The Spring Run trail runs through a wooded wetland, crossing the Spring Run Creek two times. Even though the busy streets of the city of Saratoga Springs are well within earshot at times, the sound of the rushing creek dominates, and the trail feels wonderfully woodsy and watery. And I don't have to strap on my snowshoes to navigate it!
I do sometimes leave the paved trail to wander a wooded section along the creek. I find the trails of deer and foxes and other wildlife in this woods, and often the trees are full of winter-resident birds.
Since the Spring Run Trail follows an old railroad right-of-way, the long-ago-disturbed trailside soils are mostly inhabited by invasive species like Japanese Knotweed and Asian Bittersweet. But a few native species manage to find a foothold here, including a thicket of Highbush Cranberry Viburnums, shrubs that retain clusters of bright-red berries well into the winter.
Another favorite nearby spot for a brief mood-lifting walk is Congress Park in downtown Saratoga Springs, just one block from my home. It's a lovely park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City. There are mature and young trees of many selected species (mostly native), beautiful floral gardens and statuary, ornamental pools, fountains, and trout ponds, and acres of open green lawn for lounging and frisbee playing and listening to concerts and watching summer Shakespeare performances. A notable addition this pandemic year was the placement of many picnic tables scattered at safe distances across the lawns, so folks could observe "social distancing" while picnicking under the trees. This time of year, the paths through the park are plowed, making for easy walking, even in winter.
On my way home from the park, I passed this scene that was also spirit-lifting, both for the exuberance of the vine that has spread so symmetrically across the brick wall, and also for the vividly colorful combination of red bricks, chartreuse window frame, and blue berries that continue to cling to the vine, well into the winter.
Update: Readers of this blog (see comments) have suggested that this vine is Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata). (Thank you, dear readers!) I confess I considered that species, but dismissed the possibility because I thought Boston Ivy was evergreen. But a little research informed me that the leaves of Boston Ivy do die off in winter. Despite the Boston part of its name, this vine is Asian in origin and not native to our continent. Although a prolific spreader, Boston Ivy does not usually survive competition from our native Virginia Creeper and so is usually not considered to be seriously invasive in the wild.