Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter's Colors

Wow!  Just look at how BLUE that sky is!   I think it can be this blue only in winter, when below-zero temperatures drive all humidity out of the air.   But it got well above zero today, in fact it felt balmy enough to unzip my coat and loosen my scarf as I walked around Moreau Lake, enjoying this beautiful afternoon and celebrating how lucky I am to have this splendid Moreau Lake State Park to enjoy it in.

The day was dazzling in more ways than one, for today the snow sparkles were glittering all of the colors of the rainbow.  I'm not sure what the conditions must be to achieve this prismatic effect, whether it's temperature or shape of the snow crystals or what.  When I went out on Sunday, the snow was sparkly but colorless, while today those sparkles were colorful as confetti.   Click on this photo and see if you can detect the colorful sparkles.

Here are a couple of photos I've enhanced to amplify that colorful effect.

Compared to that snow, the shriveled lakeside flowers looked pretty dull, but my eyes sure lit up when I found this intact specimen of Whorled Mountain Mint along the shore.  Although this plant is one of the rarest plants in New York, I was able to count nearly 30 plants standing above the snow today, still holding the leaves that distinguish this species from our much more common Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint. 

Since this rare plant has such a distinctive profile, more easily detectable against the white snow than when mixed in with other green foliage,  I continued to search for more of it as I made my way around the shore.    I was surprised how many different species of plants I managed to recognize: asters of several species, bush clover, vervain, Evening Primrose, and several different kinds of mints, all of which bore their bushy little flower clusters in the leaf axils, rather than at the top of the stem.  I did not find any more of the Mountain Mint.

Here's a plant I did not recognize at all, although now that I look at it again, I suspect it could be the remnants of Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris),  which bears its bright yellow-and-orange spurred flowers in tight racemes like these, and also has very narrow leaves growing opposite all along the stem.

Nearby grew some very robust Pitch Pines, still holding tight to their cones, including some that had opened their scales wide to release their seeds.  I was once told that Pitch Pine cones only opened when heated by forest fires, but obviously, I was misinformed.

I discovered today that this handsome --  and heated! -- restroom was open and available for hikers and skiers and fishermen to use all winter.  It's located in camping loop A, not far from the parking lot near the entrance to the park.  A really nice amenity, with warm toilet seats (especially welcome for those of us who have to sit down for this purpose). There's a second restroom near the warming hut on the other side of the lake, but that one is an unheated facility with a composting toilet.  It's very nice for an outhouse, actually, but still, it's very cold.

Another great thing about this nice heated restroom is that the walls are adorned with scenic photographs.  Longtime readers of my blog and also the blog Water-lily might recognize that these photos were taken by my friend Sue Pierce, as well as by yours truly.

Another view of Moreau Lake State Park being beautifully colorful.


The Furry Gnome said...

Great enhanced snow pix! A little sun would be welcome here. And I do love those washroom pix. Congrats to you and Sue.

catharus said...

Love the colored snow sparkles! Congrats on the photos!

Carolyn H said...

That is a nice "outhouse," but I really like the intensity of the blue sky and white snow in your first photo!

Woody Meristem said...

Wow, that's quite a restroom. Nothing like looking at beautiful scenery while you ...

You were only partially misinformed about the pitch pine cones. On some trees the cones open as soon as they mature. Other trees have serotinous cones that only open when they're exposed to high temperatures. Pitch pine cannot regenerate successfully except on exposed mineral soils. So, pitch pine is heavily dependent on forest fires to remove the organic layer at the soil surface and the heat to open the cones and release the seeds.

swamp4me said...

You've shown the colors of winter beautifully.

Momo said...

Love your entry-such color for winter! And thanks for the tip on the warm restroom-and I was thinking the composting one with solar lighting was pretty deluxe when I go there!

Anonymous said...

What great photos of the sparkles in the snow! Absolutely inspiring! Thank you.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, dear readers, for stopping by to leave your always welcome comments. I hope my posts about Moreau Lake State Park encourage you to visit this really amazing and wonderful place.

An extra thanks to Woody Meristem for the information about Pitch Pine. The Pitch Pines I photographed were growing on a sandy beach, which could be classified as an "exposed mineral soil" and therefore conducive to seed generation.