Monday, January 18, 2016

Shoreline Finds at Lake Bonita

Just an inch of fluffy soft snow, a bright blue sky with a brilliant sun, my best nature buddy Sue with the day off from work to join me, and a wonderful woods and lake to explore:  if not for a fierce and frigid wind, our walk to Lake Bonita today would have been perfect.  But thanks to some exciting plant finds, all discomfort due to that wind was discounted, and our day's adventure ranked among one of our best.

Sue had yet to visit this property newly acquired by Moreau Lake State Park and didn't know quite what to expect when we started off on the wide trail that leads from the road to the lake, an easy quarter mile or so away.  We soon got engaged in noting the many signs that wild animals had traveled this road not long before we arrived, to judge from the freshness of their tracks: coyote, fox, fisher, red squirrels, and a myriad mice.

When we reached the lake, we were dazzled by all that brilliant whiteness.  We were also stung by the force of a wind that was whipping snow smoke from the trees and spinning whirling snow devils across the open expanse of the lake. (That vague patch of white in the center of this photo was a cluster of tightly twirling mini-tornados seconds before I managed to focus my camera on their misty dissolution.)

By following the sunlit western shore of the lake, we escaped the full brunt of that roaring wind and were also comforted to a mellow warmth by that blazing sun.  Our passage was also eased by being able to walk on the solid ice a few feet from shore as we examined the shoreline foliage, eager to see what plants we might find on this yet unexplored and isolated lake.

We found such typical shoreline shrubs as Leatherleaf, Sweet Gale, Water Willow, Winterberry, and Steeplebush, and we were enchanted by the lovely soft coral color of these wintering Sheep Laurel  leaves.

I had never seen Red Maple twigs so vividly crimson before.

We often find Witch Hazel shrubs dotted with the yellow bracts of their fallen flowers, but never had I seen them quite so closely clustered before.  This small tree must have been quite a gorgeous sight when these bracts held the yellow ribbony petals last fall.

But the most exciting plant finds awaited us as we approached this little shrub island lying just a few feet off shore.  At first glance, it looked like it held nothing but the faded foliage of Leatherleaf, but a closer inspection revealed a treasure trove of bog-loving plants, a type of plants that are relatively rare in Saratoga County.

If Sue hadn't been with me, I probably would have dismissed this Pitcher Plant leaf as a dead tree-leaf remnant stuck upright in the snow.  But she noticed it for what it was right away, with that deep-red color traced with darker lines that look like blood vessels.  If there's any plant that's an indicator species for boggy soils, it's got to be Pitcher Plant.  And there were LOTS of them!  We also found some spent flower stalks.

Here was another tell-tale bog plant inhabiting that island, the tiny-leaved wiry stems of Wild Cranberry.  Hope we can find some of its fruits if we visit next fall.  For sure we'll be back in the spring and the summer (perhaps bringing canoes) to see what other bog plants might inhabit this and several other islands that stud the lake.  Maybe we'll find some orchids!

UPDATE:  No canoes will be allowed on this lake, I learned from the park manager today.  He explained it would be too difficult to monitor the cleanliness of boats, even those light enough to be carried in.  Only shoreline explorations will be allowed, after an access road has been built and trails marked.

Another area of this property we hope to explore in the future is the course of this tumbling stream, the outlet of Lake Bonita, released by a dam at the northern end of the lake.

Today the stream was rushing and tumbling over the rocks, creating a lovely water music as well as exquisite crystal hangings along its splashing course.  So pretty!  By all means, we will return.


Jeff Nadler said...

Will Bonita be a Hornbeck destination in spring? Short carry?

threecollie said...

You are awesomely intrepid! There is no way i would have ventured out to do anything more than fill the stove and feed the birds in that wind. Thanks for bringing us along.

The Furry Gnome said...

Looks like some wonderful finds! And a beautiful day to get out there!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Jeff Nadler, I am reluctant to advertise Lake Bonita as a paddler's destination as yet. There is no safe parking to date, and I'm sure the park will not want paddlers introducing organisms into this lake with their unwashed boats. The distance from the road to the lake is less than half a mile, so a Hornbeck carry would be easy, but I'm not sure the park would allow it. I was just wishful dreaming about paddling there. Maybe someday.

Oh, threecollie, I do understand why you would be reluctant to venture out. That wind was a real howler yesterday, and I have the sense that your home is high on a hill. But I guessed we might be in the lee of the mountains for most of our walk, and I was right. By clinging close to the western shore we were quite comfortable, even over-warmed by that beaming sun. Good longjohns are always a must, though.

Yes, Furry Gnome, we sure were excited by finding that boggy island, especially. The blue-sky, fresh-snow day was beautiful, too, although we were wise to get out early. By mid-afternoon, that wind had developed some serious muscles!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

My suspicions have been confirmed about boats being forbidden from Lake Bonita. The managers of Moreau Lake State Park hope to preserve the cleanliness of this pristine lake.