Friday, January 22, 2010

A Winter Riverside Stroll

Another bright sunny day with temperatures just below freezing. No ambitious adventures today, just an easy stroll along the open river below Spier Falls Dam to the boat launch a mile or so downstream. Or at least as easy as a stroll can be, with snowshoes punching through the icy crust and tangling in bittersweet vines. I parked at the dam and followed a flock of turkey tracks down to the riverside and along the bank, as close to the flowing water as I could go. Only a week ago this water was frozen all the way across, but today the river flowed freely, with just thin sheets of ice here and there close to shore.

The sun felt warm on my back, and my eyes were dazzled by sunlight gleaming on the Yellow Birch trunks leaning over the river. The bark almost looks as if it were hammered gold leaf.

Flowerstalks in winter have their own kind of beauty, like pen-and-ink drawings rendered in sepia ink. I found two kinds of spirea shrubs that are often confused in summer when both have tiny pink blossoms clustered on stalks, but in winter their differences become more obvious. Here's Steeplebush first, with its dried flower parts clustered tight to the stalk.

And here's Meadowsweet, with its flower parts arrayed in much more open clusters.

And here are Beechdrops, which always grow under beeches and look about the same in winter as they do when they bloom in the fall.

When I reached the boat launch and turned around to walk back to my car, the sun had sunk behind the hills on the opposite side of the river, casting my bank in shadow but lighting the mountain ridge that rose above me.

I looked at my watch and noted the time was 4:30 and it was not yet dark. It's a month past Solstice today, and yes, indeed, the sun is returning to us.


troutbirder said...

Beautiful river valley scenes. I especially like the yellow birch. I'm wonder if its what we call a river birch. In any case the golden glow is really neat.

squirrel said...

I loved the way you described this walk. Your poetic voice added to the beauty you found and it was a pleasure to read.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your comment, troutbirder, and yes, I agree that this river valley is beautiful. I return again and again to experience it in all seasons and weathers and times of day because it is ever-changing. The birch in question is definitely a Yellow Birch (Betula lutea), a common Adirondack native that is distinguished by its shiny yellowish bark that peels off in tiny strips, not in broad swaths like that of the white Paper Birch (P. papyrifera), another Adirondack native. River Birch (B. nigra) is rarely found this far north, except where folks have planted it in their yards.

Thanks for your kind comment, Squirrel. I am so taken with the beauty of this place, I'm pleased that my love for it comes through in what I say about it.

corin said...

Beautiful picture of the sun setting. I love the contrast of the meadowsweet against the snow, I often photograph it.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Hello again, Corin. Thanks for your comment and thanks especially for jogging me to revisit your blog A Walk in the Park. Such beautiful photos of the Adirondacks, and marvelous summit views. I've kind of given up climbing high mountains, but it's great to revisit those mountaintops through your eyes.