The Black Diamond Trail is a new railroad bed conversion, running eight miles between Cass Park in Ithaca, NY and Taughannock Falls Park, in Trumansburg.  Eventually it will continue south to Treman Park, another eight miles or so.

The trail’s name refers to coal – – the north-south railroads in the Finger Lakes generally ran coal from Pennsylvania, to ships on Lake Ontario, and thence to sooty places around the world.  This particular route of the Lehigh Valley RR also had a luxurious “Black Diamond” passenger service from NYC to Ithaca, and then on to Niagara Falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve sometimes been, well, not entirely complimentary about sumacs. In autumn, they’re quite often looking like the tattered and hungover remnants of a Mardi Gras parade. But they’re unfailingly colorful in the fall, and can look pretty darn elegant in summertime, too.

 

 

The south end of the trail is a bit dull.  A powerline is overhead for a mile, and the cars on Route 89 are visible through the trees.

Serious bikers streak past, unsmiling, bug-eyed goggles, spandex and sinew, their tee-shirts advertising an obscure microbrewery in Rochester.  Both the beer and the cyclists are a bit too hopped-up, looking pretty much oblivious to the waterfalls, wildflowers and views of Cayuga Lake.

 

 

 

 

The aged hippies from Trumansburg glide by at a more sedate pace, on recumbent bikes or ancient Schwinns, “Uncle John’s Band” and “Touch of Gray” audible from their headphones.  They wave, stop to look at the little streams, comb a few bugs out of their gray beards, and offer you a sip of homemade kombucha.  They’re nice, but I don’t drink, afraid I might wake up under a tree, like Rip Van Winkle, wearing mossy old bellbottoms and “California Dreamin” running through my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very soon, the trail becomes nicer. The powerline decides to head west, and it’s just trees overhead.  The trail moves farther and farther from the highway.  An unmarked but well-beaten footpath goes up the hill, alongside a nice stream with lots of little falls.

 

 

 

 

After a while, as we go up the hill, a sound like passing trains or traffic starts coming through the trees.  Past an old picnic area with stone tables, and we’ve come out behind the county hospital.  Huge air conditioners are making the rushing sound.

 

 

 

 

 

Going back down the hill toward the rail-trail, a side trail is covered with matchstick-sized fungus.  Tiny but creepy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re unmoving, but we walk around them, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, Ithaca, Nature, NY, Railroads, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. August. Matchstick Army on the Black Diamond Trail

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In a state chockablock with wonderful parks, Fillmore Glen is one of the best. It’s fairly small, under a thousand acres – basically a cool, shady little gorge, with a series of waterfalls and miniature bridges. Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born near here, and there’s a replica of his log cabin birthplace. He grew up dirt poor, son of a tenant farmer, and the park was constructed by other poor folks, in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. They did an amazing job – picnic pavilions and a lot of the stonework retaining walls, etc. have survived from the 1930’s, despite a number of floods over the years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woods reflected in a pond. It was very still, but there are small ripples throughout the picture, if you look closely.  Last year, they gave a Nobel to some scientists who were able to detect infinitesimal ripples – apparently just good vibrations are surfing through the whole darn universe all the time now.  I have sometimes felt a tingling sensation up my spine, and thought it was the anticipation of eating a jelly doughnut after the hike, but it could be Einstein’s gravitational waves.  Far out, dude, feeling totally amped about this whole ripple thing.

 

 

a picture of exuberance

 

 

 

OK, not taken in August, but the only picture I could find of the first bridge.

 

 

A close call, encountering the dreaded Dark Newt of Doom, and barely surviving. “Only these marishes and myrie bogs, In which the fearefull ewftes do build their bowres, Yeeld me an hostry mongst the croking frogs …”  (The Faerie Queen)

 

 

 

Seriously, can you imagine this little creature inspiring dread? Shame on Spenser for kicking up a skink, perhaps he was thinking of Warty Newts, or had a bad experience with salamanders, after a night tossing back mulled wine.  I know Renaissance folks associated newts and efts with sorcery, but personally, I’m always delighted to spot these cute little guys, and the Eastern Newts really are this bright and colorful, almost fluorescent.

 

 

Toward sunset, the fungi almost seem to glow a bit. Has anyone seen foxfire? I’ve seen bioluminescence in the ocean, but never in the woods.

 

 

 

 

Fillmore Glen is just outside of Moravia, NY, at the south end of Owasco Lake, one of the eastern Finger Lakes.  It’s a sleepy little village, but it produced the industrialist John D. Rockefeller, a U.S. President, and the first president of Cornell University.

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. August, Fillmore Glen

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Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant

Last summer, after a wet spell, I posted some pictures of colorful specimens of toadstools and other fungi, sprouting all over the local woods.

I also included this shot, of a strange non-fungus, “monotropa uniflora,”  called by various names like “Ghost Plant,” “Indian Pipe,” or “Ghost Pipe.”

 

I would not care to hear whatever dark and sinister tune might whisper out of these pale ghost pipes.

From a distance, it has a pale, porcelain prettiness, and the stems are a rather nice pink, but on closer inspection, the overall effect is of an unhealthy, repellent fleshiness.  But perhaps I’m just projecting, because of its vampirish lifestyle.

A lot of fascinating info on Tom Volk’s Fungus Web Page.

[http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi]

My first surprise, was to find out that it’s a herbaceous perennial plant, and somehow related to much more cheerful plants:

cranberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries!

Seems like it would be a strained relationship.

That pale, creepy Uncle Fester we never discuss when the young blueberries are around.

Not only did we find it growing amidst the various fungi, but like them, it lacks chlorophyll.

A parasitic existence, living on fungi.

It’s host fungi, in turn, have a symbiotic relationship to trees, often beeches.

Professor Volk mentions a “one-way flow of carbohydrates,” which immediately brought an image of me in a pasta restaurant.

Given its somewhat creepy appearance, and parasitic nature, its not surprising to find another, creepy, nickname,

“Corpse Plant.”

 

I’ve only seen it a couple of times in my life, and was surprised to find it again, embedded in greenish glass, in the Corning Glass Museum!

This is an amazing glass creation by Paul Stankard, “Cloistered Tri-Level Botanical with Indian Pipe Flower and Spirits”

I’m sorry it’s not a better picture, I photographed it inside a glass case, which could have used a wash.  We know which visitors are making things smeary, we can identify their fingerprints.

 

But if you look closely, you can make out the spirits on the underside of this strange plant.

 

 

Here’s a link to a better image, on the museum website

[www.cmog.org/artwork/cloistered-tri-level-botanical-indian-pipe-flower-and-spirits]

Apparently Native Americans discovered a number of medicinal uses, including a root tea, used as a sedative and soporific.

I don’t experiment with such things, and in this case, doesn’t it look like, as a sleeping aid, it might just work a bit too well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve never seen the mushrooms achieve the size they have this summer. This looked like someone tossed in a big old bath sponge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cap to show the size of these clumps

 

 

 

coexisting nicely

 

 

 

 

An archipelago of coral fungus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, food, hiking, Ithaca, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. September. An archipelago of coral fungus

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“Indian Pipes” or “Ghost Plant”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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red newt.  my friend here, and the fungus photos, taken with an iPhone 5s

 

 

A walk in the woods today, turned out to be a macrofungi field trip.  Still very damp, even mucky in places, after getting eight inches of rain in recent weeks.  All these pictures, with the exception of the second one, were taken within a few hundred feet of each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, Nature, NY, photography, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. July. A Rose by any other name

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Some towns to our west, in Cayuga County, have had flooding recently. Eight inches of rain over two weeks, and the woods are filled with fungus. I know little of wild mushrooms, so no one should rush out to eat this on my say-so, but I think this is what the old folks call “sheepshead”. You can get an idea of size from the oak leaf in the top right corner, of the first photo.  Kind of sloppy ground for walking, but also kind of neat.  So many fungus, almost glowing in the dim woods, it struck me that a coral reef was taking root.  While I was away last summer, there was a drought, and everyone reported on all the little streams that pretty much dried up, but they’re now going full tilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. July. Eight inches of rain

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At the end, looking slimy and a bit the worse for wear,

the Great Puffball addresses his followers for the last time.

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York in October. A Fungus Among Us.

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