Saturday, May 3, 2014

Into the Woods, Up the Mountain

What better way to spend I Love My Park Day than introducing a group of hikers to the forested trails, splendid overlooks, and a hidden lake high in the mountains of Moreau Lake State Park?  Our hike was sponsored by the land-preservation group Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land And Nature) as a way to increase awareness of the natural treasures of Saratoga County, including areas not specifically owned or conserved by their organization.  Many people are not aware that Moreau Lake State Park extends far beyond the familiar campground and beach surrounding the lake proper, reaching north to the banks of the Hudson River and beyond to areas along the Warren County banks of the river.  For folks arriving at the trailhead this morning, this was their first view of this splendid landscape, with the river flowing serenely under a quiet sky, and the mountain we were going to climb rising steeply from the rocky shore.

A group of about 15 hikers, many of whom had never visited this part of the state park, gathered at the trailhead along Spier Falls Road.  Before setting off up the mountainous trail, PLAN intern Andrew Gilchrist told the group a little bit about the goals of his organization, and then introduced me as the hike leader.

And so we set off on a hike that totaled about four miles, roundtrip, climbing steeply at first until we reached a rocky outcropping overlooking the Hudson Valley far below.  Here we rested and ate our lunches before continuing on until we reached the shore of Lake Ann, high in the Palmertown Mountains, the range of Adirondack foothills that lies at the heart of Moreau Lake State Park.

Our hike was billed as a nature hike, and while I was explaining that this cold spring had delayed the blooming of many wildflowers and that we might not see many, one of our group pointed out that we were surrounded by dozens of Red Trilliums, all blooming gloriously.  A promising sign!  And certainly a beautiful sight.

The flower show continued when we spied these tiny bright-yellow Roundleaf Violets blooming along the trail.

Although we saw many of the yellow violets, we saw only one of this dainty Northern White Violet in bloom

One of our sharp-eyed hikers was the first to spy the Sessile Bellworts along the trail, a few plants of which were dangling their pale-yellow bell-shaped blooms.  A pair of flower beetles had found this one first, finding it an appropriate spot for a tryst.  This flower is also called Wild Oats.  Hmmm.

Another sharp-eyed member of our group was the first to spot these tiny sky-blue blooms, appropriately named Bluets.  And once we found one, we kept seeing them again and again.

Trailing Arbutus is always a favorite among flower lovers, and we were treated to several abundantly blooming patches of this exquisitely fragrant flower.  I took the opportunity to inform folks that this flower must never be picked, for just plucking a single cluster of flowers can be damaging enough to the plant that the entire patch can shrivel and die.

Even if we had not found a single wildflower, we would still have found objects of beauty along the trail, including the velvety pink-tinged buds of Striped Maple glowing with a pearly light in the dark woods.

The emerging baby leaves of Red Maple added splashes of vivid color.

When we reached the rocky ledge overlooking the bend of the river below, we were treated to a display of many Shadblow trees with just-opening buds.  The trees we saw today were not quite as fully in bloom as this one (which I photographed several years ago at the same spot), but they were nevertheless quite lovely, with snowy white petals just emerging from pale pinkish buds.

As we sat on the rocks overlooking the valley, we saw a rainstorm approaching from the west.  But almost as if by magic, the rain just seemed to disappear before it reached us, so we continued on to our planned destination, the tiny bog-shored Lake Ann.  Nestled among the Sphagnum mats that line the shore were patches of purple-tinged Small Cranberry plants.  And nestled among those cranberry plants were a few overwintered fruits, their tartness deliciously tempered by spending the winter under the snow.  Here, Andrew harvests a few of the fruits to share with some of our hikers.

At present, Lake Ann lies at the very edge of state park property, abutting land currently owned by Mt. McGregor State Prison, which is slated to close this summer.  Moreau Lake State Park is hoping that these lands will be added to its present holdings, but as Saratoga PLAN director Maria Trabka informed us before we left this beautiful site, private developers are also interested in acquiring this land.  She urged us to contact Governor Andrew Cuomo to plead for it to be added to the state park.  Please do!

There are several ways to contact the governor.  His mailing address is:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

His telephone number is (518) 474-8390

Also, a Governor Contact Form may be found at this web address:


The Furry Gnome said...

Sounds like a wonderful walk!

Unknown said...

What a wonderful opportunity to enhance the experience of the outdoors for some folks! 'Love the shot of the wake robin.

Wayne said...

Nice walk -- Bluets already! I always associate them with the beginning of summer. :D