Fire Tower Trail, Allegany State Park
Sometimes when the world is weighing down heavily on your shoulders, the only thing that helps is a little escape… a chance to walk, explore, breathe crisp Autumn air. A chance to surround yourself with the familiar, yet be open to the novel.
The Art Roscoe Ski area at Allegany State Park is a wonderful place for cross-country skiing in winter. Turns out, it is also a wonderful place for hiking when there is no snow.
Fire Tower at the Art Roscoe Ski Area, Allegany State Park
A side trail runs parallel to the main trail and takes you to a Fire Tower. I pushed my fear deep down into my boots and climbed the stairs, hoping for a glorious vista from the top. There were hand rails and the stairs were sturdy. Still, my heart pounded hard and my breath came in short, shallow fits.
It was indeed worth it! The view from the top was spectacular and very much justified the climb.
The Allegany “Mountains” are really a big old ocean bed that was carved out over time by melting glacier water and various other forms of erosion. When you climb up for a view from the top, you can see that all the “peaks” are the same height.
View from the Top
It was helpful to have my hiking buddy in front of me on the descent… much easier looking at his backpack than at the steep stairs that went on and on. Back on the ground, it took a while before the adrenaline left my muscles and I could relax again… and turn my attention from big sweeping views to the forest’s minutiae.
A tiny moth kept trying to hide from me under the leaves...
Most of the Sweetwater trail is wide and in winter two trails for skiing are groomed making for fast, easy skiing. Along the way we found a narrower trail that crossed Sweetwater. Always favoring the road less travelled, we took a right hand turn.
Loose and peeling bark is back-lit by the Autumn rays.
It was late afternoon and the long, slanting rays of the sun were golden, creating vibrant, colorful mini-landscapes.
The log we chose to rest on was decorated with a familiar "Icicle Fungus"
A bit further down the trail, there was an opening and the combination of “plant” life was simply delightful… Some I recognized and knew the names of… Others I recognized, but have no names for… And one brand new! (I put the word plant in quotes… because back when I studied biology the first time, there were only two kingdoms: Plants and Animals. And under that scheme… all these things would have been classified as plants…)
Lichens and Mosses
The first thing I noticed was a thick carpet of lichens – some 6 or 8 inches tall, punctuated with mosses competing for space. Tucked in here and there were mushrooms… so bitty it would have been easy to miss them altogether…
A tiny mushroom manages to pop up through the thick mat of moss and lichen.
A little trail nibble was provided by a patch of Wintergreen that was sharing the soil with the others.
Wintergreen... not the juiciest of berries... but a very pleasant flavor.
Very near the bushy-shrubby type lichens were stalks that resembled small cups on stems, decorated with a bit of red. I’m not sure if they are a structure of the the shrubby type, or a whole separate species…
This seems to match other photos I have found labeled "Lesser Sulpher Cup Lichen."
And then there were the Lycopodium…
These little "club mosses" or "ground pines" are considered "exploitatively vulnerable" in New York State. They have been over-harvested for wreath-making.
If I have seen the next one before, it was never in such abundance and so easy to investigate… It warrants several pictures…
Running Club Moss
Oh dear… this post is getting very long and there is still so much more to tell… I guess I’ll click “publish” and tell you more later…