A perfect winter day it was, yesterday. And with perfectly wonderful friends to enjoy it with, delighting in perfectly clear smooth ice on Moreau Lake, and later the perfectly gorgeous ice formations along a tumbling creek. And my damaged cornea had healed enough to grant me, well, not perfectly clear views of all this beauty, but vision good enough to allow it to fill me with joy. (And my ears, too, granted me joyful pleasure, as I delighted in the eerie pings! and pews! of singing lake ice.)
I also had on the perfect boots, waterproof, warm, and with retractable grippers that kept me from slipping on the slick ice that was strong enough to allow me a few steps away from shore. The boots were a Christmas gift from my daughter, who knew exactly the perfect gift for her winter-loving old mama.
Here were my perfect companions this day, my dear pal Sue and our newer pals Noel and Tom, all folks who know how to gain the most joy from a beautiful winter's day. We are walking here along the sun-warmed western shore of Moreau Lake, the sand piled with plates of thin ice blown up on the shore by recent fierce winds.
Although the glistening lake looked beautiful under a radiant blue sky, we soon left the shore to enter the forest and follow what Sue has named "Zen Brook" as it tumbles down from the mountains that line the lake's western shore. Despite recent rains, the brook appeared dry, although icy remnants indicated that water had filled it recently.
Ah, but we soon met some rushing water, merrily splashing along before it suddenly disappeared into the earth.
As we walked the relatively dry creekbed, we were enchanted by all the exquisite ways that running water and freezing cold could decorate its course, capturing in crystal-thin or glassily globular ice the memory of the water's movement. There were swirls . . .
. . . and more swirls!
There were bubbles! Big bubbles and small bubbles and itty-bitty bubbles, all frozen in place, nearly as soon as they formed.
There were ripples and rumples that captured the flow and successional freezes of the current over time.
As we ascended the mountain, following the creek, the water's volume increased . . .
. . . as did the masses of ice that accrued from the splashing water.
Every brookside rock and overhanging limb was festooned with ice, opaque, translucent, or crystal-clear.
This overhanging limb had sprouted masses of mushrooms before globular mounds of opaque white ice formed along the top.
And drips from this overhanging limb had created a parade of glassy inverted cones.
Up and up we climbed, until the brook narrowed enough for us to easily step across it.
Now we found ourselves amid marble mounds, hollowed out by streams long ago to form interconnecting caves.
Running water still filled the bottom of this particular cave, and the air near the mouth was alive with flying insects, too small and too quick for us to determine the species. They might have been Winter Craneflies or Winter Stoneflies, both species that live near running water and shelter in caves during winter. Male Winter Craneflies are known to bob up and down with a bouncing mating dance, attracting the ground-dwelling females to briefly fly up to mate with the airborne males before returning to the forest floor to lay their fertilized eggs among the leaf litter.
We may not have been sure about the bugs near that particular cave, but we were certainly sure that Porcupines occupied some of the other caves. Even if we had not followed their packed trails in other winters back to these same caves, we could see even now faint trails in this slight bit of snow, trails that were littered with Porky's hairs and distinctive scat. In this photo, Sue is searching a trail to see if she could find some quills, as we've often done in years past.
The calcareous nature of the surrounding bedrock here is made evident by the presence of such lime-loving plants as this Rose Moss (Rhodobryum ontariense). Such a pretty moss it is, its green leaves forming rosettes that resemble tiny green flowers.
Another lime-loving plant is this Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum), which grows on the moss-covered rock overhanging one Porcupine's den. This unusual fern spreads by establishing new plants wherever the tips of its long narrow fronds touch down, thus "walking" across the surface of calcareous boulders and bedrock.
But Walking Fern also spreads through spores that are produced by its sori, some of which we found today on the backs of just a few fronds.
Several small streams criss-cross these rocky heights, and this one contained many moss-covered rocks. Sue was particularly intrigued by a moss she found streaming underwater and is here trying to photograph.
It's not that easy to photograph underwater plants, since our cameras usually focus on the surface reflections of trees and sky. But this photo came out pretty well. I hope Sue's did, too, so she can send a photo to iNaturalist and maybe acquire an ID. It's definitely one of the mosses that prefers to grow underwater. I wonder if it could be Fontinalis antipyretica (Keeled Water Moss). But many mosses require microscopic examination for accurate identification, so I cannot be sure.
Here was another water-loving plant, but this one covering a rock and although constantly wetted, it still grew above the flow of the stream. I thought at first it might be a liverwort, but now that I look at this close-up photo I don't see the overlapping leaves that often distinguish a liverwort. The individual leaves appear to be sharply toothed, which might be a clue for some bryologist to determine the species. That won't be me, but that's okay. I don't need to know the name of it to enjoy its glossy green beauty, just one more of the winter wonders that filled me with joy today.