Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Whole Week of Wonderful Wanderings!

Day after day after day after day . . . ! One warm and sunny blue-sky day after another this past week! And lucky for me, I have so many beautiful places to spend them in right here in Saratoga County, from woodland ponds to rolling hills to quiet rivers to mountain trails to tree-lined lakeshores. (Not to mention that Adirondack pond I posted about last time, which is also in Saratoga County.)  Here's just a sampling of some of the lovely places I've wandered and some of the fascinating things I've seen in just this past week.

Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park

The trail around Mud Pond makes for an easy hike with no huffing and puffing up hills or scrambling over rocky ascents, just a pleasant leaf-kicking stroll through a mixed hardwood/conifer forest with glimpses of the quiet pond through the trees.  Well, not such a quiet pond these days, with flocks of migrating waterfowl in constant motion and noisy conversation as they come skidding in or flapping away. There's even a great bird blind on the shore, where birders can search among the flocks of Canada Geese for the possibility of rarer waterfowl.

Compared to other years, the autumn foliage around the pond is not as vivid as we've seen it before, but Maple-leaved Viburnum never disappoints, with its pinky-coral, purple-tinged leaves just as intensely colored as ever.

The Witch Hazel, though, seems a little more stingy with flowers this year. Branches normally thickly clustered with yellow flowers were offering only a few isolated blooms.

There are patches of Downy Rattlesnake Plantain along the trail, their spikes of little white orchids long spent but their clusters of vividly patterned curvaceous green leaves as lovely as ever.

The Hudson River above the Sherman Island Dam

I'm glad I haven't stored my canoe in the cellar quite yet, for the Hudson now offers some of the prettiest paddles of the year.  I come down through the woods to launch my boat where the river runs behind a small island, with forested mountains rising from the far banks of the open river beyond.

This section of the Hudson features quiet coves where the still water offers rippling reflections of sunlit trees in their autumn colors.

Here where the river's humidity tempers our northern climate somewhat, a few Flowering Dogwood trees decorate the shore, offering big snowy-white blooms in the spring and lipstick-red leaves and berries in autumn.

Even if our With Hazel shrubs aren't offering as many flowers this fall, they certainly aren't holding back on their beautiful lemon-yellow leaves, their splendor doubled by shimmering reflections where they lean over the dark water.

The rolling hills above Spier Falls Road

I pretend I don't see the "No Trespassing" sign when I climb up to witness these rolling hills that lie beneath a power line fed by the hydroelectric dam across the road.  I find this billowing landscape so dramatically beautiful, I gladly risk potential reprimand as I squeeze around the gate that attempts to prevent me from wandering here.

Every year, these hills and valleys and the woods that surround them take on different colors.  In other years (click here to see one example), the meadows of Little Bluestem Grass have appeared more pink than the apricot hue they've assumed this year, and the patches of Hay-scented Fern have appeared more lime-green than this year's cinnamon-brown.  Our autumn colors overall are more muted this year, but there's no denying they still display a beauty all their own.  Even these spent flower heads of Wild Bergamot add their own charm to the landscape.

The trail that leads to this splendid vista is littered now with the yellow leaves of Quaking Aspen, almost every one of which displays the green patches caused by a small moth larva that resides within the leaves.  This tiny larva exudes a chemical that preserves the chlorophyll in the otherwise dying leaf, which allows the larva to continue feeding on living leaf tissue until it is ready to pupate.

I have seen these "undead" Aspen leaves referred to as "zombie" leaves, so it almost seemed appropriate to come upon this deer skull lying nearby in the grass.  It's much more likely, of course, that a coyote, not a zombie, has eaten this poor deer's brains, but that alternative would make for a good Halloween story, wouldn't it?

The Red Oak Ridge Trail at Moreau Lake State Park

It's called the Red Oak Ridge Trail, but I've always thought a better name would be the Golden Glow Trail, especially this time of year, when the leaves of Hickories and Sugar Maples turn their vibrant yellow and cast a golden light throughout the woods.  My pal Sue joined me for a hike there this week, and I was very glad to have her eagle eyes along.  We were on the hunt for any sign of the little orchid called Late Coralroot, and I'm sure that, left to my own devices (meaning my very poor eyesight), I never would have seen these golden pods dangling from ruddy stems along the bank of a tiny creek.  This orchid's flowers are past blooming, but even when newly in bloom, they don't look much different, except for a single tiny frill of a spotted white petal peeking out at the bottom of each pod.

These Broad Beech Ferns were much easier to see.  As their fronds had faded from bright green to ghostly white, they really stood out against the colorful mosaic of fallen leaves.

Here was a sight neither Sue nor I had ever seen before!  We expect to see the leaves of Maple-leaved Viburnum turn a vivid pinky-coral each fall, but never had we seen them with bright-pink polka dots scattered across the still-green leaves.  Pretty!

The tree-lined shore of Moreau Lake

That Red Oak Ridge Trail eventually descends to the back bay of Moreau Lake, where we found many trees in their splendid autumn colors reflected in the water.  We enjoyed the warmth of the bright sun as we made our way along the sandy shore.

As we continued on around the bay, we eventually could look across the water to see the mountain we had just descended, backed by a pure blue sky.

This tree-lined trail that separates the back bay from the lake's main body is one of the prettiest walks in the park, especially when bathed in the stained-glass colors of autumn.

Truly, a glorious day for a lakeside walk!


Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing

The Furry Gnome said...

You really have had a great week! We've had the same amazing weather, but spent it working on the move.

sanpiseth40 said...

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Woody Meristem said...

There's always something interesting in the natural world, and you found quite a few.