Monday, October 11, 2010

These Golden Days

October 8, 2010
Pyramid Lake, near Paradox, NY

Far in the woods these golden days
Some leaf obeys its maker’s call,
And through their hollow aisles it plays
With delicate touch the prelude of the fall.
The Fall of the Leaf,
Henry D. Thoreau

Last November, we had to choose our vacation days for the year 2010. Not having anything particular in mind, the last day I elected to take was October 8th. It would be around the time of peak foliage in these parts, and it would be nice to have an entire day just to enjoy it.

Throughout the summer, my hiking pal Jackie kept telling me about this fantastic place up in the Adirondacks, Pyramid Lake Life Center. It is a place where people go on spiritual retreats, and is privately owned. Jackie volunteers here, and visits several times a year. She planned on going up again over Columbus Day weekend, to help them close the camp -- and did I want to meet her up there on Friday, and spend the day? You bet!

It’s an hour’s drive from here. I stowed the kayak in my car the day before (it fits nicely) and headed north early Friday morning to meet Jackie at Pyramid Lake.
It looked a lot bigger than the photos I'd seen on her blog. The whole place was very peaceful.

Our original idea was to paddle on the lake most of the day. I was the pessimist, having seen the latest weather forecast: sunny, but with wind gusts up to 25 mph in the afternoon.
We ventured along the north shore, past the camp’s cabins and docks,

into a sheltered shallow bay.

Due to the heavy rains of last week, the water level was high enough for us to go quite a ways in before bottoming out.

Despite the lateness of the season, we saw some rarities there, including nostoc – little balls of cyanobacteria -- that trailed in our wakes like little green stars.

And further on, something not especially rare, but still, a thing new to me:
ripe cranberries.

When picking them, if you drop one, it floats. And they are plenty sour, right off the vine!

We turned around to leave this bay, and head further round the lake. It was then that the wind picked up suddenly, and paddling became quite a chore.
Jackie was having fun, being in her element.

My little boat kept plopping her prow through the waves, splashing me jauntily each time.
We passed the docks again, and tried to make some headway paddling along the other side.

At one point, I was really digging in with the paddle ( in order not to blow backwards) when I saw an orange leaf in the air. It was moving against the wind. Eh?

Then it landed on a bush along the shore, and I looked closer -- it was a butterfly.
He had to head south, no matter if there was a big lake in his way, and the wind was against him. What a feat of strength and faith!


The waves got a little more like regular rollers.

Unlike the butterfly, we decided it would be better to get off the lake, and go walking instead.

After lunching on the upstairs porch of one of the cabins overlooking the lake –

Jackie suggested a woods-trail that went to Eagle Lake Dam, a mile or so to the east.

Despite the wind, the day was unusually warm -- around 65 degrees -- even here in the mountains. To walk along in shirtsleeves while admiring fall colors is a rare delight.


We stopped (as usual) to look at every little thing.

First, a bit of cloud-shadow-watching from one of the docks

The largest stemmed mushroom that either of us had ever seen


Complete with one of the smallest flies we’d ever seen

And of course all the colors that surrounded us.

Even the clouds were breathtaking -

it began to be obvious that this place has a special energy.

Somewhere along the trail, we passed a little brook.

Our turnaround point was at Eagle Lake,

where the trail crosses over the small dam.

It is only a reflecting mind that sees reflections.
HDT Journal, November 2, 1857

From the sublime – to the slime:
a stinkhorn mushroom!

The rains have brought all sorts of fungi springing up out of the leaf-litter.
The Latin name of this one in Thoreau’s day was Phallus impudicus.
True to its common name, stinkhorn, it has an awfully putrid odor. Phew!

And laughingly I recalled Thoreau’s close encounter with one of these. He was extremely interested in mushrooms, and in his Journal of October 16, 1856, he writes that he had found a variety that was new to him. Despite being disgusted by its appearance (he was a true Victorian in that respect), he did what he usually did with any new plant specimen:
he took it home !

In an hour or two the plant scented the whole house wherever placed,
so that it could not be endured.
I was afraid to sleep in my chamber where it had lain
until the room had been well ventilated ….

Pray, what was Nature thinking of when she made this?
She almost puts herself on a level with those who draw in privies.

One can only imagine the reaction of Thoreau’s mother and sisters (with whom he lived in the yellow house on Main Street) to this little incident.

Arriving back at the camp, there was still time enough for one more stop – “to a little waterfall” was all that Jackie said.
I had driven along this road and not even noticed the sign


A short way into the trail, which followed a quiet brook, was the sound of rushing water – LOTS of it.
After seeing the first short drop, which was impressive on its own, you kept on walking downhill on the trail, as the falls got larger and larger.

“Oh, it’s usually much smaller at this time of year” Jackie said.
However, we did have close to six inches of rain last Wednesday, so the waterfall today was glorious indeed.
As if the water was a thousand allelujas coming down from on high.

Thanks, Jackie, for sharing some of the wonders of Pyramid Lake on one of the golden days of autumn.


  1. What a great trip - but then so are most of the places Jackie visits. You got some wonderful photos. That was certainly quite some Amanita!

  2. Oh Sue, how vividly you have captured our wonder-filled day exploring my favorite place on earth. It was a genuine thrill for me to share this place with you. We will do it again. Maybe Ellen can meet us there next time we go.