Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hiking Up to Lake Ann

Lake Ann, high in the Palmertown Mountains of Moreau Lake State Park

Let's hear it for my husband, a physics professor who knows his way around computers much better than I. He managed to fix my internet access, so I am once again back on line. Thank you, thank you, dear Denis! So. Let's see. Where was I? Ah yes, I was headed out to partake of nature's solace. (It's terrible how lost I felt without my internet!)

A bright and breezy day it was yesterday, cool in the shade but warm in the sun. Perfect for a climb to Lake Ann, a tiny lake that is up as high as you can hike in the Palmertown Mountains of Moreau Lake State Park. All you rugged high climbers out there may sniff in derision, but this is about as high as I like to climb these days, being older than most of your grandmothers, a little bit arthritic, and carrying plenty of extra poundage, even without a loaded pack. And I like to take it slow. Don't want to miss what may flutter or sing or grow or creep along the trail as I go.

Like this pair of Great Spangled Fritillaries, resting for just a second on Common Milkweed.

And because it's so small, it's amazing I happened to see this tiny fungus growing on a rotten log. Doesn't it look exactly like a miniature peach? Or maybe, a baby's bottom?

Update, July 2012:  Turns out this is not a fungus at all, but rather a slime mold called Wolf's Milk or Toothpaste Slime.  It's filled with pink paste that looks like toothpaste. It will turn gray as it ages.

While poking around that rotten log, I dislodged a leaf that was hiding this little Red Eft. Sorry to blow your cover, little fella. Just let me take your picture and I'll cover you right back up. (I've read we should never touch these creatures with our bare hands, because the natural acidity of our skin will harm the eft's sensitive skin. We should rub our hands with dirt to neutralize that acidity first. Or better yet, don't touch.)

On a rocky outcrop exposed to the sun, I found a few plants of Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), its flowers as tiny as its Latin name is long. In fact, they're so small, I never noticed the purple polka-dots until I enlarged them on my IMac screen. I'll bet the bees can see them.

The first part of the trail to Lake Ann passes through sunlit forest of beech and oak, with all kinds of understory trees and plants. Further along, it moves into dark, dark hemlock stands, with mounds of moss the only trace of green on the brown-needled ground. Then, just as all that darkness starts to feel oppressive, you notice a brightness up ahead, and suddenly there's the open sky, the bright blue lake, and sunlight glowing on carpets of green, green Sphagnum Moss.

One reason I wanted to hike to Lake Ann was to visit its boggy shore and see what acid-loving plants I might find. True bogs are a rarity in Saratoga County, but this lake has at least one shore that qualifies. I always hope to find orchids, but this day the only flower I found in bloom was Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). And lots of it. Mountain Holly and Highbush Blueberry were abundant, as well, their berries just starting to ripen.

For woodland color, the fungi make up for the dearth of flowers this time of year. With all the rain we've had this summer, the varieties of colors and shapes should be amazing. These Yellow Earth Tongue (Microglossum rufum) and Red Russula (Russula emetica) are just two of the beauties I found along the trail today.


Tim Koppenhaver said...

"I like to take it slow. Don't want to miss what may flutter or sing or grow or creep along the trail as I go."

I like that line. May I borrow it someday? Very nice...

Jordan said...

I'm so glad you're back in blogland. It is addictive! Here's another plant I found at my place in down in Rensselaer Cty that I'm hoping you can help me identify. I can't find it in Peterson's Trees and Shrubs, so I'm lost.

Carolyn H said...

Baby's bottom, definitely, on that little fungus.

Carolyn H.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Tim, Jordan and Carolyn: Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments.

Yes, Tim, you may borrow that line. It's kind of my motto.

Jordan, I see that you got my comment about the Wild Sarsaparilla.

Yes, Carolyn, baby's bottom, I agree. I wonder what its real name is?