Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Walking the Snowy Woods

It's been just like old times, like winters I remember from the 1970s.  The snow falls, deep and soft, the temperature plummets and barely ventures into the teens by afternoon, keeping that snow light and dry and sparkly under clear blue skies.  Perfect kind of conditions for winter hiking.   And aren't we lucky to have so many beautiful woods to hike in?  Last Sunday, Sue and I enjoyed a snowshoe walk in Cole's Woods in downtown Glens Falls, avoiding the carefully groomed ski trails and keeping to trails specifically marked for showshoers.  And sometimes we left the trail altogether to wander under groves of stately pines.

 Snow clung thick in the branches of trees, but now and then a light breeze would jostle a branch and cascades of sequin sparkle would fill the air.  Our cheeks would tingle from pinpricks of snow, and we'd then lift our faces to feel the warmth of the sun.

Where a bridge crossed a rushing creek, the bankside bushes were all aglitter with hoarfrost.

At one point, a rushing wind arose and the air became clouded with blowing snow.  This little squall lasted only a moment, transforming the forest with a beautiful misty light.

Today (Tuesday) was another fine day for a walk in the woods, and this time I ventured out alone to explore the banks of the Hudson River at Moreau.  The river was frozen all the way across, with ice shelves grown thick along the banks.  I planned to walk out on that ice close to shore, observing the tracks of animals who employ the frozen river as an energy-saving highway for their travels.

But I quickly changed my plans when my snowshoed foot plunged through some rotten ice up to my thigh.  Oops! 

  I had a moment's panic when I could not withdraw my foot from the icy water.  The ice had trapped the back of my snowshoe, and I sure didn't fancy reaching down into that icy water to release the bindings and let my snowshoe drop to where I could not retrieve it.  But eventually I managed to kick hard enough at the ice to release the back of my snowshoe and I was freed.  Luckily, my waterproof boots were laced tight enough around my snowpants that no water got into my boot and I could continue my walk.  Only this time, on dry land.

 I love this stretch of forest along the river,  especially when the path lies deeps with pristine untrodden snow.  Not a breath of wind was stirring the trees and the silence here in the woods was profound.

Out on the snow-covered river, I could see many trails of traveling animals.  These tracks were probably made by a coyote, although I did not venture near enough to examine them for certain.

These ruffly lichens were such a pretty color.

Here was carefully woven nest secured in a Witch Hazel shrub.  Any guesses which bird might have made it?

I walked until I came to a little cove where a tiny creek emptied into the river.  It's here that I find an abundance of Leatherwood shrubs, quite an unusual sight in these particular woods and an indication that a source of lime must exist nearby, since this shrub will only grow in calcareous soils.

Perhaps there is limestone or marble in these boulders that have tumbled down from the mountain that rises above them.  I remember that this particular boulder was overgrown with Hepatica and Red Trillium last spring.

I follow the course of a brook back to where I had parked my car, enjoying both the sight and the sound of its rippling water.

Where that brook empties into the Hudson, I sat for a while to enjoy the golden sunlight and the blue shadows slanting across the snow.


catharus said...

Lovely photos and story.
A vireo nest, maybe? Another thought is a sparrow.

The Furry Gnome said...

Lovely walks with excellent pictures as always. That's an amazing picture of the frost on the twig!

The Furry Gnome said...

Checked Cole's Woods on the map. Looks like an amazing park for inside the city. We must have been close by when we stayed there (and checked out quilting stores) 18 months ago, on our way to Vermont.

Woody Meristem said...

Looks like a vireo nest.

You were lucky when you went through the ice. I formed on flowing water can be melted from beneath either by the flowing water or by relatively warm inflows. It may look good from above, but not be thick enough to support a person.