Sunday, May 29, 2016

Changeless Beauty

 This is the same view of Pyramid Lake I featured in my last post, the photos taken two years apart.  But except for that little wooden dock, the scene would probably have looked the same two hundred years ago! Such is the changeless beauty of a lake in the Adirondack wilderness, the landscape protected and preserved by New York State as forever wild.  And this is the changeless beauty that greeted me at dawn on Saturday morning, a few hours before I would start my work to help prepare Pyramid Life Center for another season of spiritual retreats.  I had just enough time to slip my canoe across those quiet waters and visit a cedar swamp at the western end of the lake, hoping to catch a glimpse of the loon whose haunting call was sounding from beyond the island and echoing off the mountains.  A quintessential Adirondack morning!

Paddling close to shore on my way, I was struck by the beauty of abundant Starflowers spangling the shore, their bright-white flowers shining out from the mossy dark of the banks.

In a month, the access to this cedar swamp will be made almost impassable through thick mats of Fragrant Water Lilies, but today I could just make my way along the narrow stream, sometimes having to pull my way through by tugging on streamside shrubs.

The most prolific of those streamside shrubs were the thickets of Leatherleaf, dangling their pretty white bells over the blue-sky-reflecting water.  I know from previous visits that Sheep Laurel and Labrador Tea also share these banks, as do the gorgeous little pink orchids called Rose Pogonia, but I will have to return in mid June if I want to see these beautiful flowers.

There were spider webs everywhere, catching the light from the rising sun in their silken strands.

This dragonfly had just emerged from the crumpled husk still stuck to the bark just below it on this old log.  I have no expertise in identifying juvenile dragonflies, so I don't know what species this is.  But I do know I have never seen such beautifully colored wings, the sunlight flashing a rosy red on their glistening surface.

As that sun climbed higher above the lake, I knew it was time to make my way back to the center to start my day of work -- work I am more than happy to do, since it grants me access to one of the most exquisite natural sites in the whole wide world!

At the end of a day spent vacuuming a whole winter's worth of dirt from the many rooms in the lodge, scrubbing the bathrooms, washing windows, and hauling out heavy furniture that somehow got stashed where it didn't belong, believe me, I was tired!  But then we had a good dinner with amiable friends, followed by a communion service enlivened by spirited singing, and I started to feel revived.  And then the lowering sun began to color the rocky faces of the mountains to the east, and the water quieted down to a mirroring sheen, and once again, the loons began to call across the water.  Yes, I think there might be time for one more paddle before it grows dark!

This time I kept to the shore that was jumbled with boulders, boulders that over the ages had broken free of the massive cliffs high above and tumbled down to the lake.  The day had been hot -- way, way too hot for the end of May! -- and I had felt exhausted by the heat.  But as I paddled close to these boulders, I felt a frigid air flow out over the water, as if the winter's chill was still holding out, way back in the massive crevices of rock.  Sweet relief!

On one of these shoreline boulders, I always find this perfect circle of startling orange.  It's a lichen with a perfect name to match: Elegant Sunburst!  (In Latin, that's Zanthoria elegans.) Even more startling than this lichen's brilliant color is the fact that on all the shoreline around this lake, I find it on only this one rock.  Amazing!

As I lingered among the boulders beneath the cliffs, across the lake the sun descended behind the distant mountains.  The blue sky paled to gray and then warmed to pink, and then, just before the last light slipped below the horizon, the sky took on a vibrant orange that rivaled the brilliant color of that Elegant Sunburst lichen.

On my way home on Sunday morning, I crept my car at a slow pace along the center's mile-long entrance road, peering for a place among marble outcroppings where I always hope to find this beautiful native clematis called Purple Virgin's Bower (Clematis occidentalis var. occidentalis).  And I was not disappointed. Unlike the garden-variety of clematis, this elegant flower never opens its purple-tissue-paper blooms, but shyly dangles them beneath its vining greenery.

I also took a little detour past the village of Paradox (which lies directly across the highway from the Pyramid Life Center entrance), and followed a road along a creek until it came to this stunning waterfall.  I just wanted to soak up more gorgeous Adirondack beauty before getting on Interstate 87 to speed my way home.

Obviously, I love the Adirondacks.  But one thing I do NOT like about this region is the swarming hordes of black flies  that torture residents and visitors alike this time of year.  All these bites on the back of my neck (there are more in my ears and on my temples, too) occurred during the first 10 minutes I stepped from my car, before I could unpack my super-heavy-duty insect repellant.  SO much worse than mosquito bites!  Mosquitoes just sip a wee bit of our blood, but black flies actually chew off chunks of flesh.  And boy, do the bites swell up and burn and itch!

Update:  I discovered a remedy for the burning and itching of these bites that really works!  Recalling how Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo had quelled the burning and itching of dandruff sores, I washed my hair with it, leaving it in for about 5 minutes before rinsing.  Immediate relief!  The swelling and pain and itching were greatly relieved, and they haven't come back by two days later.  Usually black-fly bites burn and itch for a week or more.  I wonder if this shampoo would relieve the burning and itching of poison-ivy rash?

Here's one more GOOD thing about the Adirondacks: the sweet, sibilant, fluting, trilling, piping song of the Winter Wren.  I have heard them go on and on and on, each repeated song lasting as long as seven seconds.  This one is quite a bit shorter than that, but at least you will be able to hear a bit of that exquisite music.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures

Momo said...

Your spectacular photos and skill for locating and so vividly describing hidden gems of a favorite haven enhance my memories of another special visit. Sharing of the work AND the beauty builds ever stronger bonds each time I return. Thank you.

Laura Lee Johnston said...

Your blog, words and pictures, always lifts my spirits, but today that was especially true.
(And having been transplanted from Rensselaer County down to northern South Carolina, I can truly say that the only thing I don't miss are those pesky black flies. Thanks for reminding me of that!)

The Furry Gnome said...

Sounds absolutely wonderful! And you captured some outstanding pictures too.

catharus said...

Yes, a true view and experience of heaven! Beautiful!

threecollie said...

Wow, that sunset photo gave me cold chills! So stunning! Nice song from the Winter Wren. I have never seen or heard one. I thought of you greatly during our Adirondack trip this weekend. Said to the kids, "I am going on my friend's blog when we get home so I can look up all these cool plants. I know I've seen them there, but I can't remember the names." You are a great resource for the identification of the lovely things around us. Thanks!

Ron Gamble said...

Few things deserve hate ... blackflies would qualify.

Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful spot, it's easy to see why you wanted to return.

Alan said...

Just found your blog on the advice of a reader of mine, and love this post -- except for the blackfly bites of course. Such beauty, I want to visit this place sometime!