Monday, September 14, 2009

A Retreat for Two at Pyramid Lake

A spectacular late-summer day today, and what better way to spend it than with a friend outdoors? Especially outdoors on a wilderness lake. My friend and fellow blogger Ellen (Adirondak Naturalist) met me this morning at Pyramid Lake, which lies about half way between her home in Newcomb and mine in Saratoga Springs. Because it is completely surrounded by the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area, the only access to this beautiful lake is through Pyramid Life Center, a retreat center where I volunteer and occasionally attend retreats.

We had our own private retreat today, for we had the place virtually all to ourselves on a mid-September Monday morning. I showed Ellen around the old 19th-century lodge and one of the cabins, a bare-boards structure with a big stone fireplace, porch railings made out of tree limbs, and (best of all!) an upstairs sitting porch overlooking the lake through the trees.

We had a little visitor while we were visiting the cabin. Well, hello there, Mr. (or is it a Mrs.?) Toad!

I found a couple of pretty things while wandering the woods near the cabin. Here's Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), a ground-hugging dwarf dogwood with bright red berries:

And here's a small, bright orange cup fungus called, appropriately, Orange Peel (Aleuria aurantia):

The lake was calm when we first set out for a paddle, easing along close to shore, enjoying the views of forest and mountains and the fragrance of sun-warmed pine needles spilling over the banks. We hadn't paddled for very long when whoops! up popped a juvenile loon just a few feet from us . . .

And shortly after, whoops! up popped its mom. The pair dived and surfaced for quite some time, occasionally coming up with fish, seeming to pay no mind to us at all. At one point mom did a little dance, flapping her wings and moving vertically across the water.

We completed our tour of the lake by pushing our way through water lilies in a quiet, shallow-water marsh. Here's where Ellen noticed these thousands of tiny celery-green balls suspended among the bur-reeds and lily pads. They were soft, almost jelly-like to the touch, the same color and texture inside, and came in sizes from period to pin-head to pea. Neither one of us has the slightest idea what they might be. Does anyone?

While trying to scoop up those little green balls, I pulled up this intriguing plant structure. It looks very much like a bladderwort, with little water-filled sacs among the filaments, but which species could it be, if it is? I can find photos and descriptions of bladderwort flowers, but not of its bladders. These were so beautiful, like tiny garnets or amethysts shining in the sun.


Ellen Rathbone said...

You got the loon flapping! Nice shot!

We are narrowing in on ID of the little green balls. Some sort of algae. Possibly Volvox, but I'm looking also at "non-motile coccoid and colonial green algae".
Maybe you could cut one open and have a looksie under a microscope (or one of your professorial connections could).

squirrel said...

Sounds interesting. I have never seen any green balls like those but I have never seen bladder wort either. Isn't it fun to hook up with a fellow blogger and go exploring. I did that when I went to Cranberry Glades earlier this year and then we did a joint blog. I'll have to scoot on over to Ellen's blog and see if she wrote any thing.

BTY I forgot to taste the jewelweed. I almost did but then chicken out because I couldn't remember what you said. I'm leading a moss hike on Sunday and if I see any I will definately taste then. I don't actually know much about Moss but I do know where to find a big variety in one location. We plan of teaching ourselves.

Thanks for the nice post.

squirrel said...

What kind of camera were you using to get such a nice close up? I have been looking for something to replace my Nikon 4500.

Trillium said...

Outstanding! Ilove the toad pix. She/he looks so proud!
Like Squirrel, (my friend and blogger pal) I'm interested in your photo equipment! Simply breathtaking. I can smell the fir needles warming in the sunlight!

Jens Zorn said...

As so many times before --- a wonderful combination of prose and images!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hello, Ellen, Squirrel, Trillium, and Jens. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind comments.

I'm attempting to connect with biologists at Skidmore to look at our little green balls (I brought some home in a jar). SOMEBODY must know what they are. Thanks for spotting them, Ellen.

Regarding the camera: I use a Canon PowerShot G7, an automatic-everything, point-and-shoot digital camera that has a great macro function. I have not yet mastered the manual focus, and sometimes the automatic focus is stubborn and refuses to see what I want it to see, but usually it pulls through. I'm not that happy with the way it captures landscapes, but the macro is what I use most, anyway. Two other great things about this camera: it uses rechargeable batteries and it fits in your pocket.