Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Winter Takes a Pause and I Take a Walk

With last week's snow and ice and single-digit temps, it seemed as if Winter had arrived early for sure.  But by Tuesday this week, the temps had risen to almost 50, the sun came out, and the outdoors beckoned once more.  With holiday preparations devouring my days, I had little time for serious nature expeditions, but a mile-long walk along Spier Falls Road offered me pleasant riverscapes and forested mountainsides for a couple of hours before I had to hurry home to get my pies in the oven.

 The warming temps have melted most of the snow that fell last week, so the creeks and rills that tumble and seep down the mountains that rise steeply from the roadside were merrily dancing and splashing on this sunlit afternoon.

The craggy boulders that line the road are veritable rock gardens, beautiful at every time of year.  Mosses, lichens, ferns, and evergreen plants spread across the rock and sprout from every fissure and ledge.  Bright-green fronds of Rock Polypody formed a graceful arc across the surface of this lichen-spotted boulder.

Even this patch of dead grass looked lovely, like a tawny waterfall leaping out of a crack in this spring-watered cliff.

Each Spring, masses of snowy-white Early Saxifrage sprout from spring-dampened clumps of moss in almost every crack and ledge of the roadside cliffs, a truly breathtaking sight.  But even now, and all Winter long, the ruffle-edged leaves of Early Saxifrage and the starry clusters of Haircap Moss offer their evergreen beauty.

The basal rosettes of Pussytoes also cling to these rocks, their frosted-green leaves even more lovely in Winter than are their fuzzy little flowers that sprout in the Spring.

As I stood to take in the calm beauty of this serene riverscape, where mountains rise to the north and the Hudson takes a sharp turn, a pair of Mallards trailed their rippling wakes across the water and a lowering sun warmed the bare riverbank trees to gold.  I had almost told myself I didn't have time for a walk this day.  I'm glad I listened to nature's call instead.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Winter Comes Early to Moreau Lake

Since I've been keeping this blog for almost 11 years, it interests me to look back over former posts  to compare how seasons progress from year to year. Just one year ago, I was walking sun-warmed shores at Moreau Lake, finding an aster or two still in bloom and having to unzip my light jacket before I had walked even half-way around the lake.  This week, bundled up in a down coat and with wind-chilled ears wrapped in a scarf, I found the snow-covered shore too icy to navigate, even though the lake itself remained mostly open.  By mid-afternoon, the sun had dropped behind the western ridge, leaving the landscape bathed in a wintry gray.

Despite a couple of single-digit nights, the water remained unfrozen out on the main part of the lake, providing a resting place for hundreds of migrating Canada Geese, whose constant muttering and hooting echoed from the surrounding mountains.

I took the two photos above last Thursday, and when I returned to Moreau Lake on Sunday, I found the lake's quiet coves now partly covered with thin ice. Hordes of geese still remained, with as many perched on the ice as were swimming about in the water.

A solitary Hooded Merganser drake found a patch of open water all his own.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Whoa! It's Really COLD!

It's beginning to look a lot like . . . Veterans' Day? Whoa!  Seems like it's awfully soon to be welcoming winter!  Sure, we've had snow this early (and even earlier) in former years, but it was always followed by thawing temps.  But not this time. Not yet, anyway. Our warmer-than-usual fall has suddenly plunged into polar cold -- and I mean REALLY cold: down into the single digits last night. I imagine the several inches of snow that fell Monday night will be with us for quite some time.  Ah well, might as well make the best of it and go see how this wintry weather has transformed the autumn woods.

First stop was a little swamp along the road over Mt. McGregor. I expected to see a snowy woods, but I was surprised to see the watery pools already frozen over.

Next stop was a stream that flows into the Hudson River at Moreau, and of course the rushing water still flowed around snow-topped rocks.

Where the stream broadened out before it joined the river, still water reflected tree trunks turned golden by a lowering sun.

Freezing rain had preceded the change to all snow, coating every twig and branch with ice.  All around, the twigs were flashing points of brilliant light.

On the forest floor, evergreen fronds of Christmas Fern were blanketed with sparkling snow.

How amazing to see this Queen Anne's Lace flowerhead completely enclosing a tiny snowball!

I love how the fruit-laden branches of Winterberry add such abundant and beautiful color to the wintry landscape.

I also love how this little guy, our newly adopted four-month-old kitten named Mickey, seeks out my lap when I sit at my computer.  As winter arrives with its bitter cold, how wonderful to welcome this small kitty's rumbling weight and warm silky fur to bury my frigid hands in whenever I sit to write.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Storms Hit the Adirondacks Hard

With all the news of terrible fires out in California, widespread flooding in Nebraska this past summer, Category 5 hurricanes on the coast, and super-tornadoes in the midwest, I had been thinking that we in northeastern New York sure had escaped unscathed by the effects of climate change.  But then came the Halloween night storm, dropping up to 5 inches of rain in a few hours, and with winds approaching 60 miles per hour tearing through the forests of several Adirondack counties, including parts of my home county, Saratoga. We in downtown Saratoga Springs did not suffer much damage, aside from a few toppled trees, but just a few miles north of us roads and bridges were destroyed, homes were flooded, power outages were widespread, and an 80-year-old priest was swept away and drowned when he tried to exit his flooded car.

I knew that priest, his name was Tom Connery and he used to visit the same retreat center I often frequented. So that made the severity of this storm come home to me in a very real way. And so did the storm-ravaged scene pictured here, of a portion of Lake Desolation Road destroyed by a raging flooded creek, not much more than 10 or 15 miles from my home, and a road I often travel to reach some favorite paddling waters.

Just down the road from that devastation, the creek that caused it all looked so innocent today, babbling quietly along, and keeping well within its banks. This was the scene looking downstream.

But when I turned to look upstream, evidence of the creek's massive destructive power lay all about, in gouged-out banks and toppled trees.

These broken trunks indicate that wind as well as water might have contributed to their destruction.  Or maybe the impact of that big uprooted White Pine as it crashed through the woods was enough to snap off other trees that stood near it.

The crown of the pine lay close to the road.  It appeared that branches had been trimmed to clear the road, so that road crews could drive their heavy equipment to the washout site just up the hill.

I think it will be some time before this road is repaired. And from reports that I've seen from around the region, of many other roads and bridges destroyed, there will be lots of work for road-repair crews for quite a while to come.