Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Remembrance

February 11, 2014
Ice Meadows of the Hudson River,
Warrensburg, NY

While at Snake Rock  --  I begin remembering a hot summer’s day in this very place
And remembering a friend who is no longer with us.

I did not know him as well as the others in the Thursday Naturalists -- who have walked with him for many a verdant mile –- but will miss him none the less.

On that day, we all spent the morning on this side of the river,
happily clambering over rocks

And enjoying the sights both near and far.

Win liked to go off on to one side, or up ahead, blazing his own trail.

At high noon, we gathered for a picnic lunch in the shade of Snake Rock.
It was cooler here, and the view upriver was grand.

After lunch, Jackie and Win and I drove to the other side of the river, 
across from Snake Rock,
to the forest where the lichens grow.

Then, it was high summer – full of summer’s delights.

There were several flowers and geologic features Win was eager to see,
and we were more than happy to show him.

I imagine that at times, Win could be as prickly as a thistle

Although he never hesitated to patiently answer my unscientific questions about plants,

And he even let me capture him having a little fun.
(of course, this is the only way to get those great macro shots of tiny flowers !)

I will miss getting to know him better,

And I hope he is off blazing new trails.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shadows and Ice

February 2, 2014
Hudson River Ice Meadows, 
Warrensburg, NY

A thick fog.
The trees and woods look well through it.
You are inclined to walk in the woods for objects.
They are draped with mist,
and you hear the sound of it dripping from them.
It is a lichen day.
… all the world seems a great lichen
and to grow like one today.
   HDT Journal, February 5, 1853

Happy Ground-Hog’s Day ! 
Though Phil saw his shadow this morning, it was  plenty cloudy here today,
and I was not able to see my own.
It was a bit warmer – in the tropical ‘20s –
and there was time today to meet Jackie and drive up to see the fabled Ice Meadows.

First stop -- the woods on the east side of the river.
Plantation pines soared overhead, 

the woods was still and silent. 

Bleak at first glance, we began to see drips and drops,
and bits of green on the understory trees.
Where we had strolled through the heady scent of May-flowers last spring,
there were only the lichens now. 

No fragrance, but their shapes and textures were a salad of delight.

Out toward the river, the usual path was blocked with ice that had been heaved up onto the shore.

We circled back through the woods, enjoying the mist and the small delights of such things as mountain-maple keys on the snow

and, no, this isn't some sort of critter -- it is a bit of husk from a hop-hornbeam that had some sort of hair on the stem end of it. (?)
[that one is for YOU, Link - remember our walk in these very woods  last June? ]

Along the misty trail, I saw TWO reasons that this understory tree is called Striped Maple -

It was quiet and still, a small sacred place, and we were content to browse here awhile.

Then we drove up to the Bridge, where the road crossed the Hudson,
to see the rapids where the frazil ice had been forming last week. 
The channel was open and the scenery moody and spectacular.

Jackie had been up here to see it a week ago, and the difference in just seven days of colder weather was amazing.
(see her blog of our day, here.)
We didn't linger on the Bridge, taking a few quick photos as cars and trucks rushed by,
and got back in Jackie's car.
She drove us down River Road, which, true to its name,
usually gets blocked by the river-ice at this time of year.
It’s clear today, but you can see river on both sides of the road at one point.

[It was  here that we showed our friend Andrew, who was visiting us last May,
some piles of ice that lingered well into summer.]

There were huge flat blocks of ice piled along the shoreline, as the river,
compelled to flow, had pushed them aside --

and more had beached themselves all around Snake Rock,
where once we sat with the Thursday Naturalists on a hot summer’s day,
having a picnic lunch.

No picnic today !
But plenty of tables …

P.M. --Up Assabet.
The river having suddenly gone down since the freshet,
I see cakes of ice eight or ten feet across
left two feet high or more above the banks,
frozen to four or five maples or oaks.
Indeed, each shore is lined with them …
they are somewhat like tables of a picnic party
or a muster-field dinner.
Rustic tables and seats.

   HDT Journal, February 1, 1859

Monday, February 3, 2014


January 26, 2014
Moreau Lake State Park, NY

Now I go a fishing & a hunting every day
     but omit the fish & the game -–
     which are the least important part –-
I have learned to do without them.
They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy --.
    HDT Journal, January 26, 1853

It promised to be a bright sunny day and I just HAD to get outdoors.
Never mind that it was 9 degrees
and there was a warning out for "dangerous wind chill" in the afternoon !
I know one person who would love to go walking on a day like this --so I called her.
Jackie and I met at Moreau Lake State Park. We walked down the hill from the parking area, which wasn’t very full (unusual for a Sunday), and out to the frozen lake.
The new snow made it a clean canvas.

It’s great to have a pal who doesn’t mind coming out in this crazy-cold weather!

There had been an inch or two of fresh snow overnight,
covering the previous drab and crunchy layer.
We saw only two people out on the ice fishing, a father and son.
The cold didn’t seem to bother them, even out in the open.

Jackie and I were not a-fishing, but a-hunting,
and our quarry today was a porcupine. 

We continued across the lake, and up into the woods --- out of the wind --
to a little-used side trail that leads up to some porcupine dens.
To the casual observer, it is a sunken jumble of rocks near a tiny brook.  

Nearby are hemlocks – their preferred winter food.
Most of them have been stripped of their greenery, with only tufts at the ends of the branches, where the porkies could not go.

That, and broken sprigs beneath a hemlock, are some of the tell-tale signs of their presence.

We’ve never seen the actual critters, but it’s fun to see traces of their lives.

They seem to favor one path, like dairy cows going to pasture. 

These troughs in the snow are distinctive as the winter goes on, for porcupines don’t bother to stop to pee… they just pee. Today we saw one of these trails in the early stages. You could see where the hairs of his body brushed against the soft snow.
And one tiny spot of yellow snow.

We saw lots of other animal tracks up there, including those of deer.
Their trails are an echo of their nervous nature.

One of my feet started getting numb with cold, even inside my superthick Sorels,
and after a while, we turned back.
Jackie never complains about the cold.
We were feeling it, though, even though we were both pretty well bundled up.
Coming back, you could see that the last snow to fall during the night had been larger flakes.
They sparkled on the surface. 

At this part in my walks, everything starts to look beautiful.
Beech and hemlock were the only bits of color we saw on the Ridge.

Our pace was slower coming back down the trail, which was slippery in places.
Here Jackie caught herself just in time, after a bit of a slide. 

Well, all you can do is laugh.

At the trailhead, we stopped for a few thawing moments at the Warming Hut,
grateful for its cozy warm woodstove, before cutting across the lake again.
I found some amusing literature therein.

And the map-sign outside seemed to say,
“You Are Here, and By the Way, Watch Out for the Giant Glacier”

Back on the lake, we stopped to chat again with the Lone Fisher-men. 

They were still out there, a-fishing.
They had few fish to show for their efforts, but, like us,
they seemed to consider it a day well-spent.