Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bennett Hill, Part 4

The dogs and I were hiking the Bennett Hill trail in Clarksville, New York, just outside of Albany. It's a steep-sided, flat-topped hill which is a botanical and ornithological treasure. This is the fourth and final post from our hike. We were already on top the hill and I was exploring the trails and watching for Pink Lady's-Slippers. Alas, I never found any, but I did find lots of other flowers in bloom. I also saw this brilliant orange fungus on a dead tree. I did a Google search later, hoping to find some clue to its identity but still all that I know is that it's a pretty orange fungus. I guess that will just have to be enough:

The trail circles the circumference of the mesa-like hill, but I took the dogs into the center areas, still hoping to find Lady's-Slippers in bloom. There's no trails in the interior, but much low vegetation which made walking easy. In one past excursion on this hill, my dog Jed ran off and I found him worrying a porcupine. But when I pulled him away, I also found quills in his mouth and jaw. So I held him down and pulled them out there on the spot. The friends who were with me thought I was being cruel, but Jed suffered no consequences from the quills, probably because I'd handled it so promptly. Besides, what alternative would there have been?

Anyway, we saw no porcupines on this hike. In this picture, Seamus is leading the way and that green patch near him is mostly low-bush blueberries:

I walked through many blueberry meadows and around pines and birches in search of interesting natural sights:

Seamus and Daphne are now great buddies and enjoy being together. Seamus is so gentle that he'll allow her to walk all over his body and pull a rawhide chewie out of his mouth. It's a darn good thing for all of us that he's such a well behaved dog:

Fergus got a little high strung and overly excited. When he detected anger in my voice, he began keeping his distance. So I made my voice more calm and put him on a leash for a while. Actually, I wasn't sure if it was the tone of my voice or some other phenomenon to which he reacted. He became very skittish and worried about something. But whatever it was, a quiet walk on his leash soothed and calmed him:

This scene was lovely. The blooming bush was a Japanese Honeysuckle and the blooming tree was a Black Cherry:

If you are wondering why Daphne is in this odd position, it's because she was jumping up and down trying to catch bumble bees. I, of course, was hoping she wouldn't catch one. Luckily, neither dog nor bee was hurt in this episode:

I was still searching for Lady's-Slippers when I saw a bright purple something or other in a patch of low vegetation. I thought it might be a food wrapper or something, so stooped down for a closer look. It was a tiny flower which looked very much like an orchid. I looked it up when I got home and discovered that it was a Fringed Polygala, Polygala paucifolia. It's not an orchid, but commonly mistaken for one. In fact, it's listed with orchids in my field guide. It's also called Gaywings or Flowering Wintergreen. It was an exciting discovery for me. In this photo, you tell how tiny it was by comparing with the dry oak leaves and grass plant nearby:

The time came when we headed back down the trail towards our parked car and through the varying forest types. I set my camera on a log and snapped our photo just for fun:

And we passed by the cow pastures once again, with the hills of rural Albany County in the distance:

When we arrived back at the trail head, I found this plaque on a boulder:

That roof you see in the grass was at one time a kiosk where a trail map was displayed. I suppose its supports had rotted out over the years. That house across the road is abandoned and is also rotting away:

The trail head is located in a meadow and the dogs did a bit of romping. Their play would have made a great dog food commercial:

When the hike was over and we were back in the car traveling home, I passed through the small and historic town of Clarksville. I hadn't planned to take any photos but couldn't resist this one house. On one side of the house was a statue of a dinosaur with a stick keeping its head from drooping:

And on the other side of the house was this sign designating it as a historic landmark. Our hike was over and I headed on home to sort through photos and identify flowers. I have one more video, however, which I'll post at the bottom:

This is a quiet video, with not much happening. But it helps to give the flavor of the sights and sounds atop Bennett Hill:

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