Friday, February 10, 2017

Snowy Trail Through the Spa

We got SNOW!  Not as much as downstate, nor even enough to warrant snowshoes, but enough to cover the ground with sparkling white and tempt me out for a walk in it.   The day was really cold, however, and wind was blowing the snow from the trees and creating spangled clouds in the air. Pretty, yes, but daunting enough to cause me to choose a nearby trail instead of heading up to the mountains or out on a frozen lake.  The Ferndell Trail at Saratoga Spa State Park offered a pleasant option: beautifully woodsy and mostly out of the wind, and it led me to where I could visit many of the mineral springs that made Saratoga famous.

The Ferndell Spring was spouting a pillar of crystal drops from the center of its snow-covered granite basin, and I stopped to take a sip of its cold, clear water. Unlike most of the other springs in the park, this water does not contain the concentration of minerals and gasses that give mineral waters their distinctive flavor and effervescence. But oh, is it refreshing!

When I reached the bottom of the ravine, I turned right and followed the road to where the next spring leaps from the earth and spreads across the ground in a rust-colored mineral deposit.

I learned just lately that this spring is called Tallulah Spring, named after a Native American word that means "leaps from the earth."  Yes, I would say that that's a good description of how its water leaps in an arching stream.

Just a bit further along the road, the Polaris Spring was leaping and dancing, surrounded by lacy ice formations that rimmed its old stone basin.

Soon I arrived at the Geyser Creek, which was full and rushing along, bordered by snow-adorned trees.  I took the path that leads along the creek.

There are a number of information signs in this part of the park, and today I took the time to stop and read them. (The signs will be much easier to read if you click on them to enlarge the photo.) This sign is about the creek.

Geyser Creek is named for the famous spouter along its banks, which has built up quite a dome of mineral deposits called a "tufa," streaked today with fingers of rust-colored water.  Although local folks call this spring a geyser, it's not technically a geyser, since its spouting waters are propelled upward by pressurized gases, rather than thermal pressure (as this nearby sign explains).

An even larger dome of mineral deposits lies just a bit further upstream, caused by the waters that spout from Orenda Spring high up on the bluff.

Look closely at the water-washed dome to see the beautiful patterns of built-up calcium deposits.

A set of stairs leads to the top of the bluff, where a small stone house encloses Orenda Spring.  The word "Orenda" means a divine force believed by the Iroquois people to be the source of all positive human accomplishment.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the peoples of the world could be so transformed by drinking the waters of this spring?  One could only hope!

Here's a view of that huge Orenda domed tufa, seen from above the creek.

And here's another view of that spouter, seen from the bluff above the creek.

I enjoy sipping a bit from all the springs as I visit them, although I know not everyone likes the taste of these mineral-rich waters.  They are salty and effervescent, and people used to believe they could heal all kinds of ailments.  Here's one more sign that tells the story of how these waters contributed to the growth and renown of Saratoga Springs.

The sweet cold air, sparkling snow, and radiant blue sky were tonic for me today, even if I hadn't stopped to sip from the healing springs.  One of the more enchanting sights I saw today were these boughs of Sycamore fruits, each bristly ball topped with a conical cap of fresh white snow.


The Furry Gnome said...

I found that a really interesting post today. I realized there must be springs associated with 'Saratoga Springs', but never new the story behind them. Both the geology of the springs and the history of the spa are fascinating. The mineral streams on top of the snow show up so clearly! We have nothing quite so extensive here, but we do have some small sulphur springs that I've seen.

threecollie said...

You find the most amazing places. I didn't even know that this existed. I hope we can go see it sometime!

Flowerwoman said...

Thanks for highlighting our wonderful and unique naturally carbonated mineral springs. I didn't know the Tallulah was running. That fizzy and salty spring on the Ferndell Trail can't be the Ferndell which is a non-mineral and non-fizzy spring that used to be bottled and sold as State Seal. People used to be able to find it at the Joe Bruno pavilion near the Auto Museum, but the water table is so low that it has stopped running. I spent my high school and college summers at my dad's concession stand near the Hayes Well and love all the waters.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Furry and threecollie. I'm happy you found this tour of our famous springs enjoyable. By all means, pay a visit and taste these amazing waters.

Flowerwoman, I'm so glad you corrected me about the Ferndell Spring. I had sipped from all the springs and when I sat to write this post, I had forgotten which spring had the tasty water and which spring was simply cold and clear. I do remember now that I pondered how clean the Ferndell's beautiful basin appeared, compared to the crusty mineral deposits that build up around the other springs. I went back into the copy and corrected it. You will be glad to hear the latest news about the State Seal spring, that it has started running again. There used to be a clear-water spring in Congress Park, too, by the little stream at the base of the bluff. I live only a block from that site and used to collect jugs of that water for coffee. It has since been capped, I think because of contamination.