By Jelane A. Kennedy
Spring flowers come in many forms, the domestic and the wild. This spring while on an urban hike in downtown Albany we enjoy the domesticated splendor of spring renewal. Our urban hike started in the Pine Hills neighborhood. What was different about city hiking was that most of the time my footfalls land on concrete. Which was hard and not very forgiving but efficient for getting places. The sounds are of primarily of trucks and cars with a few birds in between. Animal sightings are primarily of squirrels and chipmunks, along with various types of dogs from a variety of breeds. There are quite a few less trees but usually a lot more buildings. But beauty is always in the eye of the beholder; one of the things I enjoy about city hiking is the variety of different styles of architecture. I also found it fascinating to see the ways we claim space, how are our lawns decorated, what makes a home?
On this day we walked about a mile and a half to Washington Park. We passed by two college campuses, The College of Saint Rose and part of SUNY Albany. Saint Rose has many Victorian homes on-campus and has in the past 10 years increased the garden space adding to the quaint feeling of a small campus nestled into the big city. SUNY Albany’s campus has large stone buildings that feel imposing and institutional, since the campus is spread out over the city it is hard to get a sense of the unity of the campus. The section we walked by is an older part of the campus with large red brick buildings typically several stories high. The landscaping doesn’t catch your eye as much as the grand buildings.
Our destination, Washington Park is an old park with large deciduous trees, open grassy spaces and a wonderful pond with an outdoor amphitheater that hosts multiple music and theatre events through the year. Each summer a musical theatre production is available for free in the park under the stars.
But this day we were headed to the gardens by the Moses statue. The statue and fountain stand in a large open area with a bank of garden plots of various sizes and shapes. The area around the statue and fountain hosts the annual Tulip Festival. This year was one of the rare years when all of the tulips were up and showing off their glorious colors all at the same time. The landscape was a riot of color across the color wheel, one area after another. The gardens were crowded with people taking pictures and drinking in the affect. The skies were clear after the rain earlier, giving the day a fresh feeling. We saw children running from flowerbed to flowerbed with excitement. There was also an older gentleman sitting in his lawn chair perched by one of the plots just taking in the sights and sounds.
This was all in contrast to the following day when we took a solitary hike to Gull Pond up in the Schroon Lake Region of the Adirondack Park. The hike to Gull Pond was short and sweet about a half mile in. It was not a strenuous hike. There are a few inclines but overall it was a pleasant trip to the pond. We like this hike because it is great for a quick jaunt and the rewards are well worth the hike. I think many people skip this hike because it is short. For us on a busy day, it is a great pick me up hike.
On this day the bright green leaves of the trees and bushes were beginning to unfurl as each new leaf was being born. The air was crisp and smelled earthy. Ferns were spreading out there palms. To our surprise we found a network of burgundy trillium along the dirt path down to the pond. This was the first time we had hiked to Gull Pond so early in the season. In the past we had come in the summer (this was a run to the pond because of the density of bugs), again in late fall and finally snowshoeing in winter. The quiet subtly of the spring wildflowers we saw contrasted to the rambunctious sense of the domestic tulips of the day before. If you are not careful you could walk by as the flowers tip their heads down a bit hiding under their leaves. There beautiful star shape was a treat.
Ultimately the hike led us to the pond, which was full of life. Unexpectedly we found many tadpoles swimming about along with salamanders. I am always struck by the green and dirt path that leads me to an incline that opens to the pond with a massive rock wall. There isn’t a path around the pond that I’ve found and it seems like little access to even launch a boat. It always feels very enclosed in a comforting way.
Two days, two very different hikes but the beauty of nature in both places was soothing to the soul.
(c) 2014 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran