Outtakes: Dyken Pond/Snow Train

I’ve had a couple more peices up at All Over Albany, on Dyken Pond and the Saratoga & North Creek Snow Train. Go ahead, check those out, I’ll wait.

Dyken Pond was a surprise. I’ve visited most of the environmental centers in the area but had no idea Dyken Pond existed or was as interesting as it is — and I sort of grew up in Rensselaer county. Totally my fault. I didn’t visit at the best time, but I’ll blame that on the weather, there should have been some snow already. It looks like a great place to snowshoe and I’m eager to visit again in the spring for the vernal pond and fall for what should be an impressive color show. Some stuff that didn’t make it into the AOA article:

Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center

This is a “pufball” mushroom, likely Morganella pyriformis. Pyriformis is one of the few puffballs that grow on wood, in fact decomposing the wood as part of their life cycle. I can’t be absolutely sure of the classification but it’s a safe bet. These are smaller than they seem, only about a centimeter across — I was using a 35mm lens on tubes for ninja macro performance.

Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center

This was by far more interesting to me, maybe because I’m easily amused. On the right you see a quartz vein, all over you see moss and some lichen. This tells a story, albeit a long, protracted, and uneventful one. Under all the moss to the left is likely granite, though I didn’t scrape it off to check. Lichen and moss are known as pioneer species and in cases like this one are successional. See, lichen is a symbiosis of algae and fungus — basically something you really do not want on your feet. The fungus gives the algae a hospitable place to live and in return the algae photosynthesizes and provides the fungus with some food. As someone way smarter than me once said, lichens are fungi who’ve developed agriculture.

But fungi eat more than just algae poop, they can actually slowly decompose minerals, and being extremely hardy they can colonize and live on mineral deposits — what we usually call “rocks”. So lichen actually turn rocks into soil over a long period of time, and eventually mosses are happy to call that soil home. So long lichen, thanks for all the hard work. So, why did I find the above quartz and moss interesting? Lichens are able to colonize and break down certain rock types much more easily than others, and this is a perfect illustration. Lichens can live on quartz, but it’s much easier for them to live on the granite in which we often see quartz veins. The boundary you see is there because of the particular adaptability of the lichens paving the way, and if that doesn’t quite blow your mind, this colonization likely started hundreds of years ago. It takes a long, long time for lichens to turn rock into a suitable home for moss.

Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center

There’s lots of other geeky sciencey naturey stuff at Dyken Pond, like glacial erratics. These are massive boulders that ice sheets just decided they didn’t want anymore so they just kind of left them all over the Northeast. It’s glacier trash that gets in our way, which is kind of funny but not really seeing as our trash is sort of destroying what’s left of glaciers. Whoops.

The Snow Train, now that was fun. As the AOA editors mentioned at the end, this was a media junket, which I’m not completely comfortable with. You just can’t honestly evaluate something you’re not paying for, but I took the time to talk to the poor schmucks who did pay (okay, that’s unfair, they were really nice), to help get an idea if riding in the dome car was worth it or not. When the train stopped over a mist-covered river lit with the golden Adirondack sunrise and everyone jumped toward the windows to take photos, I had my answer.

Snow Train

As I mentioned in the piece, if you aren’t hitting the runs you aren’t getting your full money’s worth, but I enjoyed riding the gondola up and stomping around. Way in the past I took three snowboard lessons and decided careening down a mountain in winter was not for me, so I’m fascinated by ski/snowboard culture and particularly life at the top of the run.

Gore Mountain

I tried to get as many candid, street-style photos as I could, but even a breakfast Bloody Mary didn’t loosen the pressure of being on assignment, so stuck mainly to what I knew would run. We were also on something of a schedule, but I tried to get an honest look at life on slopes. It’s definitely something I want to go back and spend more time with.

Gore Mountain

I like North Creek more than it may have seemed in the AOA piece. It’s a small Adirondack town that’s kept its individuality in the face of being a tourist destination — Gore may not be nationally known but it’s one of the more popular mountains in the east. Compare that to somewhere like Lake Placid, which is a blatant tourist trap. The people are great and honestly happy to see you. We stopped at Marsha’s, advertising the best burger in town, for lunch. We were the only table, but the burger didn’t disappoint, especially for the price. Medium rare came out perfectly medium rare and it was not just a preformed Sysco patty. As we walked out, the staff were playing cards on the bar, and after leaving I knew I should have stopped and taken a few photos, even if it meant switching lenses and mounting a flash. But once the idea came to me, I felt too self conscious to go back and ask, so I filed it away in the endless folder of “things to remember for next time”.

Barking Spider, North Creek NY

After some shopping and sightseeing we whiled away another hour or so at the Barking Spider, which I absolutely, 100% recommend visiting if you’re in North Creek. This is the townie bar. We were mostly ignored — probably because I’m not the most outgoing person — which I respect. The pickled eggs were fantastic. PBR cans are $2, and there’s a giant fish with a clock hung at one end of the bar and a huge wooden spider with a couple hundred dollars of small bills signed by patrons behind it. I love that place.

North Creek NY

Unfortunately, as you can read in the article, the trip didn’t end as well as it could have. The vast majority of my traveling companions, most of whom had paid for the thing, were still in good spirits. I used that as further anecdotal data (hah) that the trip is worth it, and had I spent $80 I would still feel that way. Riding in that dome car is great, giving a view of the Adirondacks that’s impossible otherwise. If we get some more snow I’ll probably take the $55 dome car round trip and just chill in North Creek. And if they continue the service year-round, it’ll be a great way to get up to to some rafting, hiking, and camping.

I know posts have been few and far between. I’ve got a few things up my sleeves, stay tuned. Thanks for reading.

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One thought on “Outtakes: Dyken Pond/Snow Train

  1. Tim

    Look at you bringing science and photography together for the masses.

    “after leaving I knew I should have stopped and taken a few photos, even if it meant switching lenses and mounting a flash. But once the idea came to me, I felt too self conscious to go back and ask, so I filed it away in the endless folder of “things to remember for next time”

    Why hello familiar feeling. I know you well!

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