Friday, October 17, 2014

Autumn glory

(Mirror reflections on the Kunjamuk)

I have been nearly in a swoon for the past month over the gorgeous fall foliage this year.  Granted, I always think the trees are beautiful, despite what people say about this or that year being not as nice as another, but this year is stupendous.  I hope you have been able to get out to see the display!

While Bill attended a conference in Orlando, I spent a few days in late September and early October on day outings in the Adirondacks with friends. Karen took me to Speculator to kayak the Kunjamuk River. I almost never carry my camera in my boat, for fear of getting it wet, but I'm sure glad I did this time.  I was in complete awe at every bend of the river. 

(Karen is dwarfed by a brilliant overhanging maple)

Can you see Karen under the arch of this gorgeous maple?   Despite floating aimlessly at times to view the scenery and take pictures, we covered quite a few miles.  We had hoped to get to Elm Lake, but ten beaver dams used up a lot of our time and energy. We were able to stay in our boats and push ourselves through four of them, but we had to get out and climb over six dams hauling our boats behind us.  Apparently, the beaver population is booming in the Adirondack wilderness!

(Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake)

On October first, I took my elderly parents for, what I called, My Grand Boyle Adirondack Fall Foliage Tour. I knew they would love riding through the Adirondacks to places they used to visit.  We stopped at Sarah's Cafe in North Creek for coffee and a bun, visited friends in Indian Lake, walked the short distance into Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, had lunch at the Adirondack Hotel with a view of the water after walking the causeway in Long Lake Village, came back along Indian Lake, and returned to their Saratoga home by way of the Lake Desolation Road.

(one of our favorite campsites at Indian Lake turns golden)

The gray macadam of route 30 literally felt like a thin line parting two walls of red, orange, and yellow, highlighted by dark spruce green.  My mother, father, and I were a tree-crazy trio.  We could barely hold a conversation, because every sentence was punctuated with "did you see that red tree over there?" and "it is sooo gorgeous!"  We decided that, if one of us missed a sight on one side of the road, there was always an equally glorious sight on the other.  Our heads swiveled.

(fallen leaves on a campground path at Indian Lake)

One time, a number of years ago, Bill and I were in Colorado, visiting the high-elevation town of Nederland.  A snow storm of a few days prior melted quickly in the strong sun.  The woman in the visitor's center told me how Colorado's brilliant blue sky always came out after a storm, unlike in the east where gray clouds might hover for days.  Then she said, "You should come here in the fall.  The aspen is beautiful."  I said, "I'm sure it's really pretty," and then added, with a smile, "but I come from the Northeast."  Need anyone say more? You wouldn't catch me leaving this area in late September and into October! 

(Lake Desolation)

My friend, Linda, said that she would like to go to Merck Forest.  Merck Forest is dedicated to teaching sustainable agriculture and forestry.  At 3100 acres, it also has lots of hiking trails.  "My foot is a little sore," Linda said, "so maybe we won't hike Mount Antone this time."  That was fine.  Merck Forest has great variety, all appealing.

(Merck Forest, Rupert, Vermont)

We drove through bucolic Washington County in peak foliage and into Vermont, entering Merck Forest's  maple-lined driveway.  Yellow and red leaves glittered in the bright sunshine, but when we got out of the car and began to walk towards the farm, blasts of chilly wind hit us in the face.  "I need to warm up," Linda said. "Let's hike the mountain," and we set off at a brisk pace.

When we reached the summit and saw miles of rolling hills and mountains below in dappled shades of color, we were glad we hadn't missed this. I have been visiting Merck Forest since childhood, and don't remember ever seeing as far as we could on this day with its clear cold atmosphere.  In addition, we were plenty warm, and Linda said that her foot held up fine. 

(view from the summit of Mount Antone at Merck Forest)

My Tuesday trips of 35 miles, to see my parents, give me a chance to watch the progress of fall color as it spread throughout the Capital Region.  Huge swaths of trees along the Northway glowed in red and gold by the 10th of October. Peak foliage was now close to home.

Sunday's forecast was for a high of 60 degrees and sunny. Bill was ready for a fall outing. We debated where we should get doughnuts.  Should we head east and try the new Cider Belly shop, highly advertised, in downtown Albany, and then continue on to Grafton for a walk around the lake?  Or go southwest, stopping at Indian Ladder Farms for doughnuts and hike a few trails at Thacher Park?  Despite all the good press, I was skeptical of Cider Belly and figured Indian Ladder was a sure bet for good cider doughnuts.  We decided to go southwest.

(Albany County from High Point at Thacher Park)

Indian Ladder Farms has the best cider doughnuts in the area (barring my home made ones!).  Half of the Capital District appeared to agree; the place was mobbed.  We wove our way through the crowd. However, the farm's well-orchestrated and friendly staff made the process of getting doughnuts and cider easy.  Outside, we found a picnic table and had no trouble demolishing our purchase!

Fortified for a walk, we drove up to Thacher Park.  Lots of families were here too, but the park has plenty of room for everyone, and, anyway, I like to see people enjoying the outdoors on a beautiful day.  We continued through the main park area to Thacher North.  Only a couple of cars were in the parking lot.  Scuffling in the leaves and smelling the fall aromas, we hiked the Fred Schroeder Trail to High Point Cliff, making a pleasant three-mile loop.

Again the atmosphere was crystal clear, the view gorgeous, and the colors a mix of bright oranges, yellows and reds with dark green for contrast.  

(Bill walks through a path of gold at Thacher North)

With peak color blazing in the Capital Region, Karen suggested that we take a final paddle for the season and go to nearby Kayaderosseras Creek. We called long time outings leader and friend, Charlie, to guide us, help us spot cars, and to add his pleasant company to our trip.  Charlie had been on the Kayaderosseras in all seasons over many years, and was familiar with every part of the calm gently-flowing creek. Besides the Kayaderosseras itself, we added a side trip to Lake Lonely, and eventually paddled into the exciting swells of Saratoga Lake, ending at the entrance to Fish Creek where one of the cars was parked.

As we parted to drive home, Karen and Charlie were already brainstorming adventures for next year.  It is never too soon to think ahead!

(Virginia paddling on the stream leading to Lake Lonely)

Now, in mid-October, I can see oranges and reds from my back porch, and throughout my neighborhood.  Fall foliage is going by in the north country, but I am stunned by the brilliant color right here at home. I'm still saying "Look at the tree over there!  Isn't it gorgeous?"  My head will be swiveling for another week or so, and I'll continue talking about this year's beautiful fall for a couple of weeks after that.

One of these days, I'll go for a neighborhood walk and pick up some leaves to iron between waxed paper.  The pressed leaves will hang in the kitchen window well into November as a reminder of October's glory. After that, I'll be ready to move into the next season, as winter brings a new beauty.

(it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood)