Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Feast of Fall Color at Lens Lake

Hey, I thought Tuesday was supposed to be sunny! Some friends and I had arranged to meet Tuesday morning for a paddle on Lens Lake up in Warren County, but when I arrived the air was still misty from a brief shower, and the sky was completely overcast.  Oh well, even better for enhancing autumn color, I thought.  And so it was.  The fall colors seemed to just glow in the humid air, without the distracting contrast of sunlight and shadow.   There's no better place for experiencing this gloriously colorful season than Lens Lake, with its shoreline and surrounding mountains densely forested with mixed hardwoods and conifers, and the surface of the lake dotted with bog mats carpeted with sphagnum in colors that echoed the reds and golds and greens of the trees. 

I arrived later than my friends, who were already out on the bog mats harvesting cranberries.  There was quite a brisk wind rippling the lake at this hour, and since I did not intend to harvest cranberries for myself, I avoided paddling out to the bog mats just then, and instead I made my way into some shoreline coves where the wind didn't reach and the water lay still and dark.

I love the colorful mix of plants that inhabit the mossy banks, ancient tree stumps, and fallen logs back here in these quiet backwaters. Here was a beautifully curving Cinnamon Fern living up to its name by turning a toasty cinnamon brown.

Here's a long-ago-fallen log that now serves as the base for a splendid garden of plants of many colors, including a couple of small Red Maple saplings and a miniature White Pine tree.

A multitude of tiny-leaved Large Cranberry vines were growing out of the thick sphagnum moss that covered the log, and those vines were hung with some of the biggest, reddest cranberries I had ever seen.

This ancient stump was completely covered with lichens of several species, including one lichen that bore fruiting bodies of a startling orange color.

I know of several species of Cladonia lichens that are tipped with bright red, but I had never yet encountered one that was colored this deep orange.

Update:  A very knowledgeable acquaintance named Tom Walker has informed me that this lichen is Cladonia incrassata.  Thanks, Tom!

Another fallen log had become the home of this Northern Pitcher Plant, which was colored a deep ruby red.  I love how the tiny green cranberry leaves adorned the base of the pitcher plant.

Here was another stump playing host to a number of plants, including this mass of shaggy red sphagnum moss, the shaggiest sphagnum I had ever seen.

Another side of that same stump bore a beautiful mix of mosses, a hemlock bough, and a single stem of Sheep Laurel.

There were masses of Sheep Laurel shrubs along the banks, and some of the shrubs were actually bearing flowers. This species of shrub normally blooms in May, but occasionally it will bloom again in fall, when the length of day is the same as it was last spring.

Here's a closer look at those beautiful deep-pink blooms.

Labrador Tea also lined these banks, each orange-fuzzed stalk tipped with a little pink cone-like bud  that contains next spring's flowers.

White Pines were the dominant conifers along this shoreline, growing out of small bouldered islands that sheltered the quiet backwaters. The red-leaved shrubs growing around the base of the pines were probably Black Huckleberry, but I did not get out of my boat to examine the shrubs more closely.  It's possible the shrubs were some species of blueberry, too.

After a while, the wind died down, and I set out onto the open lake to look for my friends. I feared they might be difficult to find. The shoreline of Lens Lake is very convoluted, and the bog mats are criss-crossed with passages where a canoeist could remain unseen.  I did meet my friend Evelyn as she paddled back to the launch site, having to leave early to keep an appointment.  But Bonnie was still out there somewhere.  So off I paddled to find her.

On my way out to the bog mats, I passed this gathering of Mergansers resting atop a boulder.  Perhaps that's a mom Merganser and part of this year's brood, still in their juvenile plumage?

As I approached the bog mats, the rich colors of the sphagnum mosses became more evident.

I love how the different colors of sphagnum intermix, resembling the wonderful patterns in a Persian carpet.

These miniature orange mushrooms added their own jaunty spots of color to the rich red of the sphagnum they were growing out of.

White tufts of Cottongrass danced and bobbed atop their slender stems, each tuft seeming to dance to its own music, for they never moved in unison.

As I paddled along this glassy surface, I simply marveled at the glorious colors all around me.

Each bend of the shoreline revealed another breathtaking vista, with the still water mirroring the beauty.

Because of the brightness of the sky behind the mountains,  it was difficult to capture in a photograph the incredible crazy-quilt of colors covering the high slopes. I discovered that if I shut my camera's exposure way down and zoomed in on the mountainside, and then used my computer program to lighten up the photo later, I could achieve some approximation of how glorious these mountains appeared.  This technique also enhanced the brilliance of the row of white cottongrass at the bottom of this photo.

The rippling water made these bleached-white branches do a little shimmy in the reflection.

I loved how the mirror-still water reflected these curving stems of Leatherleaf at the edge of this little hummock of golden sphagnum.

Baby Tamaracks were starting to turn their golden color out on the sphagnum mats.  This is our only conifer tree that loses all its needles in the fall.

Marsh St. John's Worts grow nearly everywhere on this lake, but most had shed their leaves by now.  I was pleased to find this one with its orangey-coral leaves still attached and shimmering with beads of water.

Baby Northern Pitcher Plants, their ruby-red color enhanced by the lemon-yellow of this sphagnum. I thought the little shoots looked like small hooded figures gathered for some occasion and having a chat with one another.  Cute!

Yes, I did find my friend Bonnie!  And we had a lovely time together, finding lots more wondrous and fascinating stuff and just rejoicing in being here in this beautiful place at this beautiful time of year. And also grateful to have our little Hornbeck canoes, the perfect watercraft for winding our way through the narrow channels of the bog mats on Lens Lake.


Uta said...

I so enjoyed your trip through the lake. How wonderful this place is. I can tell how much you love it. Thank you so much for sharing.

Tom Walker said...

Love it!

Unknown said...

I always look forward to your blog posts. Your gift of expression through photos and your way with words. Have you ever considered writing a book?

Woody Meristem said...

Great spot and great photos to document it. the tall shrubs with red leaves at the base of the white pines may well be black highbush blueberry (Vaccinium fuscatum), a wetland species -- down here black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) is a species of dry acidic forests and seldom grows more than knee-high.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos. They are a reminder to me to check out my nearby bog and harvest some cranberries!

threecollie said...

Awesome! Love seeing cotton grass; it was one of my favorite things to view when we last went to the mountains. Great photos!

The Furry Gnome said...

What a wonderful place to explore! Great pictures too.