Saturday, November 14, 2015

Back and Forth to Schuylerville

While my son Philip was touring this past week with the spontaneous music group Chalaque, I've been daily driving back and forth the ten miles to his home in Schuylerville to care for his three cats. Schuylerville is a small village on the banks of the Hudson River, and it once figured prominently in significant battles of the American Revolution.  In fact, the village is named after one of the major generals of that war, General Philip Schuyler, and his former home just south of the business district is now maintained as a museum.  Even though the Schuyler Mansion (as it's now called) is closed to the public on weekdays this time of year, I stopped by there early last week after I'd done my duty for Phil's cats.  (Phil Donnelly's cats, not Phil Schuyler's cats.)

I wasn't there to see the mansion anyway, but rather to use the museum's parking lot while I explored a newly designated trail, called the  Saratoga Siege Trail, that starts directly across the highway from the Schuyler house.   Only recently developed by the land conservation organization Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land And Nature), this flat walking trail follows the south bank of Fish Creek for about a half mile  through a mixed hardwood/conifer woods.

Here's what the Saratoga PLAN website has to say about the historical significance of this trail:

"In addition to being a pleasant woods walk, the trail also possesses great historical significance. In fact, the area surrounding the Saratoga Siege Trail marks the location of a strategic American victory against the British Army during the Revolutionary War.
"In the fall of 1777, American soldiers pursued British forces north and across Fish Creek, following a decisive victory at the Battles of Saratoga. It was here that the Continental soldiers surrounded the British,  destroyed their provisions, outnumbered them three to one, and left them no option for escape. Trapped by superior American forces, British general John Burgoyne surrendered his entire army on October 17, 1777. This battle is often attributed as being particularly influential in the acquisition of foreign aid, swaying the French to enter the war."
One of the pleasantest aspects of this trail are the views through the woods of Fish Creek flowing below steep banks.

Returning to the parking lot after my excursion on the Saratoga Siege Trail, I was struck by the majestic presence of this giant Hackberry tree on the lawn of the Schuyler Mansion.  This is a tree we don't see very often in the "inland" city where I live, for it is more commonly found along river bottoms and creek banks.  After wandering the lawn, I found several other Hackberry trees, distinctive this time of year by the way it holds onto its shriveled leaves, as well as by its multitudinous blue-black fruits dangling from long stems.

The Hudson River is only a few hundred yards behind the mansion, and the Fish Creek runs very close to the house,  flowing over some rapids and under a bridge before joining the river.  This is a view of Fish Creek from the bridge looking upstream.

If I had continued north over that bridge, I would have come shortly to Canal Towpath Park, which runs between the Hudson and the old barge canal, where barges were once towed by mules to avoid the rapids on the open river.  It's a lovely walk between these two waterways, and I visited there the next day following my kitty caregiver duties.  The day was cold, but bright and still, and a lowering sun shed a golden light across the landscape.

On the third day of my cat-care duties, I arrived too late to visit other area attractions, but I got there just in time to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I'd seen in a long, long while.

I quickly headed west on Burgoyne Road, a country road that moves through open farm fields, hoping to get some wider views of this glorious sky than I could observe from the heart of the village. By the time I reached open country, the fire was beginning to dim, but its embers still glowed from within the darkening clouds.

Yesterday, I didn't even bother to take the state highway to and from Schuylerville and Saratoga Springs, choosing instead to drive the entire way on country roads.  And my reward was another spectacular sunset, viewed across wide-open fields that offered unimpeded vast views of the sky.  The sky had been dark and cloud-covered all day, but just as the sun was going down, rain clouds rolled away to the south and captured the setting sunbeams on their billowing tops.  When I spied this cloud like a mountaintop made out of gold, I pulled my car over and got out to stand in awe of such gorgeousness.  (I recommend clicking on these photos to enlarge them and increase their impact.)

Yeah, it was kind of a pain to schlep 20 miles to and from Schuylerville every day, but the trips had their pleasures, too, as I hope this blogpost conveys.  Also, Phil's kitties are sweet, and I was happy to see to their needs.


Don Butler said...

In Schuylerville I'ld also recommend Starks Knob on Rt. 4 just north of town - fascinating geology and I've found interesting plants here in summer. Plus, paddling on Fish Creek is always fun - lots of life along the water.

threecollie said...

AWesome! You are more intrepid than I walking these past few days. It has been so cold and growly!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Don Butler, I have stopped off at Stark's Knob on my way to the Denton Preserve across the river. Yes, fascinating geology, but it wasn't flower season so I didn't do much botanizing there. Can you mention some of the more interesting plants you found there, and I will be sure to go looking for them. Also, I have paddled on Fish Creek further upstream, putting in at Victory and paddling up to the fish and gun club bridge. I found lots of Water Starwort there, a plant I've not found in other waters. Good birding, too. If you type "Fish Creek at Victory" into my blog's search bar you will find my account of that paddle. Or just type "Fish Creek" and find all my posts that reference that pretty creek.

Well, threecollie, I think you don't give yourself enough credit. I've certainly been enjoying your walks with your dogs as recorded on your wonderful blog. I encourage my readers to click on threecollies's name above and enjoy her enchanting accounts of life on a Mohawk Valley Farm.

Virginia said...

Thank you for educating me on these short trails so nearby. I think I won't be able to take my father to them until Spring, if he is able, at that point being 92, but will definitely keep them in mind. All of your photos are gorgeous!

Don Butler said...

A fern grows out of cracks in the rock that I believe to be Purple-stemmed cliffbrake (Pellaea atropurpurea). Somewhat difficult to access. Generally associated with limestone. The rock here is basalt but there are some limey lens between lava pillows. I'll try to get a photo and send it to you. Also remember finding a striking cluster of Indigo Milky mushrooms (Lactarius indigo) in the grassy area at base of cliff. Speaking of Denton Preserve, Jerry Jenkins did a thorough botanical survey here when the Conservancy acquired the property. I'm sure they must have it in their office if you're interested.