, just not at this particular stage of its sporetalks' development.
After hiking the clearcut until it stopped being clearly cut, we descended the mountain to our cars and drove downstream to the Sherman Island Boat Launch Site. Here, we walked about in the snowy woods, listening to the music of this babbling stream and the almost imperceptible peeps of Golden-crowned Kinglets high in the trees. Sue is trying here to capture the chuckling sound of the brook in a video.
A beech leaf had fallen into the stream, seeming to rest on this pillow of frost and snow.
It was very cold on this Saturday, and we always marvel at how the Hobblebush leaf and flower buds manage to make it through winter, clothed in only the thinnest coat of flocking.