Monday, October 5, 2015

New Springs at the Spa

I love that the marvelous landscapes of Lake George or the Adirondack Mountains are just a few miles away from my home in Saratoga Springs.  But I really don't have to go that far for some beautiful walks in nature.  The Saratoga Spa State Park is an easy walk from my downtown home, and it's there I went on this bright sunny day today.  (Although I confess I did drive to get there today, to save some stress on my still-recovering knee.)

Spa Park is better known for its mineral springs, golf course, swimming pools, and performing arts center than it is for wild natural beauty, but it does have a lovely short trail that follows a little stream down a forested ravine.  It's called the Ferndell Ravine, a beautifully descriptive name for this cool, dark,  quiet, fern-lined sanctuary.  I walk there often, and today I was surprised to discover a couple of pretty new springs right beside the trail.

As soon as I start my descent from the road, I'm enclosed by the hush of the forest, a silence broken only by the songs of birds, the occasional chirp from a chipmunk, and the babble of a tiny brook that runs beside the trail.

As I approached a rustic little bridge, I noticed a bubbling pottery bowl set in stones by the side of the trail. I later learned that this is a real spring, with water piped from the depths of the earth, but that it has not been certified as safe for drinking.  Thirsty dogs, however, would find this a fine spot for quenching their thirst with mineral water.

Then, as I started across the bridge, I could see a second new spring, this one set at a height that encouraged human consumption, with steps leading down to a graceful granite fountain.

Except for a few pale-purple puffs of Heart-leaved Aster on the wooded banks rising each side of the trail, I found very few flowers in bloom today.  But I did see some beautiful berries.  Here are the porcelain-white, black-dotted fruits of White Baneberry, borne on pedicels of a startling red.

Speaking of startling red, these scarlet fruits of a Jack-in-the-Pulpit blazed from a shady bank, momentarily set alight by a stray ray of sunlight piercing the tall pines and maples and basswoods that lined the steep sides of the ravine.

Much more demure were these pretty blooms of Herb Robert, a faithful little wild geranium that stays with us from spring through summer and into autumn, sometimes even after frost.

Not in flower, but with leaves as colorful as flowers, was this branch of Hobblebush sprawling across a shady high bank across the stream.

My friend Drew Monthie has pointed out that this cool ravine is one of the very few places he has found this species of viburnum (Viburnum lantanoides) south of the Adirondack region.  It's definitely a cold-habitat denizen, which amazes me, since it already bears its leaf and flower buds at the ends of its branches.  I  often wonder how these buds can survive our sub-zero winters, covered as they are with only the thinnest coat of fuzz.

As I stepped onto an open road from the shady trail, blinking in the bright sunlight, my eye was caught by the fluttering of this pale-yellow butterfly, busy among the blooms of Blue Vetch.

Before retracing my steps back up the ravine to my car, I strolled a few yards down the road to visit one of my favorite springs in the park, one that lies close to the ground and is hidden behind a large stand of tall Phragmites.  It's immediately obvious that this spring is rich in both iron and lime, from the blood-red color of the watercourse that has carved a trench from the source across a spreading tufa of hardened lime deposits.

It's amazing to think that this water contains such a quantity of dissolved minerals, since the drops that arc upwards from its source underground are as clear as crystal, shining like diamonds today as they glittered in the bright sun.  Almost looks good enough to drink, doesn't it?  And it IS!  I cupped my hands and drank my fill of its tingly salty icy-cold goodness before heading on my way home.


The Furry Gnome said...

I don't think tou've shown us this location before, very interesting place.

Virginia said...

I have always loved Ferndell. We used to play in the brook when I was a child, and I have walked through there as an adult. I was worried that it would be ruined, a few years ago, when back hoes were digging up the path and stream banks. Thank you for showing me and others that it still has all the wonderful qualities that have been there for decades.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I think I have featured this ravine in years past, Furry Gnome, but its beauty changes with every season and over the years.

Oh Virginia, you know the special atmosphere that permeates this ravine! It offers such a quiet shady refuge from the other busyness of Spa Park. I'm glad to know you have experienced its magic.

Walking Man said...

Marvelous!! Looks like a great little walk. I will have to visit this spot sometime soon!!