Thursday, October 15, 2015

Return to Pyramid Lake

For more than 20 years, Pyramid Life Center on Pyramid Lake in the Adirondacks has been my "summer place to be," whether I was volunteering to help open or close the retreat center there, attending retreats myself, or just coming up for the day to immerse myself in one of the most beautiful wilderness places on earth.  I did get up there for opening weekend in May this year, but just a week later I fell and shattered my kneecap, which kept me pretty close to home for the rest of the summer and into the fall.  But now, healing has progressed enough to allow me to paddle my little canoe, and where could I find a more beautiful place for a paddle this bright autumn day, than here on Pyramid Lake?

A brisk breeze riffled the water as I set off, but I knew that as soon as I entered a shallow swamp at the very east end of the lake, I would find quiet water.  And so I did.

I came to this swamp to greet two old friends that grow abundantly here, but nowhere else that I have found.  It didn't take long before I spied one of them, the water plant called Small Bur Reed (Sparganium natans), its puffy white spherical flower clusters now matured into clusters of of tiny pointed nutlets.  Although classified as "Threatened" in New York State, this little bur reed thrives by the hundreds in the quiet shallow water at this end of Pyramid Lake.

The second organism I sought today is not a plant, although it does produce its own nutrients via photosynthesis the way plants do, with chlorophyll.  This organism is called Nostoc balls, colonies of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) enclosed within pale-green spherical membranes.   It's not until late in the year I would begin to find these little jelly balls suspended in the cold water at this end of the lake, but when I paddled back here today, I could not find them at first.  Or else I spotted just a few, as seen in my photo of Small Bur Reed above.  But it wasn't long before I found masses and masses of them collected against the trunks of fallen logs or corralled within patches of Water Lily pads.

Several biologists have told me that Nostoc balls are relatively rare, found in only about 2% of clean lakes and ponds.   To find such enormous quantities of them here certainly says something about the special quality of Pyramid Lake.  I brought along a tea-strainer today so that I could collect a few, perhaps to share with a friend who told me he'd never seen them in the wild.  I saved these in a glass jar filled with water from this swamp.

My search completed and the wind having quieted some, I decided to take a turn around the lake, enjoying the vistas of rugged cliffs and forested islands.

By the time I completed my circuit of the lake, clouds had moved in and the wind had died down completely.  Without the high contrast of sunlight and shadow, the colors of the foliage glowed even more intensely, and the still water mirrored this beauty to spectacular effect.

Similar vistas of gorgeous autumn color followed me all the way home.


The Furry Gnome said...

Looks like a perfect fall paddling day! That picture with the reflections is incredible! Never heard of Nostoc balls though!

threecollie said...

I learn something every single time I visit here...and I do so love to learn.