Friday, February 26, 2021

What's Happening at the Boat Launch?

 We've had more snow, just a few more inches, since I last sat down to blog.  Some days have been warm and others cold, so the snow has both softened and hardened in turn.  As a result, it's deep and crunchy to walk on, and I crashed through up to my shins when I tried to get to the banks of the Hudson yesterday, attempting the unplowed access to the Sherman Island Boat Launch Site along Spier Falls Road at Moreau.  But something sure looked different here.  And why is that big yellow machine sitting there?

Uh oh! A whole bunch of trees have been felled, and the access lane has been widened considerably.

Heaps of tree trunks, including some really big ones, are piled along the lane. Later, I stopped at the Moreau Lake State Park office to ask about this tree-clearing, and I learned that the park is creating more parking spaces for this very popular spot.  The pandemic caused a huge increase in park visitors this past year, resulting in cars parked dangerously out along the main road as well as back in the woods. In addition,  this site will also serve as a parking area for new trails that will eventually lead from here up into the mountains that rise from these riverbanks.

Although I'm glad that more folks are discovering this beautiful river access,  it's been obvious that many of these folks do not respect our natural areas the way they should, often leaving much litter behind. I confess I was happy to have the place all to myself on this mild winter day.  The silence here was deep, and the view of the mountains was serenely beautiful.  With temps approaching 40 degrees (F), I was surprised to find the river still frozen over from shore to shore.

But the little creek that empties into the river here was running free, even though its course was narrowed by thick ice shelves along its banks.  The music it made was a happy sound,  as if the water were singing of spring.

I was fascinated by these flower remnants poking up out of the snow. I recalled that Closed Gentians thrive along these stream banks.  Could these be what has survived of them?

Of course, there's no trace remaining of that flower's radiant blue color, but the structure of the plant sure looked like that of a gentian, a tight cluster of bottle-shaped blooms atop a stem, surrounded by a wreath of leaves immediately below, with a second pair of leaves halfway down the stem.

Here were more intriguing floral remains, the distinctive split-open, tulip-shaped pods of some species of St. John's Wort.

Arching stems of Meadowsweet still held the remnants of last year's flower clusters.

Witch Hazel flowers dropped their ribbon-like petals long ago, but the floral calyces remain on the twigs, creating the illusion of a shrub that is still in bloom with small yellow flowers.

This little wiry shrub still held a cluster of blue-black fruits. A number of our woodland shrubs bear clusters of dark blue berries, but this shrub's small size and opposite branching suggested Maple-leaved Viburnum to me.

There's no mistaking the rabbit-eared buds of Hobblebush this time of year, since no other shrub in our woods has winter buds that look like this.

It's hard to believe that just this thin coating of fuzz is enough to protect both incipient leaves and already-formed flower cluster from winter's ravages.

Who could fail to notice the golden leaves that cling to young American Beech trees all winter long? But I had never stopped to look closely at the twigs that hold those leaves, until I did today. But the buds on these twigs were not as long and slender as those I associate with American Beech (Fagus grandifolia). Could these be the leaves of Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana) instead? Whatever the species,  I was delighted by the rich red color of those twigs, as well as by the swirling curvaceousness of the golden leaves.   Sometimes we really have to look close to discover winter's charms.


Sara Rall said...

Lovely, detailed photos. I've never seen gentian fruit before.

Mary said...

Thank you for finding out what the tree-cutting is all about. I suspected they were expanding parking and picnic areas. I was there a couple of weeks ago and took a walk on the trail back to the ridge. There has always been a problem with people leaving Stewart’s cups and other refuse in those lovely woods but it was much worse this time. I carried out quite a few cups and drink bottles. I’m sorry so many careless people are discovering this special area.

threecollie said...

We have seen the same mixed blessing of people discovering the outdoors. On one hand places we have long frequented are quickly getting crowded and there are certainly some slobs among the new folks. I too miss the quiet solitude. On the other hand the powers that be have plowed some parking lots for the first time ever. Thus we can always get to Yankee Hill rather than having to wait until the intrepid pack the snow down enough to get in. Also cross country skiers and snowshoers have made some sweet trails that are nice to walk on. I find it interesting that even as things open up a bit people are still going outdoors in unprecedented numbers....guess the secret is out.