Sometimes I feel the need for a nice brisk swing-my-legs walk, instead of the meandering, inch-along, up-and-down way I usually move through the woods, and Spier Falls Road offers just the place to do that. Right at the northern boundary of Saratoga County, this gently curving road closely follows the Hudson River as the road rolls past the eponymous Spier Falls Dam, the steep forested slopes and jagged cliffs of the Palmertown Mountain Range rising abruptly from the roadside.
Spring-watered boulders line the road, their jagged rocks offering a foothold for a marvelous variety of evergreen plants, as well as tiered shelves from which dangle spectacular icicles when the weather turns cold.
With daytime temperatures still above freezing most days, the tiny rills that course down the mountains splash and dance from rock to rock. Fantastic fairy castles of ice will build up around these rills as the winter proceeds.
Even though I don't know the names of most of these mosses, I marvel at the lovely shapes and colors that decorate the constantly watered rock. This one had long ropy stems with short sharply pointed leaves. It occurred to me that it might be Fountain Moss (Philonotus fontana), especially since it occupied the wettest areas of the boulders. Without that species' distinctive orb-shaped spore capsules, I couldn't be sure.
When I drew abreast of the Spier Falls Dam, I pushed my way through roadside thickets to enter an open area of jumbled sharp-edge rocks and sheer cliffs that were draped with icicles. This is a remnant of one of the places the mountainside was quarried for rock to build the dam, back at the close of the 19th Century. At its completion in 1903, the Spier Falls Dam was one of the largest hydroelectric dams in America, 1800 feet long and more than 100 feet high, requiring an enormous amount of rock to build.
A number of human-made artifacts remain at this site, including several concrete and iron structures that I suspect served as footings for the huge derricks from which cables were strung to carry the quarried rock out to the construction site on the river. This photo shows just a glimpse of the still-operating dam where it stretches across the Hudson.