Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It Might As Well Be Spring!

For the first full day of winter, it sure felt more like spring today!  It was nearly 60 degrees, soft and balmy, following an all-day rain yesterday. Such a nice day for a walk on Spier Falls Road along the Hudson River, even though the clouds were low and fog was resting on the water.  I parked at the trailhead for the Spring Overlook Trail and walked the shoulder of the road, heading toward the Spier Falls dam.  (By the way, I was excited to see an excavation crew working on a parking lot for this trailhead, one that will offer safer parking than the small pull-off currently available.)

One of the great pleasures of this walk is the opportunity to explore the large boulders that line the road.  Watered by springs and jagged with cracks and crevices, these boulders are covered with beautiful mosses, ferns, and flowering plants.  Although the flowers are no longer blooming, the mosses remain brilliantly green, and today those mosses were dripping with tiny rivulets of water splashing and dancing from ledge to ledge with a delightful musical sound.

The sounds of splashing water reached a thundering crescendo when I approached the long waterfall that tumbles down the mountain almost directly across from the dam.  A few weeks ago, the creek that feeds this waterfall was virtually dry, but today that creek was as full to its banks as it would be in spring, leaping and dancing its white-water way down the mountainside.

Testing the strength of my recovering knee and supported by my cane, I scrambled up the course of the falls, pushing my way through the dense woods that crowds its banks.

One of the many delights of this climb is to see the wondrous variety of mosses, lichens, liverworts, and ferns that decorate the constantly dampened stream-side boulders.  Here was a beautiful mat of two mosses, each one presenting a remarkable contrast in color and texture.  (The starry one I know to be a Haircap, but I'm not sure of the second one.)

Two more mosses of contrasting shape, the smaller one a Sphagnum Moss and the larger one the aptly named Tree Moss.

Here was a lovely bronze-tinged carpet of Delicate Fern Moss, punctuated by a beautiful clump of a jade-green Cladonia lichen.

The fine leaves of this bright-green clump make me think it quite likely a Broom Moss, dripping with crystal drops sprayed up by the waterfall.

As I struggled up the steep slope of the mountainside, I reached for sturdy young tree trunks to give me some leverage.  As I grasped the trunk of this young Striped Maple, I came close enough to notice the bright-blue stripes on the bark, a color I had never noticed before.

Here was another surprise on some bark:  bright-orange spherical dots covering the dead branches of a shrub.  I have seen many different fungi in all my years of woodland exploring, but I do not recall ever seeing these.  I will try to find a name for them and come back with an update if I do.

Update:  I received this information from Kathie Hodge,  mycologist from Cornell University:

"Looks like coral spot, Jackie. The dots are the asexual state (Tubercularia) of a Nectria species that parasitizes a range of hardwood trees. Here's a photo from George Barron (the colors are off, but trust me!) showing sexual and asexual states of the same fungus. Each coral dot is making thousands of tiny spores." .

At least I think it's safe to call this fungal cluster Turkey Tail, looking especially striking against the chalk-white bark of a birch log.

As the afternoon wore on, rafts of fog lifted from the river's surface and wafted up toward the mountain tops.  A beautiful sight, reflected in water as still as glass.


The Furry Gnome said...

Looks like a great pre-Christmas walk! Nice mosses and fungi.

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