Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Coping Without Winter
Well, at least the sun was shining yesterday when I took the above photo of muddy trails in the Saratoga Spa State Park. But the rest of last week was mostly gray and sodden, not very conducive to tempting this amateur naturalist outdoors. We have no snow for skiing or snowshoeing or animal tracking, and rising temperatures are melting the ice on the lakes and streams. I really had to push myself to get outdoors this past week, and once I got out, I really had to search to find anything of interest to photograph. But Nature always rises to the occasion, doesn't she?
On the last cold day we had, I revisited Lake Bonita, stopping by the outlet stream to marvel at the as-yet-unmelted ice formations that hung over the rushing water.
Walking across the still-hard ice to visit the boggy islands offshore, I delighted in the tiny seedpods of the Leatherleaf shrubs, as dainty and pretty as when the flowers were blooming.
Carefully picking my way across slippery ice-hard remnants of snow in the woods, I stooped to admire this tiny baby fern peeking out from a hollow moss-covered log.
I also stopped to ponder how such a convoluted tree trunk could have formed.
On a warmer day, I made my way over to the Hudson River at Moreau, where the now ice-free water lay still as glass, reflecting the forested mountains along the shore.
Wearing microspikes to keep me from slipping on the hard icy snow, I clambered out onto some rocky promontories along the river, examining the bryophyte-covered boulders to see what mosses, lichens, and liverworts were wintering there, as green and fresh-looking as ever.
Here's a feathery moss (sorry, I don't know its name) overlying a nice patch of the shiny green liverwort called Bazzania trilobata.
This nice clump of Cladonia lichen stood out from the other greenery covering the boulder it grew on.
Here and there, some fungi still held onto their summer colors, even though coated with icy snow.
In the woods near the Spier Falls Dam, the old quarries that once provided the rocks for building the dam were spectacular with cascading blue-tinged icicles.
After what seemed a long stretch of oppressively gray days, the sun finally came out yesterday, and the temperature rose into the 50s. It seemed like a good day for a walk through the Ferndell Ravine at Saratoga Spa State Park.
A Pileated Woodpecker kept hooting at me as it flew from tree to tree, much too quickly for my camera to capture it.
Aha, it landed at last! But much too far away for my little camera's inadequate zoom to get a clear photo, alas. But at least it could capture the startling red of the woodpecker's crest. What a gorgeous and sizable bird!
When I reached the brook that runs past the Island Spouter and the stone structure housing the Hayes Spring, I stopped to chat with a mineral water enthusiast who showed me how I could sniff the vapors, in addition to drinking the waters of this extremely mineral-rich water. And boy, does that gas give a kick! If you try this, be careful not to snort the vapors too deeply. My friend here told me that breathing the vapors was good for treating her sinusitis. It does clear the pipes, I'll attest to that!
This enormous build-up of mineral accretions (called a "tufa") is the most spectacular feature of a walk through the Valley of Springs at the Saratoga Spa State Park.
Here's the spring that's the source of all those minerals that created the giant tufa that lies below it along the creek. The blood-red accretions covering the ground here are a sign that this water contains significant amounts of iron. It tastes quite salty and effervescent, too. Some people like it, some people don't. I'd call it an "interesting" taste. Try it sometime. Supposed to be good for you.