Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Golden Mountain

 October 18, 2013
Western Ridge Trail,
Moreau Lake State Park

Men rush to California and Australia
as if the true gold were to be found in that direction;
but that is to go to the very opposite extreme to where it lies.
They go prospecting farther and farther away
from the true lead,
and are most unfortunate
when they think themselves most successful.
Is not our native soil auriferous?
Does not a stream from the golden mountains
flow through our native valley?
and has not this for more than geologic ages
been bringing down the shining particles
and forming the nuggets for us?

   HDT essay Life Without Principle, 1863

Today was the day I had selected, way back in the previous November, to be my Golden Day. For several years now, I’ve been taking a single October day off; a day to ramble, free from care, among the colors of autumn.
It sounds like that could be hit or miss -- choosing one day on the calendar so far in advance -- but when the day comes around, I have always been blessed with a sunny and warm day.

This year, instead of wandering about alone (not that there’s anything wrong with that,) I had two companions on my Day. Laurie had emailed me just days before, wondering if I had any time this week for a walk in Moreau. She knows the Ridge-top trails well, and is a geologist to boot. Jackie of course was ready for any jaunt in the park, even though the season for flowers is passing quickly.  So we decided to let Laurie lead the way. If the plant life was already faded, there are always interesting stories in the rocks themselves.

The three of us met at a trailhead that begins at a higher level than some of the other access points to the mountain. Might as well get a good head start !
Laurie led the way, as the trail wandered up and down and around leafy bends.
It was a cool and breezy morning. The genial sun shone down on us.
It not only lit up the trees above our heads,

but made the path beneath our feet a series of plush carpets of varying colors,
Some yellow, some gold;

A bit further along, pale pinks predominated;

And some sections were all brown, but boldly patterned.

But it was the color yellow that prevailed.
We agreed that although "Western Ridge" is an accurate name for this trail, we might start calling it the "Yellow Ridge" trail.

                                               Jackie bemused by mosses

Here and there, were efts on their way to newt-hood,
wearing a more-somber-than-usual orange color.
This provided perfect camouflage as they wriggled among the leaves.

[frustrating those who would take their fall portraits.]

While we stooped to watch one more closely,
out crawled another one --
the tiniest eft any of us had ever seen.

No, Jackie does NOT have cooties – those are snow fleas on her hand!

Unlike the efts, we were not interested in camouflage,
and were decked out with gaudy bits of blaze orange:
it is hunting season once again.

Some things were not especially color-full, but full of interesting textures nonetheless.
The plants are beginning to show their bones,
and what lovely bones they are.

At a certain spot, Laurie stopped and pointed at the ground, which was literally sprinkled with beech-nut burrs.  Well, hmmph, I’d seen that before, those empty prickly husks -- but what she was marvelling at were the beech-nuts !
They were everywhere, in and out of the husks.

Last year was not a good year for local mast crops, and a hard one for the animals who depend on those food sources. No reason for the bears to visit town this year, if the crop is as hearty as what we found today.

I had never tasted a beech-nut, but Laurie was busy nibbling on them, and pocketing more for later, so I tried them too.
Mmmm ... like tiny wild almonds.

She also showed us how to make a whistle using an acorn-cap.
(Well, I managed a couple of squeaks … that's gonna take a bit of practice.) 

Thoreau would have enjoyed seeing us try it.

[Your brother Eddy] tells me that he is five years old.
Indeed I was present at the celebration
   of his birth-day lately,
and supplied the company with onion and squash pipes,
and rhubarb whistles,
which is the most I can do on such occasions.
Little Sammy Hoar blowed them most successfully,
and made the loudest noise,
though it almost strained his eyes out to do it.

     Letter written by HDT to ten-year-old Ellen Emerson in 1849

Clouds rolled in, just as we approached a favorite overlook of Laurie’s.

Laurie in (and on) her natural element.

Weary but happy, we ate our lunches as the air cooled around us.
But what a view from our dining-room !

The sound of the Hudson River at Spier Falls Dam rose and fell with the air currents that swirled around our rocky seat.
Downriver, you could see all the way to the Bend of the River at Glens Falls.

Across the river, you could see mists and curtains of rain over the Luzerne Mountains, and they seemed to be heading our way.
Might as well head back down; wet leaves are beautiful but slippery.


Heading back along the same trail, the woods revealed secrets that we had missed before.
The trail back is always “a different trail,” as Jackie is fond of saying.

An oak leaf ginger-bread man

Fresh green hepatica leaves – not just the usual ones, but the sharp-lobed variety too !

                                          Angel wings on the forest floor.

A lone, dried-up sprig coral-root caught my eye (but didn’t pose for a photo),
and we found a whole patch of rattlesnake ferns.

Both of these plants like a certain kind of soil, and both Jackie and Laurie,
reading the plants and the rocks, found evidence of limestone in this area.

We lingered as we descended, dragging our boots in the leaves,
hesitant to come in for the day, like the kids we used to be.
What better way to spend a golden day,
than to walk on a golden mountain with some sterling companions?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Scary September Sight

September 30, 2013
A nearby K-Mart

I saw something truly frightening today, when I chanced to look up.
No, not this --

-- but THIS - sighted on September 30th. 
Be afraid ... be very afraid