One definition of Paradise is that it's a state of being where joys never cease. That's basically the way I feel about a section of the Hudson River I've been paddling for nearly 30 years now. It's a place of unspoiled bouldered shores and deep green forest, of mossy banks and quiet coves, a habitat for some of the loveliest native plants that can tolerate occasional flooding, a sheltered place behind an island, where quiet waters mirror the shoreline beauty, even if wilder winds are whipping up whitecaps out on the open river. Whenever I carry my canoe down through the woods and slip it into the river here, a feeling of peace and joy comes over me. No matter how many times I have paddled here, this happiness never grows old. Before I start to paddle, I sit and breathe in the beauty along with the pine-scented air.
I was especially happy to be here this week, for my friends Sue and Ruth had joined me this day, dear companions who share my love of nature and bring along their own deep appreciation of the plants and animals that inhabit this place. We never hurry, but mosey slowly along the shore, observing what plants have found a home in the bedrock's nooks and crannies, resting our paddles to hear what birds may be calling high in the trees, or quietly skirting some fallen log where waterfowl might be resting.
Aside from some late-season asters, few flowers are blooming now. But the deep-scarlet seedpods of Marsh St. John's Wort are just as lovely as its pretty pink flowers had been.
Our destination today was to paddle upstream toward a marsh that lies behind this small rocky island. My personal name for the island had been "Three Pine Island," named for the three giant White Pines that once towered over the smaller trees that clung to its rocks. Fierce straight-line winds tore through this valley over a year ago and toppled many, many trees along the river. Among those many toppled trees were two that had made up this islet's namesake trio. The uprooted trees now lie with their browning branches in the water, their huge root masses rising like sheer walls above the rocks.
Here, my friends Ruth (yellow boat) and Sue (black boat) make their slow way among the sedges and other emergent plants that populate this otherwise open marsh. Dragonflies -- mostly bright-red Autumn Meadow Hawks now -- zip about, skimming the water and occasionally landing to pose for a photo.
As we head back downstream, we paddle around this rocky promontory I have named Rippled Rocks Point, due to the beautiful pattern of wavy stripes in the stone. (This photo was taken earlier in summer, but these rocks looked just as beautiful today.)
Downstream, we explored quiet coves, where the sunlit green leaves and stately trunks of surrounding trees were mirrored in shimmering reflections.
Hoisting my lightweight canoe on my shoulder, I started up through the woods to return to my car. But Ruth called out to Sue and me to come see this profusion of cherry-stemmed Red Pinesap decorating the forest floor. Oh my! What a sight! Never had any of us seen such an abundant patch of this late-blooming Red Pinesap (Hypopitys lanuginosa), a separate species from the Yellow Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa) that blooms earlier in the summer.