Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spring Walk on a Winter Day

It was bitter cold and windy on Sunday, and neither Sue nor I really felt like braving the out-of-doors for any long or strenuous adventures.  So we chose an easy walk to explore the famous mineral springs at Saratoga Spa State Park, the only naturally carbonated springs east of the Rockies, long celebrated by native peoples and European arrivals alike for their healing powers.  Perhaps a dose of Saratoga's powerful waters would perk us up from our winter blahs.

The majority of the park's mineral springs cluster along Geyser Creek, which we approached through the Ferndell Ravine, a pretty trail that follows a tumbling brook between steep wooded banks.

We might have missed the first spring we came to, which was hidden well off the trail among stands of tall grass.  But its iron-rich waters had carved out a blood-red path through the snow, leading back to where the water spouted forth from the earth.

The water flows crystal-clear from the earth, but the dissolved iron in its make-up soon oxidizes as the waters spread across the ground, leaving deposits of the deepest rusty red.

We soon approached the Vale of Springs along Geyser Creek, where a path follows closely along the creek and a large sign indicates the location of several springs.

The most immediately noticeable feature here is the Island Spouter Spring, a large dome of mineral accretions, called a "tufa," out of the center of which leaps a tall spout of mineral-rich water.  Although this spring is commonly called "The Geyser," the same name as the creek it inhabits, this spring is not technically a geyser, but rather a spouter.  Geysers are features of hot springs, and they gain their energy for spouting from the build-up of heat below ground.  The Island Spouter's waters are cold and highly carbonated, and it gains its energy for spouting from the pressure of built-up gasses.

Close by is the Hayes Spring, a highly mineralized water that constantly flows from taps set within a squat stone edifice.  This is a spring from which it is easy to obtain a sample of the water, so I encouraged Sue to try its salty effervescence.

Which she did.

Yes, the taste can at first be rather startling!

                                                                                      There.  That wasn't so bad, was it?

We continued along Geyser Creek until we reached the enormous tufa created by generations upon generations of flow from the Orenda Spring, which springs from the earth high up on the bank.

The dissolved lime in Orenda's waters crystallizes to create a fascinating and beautifully patterned deposit along the banks of the creek.

We next climbed the banks to approach the Orenda Spring itself, flowing freely from this picturesque stone structure and coloring the earth with red oxides from the dissolved iron in its water.

We were entranced by these calcareous crystals that formed at the edges of where the spring water flowed out across the ground, coating the fallen leaves and grasses with what looked like a tawny fur.

The crystals may have looked soft as fur, but a touch revealed that they were as hard as stone.


June said...

In the 1950s, my aunt and uncle often took my cousins, my sister and me to the Saratoga park for picnics near those springs. I didn't understand them but they fascinated me . . . the big orange mounds with the little spouty pipes in the middle. I knew it was a natural kind of thing, though, and I remember standing and staring at it. Marveling at it.
Until the hot dogs were ready to eat.

threecollie said...

Wow! Thanks! I didn't even know these were there.

suep said...

oh what a swell day it was! your photos make it seem warmer than it was.
By the way, that water definitely perked me up ! And not in the way that those signs said it would (heh)

Unknown said...

I've never thought to visit the springs during the winter! I have to say, i think they are much more striking with the snow as a backdrop. It forces you to hone in on all those details you might miss on a gorgeous fall day.

Was so nice to meet you the other night at the gallery -- i do so love your work.