Friday, December 4, 2009

Hiking the Mountain Trails at Moreau

View of the Luzerne Mountains from a high overlook in Moreau Lake State Park

What a treasure we have in the mountainous trails of Moreau Lake State Park! Only a 15-minute drive from my home, and I'm at the Spring Trailhead that leads steeply up, up, up to some of the most beautiful rocky forest I have ever hiked. Today, my friend Laurie asked me to join her and her friend Paul on a full day's hike through the heart of the Palmertown Range that lies within the park, and I jumped at the chance to explore trails I rarely travel when I hike by myself. Laurie, who lives very close to this part of the park, knows her way around these woods like most of us know our back yards. I was very glad to have her lead the way.

The trails she chose led us into the rocky heart of the range, where monumental outcroppings towered over our heads and terraced paths traced the face of steep forested slopes.

Many of the rocks were softened by carpets of green, green moss.

We could hear the sound of water everywhere, from rushing streams flooded by recent rains and small droplets trickling down the face of the rocks. This iron-rich spring has found its release through the cracks in these soaring boulders, staining the rock barn-red with its rusty water.

What powerful force reached out and twisted the trunk of this full-grown Beech?

The Snow Fleas were out in full force today, peppering the dry leaves on the path. We could actually hear them hopping about, with a sound like that of soft rain.

Here's a close-up shot of this cute little creature, which is not a flea at all. In fact, I believe it's not even classified as an insect, despite those six legs. I've read all kinds of fascinating facts about them, which I've forgotten but will read up on again and be back later to add to this post.

Update: Wow! What a bunch of conflicting info you'll find if you just Google "snowfleas". The most complete and up-to-date entry seems to be here. On another Wikipedia site I learned that the "antifreeze" property of their bodily fluids is being studied to possibly create ways to better preserve transplant organs. Or keep ice cream from crystallizing. Amazing!

The mountain streams were in full flood, quite unusual for this late in autumn. Here Laurie is clearing leaves that were obstructing the flow of this stream and flooding the path.

We can't call these "vernal" pools, since it's autumn now (almost winter), but the forest was as wet today as it usually is only in spring. There were many pools throughout the woods, including a number of long-established wetlands where sphagnum moss carpeted fallen logs and created boggy conditions.

After taking us into the heart of the mountains, our trail eventually looped back toward the river, bringing us out to open areas overlooking the Hudson. Far below us, still water reflected the blue of the sky. We encountered a series of overlooks, where we could enjoy splendid views of the river, as well as tier upon tier of mountains beyond.

As we made our way down the trail to head home, we were surprised to find this one little Bluet, still blooming well into December. What a brave little blossom!

And what strange December weather! Sure, it's great to still have these balmy days for nice long hikes through the mountains. But hey, we could do this same hike on snowshoes and still find comparable beauty. So come on, Winter! Bring us a little snow!


Tom Arbour said...


Here in Ohio with our warm fall weather we've had plenty of native and non-native plants go through second or really late blooming periods. Throughout my neighborhood people's rose bushes have these wonderful full blooms. Several composites are also blooming again, like chicory, a few native sunflowers, and leaf cup. It's a weird phenonenon. Our local retired weather columnist did a story on it for the newspaper, saying he's never seen anything quite like it. Nature is strange, for sure.


Ellen Rathbone said...

What a beautiful spot - thanks for taking us along!

I can't believe you had snowfleas, though! We're not supposed to see them until a warm day in February brings them to the surface of the snow!!!

But then, I have pussy willows with fuzzy catkins on them already. Strange things happening these days.

Carolyn H said...

Jackie: What a lovely place! Makes me wish I'd been on that hike with you. The photos are excellent! I love all that moss and rocks!


Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Tom and Ellen. Thanks for your comments. Yup, this weather sure is strange. I heard today we might have some snow, but only SOUTH of Albany! But I can remember other strange years. My sister got married in Michigan in February on a day when the temp reached the mid-70s.

Regarding those snowfleas: I guess they're around all year, but keep themselves down in the leaf litter where we can't see them. Why they emerge on the snow in late winter is kind of a mystery, I've heard. We had so much rain here that the forest floor was saturated. Maybe that's what brought them up to hop around on the dry leaves.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hi Carolyn, thanks for your kind comment. I wish we could hike together too. We share a love for the mountains.

suep said...

best. springtail. photo. EVER !

Jackie C said...

These photos are sooooo beautiful Jackie! I love the view of the Luzerne Mountains with the low-hanging cloud cover;and the mossy boulders are gorgeous, too!