Sunday, September 02, 2012

Another excerpt from "A Few Summer Days in the Adirondacks: A Natural History of the Adirondack Park"

June 05, Saranac Lake

It is early June and another day dawns, the forest shrouded in fog. The Saranac River flows full and steady through the village of Saranac Lake. A pair of brown, velvet-furred mink cavort along its stone-lined banks, seemingly oblivious to the wakening town. In the village, lilacs are in full bloom and the trees are full-leaved, plumped by the rains of the preceding days. Red-winged blackbirds stake their claims in the wetlands outside of town, clinging sideways to the puff-topped stalks of last year's cattails, calling out to one another with territorial displays. Concentric circles on still waters of Lake Colby mark the rising of feeding trout.

The forecast is for several days of hot and humid weather, with temperatures into the 80°s. In the not-so-distant past, summers would come and go with rarely a day in the 80°s - at most, a two or three day stretch. But such is no longer the case, as days of sweltering mugginess have become common. To experience such climatic conditions in early June seems to push the envelope of climate in this elevated mountain plain. Climate change theory projects warmer and wetter conditions in the Northeast, although the heavily forested Adirondack region should create its own weather island of cloud-shaded and somewhat cooler landscape. Still, one can expect, with some exception in the worst "heat waves", that nighttime temperatures will fall 20°-30° and make for restful sleeping.

Floodwood Road, near Polliwog & Middle Ponds
GPS: 44°20'25"N 74°22'07"W
Elevation: 1640 feet

In the wet woods, where spruce cover is not so thick as too block out light from reaching the forest floor, ostrich ferns reach 18" tall, near half of their final height. Mosquitoes are thick here and early season dragonflies, smallish and brown, swoop to and fro, hunting down their aerial meal. (Franklin and Essex Counties are known to have over 75 species of dragonflies)

The tangled stems and wide serrated leaves of witchhobble or hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium) flood the forest floor under fir, spruce, and beech. This is one of the most common Adirondack shrubs due to its tolerance for shade and acidic soils. Its white, five-petaled blossoms are mostly gone now, having blossomed forth from Mid-May in umbels of white before unfurling its leaves.

In this mid-elevations, poplars are sowing their fluffy, wind-dispersed seed. In some open areas, along wood roads and shorelines, clouds of poplar “popple” swirl in thick eddies along the ground.

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