November 7, 2011
The Hudson gleamed silver under a pearl-gray sky when I slipped my canoe into its quiet water this morning for what may be my final paddle of the season. But maybe not. I am very reluctant to store my boat away for the winter, so long as the river's beauty still beckons. Here was the view today from the boat launch site along Spier Falls Road in Moreau. The beeches and oaks still hold their leaves, turning the forested mountainsides into a crazy quilt of colors.
Except for the beeches and oaks, most trees have shed their leaves by now. This is true for American Hornbeams as well, but their clusters of winged seeds still dangled from the branches.
The seed pods of Hop Hornbeams also still clung to the trees, dangling like ornaments over the water.
Witch Hazel has shed its leaves but not its flowers, which today were unfurling like yellow stars against the dark green background of conifers.
One of my destinations today was a cluster of three small islands that lie just upstream from the boat launch site. I have my own names for them -- Birch, Azalea, and Sweet Fern -- indicating the preponderance of plants that grow on each.
I would guess it's obvious why I called one of these islands Birch. The one I'm standing on is Azalea Island, named for the many Early Azalea shrubs that bloom here in May, scenting the air with their sweet fragrance. As these rosy-red shrubs reveal, I could have called it Blueberry Island, too, except blueberries and huckleberries grow profusely on all three islands.
One shrub of Highbush Blueberry was especially vivid today.
Sweet Fern Island lies just upstream from Azalea Island, across a narrow rock-filled channel.
I noticed the Sweet Fern had already sprouted the catkins that will winter over to bloom in the spring.
Bright-yellow Meadowsweet provided a stunning contrast to the rich red of the Silky Dogwood that surrounded it.
What a charming little cluster of Wintergreen, set off so prettily by a green mosaic of lichens and mosses! I find it somehow reassuring to think that, even as winter closes in, these little plants will all keep their vivid colors under the snow, to greet us again with their beauty unchanged come spring.