Oh my gosh, here it is, the last day of January! What have I been doing since I last posted here? Not much, besides sulking about how crummy our winter has been so far, with more rain than snow and no sub-zero temps to freeze the lakes solid enough to walk on or for tumbling creeks to create their elaborate crystalline iceworks. But we finally did have some snow, and some pretty snow, too, that stayed on the trees to transform the woods into winter wonderlands. Just in time, too, since I have offered to lead my fellow nature-loving friends on a visit to Saratoga County's newest nature preserve, the Graphite Range Community Forest, a few miles north of Saratoga Springs. I asked my friend Sue Pierce to join me on a scouting mission there this week, and here are just a few of the highlights of our most delightful visit.
As the map on this welcoming kiosk demonstrates, visitors will have their choice of many trails, most of which are open to both bikers and hikers, although each group can find a trail here for exclusive venturing (and bikers are allowed to ride up but not careen downward on many of the trails). Most of the trails require only moderate endurance levels, although all lead up into the forested regions of the Palmertown Mountain Range. For more information about the development of this preserve, here's a link to a newspaper article that provides considerable background regarding how this project came about.
Sue and I chose the Old Mine Road to follow toward our destination, the several abandoned graphite mines toward which I hope to lead our Thursday Naturalist friends when we meet on February 8. The mines are located just about a half-mile from the parking area.
We also detected the presence of occasional Witch Hazel shrubs, their snow-covered branches knobby with numerous ripening seedpods.
The twigs were actually puffy with frosty snow!