Monday, April 29, 2013

Sunday in the Park With Sue

What a day it was on Sunday:  shirtsleeve warm, cloudless sky, a wonderful park full of mountains and woods and waterways, and a grand companion to explore its wonders with.  Sue and I met in the morning at Moreau Lake State Park and spent many hours wandering lakeshore and pondside and forest and streambed and finding many delights along the way.

One of the sites that delighted us was the shore of Mud Pond, where we found all kinds of fascinations that deserved a closer look. In this photo, Sue is trying to capture of photo of one of the myriad little black spiders scurrying about on the mud.  I didn't even try, they were running so fast.

I was focused instead on these clouds of green stuff floating in the water close to shore.  From where I stood, the stuff didn't look quite right to be duckweed.

Venturing out onto the shoe-sucking mud, I leaned out and gathered a handful, so that I could take a closer look.   I was right!  It sure wasn't duckweed, but rather the aquatic liverwort called Purple-fringed Riccia (Ricciocarpa natans).  I have found this chubby little paw-shaped liverwort at this site before, but never quite this small.  These babies will have some growing to do, once they float free.  But for them to do that, we will need some drenching rains to raise the level of Mud Pond.  Our spring has been not only cold, but also very dry, with little rain.  The pond is much lower than it usually is this time of year, which is why these masses of Riccia got stranded on the mud.

The little pink buds sharing the Riccia's mud pie are baby plants of Dwarf St. Johnswort.

After a sun-warmed picnic on the shore of Moreau Lake, Sue and I took to the forest trails, choosing one called the Turkey Trail, which traces a ridge above a stream that babbled along in the valley below.

Sunlight pouring down through the still-bare tall trees got caught by the just-opened leaves of young Red Maples.  These saplings looked as if they were strung with glowing Japanese lanterns.

The bright-copper buds of American Beech glistened in the sun, forming graceful arcs as they lengthened and swelled, their tightly packed leaves just about to break free of their confines.

Here and there in the woods we would come across patches strewn with many pretty Hepaticas, all of them fully open on this comfortably warm sunny day.

Most of the Hepaticas we saw were uniformly purple, but we did find a plant or two with flowers of a deep and lovely magenta.

After a nice leg-stretching course along the top of the ridge, the Turkey Trail descends to the valley and crosses a bridge that spans this pretty creek.   Rather than follow the trail to where it begins to climb into the mountains, we decided to follow the creek as it tumbled along on its way to Mud Pond, where we would pick up another trail to take us home.

I'm sure that this creek has an official recorded name,  but we decided to call it Dutchman's Creek, in honor of the hundreds and hundreds of Dutchman's Breeches that proliferate in the woods along its course.

But we also could have named the creek for the myriad plants of Plantain-leaved Sedge that cling to its banks.  Most were fully in bloom with both male (yellow puffs) and female (white threads) flowers.

This was such a delightful little creek, crystal-clear water burbling and tumbling over rocks and charming us with its music.  But all of a sudden it stopped.  Just stopped.  Within a stretch of about 50 feet, it petered out from splashing and dancing to lying quietly in diminishing still pools.

And then there was none.  From where I took the photo above, I turned around on the same spot and saw that the creekbed from here on down to the pond was completely dry.  Not even damp.

Where did the water go?   Did it move underground to some hidden stream that we can't see?  It sure is a puzzle.  I wonder who would know the answer to it.

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