Saturday, April 13, 2013

Walks - Looking for spring in three local preserves

After Tuesday's ADK outing, the rest of the week turned colder and wetter, so I still haven't been back on the bike since Sunday.  But I have managed to sneak in a few local walks between the raindrops, hoping to find some early signs of spring.

On Wednesday, I walked a slow loop around the H. G. Reist Sanctuary in Niskayuna.  Although there were birds everywhere, the only wildflower I saw was the prolific skunk cabbage that always grows here.  It hadn't leafed out yet, and only the flowers were visible, much like we'd seen the day before.

On Thursday, I took a long walk in the Mohawk River State Park and the adjacent John Brown Trail System, also in Niskayuna.  Here, I started to see the first leaves of the trout lily as well as the leaves of a few violets.  No flowers here yet either.

Today, with showers in the forecast for later in the day, I visited the Plotterkill Preserve before lunch.  There's a really good map here on Ed Atkeson's extensive Plotterkill blog, and I'll be referring to it here as I continue.

I parked at the lower entrance on Lower Gregg Road, and headed up the north rim to the yellow side trail leading to the "Step Falls", the group of 3 small triangles on the map.  The trails were muddy, but hey, it's spring, so it's to be expected.  The upper Step Falls was almost submerged by the raging waters.

Upper Step Falls
 Across the stream was a pretty tributary, usually dry in the summer, but flowing nicely today.

Near upper Step Falls
I continued downstream as far as I could, and reached the middle Step Falls.

Middle Step Falls
There was really no way to continue along the stream from here, so I retraced my steps back up to the rim, and continued upstream to the next yellow side trail.  This one led me to Sergeant's Falls.

Sergeant's Falls and tributary
Sergeant's Falls and tributary
Again, I was stymied along the stream bank, so I headed back up to the rim and the red trail to retrace my steps back to the car.  Along the way, I saw the first wildflowers of the spring, some colts foot growing on an exposed mud slide part way down into the gorge.

Colts foot
At this point I thought I was down for the day.  But then I again noticed a pretty significant roar and lots of white water down below.  It was the other unnamed group of 4 small triangles on the map.  There's no trail to these falls, but they sounded worth a trip, so I found a relatively gentle way down, being very careful, and reached an amazing spot deep in the gorge.  I was standing near a big bend in the stream, below rocky cliffs on both sides.

View downstream from just above the upper four-triangle falls
Working my way downstream as far as I dared, and before reaching towering cliffs above me, I came to the next set of four-triangle falls:

View upstream from below second falls
Once or twice, long ago, I walked the entire gorge during times of low water, and must have passed here before.  But I'd never seen it like this, and was glad I'd come down in the gorge to see it.

Now I was done, and it was time for lunch, so I headed back to the car.  As I was driving home, I noticed a deer tick crawling up the outside of my pants, and quickly disposed of it.  It's that time of year, and they're definitely on the prowl.  Be careful out there!

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