I though I had seen all what Harriman State Park near NYC provided, but a week ago, I saw something there that gave me goosebumps… and the urge to post about it, as a warning to other hikers in the area. So, this is what awaited me at the white trail right by the Pine Meadow Lake:
Yes, a rattlesnake! Curiously enough, when we were hiking towards the lake the day before, Sergei wondered if we should watch out for snakes. None of us had seen venomous snakes in the area (but I did report on non-venomous snakes in the previous blogpost about Harriman), and I noted they were actually pretty rare in New York State. But I was lucky to see one on the way back.
Well, when I said I was ‘lucky’ to see it, I really meant it and for two reasons. First of all, if you see a snake, you are more than likely to be safe, unless it is a spitting cobra. Snakes don’t have any reason to bite humans unless they feel threatened… which mostly happens when we do not see them and step on them. Second, it was a rare for New York State timber rattlesnake, a threatened species actually; threatened, in wildlife conservation terms, otherwise it looked magnificently calm. This was probably the third reason why I felt lucky to see it, I was thrilled to take some photos of it, there was indeed something hypnotic about its gaze.
Was it daydreaming looking in the clouds?
Or was it waiting for a hiker to bite? Seriously though, I was concerned that the next hiker might be not that attentive and could step on it. I hesitated on whether to try to scare it off the trail or just leave it alone. I took a loooong stick and knocked on the rock near the snake, to which it moved slowly and took the tongue out to get a sense of what was happening around.
It still seemed to be very calm, so I decided not to disturb it anymore and leave it alone without making it aggressive (and feeling threatened!). The best thing I could do was warning the next hikers on the trail about it (just one couple), I hope they took it seriously coming from a naked guy! But again, if there was anything that the rattlesnake wanted to get a bite of, it was rather something like this toad – easier to swallow and digest.
Later on the same trail, I saw a much more dramatic episode from arthropod life. See this little hole in the ground covered by moss? It’s a home of a cricket, but not for too long!
First, I noticed an ichneumon wasp carrying a paralysed spider heading towards the hole. I immediately recognised it, because by coincidence, ichneumon wasps were mentioned in the chapter of the book that I was reading on that day in the morning – ‘The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution‘ by Richard Dawkins. He mentioned that young Darwin was disgusted by their behaviour, which made him wonder about presence of any kind of ‘morality’ in nature, as they lay eggs in paralysed but still alive victims that are later being eaten alive by the larvae! But in the end, nature is neither moral or immoral, it is amoral… So, my amoral ichneumon wasp left her paralysed spider aside and went to check on the hole.
That’s when I saw the cricket, the wasp clearly didn’t want its company, and the cricket left.
By the time the wasp went to pick up the paralysed spider, the cricket returned to the hole; now the wasp put the spider closer and went into the hole again.
It must have been much clearer with the cricket this time, as it left the hole and jumped away immediately. Finally, the was could bring the spider in the hole…
Well, if it was only that easy! She didn’t think much about what side she should have carried it first (I bet she should have pull it from the head first), but eventually she managed to pull it down in the hole… and do her dark deeds, for which I (thankfully) couldn’t be a witness anymore.
To continue with the insect topic, there was one type that I was particularly hyped about this summer – cicadas. 2013 was the year for the East Coast brood of 17-year periodical cicadas to come out.
Here is a great video about them.
I thought Harriman State Park would be an ideal place to camp out with the cicada noise on the background, but we haven’t found a place where they’d be as abundant as on the video above.
However, we saw some blueberry bushes with a lot of exoskeletons shed by cicada nymphs after molting, and I even noticed one on the top of a dry tree at the final stage of molting (just like the video explained),
but there was no such overwhelming background noise as I expected; maybe our timing was wrong.
Now, periodical cicadas are gone underground for another 17 years, but while hiking in Harriman last time, we noticed that the grasshoppers were particularly plentiful.
To finish off with the insects for now, here a pretty furry moth – looks more like a winter outfit to me.
By the way, blueberry bushes were not only full of cicada nymphs but of the fruit too! I’m not posting more photos with blueberries as I did enough last year – luckily, these do not come about only every 17 years! There are also some other fruits that will ripen later in summer.
These are fruits of hickory; they are related to walnuts and pecans, but depending on a species may be too bitter to be eaten… there is only one way to find out.
And these are witch hazels; despite the name, witch hazel is not related to hazelnuts but is edible and has some medical properties too.
Here is a couple of odd trees from the last hike.
I mentioned Canada geese at Silver Mine Lake in my first blogpost about Harriman, but this summer we saw some young ones too
and they were really cute.
It is funny though, that in my first blogpost I used Canada geese as an example of an animal less menacing than a bear (we saw one in Harriman in 2011), and I still think they are, but one of them got particularly friendly with us, especially with Christian. Well, friendly is probably not the right word as it was very attracted to his toes and a couple of times tried to bite them! Christian was lucky though it was a foot fetishist goose
Not that it looked really dangerous, but it might have been a serious bite, judging by the strong beak and spiky tongue of the goose.
After that scary incident, I had to meditate in tranquility to feel safe again.
You can actually find some very cozy places to sit and reflect about life
or simply enjoy the view.
Mountain laurels were in full bloom by mid-June, and Lake Skannatati looked particularly picturesque.
This summer is apparently wetter than usual, and you could tell by the waterfall at the dam of Lake Skannatati. Not that it couldn’t be blocked by two strong men
We also noticed some drastic changes downstream, probably due to the storm Sandy, but it still provided a great background for photos.
Well, that’s about it for now, it was quite a diversion from my plans to start posting about my bike trip in California last summer. This was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen, I loved it how the sun was going down behind the trees on the hill and you could still see it.
PS There probably will be another blogpost before Californian series, as I just got fully body-painted at Times Square yesterday!