My friend Ruth Brooks wanted to join me for a paddle on Monday, but wondered where we might go. I sent her these next two photos of the Hudson River at Moreau, taken on Sunday afternoon, to tempt her up this way:
Indeed, she succumbed to the temptation these photos held out, and arrived the next morning, ready for a lovely paddle. Of course, the scene looked a little different this time, a pouring rain having stopped just moments before we met at the shore, with not a sunbeam in sight.
But the scene was still quite lovely, with clouds of mist rising from the rain-drenched woods.
And the calm water reflected the beauty of forested mountains that rise from the river's edge.
So off we set, heading directly across the river to paddle upstream, staying close to the steep Warren County banks, which are covered with many different mosses. Ruth is a moss enthusiast, and I was sure we would find a few to interest her here.
Which we did. This lovely one, with the wispy lime-green leaves and tiny, brown, perfectly round spore capsules, was my favorite. Bartramia pomiformis is its scientific name, and it's commonly called "Apple Moss," both names suggested by the apple-round shape of those spore capsules.
These spiky green tufts are Common Haircap Moss (Polytrichum commune) interspersed with rosettes of tiny leaves belonging to the lovely little blue flower called Bluets (Houstonia caerulea).
A number of different organisms here, some fern-leaved Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens), I believe, as well as some spiky little moss mounds I can't identify and a small patch of gray-green lichen. But the stars of this show were the caramel-colored mushrooms, a bunch of them, ranging in size from some that were no bigger than the head of a pin to others a couple of inches across. They remind me quite a bit of Flame Chanterelles (Craterellus ignicolor), except that they didn't seem bright-enough orange. My Google search for "caramel-colored trumpet-shaped mushroom with descending gills" has yet to yield any unmistakeable result, so suggestions from knowledgeable readers would be welcomed.
At least I believe with some certainty that these brilliant-orange mushrooms are Cinnabar Chanterelles (Cantharellus cinnabarinus).
This strikingly purple crust fungus was growing on a tree limb hanging over the bank, and it was so small, I probably would never have noticed it if not for its unusual color. For scale, compare its size to that of the inch-long hemlock needles nearby. The closest match I could find on Google (there was nothing like it in any of my mushroom guides) was Violet Crust (Phlebiopsis crassa), and that seemed a very likely possibility.
It's always a surprise to find a tree-sized specimen of American Chestnut, but these boughs hanging low over the water encouraged us to look up to discover we had encountered one. Over the years, I have found along this stretch of the Hudson several chestnut trees mature enough to bear fruit, but alas, they usually die within a year or two after fruiting.
As we neared the Spier Falls Dam just upstream, we noticed the river's current growing stronger, and rather than struggle against it, we decided to cross to the opposite shore and head back downstream. This monumental heap of impressive bedrock awaited our explorations over on the opposite bank.
This bedrock was indeed home to many interesting mosses, and I was especially delighted by the tiny fern-like fronds of this clump of Fern Pocket Moss (Fissidens osmundioides). A number of reddish-stalked, pointed spore capsules protruded from the clump.
A generous patch of this ruffly-looking liverwort called Scapania nemorosa clung to the same rock nearby.
A flourishing patch of red-berried America Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) clung to the rounded top of a boulder.
When this Green Frog found itself trapped between my canoe and a rockface too steep for it to climb, it froze and remained immobile, allowing me plenty of time to get out my camera.
As lunchtime approached and our fannies were growing numb from sitting too long, we headed straight toward a group of small islands that lie in the middle of the river. There, we climbed out of our canoes and, after eating, stretched our legs botanizing the islands' plants.
What once was a forested island has now been denuded of most of its deciduous trees by beavers felling all but the pines. The beavers also feast on the Early Azalea and Silky Dogwood shrubs that thrive here, but the pruning seems only to encourage their growth. Other shrubs include Lowbush Blueberry and Black Huckleberry.
This visit was the first time I have found a Maleberry shrub (Lyonia ligustrina) growing here. Some of its branches were thick with green fruit, with husks so hard that few animals will eat them. I find the fruit still intact on the twigs when these shrubs bloom again in the spring.
I imagine, though, that some creature will eventually devour the red hips on the low native roses that thrive on these little islands.
A couple of floral surprises met us as we explored the island. Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) bloom abundantly in early spring, but it's rare to encounter their beautiful blue flowers this late in the year. So pretty!
Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), too, would normally be well past blooming by now. But the plants on this island all bore a few tiny white flowers.
We found some interesting fungi out here, as well. Thanks to the beavers' work, many rotting logs lie across the ground, and this one was home to abundant numbers of the Fan-shaped Jelly Fungus (Dacryopinax spathularia), so brightly colored we couldn't miss seeing them.
One of the tree stumps was thick with moss (Anomodon attenuatus?), which provided a lovely green foil for this curvaceous fringey fungus with the rather off-putting name of Jelly Rot (Phlebia tremellosa).
As I sat on a rock overlooking this third little island just downstream, I couldn't help mourning the trees that used to be happy there. Note that these trees have not been felled by beavers but have died while still standing. This sandy-floored island lies lower to the water than the rockier other two that make up this mid-river group, and thus it was flooding that killed the trees. When I first started paddling this stretch of the Hudson back in the early 1990s, the water level would fall much lower during the summer than it ever does now. I've been told that the water is kept much higher all summer now by dam operations, in order to support recreational water-sport businesses. Trees that always were able to survive brief seasonal flooding could not withstand being flooded year-round, and so have succumbed.
Ah well, a river is always changing, even when humans are not the ones causing change. As this island's habitat changes, new and different plants will colonize it and thrive there. I do miss the lovely Paper Birches, though, and the Quaking Aspens that flocks of Tree Swallows used to return to after skimming over the water. But happily, many other wonders remain along theses waters. I'm so glad I've come to know and love them over the years I've paddled here. How happy I am to share my love for this river with my friends.