Tuesday, October 5, 2021

No Need to Carry Water on This Walk

The leader of our group of friends called The Thursday Naturalists put out a call for walk leaders this month, so I pondered what kind of walk I might offer.  Most of our flowering plants are now in decline, and not everyone is all that excited by bryophytes or tree barks.  Then it struck me: How about a walk where we could taste many of the mineral waters that made Saratoga Springs famous? So I went out to the Saratoga Spa State Park this week to preview a walk (now scheduled for 10/21) that could be both beautifully woodsy as well as refreshing.

I always like to begin my walk at the Spa by heading down the Ferndell Ravine, a delightfully woodsy walk that follows a tiny tumbling creek.

Spa Park is better known for its Performing Arts Center, golf courses, and swimming pools than it is for its nature trails. But when I need a quick fix of woodsy wonderfulness, the Ferndell Ravine delivers!

We could even find some native plants growing along this trail, and some are just as lovely in fruit as they were in flower.  This White Baneberry certainly proves my point.

The berries of Jack-in-the-pulpit are also pretty spectacular this time of year.

Chances are good that these Heart-leaved Asters won't still be blooming two weeks from now, but I delighted in seeing them right now.

If we have a frost before our walk, these Ostrich Ferns will have promptly collapsed, but their beautiful spore stalks persist even through the winter.

And these gracefully curving leaves of Plantain-leaved Sedge remain green all winter, so we will be sure to see them along the Ferndell trail.  Another name for this native sedge is Seersucker Sedge, due to those puckery leaves.

There were masses of these tiny tawny mushrooms growing on an old tree stump. There's not a chance we will see this same patch on 10/21, but there's no reason to think we wouldn't find others just as amazing. Even if we don't have rain that week, springs trickle down the sides of this ravine, creating a damp shady habitat just perfect for fungi to fruit.

The trail down the Ferndell Ravine leads out to a grassy picnic area along the Geyser Creek.  This carved stone basin was installed only recently (last year?) and piped to deliver spring water to thirsty picnickers.  The mineral deposits from the spring water have contributed to accretions on the stone that make the basin appear to have stood at this site for years.

As we walk along the road, the first spring we will approach is Tallulah Spring, well back from the road through a stand of Phragmites. I can see a dog back there tasting these mineral-rich waters.

"Tallulah" is a Native American word that means "leaps from the earth," and that is exactly what the waters of the Tallulah Spring do.  As the color of that deep-red rock indicates, this water is rich in iron.

The waters of the next spring we approach must also contain some iron,  to judge from how red the stones that line the Polaris Spring's basin have become.  These springs erupt from the ground all winter, propelled by the carbon dioxide dissolved in their cold water that builds up enough pressure to force them up from deep underground.

We can hear the rushing water of Geyser Creek as we approach the creekside trail that will lead us along its course.

The Hayes Spring stands at the start of this creekside trail, and to my taste, this is one of the most flavorsome waters in the park.  Not everyone who sips a sample shares my enthusiasm for this water, though, and it's fun to stand off to the side and watch the faces of folks as they try it.  I'm hoping all my friends in the Thursday Naturalists will be brave enough to sample it. 

As we pass by this Island Spouter, flinging its spray of water skyward atop its enormous mound of mineral accretions,  I'll stop to explain that, despite the mis-named Geyser Creek that flows past it, this is not, in fact, a geyser at all.  Geysers depend on a build-up of heat for their energetic spouting.  This spouter gets its energy from the force of built-up gasses.  Its waters are cold, not hot.

The creekside trees have just begun to acquire their autumn colors, and I hope that by the time my friends walk here, the foliage will be at peak brilliance.

This creekside trail attracts many weekend visitors, and many of them stop to gaze with astonishment at this huge mound of mineral accretions, called a "tufa",  which has developed over years and years from deposits left by the mineral water flowing from a spring high up on the bluff.

When we reach the end of this trail, where the falling creek roars through a culvert, we will climb a stairway that will take us up to another trail that will lead us back to our starting point.

It's up here that we will encounter the spring whose waters flow over the bank to create that enormous tufa. The name of this spring, Orenda, is a word that means a divine force believed by the Iroquois people to be the source of all positive human accomplishment.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the peoples of the world could be so transformed by drinking the waters of this spring?  One could only hope!  This is actually my favorite spring of all, its cold waters delightfully tingly with carbonation, and with a refreshingly mild flavor. My friend Sue Pierce has offered to bring enough little plastic glasses so that all our friends can partake, if they so wish.

Again, the presence of iron in Orenda's water is evident from the rusty-red oxides that form when the water is exposed to the oxygen in the air.

The last spring we'll visit, Karista, is renowned as much for its mud as its crystalline waters. If you click on this photo, you might be able to read the story of why its mud is so famous.  But here's part of what the sign says: 
"Karista is the Iroquois word for 'iron.'  This naturally carbonated spring is considered one of the strongest ferruginous, or iron-rich, waters in the world. . . .  In the 1930s, the Spa was looking for mud to use as treatment for arthritis.  Geologists studied many areas in search of a rich humus that could only be found in a valley where leaves were allowed to decompose for thousands of years.  They found this special, iron-infused mud near Karista Spring.  The Spa began offering mud pack therapy to arthritis patients in 1937."

As we make our way along this trail, we will once again pass the Island Spouter, observed from above.

There are several signs along this trail that teach of the history of these springs.  I hope my photo is clear enough to read this very informative one. Click on it to make it larger.

I'm hoping that the day my friends come to visit will be one that is pleasant for picnicking.  Many tables are situated along this lovely creek, and relaxing here by the sound of its rushing water would provide a wonderful way to conclude our outing. 


Uta Zickfeld said...

Thank you for this interesting walk, I learned something today.

Barbara Hine Primmer said...

Thank! Your blog shows us the beauty of nature and inspires us to wonder, and to search for answers to the questions that pop into our thoughts. BRAVO!

greentangle said...

The springs area reminds me of a mini-Yellowstone, even if from different causes.