turkey and mushrooms in the woods of Harriman State Park

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After seeing the title of this blogpost, you probably pictured a naturist picnic at Harriman State Park for Thanksgiving – but no, this wasn’t the case. I had a traditional (and clothed) dinner. However, the Thanksgiving meal reminded me of sighting a few wild turkeys in the woods of Harriman park this past summer, so this is kind of a bonus to the previous post about my favorite outdoors spot around NYC.

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This was a fairly large group of adult females with the offspring – I shot just a few of them (I refer to photography). How many can you spot here? Turkeys camouflage pretty well, and if not the noise they had made running away from me, I wouldn’t have noticed them. I had seen wild turkeys on other occasions, but this was the first time I managed to take a photo of them. It could be sharper, but in my defense it was getting dark and they moved fast.

Another animal that I finally saw and photographed this summer was a snapping turtle.

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I can imagine a few male readers cringe thinking that this is the same lake where we swim naked, but snapping turtle is quite a secretive animal and wouldn’t try to hunt you. I was happy to snap a photo of this prehistoric-looking creature though.

And if we talk about ancient animals, there are some more peculiar creatures, like the pretty impressive moss animal Pectinatella magnifica!

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Here is a pretty big colony from the Turkey Pond (I have some photos of us swimming there in the previous post, but that time we didn’t have a waterproof camera).

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These look somewhat like corals but are not related to them (well, not any more than us).

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And here is an American five-lined skink. It’s a young individual, as it still has blue colors. Adult males apparently have a red head, similar to another species of skink that I showed in the previous post.

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Chipmunk is nothing special in North America, but I like this photo of one sneaking out from under the rock.

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And again, with the reference to the previous post, I just mentioned there that I wished I had known local mushrooms – and this summer I finally started using the Audubon app to detect mushrooms, and we collected quite a lot of them on several hikes:

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e.g., chanterelles

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and various boletes in June around Pine Meadow lake. Actually I used some of the boletes right away for making a soup there.

In early October, Li and I ventured to a new lake for me – Island Pond, and one area on its shores was incredibly rich in boletes!

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These are no magic mushrooms, but they make a great soup.

Well, enough of naturalist photos, here is a couple of naturist ones:

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On the way to the Island Pond, there was a tree of a weird shape – almost perfect for taking a nap, if only it was softer.

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And right by the lake, there was the most interesting ruin that I’ve seen in Harriman park so far – a pretty well preserved fireplace with a chimney.

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I see some more photo opportunities for the future 😉

Harriman State Park? Anytime!

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I’ve written about Harriman State Park near New York City on multiple occasions, but I guess you won’t be surprised that I’m at it again, given that it is the most accessible location for me where I can enjoy and explore nature “as nature intended”. So as Sandy Hook has become my default beach and the latest post about it proved it’s good anytime of the day, Harriman is my default outdoors location, which I find to be great anytime of the day – and I’d like to say anytime of the year, but I’ll have to limit this statement to spring, summer and autumn, as I haven’t been there in winter.

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Last October wasn’t so warm, but we did snatch a nice hike with some skinny dipping. I have some pictures of autumnal skinny dipping in another post, but here are just great views all the way up to Manhattan (Didn’t I say it was close? The photo is pretty zoomed in though.)

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It was nice to see all those bright colors, though frankly I prefer summer green (compare to this photo of Pine Meadow Lake view from a previous post). (Not to mention that I like swimming in those lakes when it’s warm, but we’ll get there.)

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Still, the autumn colors were spectacular, especially in contrast to the dark sky on that day.

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But it’s not like summer doesn’t offer more colors than “50 shades” of green. Here is the photo of the same islet on the Pine Meadow Lake with mountain laurels’ white-pink bloom a week ago.

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And here is a close-up of one of those:

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these bushes provide a fabulous backdrop for naked hiking 🙂 (And again, you can see more of such photos in an earlier blogpost.)

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Pink and purple tones seem to be particularly fashionable in Harriman:

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I’ll be happy if my more botany-inclined readers will identify these plants for me,

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but anyone can surely appreciate their beauty.

These wild roses also smelled sweet,

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and probably to preserve that smell they close for the night, when insects wouldn’t visit them anyways.

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And even young oak leaves in the beginning of May were of purple tones too.

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But some berberis shrubs bring the intensity of the color to the next level!

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And you can see an occasional red-leaved branch in the end of the summer, standing out among the greenery of the rest of the forest.

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The leaves of the plant below are usual green, but the shape is quite interesting, as if the tips were cut by someone.

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And some more flowers from this spring-beginning of summer:

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viola,

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berberis (green this time),

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and multiple white-blooming trees;

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blueberry bushes also bloomed intensely this year, so we can expect a nice blueberry season later in summer.

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Plants aren’t the only ones to please your eyes with bright colors in Harriman State Park:

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orange juvenile newts (efts) are a common sight in the beginning of summer,

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and we also saw an orange frog!

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This frog from last summer was not conspicuous at all though,

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but I wanted to take a picture of it, as it still had not finished its metamorphosis and featured a long tail.

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But then there was also a lizard with an orange head, a broad-headed skink:

I waited quite a bit for it to come out from the whole between the rocks,

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and it was worth it.

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And again, for contrast, here is a less conspicuous reptile, but at the same time a lot larger and dangerous.

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Can you see it? If you don’t, check out another blogpost of mine, where I have much better pictures of it.

Usually insects are a part of my nature report, but this time they’ll be represented only by this vaguely seen dragonfly which photobombed a photo of a turkey vulture taken at the Turkey Pond.

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Here is a better picture of a gliding turkey vulture. I’ve also seen wild turkeys there but have never been fast enough to snap a photo of them.

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A lot more exciting though was a sighting of a bald eagle! It was soaring higher than turkey vultures, but its profile was unmistakable. It is even more exciting that I’ve seen this iconic American animal so close to New York City (so as a black bear 3 years ago).

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Even if you don’t see a bald eagle in the sky, the sky itself may present quite a spectacle.

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We witnessed a very colorful sunset last September at Pine Meadow Lake. Just scroll down,

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and see

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how

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colors change

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and eventually

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disappear!

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The sunrise (on another occasion, in July) wasn’t as nearly as colorful,

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but the fog made it mystical.

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Well, and I’m not even nearly done with nature photos for this blogpost! Besides purely esthetically pleasing sightings, Harriman State Park provides a few possibilities for encounters that may be pleasing for the stomach too 😉

I’ve already mentioned blueberries (and have some yummy photos of those in another post),

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but you can also find raspberries and blackberries of different varieties – look for those in the openings in the woods.

This kind of blackberry is my favorite. They usually ripen in August, after blueberries.

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Didn’t I say pink and purple were trendy in Harriman?

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Here is a pink raspberry with purple flowers!

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And even young grape leaves (early May) have a purple rim!

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You can see flower buds on this photo too, so hopefully they will develop into grapes by September, like last year. They aren’t as sweet as cultivated grapes, but you can’t be too picky while hiking in the woods – it’s great to have a snack courtesy of wild nature!

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These bright mushrooms below should probably have stayed in the esthetically pleasing category,

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as I am not sure if they are edible, but I want to think they are… I’d like to join the local mycological society to learn about mushrooms in the area on their foraging outings.

mushrooms Harriman State Park

The idea of foraging while backpacking is very appealing on many levels, but one has to be careful, especially with mushrooms.

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But I guess you can’t go wrong with the fish here! Although my father and grandfather are avid amateur fishermen, I haven’t learned much about it.

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Luckily, my new naturist fisher friends were willing to share their catch! I’m yet to buy fishing gear, but meanwhile I’ll enjoy fish as a naturalist.

Most of the fish that you see in the video are sunfish species, and what I like about them is that they are quite tame and even curios about people – they often come close and stare at you, and sometimes nibble (not painfully, don’t worry). Snorkeling at the Pine Meadow Lake may not be as colorful and diverse as at the coral reefs of the Red Sea or in Hawaii, but those friendly sunfish spawning among water lilies make it really interesting.

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I certainly like swimming in the lakes of Harriman park a lot more than in swimming pools, which are easily accessible in New York (including my workplace). Besides having more space, beautiful surrounding and fish to observe, possibility to swim naked is of course another strong factor 😉

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If dogs can do it, why can’t we?

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These lakes are good size if you want to exercise swimming by crossing them forth and back,

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and some of them, e.g. Turkey Pond, have small islands

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providing nice resting spots…

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or nude posing opportunities 🙂

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If you will to carry a kayak with you,

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paddling around is another fun way to explore and experience these lakes,

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and a great exercise for the upper body too.

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And if you want some extreme (well, admittedly, just a hint thereof), there are cliffs at Pine Meadow Lake from which you can dive in the lake.

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Nudity will make it a little more extreme and fun 😉

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But besides exercising and observing nature, such naked outings by the lake provide nice opportunities for social bonding, and we kicked off this season with a good group of 8 butt-naked people.

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We had nice summer weather already in the beginning of May, and the water was warm enough for swimming.

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We were lucky to have one of the nicest spots at Pine Meadow Lake all to ourselves, with perfect flat rocks to sit on just above the water and in the water.

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Splashing

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and talking proved to be a great mix 🙂

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And if you can’t find such nice flat rocks for your rest spot, perhaps a tree will do 😉

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This one turned out to be good as a lounge chair and an observation deck alike!

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And if all those lakes are great destination points, journey to those (hiking) is just as good in its own merit. There are lots of well-maintained and marked trails in Harriman State Park, but bushwalking is fun too.

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Most of the time though we take known trails and consult with the map.

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The terrain and surroundings are quite diverse,

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from soft soil of the woods to rocks and cliffs.

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It’s hard to predict how many people you’ll encounter on the trails,

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but once we were lucky to have even this well-known rock formation all to ourselves.

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And just as a reminder of the “other world” (and proximity to it), once in a while you may get to a viewpoint where you can see Manhattan skyline.

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Such points are great for taking pictures (such as the first one in this post) and rest/stretching alike.

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The greenery of the forest provided a nice background, and while it appeared massive,

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we were quickly reminded about fragility of the ecosystem,

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as we saw traces of the recent wildfire.

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Luckily, it wasn’t that big (though it’s not the only instance, as you’ll see below), and we could continue our hike safely.

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But even the most active naturists need some rest after all this hiking and swimming 🙂

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Sometimes a cup of tea is the only thing needed,

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and sometimes nothing at all – you just feel blessed with what mother nature provided, especially when it is a thick soft layer of moss just at the time when you want to lie down…

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Though not for too long… and if we’re not moving forward in some way, we find another activity;

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trees, dead or alive, serve well as apparatuses for exercises 🙂

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When the evenings get cooler in the end of summer, it’s nice to get the last sun rays before sunset.

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Note the “obelisk”, an erect dry tree trunk in the background… This picture was taken mid-September last year, and this is what it looked like this May:

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Unfortunately, that little peninsula that we liked so much has burned out quite badly, though large trees have survived.

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We discovered traces of exploded camper stove, burnt batteries and parts of a tent, so we speculated that could be how the fire started, though we of course couldn’t tell if all this wasn’t actually the result of wildfire, simply having caught the flame. However, most likely it was a man-made disaster-ish. Regardless, hopefully nobody suffered seriously.

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Not all human activity is devastating of course, and here is an example of some rock painting art.

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Doubtfully it’s older than a century though; I couldn’t find any information online about it, so maybe for a moment we can think we uncovered art from the neolithic era… or maybe someone craftily imitated it last year 🙂

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Well, the ruins of what apparently used to be a pump house by the Pine Meadow Lake are certainly not that ancient, but I couldn’t find much information on that either.

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Regardless, the ruin inspired us for more exercising and posing 🙂

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I think there hardly can be any better combination for photography than decaying constructions being slowly overtaken by nature and nudes!

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I am happy to have captured all this and share it with you, and surely there’ll be more material from this summer!

Autumn colors at the Silver Mine Lake

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I’ve been describing new spots around New York state in the last couple of weeks, but this is from a place that should be familiar to many readers – Silver Mine Lake at Harriman State Park. I just wanted to share some nice pictures with autumn colors, which are quite rare on this blog due to its temperature-sensitive theme 😉

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However, there was a very warm weekend in October that Ramon and I spent there. Saturday felt actually like summer, and I didn’t even take pictures, because I thought I had more than enough from this lake. Only on the next day, when it started raining and was foggy, did it occur to me that it was actually fall time.

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So here are the amazing multicolored leaves

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and the lake itself in the fog.

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It was still surprisingly warm, and we walked around in the buff, feeling the soft drizzle on our skin.

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Here are what Ramon called ‘blending’ photos – blending with landscape.

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The fogged lens gave a nice effect too.

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It was nice to close off hiking and swimming season at Harriman State Park on such a fabulous day! Looking forward to the next one!

wild stuff in Harriman Park, NY

This post will summarize some of our experiences in Harriman State Park, a beautiful woodland just 1-1.5h away from Manhattan (driving or by train + bike).

There are scenic views, numerous lakes, and plenty of wildlife. It is nothing but stunning to have that land of [nearly] unspoiled nature so close to the biggest urban area in US… This fact is only evident by the view from Bear Mountain.

By the way, the name was not given to this mountain in vain – yes, there are bears in the park, and we have even seen one! I have to admit this is not the best photo of a bear – unfortunately it was not close enough to make a good shot, but I just had to add it here as a proof.

Other animals, like the Canada geese on the photos below, might be less unusual for an urban dweller but also appear less menacing.

But before I go on with the list of animals we have seen there, here is a bush that every year turns those woods into a truly fabulous place for about two weeks early June. It is mountain laurel.

In places where mountain laurel is concentrated, e.g. at the Lake Skannatati, its white-to-pink blossom is outstanding.

In the height of its bloom, the woods look more like Garden of Eden than just a wild forest. Of course, you’d feel like wearing nothing but Adam’s (or Eve’s) suit there.

… which provides plenty of opportunities for nice photos. Just wandering around there feels special.

But don’t think it would be the only type of flowers you’ll see there.

Lily Pond is rightfully called so because it is almost entirely covered with water lilies!

Other lakes, on contrary, have totally open surface and clear water, like Second Reservoir

or Silver Mine Lake, for example.

And there are many more lakes.

It is warm enough for swimming from May to October.

If you’re not up for swimming, you can just walk on water.

Seriously! Well, it is just that many of those lakes are reservoirs with dams. It is like those infinity pools but in a natural setting.

Main activity in Harriman Park is hiking, but some trails are good for biking too.

I’d recommend wearing a helmet though.

But of course, it is hard to resist temptation to relax in such a tranquil place… especially when you have a hammock with you.

And especially after some nice food.

By the way, there are some wild fruits there too, like grapes

and blueberries, but better leave those for animals.

And if you bring food with you, make sure not to leave any garbage, it is really disappointing to find any in such a pristine place.

But even if you don’t have a hammock, sitting by the lake will make you forget about all daily troubles.

 

There are also some springs and falls connecting the lakes and reservoirs.

 

After all that chilling, it is definitely worth going for a walk again, and don’t forget your camera for there will be a plenty of opportunities to shoot photograph animals.

There are many colorful insects.

Dragonflies are the easiest to spot, and some come right to you or even on you 😉

Other arthropods that drew our attention were these huge centipede and harvestman.

Recently, we’ve seen this juvenile eastern newt (eft), that had amazingly bright orange skin (they loose the color when they go back to water and mature).

Common Garter snakes are common there indeed (and do not pose any threat).

As in any healthy forest, there is plenty of birds; we’ve even seen some nests with nestlings.

Some of the most common bigger birds are turkey vultures and herons.

The latter probably feast on fish like this school of young catfish.

Most likely you will see some species of sunfish family. There were many nests of theirs at Silver Mine Lake, and it was interesting to see how protective they were around them.

At Lake Skannatati, they could easily hide among water plants but they preferred not to,  perhaps they were even attracted to my underwater camera.

After I mentioned bears, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are some more common mammals, like hares,

raccoons (even though you can see them in Central Park too, it is somehow nicer to see them not feeding off a trash bin),

chipmunks,

and of course deer (white-tailed deer, to be exact).

Seeing a horned stag among all that blossom will make you feel like in a fairy-tale.

As Christian says, you may get to see unicorns coming out of those bushes any moment.