Sunday, November 3, 2013

One Last Paddle

 A week of rather unpleasant weather got me thinking it might be time to stow my boat away for the winter.  But then Saturday dawned calm and balmy, perfect for one last paddle on my favorite stretch of the Hudson River below the Spier Falls Dam at Moreau.

Although the fall foliage is way past peak by now, it's surprising how vividly colored the trees -- mostly oaks and beeches -- appear along the riverbaks.

The banks themselves were aflame with the brilliant color of shrubs like Meadowsweet and Black Huckleberry.

Looking up through pure stands of American Beech was like looking into a flaming fire.

I was startled to find these twigs that were colored so vividly red.  At first I thought they might be Striped Maple, but then I noticed the peculiar shape of the buds, which I once heard described as looking like "mice in motorcycle helmets."  Just as with the shape of American Basswood leaves,  basswood buds share a comparable asymmetry.

The presence of these distinctive bracts confirmed the identification as American Basswood.

The American Hornbeam, too, bears fruits with distinctively shaped bracts, like a set of paired wings surrounding each pair of seeds. 

I have never seen so few Witch Hazel flowers as I have this fall, nor so many of the chubby seed pods.  All the Witch Hazel shrubs I found today had branches thickly weighed down with pods that had already discharged their seeds.  The pods that we find this fall were formed from flowers that bloomed last year.   The genus name for Witch Hazel  -- Hamamelis -- actually means "together with fruit," referring to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit of the previous year.

After paddling downstream for an hour or so, I returned upstream to explore the little islands that lie just off the boat launch site where I'd put my canoe in the river.  I noticed the water level was quite high, flooding the low-lying areas where I usually find many interesting plants.  I wasn't going to find them today.

I beached my canoe on the middle island and walked about beneath the trees.  A bright patch of Wintergreen with fat red berries carpeted the mossy ground.

The  leaves of Black Huckleberry seemed extra brilliant out here on the island.

Tucked in among tumbled boulders, the bright pink flowers of Herb Robert continue to bloom, despite recent frosts that have killed most other flowers.

As the afternoon wore on, a brisk wind arose and clouds began to thicken, threatening rain.  It was time to bid farewell to my beautiful Hudson for another year.  How lucky I am to have such a splendid stretch of river to paddle, where forested mountains drop right down to the water, and with vistas unbroken by the presence of houses or docks or other signs of human habitation.  I'll return to hike these mountains and walk these shores throughout the winter, looking forward to when the ice recedes and I once again slip my boat into these lovely waters.

Driving home over Mount McGregor, the sight of this amazing abundance of Winterberry shrubs had me pulling over to the side of the road to feast my eyes on their splendor.   Wow!  A year ago, I searched and searched and could not find any Winterberries.  The shrubs sure are making up for lost time this year!


Uta said...

Yes, I have noticed an abundance of Winterberry here in middle Conn. as well. I have many in my yard and can't wait for the migrating birds to enjoy them.
Again, thank you for your beautiful pictures.

The Furry Gnome said...

How wonderful to share such a great last paddle. Love the picture of the beech. One of my goals for next year is to paddle more often!

Caroline said...


June said...

A feast for the senses. Thanks for the photos, sharing your feast with me.
The reds of fall fruit and leaves! Exciting color.

catharus said...

You say, "How lucky I am to have such a splendid stretch of river to paddle, where forested mountains drop right down to the water, and with vistas unbroken by the presence of houses or docks or other signs of human habitation".
I say, "How lucky I am to have you share your adventures, knowledge, in such descriptive and pictorial accounts!
I love those last two shots! And yes, that stand of winterberry! Incredible!

Adk Keith said...

Say it ain't so!

It's always a sad time when it's time to put the boats in the barn for the season.

Thanks again for sharing.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thank you, dear readers, for all your kind comments. I am so happy I can share these beautiful places with you.