Saturday, October 20, 2018

Muted Colors, Quiet Coves

The sky was blue, the sun was warm, the Hudson beckoned.  It should have been a perfect day for a paddle on Friday, except for a wind that was whipping up whitecaps out on the open river.  Ah, but I know a quiet place behind a river island where the wind hardly ever intrudes, so that's where I headed, carrying my lightweight canoe down through the woods to launch on water still enough to mirror the surrounding forested mountains.

I had hoped our autumn foliage would have grown more vivid by now.  Perhaps it will yet come into its glory before the leaves shrivel and fall, but in the meantime I still found much foliar beauty here along the river banks. This low-hanging Witch Hazel shrub never disappoints, even though its leaves had only begun to achieve their maximum golden glow.

Most importantly, the Witch Hazel boughs were abloom with abundant flowers, the clusters of ribbon-like petals hanging low enough over the water that I could bury my nose in them and breathe in their subtle fragrance.  I can only describe this fragrance as similar to the smell of clean laundry hung to dry in the sunshine and fresh air.  Heavenly!

There are several deep coves along this section of the Hudson above the Sherman Island Dam, and here where the water lies dark and still, the muted colors of the surrounding trees were intensified in the reflections.

In the dark recesses of one of these coves, the bright-yellow leaves of Wild Sarsaparilla shone out from this boulder like beacons.

I did brave the gusts on the open river to reach a swamp that lies upstream behind this island pictured below.   I've called  this little island Three Pine for the tall White Pines that tower over its bouldered foundation.  This swamp used to be ringed with mature Black Tupelo trees, before beavers managed to girdle their bark and kill most of them.  The two reddish Black Tupelos pictured at the right side of this photo still remain, although the beavers have started gnawing away on their bark by now.

Compared to other years, when the tupelos' foliage has turned a glorious flaming red, the color of the leaves appeared darker than usual.  But when I paddled beneath the boughs and observed the leaves from below, they glowed like stained glass against the bright-blue sky.

I was struck by how that bright sunlight lit up the wind-swept leaves of the Tussock Sedge  that abounds in this riverside swamp. The dancing, swaying leaves seemed to just glitter against the dark shade of the background forest.

There's no better place than a swamp like this for finding Winterberry shrubs loaded with scarlet fruit, and I was not disappointed.  Sure, the muted colors of our trees this year is kind of disappointing, but much else remains to startle us with beauty along the river.


Woody Meristem said...

Down here the colors are just beginning to show; but the sugar maples are bare already, their leaves just turned brown and dropped. This is an unusual year -- too much rain, too warm, too cool, changing climate, or ... ?

virginiabt28 said...

Oh, wow, you make me want to walk by water rather than on wooded mountain trails! My father always loved photos with reflections best. You have some lovely ones here...and I appreciate your appreciation for all the colors (green, red, early yellow) rather than disparaging this season's dullness as I have been hearing often.