Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memory Card Treasures

Oh Happy Day!  My lake-dunked camera has revived!  After opening all compartments and removing battery pack and memory card and letting it sit in a warm dry spot for 5 days, I crossed my fingers, replaced the battery, held my breath and pressed the On/Off button. Ta Da!  My dear little Canon PowerShot S95 sprang to life once more! What adventures we have gone on together, and I am so very very happy to have it back.

As it happened, I kept a number of our adventures recorded in photos stored on the camera's memory card, and these I was able to revisit once more when the camera's power returned.  I kept them there because they were some of my favorites I liked to look at again and again, and to celebrate my camera's resurrection, I'm posting some of them here.

Many people are amazed to discover my photos are taken with a little camera about the size of a pack of cards, especially when it captures landscapes with such depth and clarity.

Here's a little red barn in a field in the Adirondacks.

White birches cast their reflections on an ice-covered Moreau Lake.

A lone golden Tamarack glows against dark-green conifers on the shore of Lens Lake.

My boots, my boat, and the beautiful Hudson River at Moreau

The river islands are lovely even in winter.

The Canon PowerShot S95 can also clearly capture closer kinds of beauty:

A carousel of gorgeous bi-colored Canada Lilies

Two sets of twins, these orange mushrooms and glossy-green Clintonia leaves sweetly compliment each other.

Autumn oak leaves float serenely over tiny pink flowers that were blooming away underwater.

How amazing that this Giant Swallowtail Butterfly held still for its portrait!

Even more amazing was that this tiny Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly held its wings open long enough for me to capture its beautiful wings on camera.

These splendidly-colored Milkweek Beetles were so engaged in what they were doing, they didn't resist when I poked my lens in close.

This White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar chose a yellow-rimmed oak leaf to go with its personal color scheme.

This Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar sports some colorful tiger stripes to announce its toxicity to predators.

The Great Golden Digger Wasp sports colors to match the brilliant orange of Butterflyweed.

Oh, I didn't try to get too close to this angry Snapping Turtle, who didn't appreciate my efforts to move her off a busy highway.

Some of our more colorful fungi:  Turkeytail Polypore in a lovely blue variant

The button stage of American Caesar Mushroom, just emerging from its egg-like cup

A pair of American Caesars at a later stage of maturity

Some scenes of Pyramid Lake, my spiritual home and one of the loveliest places in the Adirondack Mountains:

Venus's reflection floats on the dark still water shortly after sunset.

Mist rises from the lake on an October dawn.

Morning fog makes the island appear as if floating on a cloud.

Absolute silence, absolute serenity, under a soft full moon

Thank you, my dear little camera, my constant companion, for recording such scenes to remind me of so much I have to treasure.

Now I can't wait to get out in the woods and back on the waterways to record a host of new treasures.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Out to Azalea Island

The storm clouds rolled dark and daunting as I drove up and over Mount McGregor today on my way to the Hudson River.  I almost turned back, but I'm glad I didn't, because by the time I arrived at the site for launching my canoe, the sky had become mostly blue and the river lay calm and inviting, welcoming me back for the start of a new paddling season.

I'm late this year to get back on the water, and I really wanted to visit the islands just upstream from the boat launch site before the azaleas are spent.  Lord knows, most of the trees are now gone, thanks to the work of beavers.

A couple of years ago, beavers had also sheared off most of the Early Azalea shrubs that thrive on these islands, but since then the shrubs have put forth new growth and are blooming now as if to make up for lost time.  Their flowers are so big and brightly colored you can see them from quite a distance away, but today the warm humid air wafted their intoxicating fragrance to me long before I actually laid eyes on them.

What distinguishes Early Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) from the very similar Pinxter (R. periclymenoides) are the sticky hairs that cover the flower tubes of the blossoms, as well as the intense fragrance of this species.  What a joy it was to make my way slowly around these islands, drifting along on the dark quiet water, breathing deeply the sweetly perfumed air.

On my way home, I stopped along a powerline right-of-way to visit a patch of Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis) that I know grows there.  Lucky for me,  a few of its deep-red yellow-lipped blooms had already opened.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rain, and More Rain

In a setting as lovely as Pyramid Lake, the weather doesn't have to be sunny for the landscape to be beautiful.  Both Friday and Saturday brought continuing rainshowers while I was there this weekend, which created lovely atmospherics as mist rose through the trees and ascended the mountains, and stormclouds rolled dramatically across the sky.

The rain had stopped for a moment while I walked on the lakeshore to take these photos.  The grass was still wet and slippery, though, which is why these two views of the lake were the last I could take this weekend.  I lost my balance and threw up my arms, and whoops!  There went my camera into the lake.  Alas!  Ah well, perhaps it will dry and recover, or perhaps I will need to obtain a new one.  The camera certainly seemed to be dead, even though I did manage to retrieve it from the water.

(Here's a photo I took at Pyramid Lake a year ago, of spectacular clouds that looked just like ones I could not photograph this year because I had no working camera.  I just had to share it again. Pyramid Lake and its forested mountains provide unparalleled opportunities for observing such awe-inspiring vistas of earth and sky.)

How fortunate that I stopped along the entrance road when I first arrived, to photograph the beautiful Purple Virgin's Bower (Clematis occidentalis var. occidentalis), which spills over large limestone boulders that rise steeply from the road.

Although this plant is not classified as rare in New York State, it remains one that I rarely find.  In fact, this entry road to Pyramid Lake is the only place I have ever been able to find this flower and admire its beauty up close.

Other beauties lined the roadside, including this marvelous mixture of Foamflower, Miterwort, Fringed Polygala, and Christmas Fern.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Return to Pyramid Lake

Once again, I return to Pyramid Lake, my Paradise on Earth, for Memorial Day Weekend.  I'll be helping to ready Pyramid Life Center for another summer season of spiritual retreats in one of the most beautiful places in the Adirondacks.  Although I will be working hard to clean the dead flies and mouse leavings from many bedrooms in the Lodge, I always take time to paddle the pristine waters of this wilderness lake, walk the forested trails to spectacular overlooks, and sit on the dock at night to gaze at more stars than could ever be imagined,  all the while serenaded by loons and breathing the fragrance of pine.

Here in this place of sweet peace that offers a foretaste of heaven, I remember all those I loved who have died, and pray that God will send our world leaders who understand the sinfulness and futility of war.  May God grant his wayward people peace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sand Plain and Piney Woods

After two trips this week to the rich calcareous Oak-Hickory forest of the Skidmore Woods, I sought a complete change of habitat today when I visited the sand plains and piney woods at Woods Hollow Nature Preserve just north of Ballston Spa.  I'd heard the Wild Lupine might be blooming there, and yes indeed, it sure was!

It's hard to believe such a glorious flower would choose to grow in such barren-seeming, dry sandy fields as these, where hardly anything else except Sand Bur and Sweet Fern feels at home. But wait, there's also Little Blue-stem Grass that, this time of year, still rolls its tawny carpet across the ground.  There are oak trees, too, and several species of pine, and today, this stand of young poplars was just shimmering with light.  I felt I had just stepped into a painting by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.

A closer look at the poplars' jade-touched-with-apricot leaves (I think this tree might be a young Big Tooth Aspen) reveals their velvety texture that holds the light with a pearly glow.

The baby oaks' leaves (could this be a Scarlet Oak? or Black Oak?) are not at all that subtle in their coloration, but glow ruby-red and bright golden-yellow.  I love how even the yellow leaves are edged with red.

White Pine, Pitch Pine, and Scotch Pine -- all three grow here on this sandy plain and all three were producing pollenaceous male flowers today (allergy sufferers, beware!), but I was especially impressed by these tall spikes on a Scotch Pine.  They looked like the candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree.

After climbing a dune, I left the sand plain below and entered a mixed hardwood/conifer woods that this time of year is home to hundreds of Pink Lady's Slippers.  Most were still in green bud today, but I did find this trio of beauties in full rosy pink.

Here and there, the forest floor was strewn with a veritable firmament of Starflowers, masses of their pristine white blooms shining bright against the dark leaf-duff.  And oh, what a treat to find the bright-magenta blooms of Fringed Polygala joining the array!  What an absolutely perfect combination!

I love Starflowers so much, I just can't stop taking pictures of them.  Especially when their delicate beauty is set off so well by the foil of dark, rough tree bark.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Fine Day for the Back Bay

Despite skittering clouds and a moment's sprinkle of rain, today turned out to be a lovely one for a quick hike around the back bay of Moreau Lake, watching the sunshine chase the clouds' shadows across the bright foliage on the mountain across the way.

Recent rains have filled the lake almost up to the woods, but I still found enough shore to walk on without getting my shoes completely soaked.  I did have to mince my way at times, to avoid trampling the hundreds of tiny white violets starring the mud-damp shore.

Up on the higher banks, masses of Fringed Polygala spread a carpet of brilliant color in the woods.

Thickets of Lowbush Blueberry lined the shore, promising handfuls of sweet fruit later in summer.

I knew of several sandy spots where I always have found Bastard Toadflax about this time, and sure enough, there they were:  tiny star-shaped white flowers massed above pretty green leaves.

Here was a bird I have usually seen in more marshy wetlands, but this Green Heron had found a good perch to watch for the fish and frogs that compose his prey.

When I reached the part of the back bay shore my friend Sue has named "Odonata Shore" because of the hordes of dragonflies and damselflies that proliferate here, sure enough, the very air was alive with their glittering wings.

I had despaired of any dragonfly staying put long enough for me to take its photo, when I nearly stepped on this one, almost perfectly camouflaged among the twigs and pine needles scattered about the sand.  If the sun had not glinted on its iridescent wings, I doubt I would ever have seen it.  This is probably an immature specimen, difficult to identify as to species until its true colors emerge.

Update:  Thanks to Wayne Jones for putting a name to this pretty creature: Chalk-fronted Corporal (Libellula julia).  As he explains (see comments), if this is a female, her color will not change much as she matures, but if this is a male, the two stripes on the top of his thorax will become bright white, displaying the corporal's rank that suggested this dragonfly's common name.

A brisk breeze was swaying the branches of this Red Maple, causing its clusters of flower-pink seeds to dance on the air.  As pretty as any blossoms!

On my way back to Saratoga Springs, I drove along Spier Falls Road, stopping to admire the masses of Early Saxifrage that inhabit the crags rising steeply up from the side of the road.

I also stopped to take a clear cold drink from a spring that flows from these mountains, and there I found one of the prettiest patches of Yellow Clintonia I've ever seen, growing out of a red-berried carpet of Partridgeberry.