Friday, February 28, 2014


Man, it is COLD!  Below zero this morning, and will be again tomorrow.  Hey, tomorrow's the first of MARCH! It's time to start warming up.  If there weren't so many beautiful places to hike, and the sky hadn't been quite so beautifully blue, I probably would have huddled inside today.  But the river was calling to me to come visit, so that's where I went.  And oh, what a sight awaited me, when I came down through the woods at the end of Potter Road in Moreau, with West Mountain perfectly profiled against a radiant sky, the frozen bays and backwaters brilliant with sparkling snow.

If I stayed away from where streamlets entered the river, I could walk along on the frozen bays, my showshoes barely denting the dense, settled  snow.    The riverbanks were lovely, with bushes studded with Winterberries, the fruit still remarkably red for this late in the season and gorgeous viewed against that blue sky.

High-bush Blueberry twigs and buds vied with those Winterberries for ruddy color.

But the prize for super-saturated redness had to go to this solitary fruit of a spindly single-stemmed Staghorn Sumac.

Not so colorful, but elegantly beautiful still, was this tuft of Meadowsweet and its perfect shadow.

Rounding the point of one of the promontories that thrust into the river here,  I discovered this campsite someone had gone to great pains to furnish with benches and tables made from tree branches.

 I recalled the camp furniture my friends and I used to make as Girl Scouts, except we constructed our tables and benches with lashings of twine that we could dismantle when we broke camp.  These furnishings were put together with screws.  It will take some effort, then, to restore this site to pristine woodland.  This may not be state park land (where such a campsite would definitely  be disallowed), but I don't believe, either,  that such permanent campsites are allowed by the power company that has jurisdiction over the riverbanks in this catchment between their hydroelectric dams.

Many animals use the frozen river as an energy-saving highway, avoiding the deeper snow in the woods whenever possible.  I believe these tracks are those of a coyote, and they led to where many other trails of coyotes converged.

The prize find today was this trail laid down by an otter, scooting along on its belly after pushing off with its big webbed feet.

I followed the trail for quite a while, after the animal left the frozen river and continued pushing and sliding along on the deeper snow in the woods. Deeper for me, anyway, as my snowshoes crunched in as deep as a foot, while the otter blithely skidded along on top of the snow.

When the otter trail entered this area of dense undergrowth, I declined to follow after.  Just a bit further beyond this brushy area lies another bay of the river, which is fed by a stream that probably keeps an area of the water open for the otter to dive into.

As I lifted my sights from the trail I'd been following, I realized I had entered a frozen marsh, thick with Narrow-leaved Cattails, the fruits of which are more slender than those of ordinary cattails.  I was intrigued by the presence of neat little holes drilled into many of the fruits, no doubt the work of some bird.  I have read that Blue Jays will sometimes hide food bits inside the cattail fluff.  I dismantled several hole-drilled fruits, but didn't find any treasures hidden within.  Perhaps they had already been retrieved.


suep said...

perhaps that soft cattail fluff will be lining someone's nest ...?

June said...

The otter trail, especially, made me smile. What a great way to travel!
Husband says that a couple of years ago he saw an otter crossing a back road in Colonie. Imagine that.

Virginia said...

We were out snowshoeing a little while ago at Partridge Run (Huyck Preserve) and were wondering if the tracks we saw were coyote tracks. Thanks for posting these picture, and text. I have forwarded this one to the people we were with us that day. Beautiful blog post as always.

Virginia said...

Geesh, sorry for all the typos, Jackie! I guess I needed a good proofreader, like my mother :)