I took a solo kayaking trip on Lake Red Rock today, the first time I have been here since before freeze-up last November (and since my recent return from a trip to New Zealand). Disregarding traffic on the Mile-Long Bridge, I was the only person on the 20,000-acre lake (unsurprisingly as today was Easter Sunday). Roughly equating to a population density of one person per 30 square miles, it qualifies today as a "frontier" environment (based on the historically applied but admittedly flawed definition of six or fewer people per square mile). Frontier or not, the mix of solitude and scenery made for a wonderful first paddle of the year.
Serviceberries on the bluffs were bursting with blossums. Spring wildflowers covered the forest floor, looking from a distance like snow dropped by a late-season flurry. I went ashore, first wading ankle-deep in water and then ankle-deep in spring beauties, Dutchman's-breeches, and rue anemones.
|Dutchman's-breeches and rue anemone (above);|
spring beauty (right)
Circling back to my waiting kayak, I also found a member of an ancient flora: a fossilized scale-tree (Lepidodendron) weathering out of Pennsylvanian bedrock, slowly breaking out of its 300-million-year old prison of lithified mud.
Paddling further along the bluffline, I encountered a long section of soft shale and crumbly sediments capped with fragile loess, the whole slope severely undermined and collapsing from the erosive action of destabilizing rises and falls of the lake level in recent years. Trees that had only recently been part of a blufftop forest were now strewn on the bare slopes and floating like shipwrecks in the water beneath them.
Detached from blufftop cutbanks, numerous chunks of soil had slumped downslope, some carrying cargoes of wildflowers.
Although devastating to the existing bluffs and their blufftop vegetation, and diminishing the capacity of the lake to serve its intended function of water storage, I nonetheless marvel at the sheer power demonstrated by the mass wasting, a geological process unleashed by impoundment of the river, acting out its own plan for reshaping the landscape in ways unintended by its human designers.
Taking an opportunity to learn from the misfortune of the big trees, I paddled to the shore and examined their uppermost branches, now hanging conveniently above the waterline at deck level. Lichens on tree branches and insect galls on twigs and leaves on tall trees are typically out of reach of human observers; naturalists who are curious about such things must either climb up into the tree tops or opportunistically wait until treetops come down to them...like now. With only a few seconds of searching, I found two galls.
|Oak Petiole Gall Wasp|
|Round Bullet Gall Wasp|
Both galls are caused by tiny wasps, one that lays its eggs on woody twigs of white oak trees (Round Bullet Gall Wasp), the other that lays its eggs in the leafstalk (petiole) of oak leaves (Oak Petiole Gall Wasp). (My thanks to naturalist Charley Eiseman for identifying these.)
Out of time for additional exploring, I paddled back to the ramp, finding that a friend had left a gift on the windshield of my car. Two others showed up as I was securing my boat to the car rack and welcomed me back from New Zealand. In more ways than one, I am glad I have returned to Red Rock.