The amazing things I saw while paddling inspired me to start this blog.
Thanks to my blog, I have come to know some of the most important naturalists in the state, professional botanists, entomologists, mycologists and more, who have generously helped me identify plants, insects, and fungi I couldn't figure out on my own. I am particularly grateful to Steve Young, chief botanist with the New York Natural Heritage Program and my go-to guy for knowledge about any of our state's native plants. Here's Steve atop Whiteface Mountain, leading one of the field trips he conducts each year to important botanical sites. How wonderful to have had such a guide, whether up to a mountaintop to document alpine species, or out to a limestone island in Lake Champlain, home to some of our region's rarest plants.
Steve became an early follower of my blog, and from time to time he would alert me of the rarity of some of the plants I posted photos of. Under his guidance, I have been able to document the locations of some of our state's rarest species, and also to contribute hundreds of both photos and specimens to update the New York Flora Association's Plant Atlas. It sure feels good that my personal wildflower pursuits have proven to be useful to other interested parties!
Equally important for my nature education (as well as my pleasure!) have been my friends in The Thursday Naturalists, a group of both professional and passionately committed amateur naturalists who venture out each week to explore area parks and preserves. They were kind enough to ask me to join them about eight years ago, and I felt highly honored, like some little neighborhood nobody, invited out to play with the big kids. Since then, we have ventured widely to some of the richest botanical sites in the region, from Thacher and Joralemon parks and the Landis Arboretum south and west of Albany all the way up to the Ice Meadows and the Pack Forest north of Warrensburg, and many other parks and preserves in between, including old marble quarries in Vermont. I have to mention in particular these two members, Ruth Schottman and Ed Miller (pictured here), both of whom possess astounding depths of knowledge and are also wonderful companions on the trail, sharing their delight in all they find. Despite their advancing years (they are both in their 90s now!), they still bring a youthful enthusiasm and sense of adventure to all our expeditions. I am so grateful to them for taking me under their wings and sharing their knowledge with me, and I hope to treasure their companionship for years to come!
All members of The Thursday Naturalists contribute their unique gifts to our group, but I am particularly grateful to Nancy Slack, an ecology professor and expert bryologist who has opened my mind to the wonders of mosses, lichens, and liverworts. It's easy to fall in love with showy bright flowers, but it takes careful attention (and a good magnifier!) to marvel over the intricate structures of tiny greenish things growing on rotting wood or creekside boulders. I also have to admire Nancy's energy, her willingness to clamber up rocky slopes or paddle deep into bogs to seek out the objects of her passion. In this photo, she is climbing the course of a mountainside waterfall, delighting in the wonderful variety of bryophytes that thrive on the spray-watered rocks.
Here's one more of my wonderful teachers (and delightful friends!) whom I never would have met if not for my blog: the irrepressible Evelyn Greene, Adirondack explorer extraordinaire and so-called Queen of the Ice Meadows. Having been forced by mountaineering parents to climb all the High Peaks while still a young teen (whether she wanted to or not), she was not the least bit interested in bagging peaks by the time I met her, but rather preferred to paddle the region's isolated ponds and bogs or wander the swamps and woodlands in search of plants -- which made her my perfect companion! And Evelyn also had other friends -- I'm thinking of Bonny Vicki and Bob Duncan especially -- who eventually became my most welcome companions as well, accompanying me to amazing sites I never would have found on my own.