Sunday, February 21, 2016

See Saw, Freeze and Thaw

A week ago it was 20 below.  Yesterday, the temperature edged toward 60.  Today it was in the 40s. What a see-saw winter this has been!  Ah well, at least the brittle-crusted snow is mostly gone, although many trails are still covered with hard-packed ice.  Or water.  Or mud.  This is what the trails along the Kayaderosseras Creek looked like yesterday:  a combination of all three.

Although the day was gray and threatening rain, the air was actually soft and balmy, inviting me to venture out.  Allowing myself to dream of spring, I headed over to the Burl Trail along the Kayaderosseras Creek near Ballston Spa, hoping to hear a gentle rippling stream.   Well, I didn't.  It wasn't a raging flood, either, as one might expect with snowmelt, but just an icy, muddy mess.  Hardly picturesque!

I was amazed to find these big floes of thick ice lying in broken plates across the low-lying areas along the creek.  I found it hard to believe that we've had enough precipitation of ANY kind this winter to cause the creek to flood so high.  But there was the evidence that it had!  Strange!

I come to this creek bank often in summer, especially late in the season when the banks are adorned with an amazing array of gorgeous wildflowers.  This was the image I held in my mind as I made my way along the icy, muddy banks, dreaming of summer while slipping and squishing and splashing in micro-spiked waterproof boots, and wondering if I might recognize the remains of some of these gorgeous wildflowers.

The first ones I recognized were these puffy taupe balls, the remains of Wild Bergamot that in summer bear abundant blooms of pale purple.  To confirm the ID, I plucked one of the dry flower heads and breathed in the still-pungent minty fragrance.

Always easy to recognize by the candelabra shape of its flower head, Blue Vervain was still easily spotted protruding above the jumble of grasses.

I'm going to assume that these scraggly puffs were once the vividly colored blooms of New England Aster, one of the most abundant of the wildflowers that bloom here in late summer and early autumn.

I know for sure that these tall stalks with multiple blooms on curving stems are the remains of Maximilian Sunflowers, the only multi-flowered sunflower we have that displays this distinctive shape.

A few pods of Wild Cucumber still clung to the vines.  When green, those spikes that cover the pods are soft and malleable, but they felt much more prickly now.

The spent flowerheads of Tall Goldenrod, growing in masses along the stream, almost looked as if they were still in bloom when backlit by the sun.

Thickets of Red Osier Dogwood crowd the edge of the creek, their deep-red branches even more evident now, when bare, than when they are covered with leaves and flowers in spring.  The shrubs provide a welcome splash of color to an otherwise rather drab landscape.

Ah, but they sure can't compare to what these banks will look like come next summer!

I'm holding this image of vividly colored flowers in my mind as I climb on the airplane tomorrow that will fly me to Winter Park, Florida.  We're off to visit family there for most of the rest of this week.  I expect I will find some flowers in bloom down there, so watch for my next post from sunny Florida.  I won't have my computer down there, though, so it might be most of a week before I can blog again.  I wonder what kind of crazy weather we'll have up here while I'm gone.  Lord only knows!


Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Happy Travels!

I've seen thick chunks of ice along the shore here at Otter Creek. I wonder if its the shoreline, water next to colder ground that allows the ice to form like that.

The Furry Gnome said...

Have a wonderful holiday! You sure are good at identifying those dry stalks of last summer's plants. Same crazy weather here.

Lisa Goyne said...

Looks like a fun hike. Gorgeous photos too!