Monday, January 16, 2017

Slowing Down, But Still Getting Out

Maybe it's my age (I'll be 75 this year), or my painful knee (it still hurts from last year's fracture), or this inconsistent winter weather (zero one day, raining the next). I just keep thinking of reasons not to go out for the winter walks I used to love. Or when I do, I'd rather nap afterwards than write a blogpost about it. But I have been out since my last post of January 5, so let me try to catch up.

By January 8, Moreau Lake State Park staff members told me that Lake Bonita was frozen solid, at least 8 inches thick on this lovely little pristine lake.  So I ventured over to the new (and plowed!) parking area off of Corinth Mountain Road and made my way down the steep and rocky trail to the lake.  Despite a cold wind sweeping across the lake, its vast expanse of white under a bright blue sky beckoned me out to explore the little islands well offshore.




I love to search these little sphagnum-carpeted islands, inaccessible by boat during the warmer months, for the fascinating variety of bog-loving plants that populate them.  Although most of the smaller plants' remnants were buried under snow, the flower stalks of Pitcher Plants and the seed heads of Sheep Laurel could still be found.





January 11 was a much warmer day, so when my friend Nancy Slack called to urge me outdoors, I told her "Sure! Let's go climb that waterfall's course across from the Spier Falls Dam.  We should find lots of mosses on the streamside boulders." Since Nancy's a bryologist, mosses are always a special lure to tempt her to a location.




Well, it turned out most of the mosses were well hidden under crusty snow, but we still enjoyed clambering up the mountainside, accompanied by the rush and splash of the waterfall, which was mostly covered by thick ice.




We did find some pretty mosses and ferns, though, when we descended the mountainside and examined the spring-watered boulders that line Spier Falls Road near the dam.




It was pretty cold on Sunday, January 15, but the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky on dozens of ice fishermen out on the thick ice of Moreau Lake.  My destination was a brook tumbling down the far mountainside, but I was happy to dally along the way to see what kind of luck these brave guys were having out on this frigid expanse.




These two young fellows, Adam (left) and Andrew,  were very happy to describe the beautiful Pickerels they had caught today (but didn't keep to eat, since their flesh contains many small bones). I was struck by their charming enthusiasm and the delight they took in spending hours walking around on the frozen lake, checking their trip lines.  Andrew told me his grandpa had been bringing them here since they were little, and they just loved it!  Grandpa, they said, was taking a break in the warming hut on shore.





I love it when the lake is frozen and I can scoot directly across its expanse to the brook I was hoping to visit, expecting this day for its course to be filled with water from recent heavy rains.  And I was not disappointed.  After the rains came plunging temperatures, which transformed the streamside rocks and shrubbery into exquisite crystalline ice formations.





And where the water slowed and the streambed widened where it approached the lake, the quieter water was frozen into the most delicate of crystal plates, decorated with gossamer striping and frost-ringed bubbles.




 Today, January 16, was the best day of all!  Not only did I have a new trail to explore in Moreau Lake State Park, but my great pal Sue had the day of from work, so she could explore it with me.  This newly groomed and marked trail starts near the dam at the end of Lake Bonita and terminates at a section of the long-existing Western Ridge Trail at a point quite near its Spring Trailhead along Spier Falls Road.  Since we didn't know how difficult the trail would be or how long it would take us to walk it, we parked one car at the Spring Trailhead and drove a second car up Mt. McGregor to start our hike at Lake Bonita.  Here's Sue standing on Bonita's shore just before we enter the trail.




The trail starts by following the stream that falls from Bonita's dam, and the stream's watercourse was decorated today with beautiful ice formations.




Very soon, though, the trail angles away from the stream and heads off into the woods.  It was obvious that many folks had followed this trail already, packing the snow on the path.  We were very glad we had worn ice grippers on our boots.  It turned out that we would not have been able to continue along certain sections without such stabilizing footgear.  Readers, do not attempt this trail without such gear, at least while the ice persists.




A beautiful feature of this trail is a series of rocky ledges, many of them thickly covered with many different kinds of mosses.




On one of those mossy ledges, I found this small hole, its entrance festooned with hoarfrost, probably formed by the warm breath of some small furry creature living within.




At one point, we caught a glimpse through the trees of the Hudson River in the valley far below.





Here was a truly magnificent ledge, its steep face made even more dramatic by cascading sheets of ice.





The trail is crossed by several streams, most of them tiny rills that are easily hopped across.   But this was a rushing torrent crashing noisily down the bouldered mountainside.




Trail groomers had helpfully placed boulders across the stream to form a bridge, but today those rocks were glassy with wet ice.   Even with grippers, our feet just slid across the icy rocks without catching, and we thought long and hard about what to do to get safely across.  Well, we did, obviously, thanks to a small patch of leaf mould and some crunchy snow.  But somehow Sue lost one of her ice grippers in the process.  Now we know what to call that creek:  the Gripper Grabber Creek.


 As it turned out, we were quite near the trail's terminus by then, and safely reached Spier Falls Road without incident.  Our hike took us about two hours, with many stops to photograph points of interest. We can't wait to get back on this trail in warmer weather to see what plants grow in those fabulous ledges and along those tumbling streams.  Beautiful!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

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threecollie said...

I see the crazy guy in the above comment has found you. He has hit me a couple of times over the years too. lol
Glad you are getting out a bit, but sorry to read that your knee is holding you back somewhat. I took your advice to heart, to get out more, and also took the eBird challenge to do at least one checklist a day for January and maybe the whole year. You were right.
I feel much better even if it is too cold to go out for more than ten minutes or so.
I love the story of grandpa taking the boys ice fishing all their young lives. What a fine way to start 'em right in the enjoyment and wonder of nature. You are braver than I on your hikes though. I wouldn't dare that last trail even with ice equipment. Guess I am pretty chicken hearted. Glad you made it across that creek safely! I am itching to get up back on our place, but with ice formed at the end of ancient blind ditches here and there and all very steep, I am waiting for drier roadways.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately a pig has been able to comment on your blog. Of course, by calling him a pig I'm insulting all real hogs (of the genus "Sus") so I hereby apologize to members of that genus. That boy has a real problem somewhere inside his head and should seek professional help.

Beautiful country you live in and you visit interesting places. Winters without much snow can be pretty boring sometimes, especially when it consists of a lot of cold rainy days with low clouds and fog.

The Furry Gnome said...

Sounds like great walks to me. I'm also not getting out as much as I'd like, with my frustratingly slow recovery from the eye surgery. Wonderful frozen waterfalls you found. My dad taught our sons to fish, and it became a life long love between them.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Well, I could easily remove the crazy comment above, but why not let him humiliate himself one more time? And he wonders why he can't get a date?

On the other hand, it is wonderful to hear from my other friends, threecollie, anonymous, and Furry Gnome. Thanks for stopping by. I love knowing you are with me on my walks.