Thursday, July 28, 2022

Rosy Blooms on a Mountain Meadow

Finally! The temps have come down from several days of hovering near 100 degrees! It was bearable once more to come out from under the shade and venture onto an open meadow.  I'd been hoping to visit this high grassy area under a mountain-ascending powerline, and now was my chance.  I was even able to climb up and up and up and barely break a sweat.  And what little bit of sweat dampened my brow was quickly swept away by a nice breeze that blew through the Hudson River valley, channeled by the mountains that rose on either side.  From up on this height, I could glimpse a silvery sliver of water held back behind the Spier Falls Dam at Moreau.

A Facebook  friend had posted some photos of Pasture Thistle (Cirsium pumilum), so that was my cue to hike up to this mountainside meadow, the only place in all my wanderings I've ever found this gorgeous native wildflower.  As thistles go, it's quite short, usually growing no more than knee or thigh high, but with huge rosy blooms almost as big as my fist.  The flowers are so large and vivid, they're easy to spot, even among the many other meadow plants that surround them. I found quite a few up here, and all in beautiful fragrant bloom.

And I wasn't the only one who was glad to find these beautiful flowers: every single one was peppered with insects of many different kinds, feasting on the pollen.  Most thistle flowers were serving as nuptial beds for mating Long-horned Flower Beetles, but this one had attracted a very busy Bumble Bee, two different species of beetle (one larger, one tiny), and a single Jagged Ambush Bug, doubtless waiting to snag an unwary insect visitor for dinner.

 UPDATE: Or could what looks like a Bumble Bee be instead a Long-horned Thistle Bee (Melissodes desponsus), a bee species that feeds only on the pollen and nectar of Field and Pasture Thistles?
Here's a more detailed photo of the same bee:

Those rosy-purple thistle blooms certainly set the color scheme for almost all of the other flowers blooming today. I loved how masses of Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) clung to the steep rocky ascent, their colorful flower spikes beautifully profiled against the dark shade of the surrounding forest.

Patches of Wandlike Bush Clover (Lespedeza violacea) reiterated the color theme with clusters of rosy blooms sprouting atop and along their leafy stems.

Panicled Tick Trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) is the most abundant of the three species of Desmodium I usually find on this mountain meadow.  All three species bear similar pea-like flowers colored rosy-purple, but the flowers of D. paniculatum (pictured here) are borne sparsely on open panicles atop weak stems that also bear its distinctively narrow and tapering leaves.

The sprawling ground-hugging vines of Round-leaved Tick Trefoil (Desmodium rotundifolium) hold flowers that tend more toward the purple side of rosy-purple. While the flowers may closely resemble in shape and color those of other Tick Trefoils, there's no mistaking this species' very distinctive big round leaves that lie flat to the ground. Another vernacular name for this plant is Prostrate Tick Trefoil.

(Showy Tick Trefoil, the third Desmodium species I also find at this site, had already finished blooming, so I did not take their picture today.  I can attest, however, that their flowers are similar in color to the  other two pictured here on this post.)

Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), with dense rounded flower clusters of that same rosy-purple hue, was also blooming abundantly across this high meadow.  Because this species (the same as the herb that flavors our pizzas) is not a native wildflower, I had not intended to take a picture of it.  But then this gorgeous American Lady Butterfly stopped to sip nectar from its florets.  The butterfly didn't care if this was not a native wildflower.

In a week or so, acres of Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima) will dominate this high meadow, changing the floral color scheme here from rosy purple to golden yellow.  But I was hoping to find some yellow flowers even today as I reached a stretch of bare rocky slopes where I knew a large patch of Orange Grass St. John's Wort (Hypericum gentianoides) would be spread across the thin soil.  Well, I found this plant's grass-like stems, all right.  And each stem held a tiny, tightly closed yellow flower bud. But I was foiled again, arriving too late in the afternoon to catch the tiny star-shaped flowers that open for only a few hours in the morning.

Since literally thousands of Orange Grass plants were thriving here, I took the liberty of plucking a single one. I intended to place the plant in a tiny vase of water, so that I might catch it in bloom the following morning.  And so I did.  And so IT did!  Ta da!  Behold:  the tiny, star-shaped yellow flowers of Orange Grass St. John's Wort!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Hot Days, Dark Woods, Pretty Flowers

On sweltering days like today, I prefer the shady banks of the river for botanizing (see my last post).  But another option might be the deep shade of the midsummer woods (while wearing insect repellent!).  Yes, the full flush of spring wildflowers is only a memory now, but a smaller group of flowers will bloom beneath the forest's complete canopy during the latter weeks of July.  Here are a few I've encountered over the past week or so.

It might be getting a bit late to see this lovely evergreen wildflower in a deeply shaded woods, probably one with many pine trees around.  This is Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), and I usually find it in bloom somewhat earlier in July.  There's a section of Cole's Woods in Glens Falls where thousands of these flowers all bloom at once, and it's quite a sight to see!

The related Spotted (or Striped) Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) often shares the same woods with the Pipsissewa mentioned above, but we usually can find it blooming a week or so later. The flowers resemble those of Pipsissewa, but the evergreen leaves are quite different.

Pointed-leaved Tick Trefoil (Hylodesmum glutinosum) bears wand-like flower stems studded with bright-pink blooms that seem to glow in the shadows of the darkest woods. You often have to trace the flower stem back to discover where it is attached to the center of a whorl of pointed leaves. 

The related Naked Tick Trefoil (Hylodesmum nudiflorum) also bears long wand-like flower stems bearing similar pink flowers, but these flower stems arise from the forest floor next to its accompanying but separate leaves.  

Two different species of Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea spp.) are blooming now, often in the same woods.  The itty-bitty flowers of both species are difficult to photograph, they are so tiny. And both grow in very low light.  But those of the species pictured here, the Eastern Enchanter's Nightshade (C. canadensis) are just enough larger than those of the Dwarf Enchanter's Nightshade (C. alpina)  to give my camera a fighting chance of focusing on its dainty white blooms.

The diminutive flowers of Lopseed (Phryma leptostachya) present a similar challenge to this photographer, especially if I want to include the leaves and flowers in the same photo. The long wiry flowerstalks shoot those flower clusters well away from their leafy origins.

If I want to more clearly show the Lopseed flowers, I have to take a separate photo. When these flowers go to seed, the pods will point straight down and cling tight to the stalk.  That's how this woodland native wildflower acquired its vernacular name.  This species usually prefers a calcareous habitat, which is why I choose to visit the limestone-underlaid Skidmore Woods when I hope to find this pretty flower.

Again, the Dwarf Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera repens) presents a similar problem for the photographer: trying to include clearly focussed flowers and leaves in the same photo. Plus, the small size of both the inflorescence and its basal leaves amplifies the dilemma. 

The scarcity of Goodyera repens also compounds the issue for me, since I have to drive close to 50 miles north to have even a chance of finding this tiny native orchid.  At least, they are easy to spot in the shady woods of the Pack Demonstration Forest north of Warrensburg, with the bright-white flower stalk standing out from the surrounding vegetation. The vividly marked leaves of this species are very distinctive -- unless they hybridize with some surrounding plants of the similar Goodyera tesselata, which also grow nearby.  Then, they are not only hard to photograph, they are even harder to identify.

While exploring the Pack Demonstration Forest last week, I was delighted to see large patches of Dewdrops (Rubus repens) in bloom. The bright-white flowers shine like stars among their sprawling mats of dark-green leaves.

But here was the real star of the forest floor at the Pack Demonstration Forest for me: the gorgeous purple-striped White Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana).  Such a colorful flower amid so many plain-white companions in the mid-summer shade! And its leaves are lovely in their own right: rings of bright-green hearts.

Here was a floral surprise as we ended our walk on the Nature Trail at the Pack Forest: a  solitary specimen of Slender Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes lacera var. lacera).  On all my past visits to this forest, I have never seen this little native orchid there. Yes, the "slender" part of its vernacular name surely applies to its very narrow spike of florets, but its most distinguishing feature is the definite green tinge to its florets' throats and lower lips.

Here was one more surprise that we encountered in a shady woods, but regarding an animal species, not a botanical one: this good-sized Wood Turtle resting along the trail.  Like all the flower species listed here, this turtle is definitely a denizen of the woods, especially woods with waterways running through them.  

While the Wood Turtle's plain brown shell provides this reptile good camouflage among the woodsy, muddy habitat it prefers, its underside is vividly colored and truly beautiful, as we discovered as we picked it up and moved it off the public trail to a (hopefully) more secret spot.

Why did we move the Wood Turtle to a more secret spot?  Well, this is a turtle that conservationists consider to be one of the most endangered freshwater turtles in North America. The loss of streamside forests to development threatens local populations, and many adults die when crossing roads between fragmented patches of suitable habitat.  We hoped to hide this individual from any trail walker that might think it would make a nice pet, for the loss of even one adult from a population could seriously threaten that population, even cause it to die out.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Up a Shady River On a Muggy Afternoon

Whew!  Too darned hot!  Yes, I know, compared to the triple-digit temps other folks around the world are suffering now, the upper 90s we've sweltered through the past few days here in Saratoga are hardly worth mentioning.  But those sweltering temps were enough to send me off to the coolest outdoor spots I could think of: the tree-shaded banks of the Hudson River between the Spier Falls and Sherman Island dams.  But it wasn't simply the heat that impelled me there.  I was hoping to find the Smaller Purple Fringed Orchids I'd found there in other years, and I knew they should be blooming now. 

After launching my solo canoe, I headed upstream, toward where I'd found those orchids before.

Well, they weren't there.  No sign of them where they grew last year.  And the year before that.  And the year before that.  And the year before that.  But not this year. Orchids are like that.  Fickle.  So I turned around and headed back downstream.  A nice paddle would ease my disappointment.  The scenery sure was lovely, with forested mountains rising on both sides, and I had the river all to myself this day.  Also, a breeze had picked up. I splashed some water on my shirt so the breeze would cool me as I paddled.

Then, look what I saw as I approached the very spot I had started from: a beautiful Smaller Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes)!  It was growing right where I'd found it over 10 years ago and had given up looking for it there again. How could I have passed this showy flower on my way upstream and not noticed it? As I've often told myself: the return trip along a trail will reveal a whole new scene. 

As I continued downstream, I tarried close to a spot where I'd noticed some Great St. John's Worts (Hypericum ascyron ssp. pyramidatum) in bud a few weeks ago.  And sure enough, some showy big blooms were topping their tall stalks.  Great St. John's Wort is rated as a Rare species in New York State, but the shore of the Hudson River where it runs through this mountain valley is one of the places it seems to like to grow. I have found it on three other sites besides this one along the Hudson shore.

Other plants delighted me as I continued my paddle downstream.  Patches of snowy-white Grass-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea) graced the shallows close to the banks:

Northern Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum) could be found holding its button-shaped flowerheads atop skinny stems both underwater and above.  This row of them protruded above a rock:

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia terrestris) is another flower that will bloom in standing shallow water.  Its flowers are such a brilliant yellow, it's easy to see how it acquired another vernacular name, that of Swamp Candles. I have often pondered its specific scientific name, terrestris, though, since this species almost always grows in or near water, not on dry land.

These chubby, bright-blue Marsh Skullcap flowers were dangling over some riverside rocks, displaying their pale dotted tongues. Scutellaria  galericulata is their scientific name. I suppose the vernacular name might have been suggested by the domed upper petal.

As I approached a stretch of riverbank where large boulders had tumbled down from the mountains above, I noticed an odd little patch of rumpled green stuff at the base of one boulder, half in and half out of the water.

A closer look revealed the look of a lichen to this green stuff, and I remembered seeing it before.  It was Dermatocarpon luridum, otherwise known by several other names, among them Streambed Stippleback Lichen.  That vernacular name acknowledges this lichen's propensity for growing right at the waterline, where it frequently gets washed by waves or rising water. When not wetted, the leaves lose their green color and look like dark gray crumbly stuff.

I continued paddling along this bouldered shore, marveling at how huge were some of the chunks of mountainside rocks.

Many interesting plants had made their homes among the cracks and ledges of these boulders.  To me, the prettiest of all were the tiny pink flowers and lacy green leaves of Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), looking so truly at home on what looks like barren rock.

At this point I pondered whether to continue for more than a mile downstream to a section of riverbank where I had found other specimens of Smaller Purple Orchids.  But the breeze had now become a stiff wind, and although it would help to propel me further downstream now, I knew I'd be fighting both the wind and the current when it was time to return.  So I saved that part of the river for the following day.

A pair of Black Ducks came swimming by, as if to say good-bye.  Now they truly had the river all to themselves.

The following day was just as hot, if not more so.  But the section of the Hudson I planned to paddle was even more tree-shaded than where I had paddled the day before.  There is no official boat launch site here, though, so I had to carry my canoe along a dirt road and then down a hill through the woods to the place I consider my personal paddler's Paradise, where the river runs back behind a large island and in and out of serene little coves.  All that cool green shade, mossy banks, and quiet water make it well worth the effort to get here. (It sure helps to have a canoe that weighs less than my cat!)

In this section of the river, closer to the Sherman Island Dam, the shoreline is convoluted with craggy, deeply eroded bedrock and overhung with trees and shrubs and ferns.

I promptly paddled to one little cove where I had found Smaller Purple Fringed Orchids for several years in a row.  Would they be blooming again this year? My hopes were high.

And my hopes were not dashed!  Hurray!  Two gorgeous specimens shared their bank with Royal Fern and Tall Meadow Rue, but their vivid purple blooms stood out among all that green foliage. I espied them the moment I entered their cove.

Another flower with vivid blooms shared that cove with the orchids.  This is the magnificent Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), blazing forth from its Hemlock shaded bank.  I had seen many other plants along the way, but they were just in bud.  Well, this was indeed my lucky day for beautiful floral finds!

More spectacular floral gorgeousness awaited in another cove.  Here, the long purple spikes of Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) were perfectly reflected in the dark quiet water.

In another small cove where sunbeams penetrated the tree canopy, the sunlight illuminated patches of Northern Pipewort blooming away under shallow water.  The plants' leaves glowed a lovely green and gold, topped by white-dotted stems that swayed with the river's current.  In this catchment between two dams, the water levels rise and fall with dam operations, sometimes completely submerging tolerant plants like these that are normally emergent, but not exclusively aquatic.

Here's just a sampling of some of the many other pretty riverside flowers I saw.  This rosy spike of Steeplebush flowers (Spiraea tomentosa) was visited by a small pollen-eating hoverfly.      

Dozens and dozens of glossy-green American Wintergreen plants (Gaultheria procumbens) covered a sloping bank, each plant dangling multiple snowy-white bells.

I encountered a patch of Marsh St. John's Worts (Hypericum virginicum) at just the right hour of the afternoon to catch its pretty pink flowers newly open.  Don't bother to go looking for this wetland species before three o'clock in the afternoon.

It was definitely well after three o'clock in the afternoon by now, time for me to paddle back to my put-in place and the carry back to my car. Rather than amble slowly along close to shore,  I headed straight up the open river, pushing energetically against both the wind and the current.  Little waves slapped against the side of my boat, sending cooling droplets on me that the breeze helped to dry as it wafted my own personal heat away.  Surrounded by the cooling colors of blues and greens, I felt refreshed on this otherwise stifling hot day, as well as deeply grateful to live amid such natural beauty so close to my home.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Two Days of Riverside Wonders

I never turn down an opportunity to visit the Hudson River Ice Meadows. This remarkable stretch of riverbank north of Warrensburg, NY, is one of the richest botanical sites in the northeast, thanks to monumental heaps of a particular kind of frothy ice that piles up here to enormous heights in the winter, creating a habitat that many rare native species thrive in -- and most invasive species avoid. So when one of my Facebook Friends, a Cape Cod resident named Tom Walker, asked if I could show him this remarkable site during his vacation nearby, I promptly said, "Sure!  Let's make a date!" That's Tom in the photo below, as he stepped onto the east bank of the Hudson Ice Meadows.

We arranged to meet on both Thursday and Friday this past week, a day each for visiting the east and west banks of the Hudson River Ice Meadows.

The Hudson River Ice Meadows, East Bank
As we stepped from the pine woods onto the east-bank shore, one of the first plants we encountered was New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus), a common shrub in this region but one that Tom had never encountered in his coastal home territory. By this time of the summer, most of this shrub's clusters of tiny white flowers have turned to clusters of shiny dark-red seeds, creating another way of being beautiful.

But we also found some other New Jersey Tea shrubs still in beautiful white bloom.  Here, those shrubs share a riverside bank with the spectacularly colorful Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

To me in my home surroundings, the Woodland Sunflower(Helianthus divaricatus) is almost as common as Dandelions, but Tom told me it was a species he'd never yet seen on Cape Cod.  That made me glad I pointed it out, noting its distinctive feature, its leaves meeting the stems with virtually no leafstalks.

Then, here was a plant that had been unknown to me until just last year,  when a botanist had corrected me when I identified it as our common Frostweed (Crocanthemum canadense).  No, he told me, this is the species called Hoary Frostweed (C. bicknellii), and he pointed out that the flowers occurred multiply, in terminal clusters, instead of as a solitary bloom surmounted by terminal leaves. He also pointed out that C. bicknellii is somewhat bushier in appearance and blooms a bit later than C. canadense. This particular Hoary Frostweed had a Crab Spider lurking within, waiting for its white coloration to change to a more camouflage-effective yellow.

True to the "meadows" part of the Ice Meadows' name, many of the plants that grow here in the flat sunny areas are grasses and sedges typical of a grassland.  This Turkey-foot Grass (Andropogon gerardi) is one of the tallest and most abundant, and today it was particularly beautiful, strung with dainty yellow staminate flowers that shimmied in the breeze.  The tiny white bottlebrush-shaped pistillate flowers were also evident. This species is also know as Big Bluestem Grass.

Considering how abundantly this next plant thrives at this site, it is truly hard to believe that this sedge called Whip Nut Rush (Scleria triglomerata) could actually be rated as an Endangered species in New York and other northeastern states.  But this open, sandy, seasonably wet habitat is exactly the kind of site it must have, and it has that here in spades, thanks to the annual ice heaps suppressing the woody plants that would otherwise encroach on this sunlit shoreline.

The multicolored pearl-shaped seeds are a distinctive trait of Whip Nut Rush, ranging from porcelain white through shiny green to pure black.

The rusty-colored Smooth Saw-sedge (Cladium mariscoides) is another abundant sedge at this site, but this one grows close to the water's edge, even out in standing shallow water. It usually prefers habitats high in calcium, a mineral supplied by outcroppings of marble just upstream along these shores.

While we were examining these waterside plants, we were visited by this Green Frog, vividly green and marked with dark dots. I wonder if it mistakenly believed its markings were good camouflage, since it held remarkably still for the picture-taking.

This wee little American Toad, no bigger than a cricket, did NOT hold still for the picture-taking, hopping away each time just as I pushed my camera's shutter button. But somehow I managed to get one reasonably clear shot of it.  So cute!

As we moved upstream, we approached a section of riverbank remarkable for large outcroppings of marble.

While most of the marble was a shimmering white, some was colored various shades of green.  And constant erosion from spring floods and winter icing had caused many of these crystals to break up into small chunks, easily gathered by the handful.

Since marble is metamorphosed limestone, many of the plants that thrive in this section are definite lime-lovers.  Rock Sandwort (Sabulina michauxii) is one of those lime lovers, studding these marble banks with mounds of needle-fine leaves high up close to the neighboring woods. Since this plant was now nearing the end of its blooming time, we were lucky to find just a few of its pretty white flowers.  Since this species, while ostensibly secure in New York, is quite rare in New England states, I was glad I could show it to Tom, who is not likely to find it in his home state of Massachusetts.

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa) is such a commonly cultivated garden shrub, it might be hard to think of it as a native wild shrub, but the specimens that thrive on these marble shores are just that, native wild shrubs taking advantage of the richly calcareous habitat provided by all that marble.

Now, this next flower was indeed a surprise!  For one thing, Wood Lilies (Lilium philadelphicum) have long finished blooming where I live 20 miles south in Saratoga County. But then I recall that all those heaps of ice often don't melt away until mid June at this site, chilling the soil and delaying spring bloomers.  But also, I find this species of lily only in sandy low-nutrient sites where I live, and this site is known for lime-rich soil.  Except that these lilies were growing high up on the banks, well away from the marble outcroppings. They were also surrounded by New Jersey Tea and Lowbush Blueberries, two shrubs that are frequently found in low-nutrient, more acidic habitats.  

One of the truly remarkable characteristics of both Ice Meadows shores is the close proximity of both acidic and calcareous habitats.  That was truly the case as well for the west-bank section we visited the following day.

The Hudson River Ice Meadows, West Bank
On Thursday, Tom and I had been driven from the east bank of the Hudson a bit earlier than we'd hoped by a sudden torrential downpour.  But Friday proved to be dry and sunny all day for our second excursion together, this time to the west bank of the Hudson Ice Meadows. A second added pleasure was the company of my friend Sue Pierce, who also knows Tom as a Facebook Friend.  The two, pictured below, also share a passion for photographing "odes," the damsel- and dragonflies that flit about this remarkable shoreline,  and so they had more than a passion for plants in common, and spent almost as much time pursuing their elusive subjects as they did botanizing.

This section of the Ice Meadows is remarkable for the presence of many spring-fed pools, a situation that delivers lime-rich waters among granitic rocks that support the presence of plants less dependent on basic soils.

That particular habitat is perfect for Sticky False Asphodel (Triantha glutinosa), a state-ranked  Endangered species that prefers rich fens and calcareous peaty swamps.  Reported from only four counties in New York State, this plant is certainly happy at this site, where it grows so abundantly we had to watch where we placed our steps. Its former tufts of small white flowers had now produced shiny red seedpods that were easy to spot among the damp rocks and thickly growing greenery.

This wetland habitat is also preferred by the tiny-flowered Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris sp.).  The chances are good that the one pictured here is the rarer Threatened species, Xyris torta, instead of the more common X. montana.  On a visit a year ago with noted botanist David Werier, he closely examined the ones growing in the same pool where I found this one and determined that it was, indeed, Xyris torta, the Slender Yellow-eyed Grass.

These tiny weak-stemmed flowers, called Marsh -- or Bedstraw -- Bellflower (Campanula aparanoides), are much more common than Xyris in wet areas throughout the state, although they are often overlooked because they often hide among other plants. I was lucky to find this lovely little clump growing out of a crack in the rock, much easier to photograph than those obscured by surrounding greenery elsewhere.

More tiny flowers clinging to spring-dampened rocks, the white ones belonging with the glittering red leaves of Spatulate-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia) and the yellow ones to a few plants of Canada St. John's Wort (Hypericum canadense) mixed in.

Horned Bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) is another denizen of these rocky pools and the sandy rivershore.

This odd-looking growth had me puzzled for a bit until I remembered finding it once before in a similar habitat on another stretch of the Hudson: bare rock that gets occasionally wetted. This is a lichen called Dermatocarpon luridum.  One of its several vernacular names is Streamside Stippleback, which suggests the lichen's need to be close to water.  When not wetted, it looks like black crumbles instead of this green leafy-looking stuff.

More green leafy growth, but these green long-tapered leaves belong to one of the rarest plants in the entire northeast, the New England Violet (Viola novae-angliae), ranked as Endangered in New York State.  The cracks and crevices of the annually flooded bedrock along both banks of these Ice Meadows provide the only known sites in all of New York where this violet is known to grow. And it grows quite happily here.  Oddly enough, despite its name, it is absent from every New England state except for Maine, where it is also very rare.  It has beautiful deep-purple flowers in May, and its leaves persist throughout the summer.

The strong peppermint smell of this Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) told me of its presence before I actually saw it, as one of my friends must have brushed against it and crushed a leaf in the process. This species has somewhat broader and much hairier leaves than the Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint I am more familiar with, but the two species have very similar small white purple-polka-dotted florets that sprout in clusters from chubby involucres.

And here was the floral beauty queen of our botanical finds: the exquisite Small Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes), still holding the promise of even more beauty with its many unopened buds. You'd  think I could spot this showy flower from a hundred yards away, but I had walked right past where it was hidden among the tall grass.  Luckily, my super-spotter pal Sue detected it and hollered for us to come see  it.  This one, and yet another one almost as beautiful close by.  Not a rare plant, but it sure was a prize!

Beginning to weary of leaping and climbing and teetering over boulders, I sat on a rocky ledge to rest my achy arthritic knee while Tom and Sue pursued some elusive insects.  And what a place to perch!  Blue sky above, blue water below, deep-green forest on either side, not a sound from human occupation to intrude on the soothing music of rushing rapids.  I feel truly blessed that my world contains such beautiful unspoiled places to explore, and also such delightful friends to explore them with.