May 02 2009

Down By the River
Spring Blooms and Rushing Waters

Month’s end is a busy time here at Outside Up North. Deadlines loom large, thousands of words have to be written and edited, and hundreds of photos need to be shot, collated, and processed. But that’s all done for now, and a new month is born. Time to relax! So let’s go for a hike down by The River and see how spring is coming along.

Dry, windy days have been intermittently wetted by all-day soakers, so the water is high. You can hear it through the still-leafless woods from high on the hillside.


Roaring River

Seems barren, doesn’t it, with no leaves on the trees yet. But look more closely and you’ll see hints of new growth. You can see it in the blush of color in them thar woods.


Trees Blossoming Out

Aspens are among the first trees to send out catkins and then leaves. Their brilliant green leaflets really brighten the landscape.


New Aspen Leaves

Down along The River, I found this tenacious little white pine clinging to a fissure in the bedrock:


Tenacious Pine

Someday, if that plucky pine survives seasonal floods and winter ice, the pine will tower over the rushing rapids like its cousins:


Towering Pines

Further along the riverbank these Canada mayflower leaves have punched up through the gaps between water-polished cobbles:



The mayflower blossoms will soon emerge, but they’re subtle and you have to get down onto hands and knees to see them. Near the mayflower leaves I found this new sapling:


New Sapling

Groaning up off my protesting knees, the roaring rapids drew me to work my way downriver. Teetering on the brink of sloping bedrock, I could see the brink of the falls not far away, but closer to hand the red blossoms of a maple tree swayed in the breeze.


Maple Blossoms

The red blossoms are responsible for the ruddy blush on the hillsides. Red Squirrels and chipmunks love the sweet red maple blossoms. The squirrels climb right to the very tops of maple trees to harvest them, while chipmunks noisily forage for them on the forest floor. Here’s a close-up:


Maple Blooms

Look carefully and you’ll see buds, too. Here’s what new maple leaves look like:


Maple Leaflets

After clambering around on the riverbank for awhile, I wanted to see what wildflowers were emerging in the woods, so head up the hill to find out. My particular quarry was the trout lily, one of my favorite springtime flowers. But instead, I found this:


Claytonia caroliniana

Carolina spring beauty, or Claytonia caroliniana, is one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in Adirondack woods. Here it’s growing near a small patch of Canada mayflowers, Maianthemum canadense, which is a member of the lily family. The spring beauties grow in clusters, and their leaves and blossoms are enjoyed by deer and small woodland mammals, but despite that, this flower thrives. Not far away, highlighted by the sun filtering over a steep slope, were these false solomon’s seals:


False Solomons Seals

Maianthemum racemosum is prolific in the rich woods overlooking The River. And right nearby were more Canada mayflowers:


Canada mayflowers

Bushwhacking was nerve-wracking, because new growth was peeking out everywhere, and I didn’t want to tread on the delicate leaves or blooms. I carefully picked my way back to the hard-packed trail, but wildflowers were not far away. This common blue violet was but one of many growing right up to the trail:


Common blue violet

Viola papilionacea has beautiful leaves, too. Their heart-shaped leaves grow in clusters and are a sure identifier before the blooms emerge. Further down the trail, I rounded a bend and found an entire wooded hillside dotted with red trilliums.


Red trilliums

Each bloom faced The River, not the sun, and I wonder about that. Turning to face The River myself, I think I know the reason. A gentle, hardly perceptible mist came up the hillside, no doubt the dispersed spray of the falls.


Red trilliums

The red trilliums are numerous this year, and can be found in expansive dispersal over hillsides, or in small groupings, and even singly.


Red trilliums

Then, not far down the trail, I found white trilliums facing The River’s falls.


White trilliums

The sun highlighted their wide petals and beautiful green leaves.


White trilliums

Their three petals and three leaves give away the reason for their name.


White trilliums

The rapids’ roar filled my ears, but not too far downriver I could just hear the persistent song of a bird. The subtleties of the song eluded me, so I went in search of its maker. As I put the rapids behind me and got closer to the songster, I could tell it was one of the sparrows, but being unable to see the bird, I couldn’t be sure which sparrow. He flitted in the top of a hemlock, teasing me. But then I looked down at the base of the neighboring beech, the sun having glinted off something yellow in my peripheral vision. At last! A lovely cluster of trout lilies.


Trout Lilies

Their speckled leaves pop out everywhere in the woods, and I’ve been seeing them for a week or so, but no luck with the golden yellow blooms. It took the guidance of a sparrow to find them off the trail, hidden in a dip in the mixed woods.


Trout Lily

Thanks to the sparrow’s song I discovered my quarry. Rain clouds moved overhead and I felt the first sprinkles. Time to pack the camera away and head back home.


Rain CLouds

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