Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Our Paddling Pal Gets a Hornbeck!

If anyone deserves a Hornbeck canoe, our friend Ruth Brooks certainly does! An avid and super- knowledgable amateur naturalist, Ruth has been gamely joining our mutual friend Sue Pierce and me on many watery nature adventures while paddling her inflatable canoe, a very practical packable craft, but one that's rather too heavy to hike with, and also makes an easy plaything for any wind that should whip up while we're out on the water.  But now, thanks to Ruth's dear and most generous husband (who gifted her with a Kevlar Hornbeck canoe for her birthday), Ruth is ready to find out what stress-free paddling is like. Her new boat weighs about the same as my cat (15 pounds), and its low profile makes it practically impervious to buffeting by the wind. There she is, in the photo above, about to set off in her brand-new canoe!

While pondering where she might take her maiden paddle with her new boat, I suggested a stretch of the Hudson River between the Spier Falls and Sherman Island dams.  This stretch of the river is an almost sacred place for me, since it was here -- where the river's currents slow to an easy pace, where its waters are studded with forested islands, and its shoreline is convoluted with rocky promontories and quiet coves -- that my passion for wildflowers first was piqued, thanks to the splendid abundance of beautiful flowers and trees that thrive on these banks.  Ruth agreed to my suggestion, so it was here we set off, on the Hudson's mirror-still water and under a clear blue sky, last Friday morning.

At first, I feared we might be too late in the year to experience the abundance of flowering plants that thrive on these banks, but many colorful shrubs and trailing leaves were offering much beauty of their own.

A surprise awaited us, though, for tall stalks of Green-headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) still stood at attention along the tree-shaded banks.

We even found a few lingering Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) still flashing their intensely red blooms, the plants tucked in amid sun-warmed boulders and accompanied by tiny-flowered white asters.

Some bright-yellow Sneezeweeds (Helenium autunmale) also greeted us, waving from among a large patch of Marsh St. John's Wort (Hypericum virginicum), the pink flowers long gone to seed but the scarlet seedpods and purple leaves even more colorful than the flowers had been.

Sadly, most of the Closed Gentians (Gentiana clausa) we encountered had faded from brilliant blue to a rather bedraggled purple.  But whoa! Here was a patch that still held some flowers as brilliantly blue as ever!

We paddled downstream to a place where the river flowed back into a small marsh,  where abundant numbers of Black Tupelo trees (Nyssa sylvatica) lined the shore and still produced their signature scarlet leaves, despite their trunks having been girdled by gnawing beavers more than ten years ago. Somehow, they still survive!

A cluster of particularly beautiful Black Tupelos stood on the shore of a nearby cove, and their spreading boughs hung low enough that we could examine the beautiful fruits that studded the boughs of a female tree.

Black Tupelo's dark-blue berries on hot-pink pedicels are definitely a bird magnet!  While we idled below the branches, we could see flocks of Cedar Waxwings and several individual Yellow-shafted Flickers fluttering among the boughs and feasting on the fruit.

We continued our paddle into several quiet coves, where in one, a Witch Hazel shrub (Hamamelis virginiana), with its leaves just beginning to turn the soft gold of its autumn color, was reflected in the dark still water.

In a second cove, the leaves of a Flowering Dogwood shrub (Cornus florida) were not as brilliantly red as I had expected them to be, but the berries it bore along its boughs certainly were.

High noon on the Hudson, and what better spot to have lunch than on one of the rocky promontories I call Picnic Point, for its abundance of flat-topped rocks just perfect for perching on?  I hope that the big smile on Ruth's face is a sign that she found this maiden voyage in her new Hornbeck a happy taste of paddling adventures yet to come.


suep said...

Yes I hope that was the first of many happy new adventures ! Glad to be part of this one today.

Lee Ellsworth said...

Great day! Photos are wonderful.

Ruth said...

Jackie, you and Sue have shown me the way into this amazing gift that surrounds us with stunning beauty and serenity. I was truly elated to have been able to share my maiden voyage with you!

Bonnie Vicki said...

Truly beautiful, Jackie. What a wonderful post.