Ed's son Bill (tall man in the red coat) came all the way from California to celebrate Ed's birthday with the rest of his family, and we were honored to have him join us on our walk this frigid morning. As this photo shows, we came well bundled up against the cold.
It was windy, too, but our trail led us promptly into the woods, where the wind didn't reach us. We also warmed up as we strode briskly along trails that are well maintained by the land-conservation organization Saratoga PLAN. The Galway Preserve is one of many nature preserves this organization maintains throughout Saratoga County.
Of the options displayed on the trail map, we chose a loop that took us along the shore of a lovely pond, where benches were placed at several scenic locations.
I can't remember exactly what we were studying here, but I'm sure it was one of many fascinating finds that call us into nature, whatever the time of year.
Maybe it was this Wolf's Milk slime mold, also called Toothpaste Slime. Although its original bright-pink color had matured to this grayish brown, when we crushed one ball, we found it still filled with the pink pasty substance that earned it the "toothpaste" name. Like most slime molds, this specimen was not the least bit slimy.
It's also possible we were peering closely at a clump of Pink Earth Lichen, with tiny bubblegum-pink "lollipops" the size of a head of a pin.
Most of the fall fungi had faded by now, but this abundant clump of velvety, mink-brown Turkey Tail was still as lovely as ever.
The sight of this Paper Birch peering at us through some single-lensed sunglasses caused us to halt our steps and share a laugh.
We also did a double-take at the sight of this tree-trunk patterned like some enormous tropical python! I later learned that this pattern was created by a fungus called Giraffe Spot (Peniophora albobodia).
Although the foliage colors were not as brilliant as we might have hoped, this scattering of Lemon Drop "fairy cups" on the end of a log was bright enough to capture our attention.
The evergreen leaves and bright shiny fruits of Partridgeberry are as colorful as ever, whatever the season.
All in all, a most pleasant walk through a beautiful wooded landscape with delightful companions. Here, our friend Sigrin relaxes on one of the several benches positioned along the trail, enjoying the warmth of the sun as well as the serene beauty of the woodland pond. We then enjoyed a picnic, all together, seated at a rustic table surrounding a huge old Black Walnut tree and happy to share this special day with our dear friend Ed. I wish I had taken a photo of our friendly group, but my fingers were too sticky with birthday-cake frosting to operate my camera. Happy Birthday, Ed, and best wishes for wandering many more trails together.