Friday, November 12, 2021

Adirondack Dinosaurs

pitcher plant

“Adirondack Dinosaurs are far from extinct. In fact, certain species are quietly expanding their territory, migrating. Ancient carnivores slowly reclaiming what was once their domain. Patiently biding their time while they plot their next move. Watching us. Waiting to reclaim their Adirondack apex predator throne.”

Ever since I was a young boy, there have always been three things I’ve dreamed of being when I grow up: major league baseball player, writer, archeologist.

My major league baseball aspirations were probably best summed up by the year book inscription left to me by our SLHS varsity 1st baseman:

“It was really fun playing baseball with you and you’re not too bad even though you can’t hit worth a damn.”

As to my career as a writer-well- I guess the jury’s still out.

As an archeologist though, I may yet have potential.

I’ve always been fascinated by fossils, cavemen, and all things dinosaur. During my 3rd grade stint in Northville, I joined the local “Rock & Mineral Club”. I remember going on field trips with my rock hammer hoping to unearth a trilobite. Then in Lake Placid, during my painfully itchy 4th grade winter convalesce, I wrote a seven page term paper on the coelacanth while I recovered simultaneously from the chicken pox and a broken collar bone, the latter of which occurred as a result of an ill-advised ice hill sledding incident involving me, a runner sled, and a big maple tree.

To this day I remain fascinated by fossils & rocks, and can still be found wandering hither & yon digging, diving, searching for and finding some pretty cool old stuff, which I have written stories about previously, including some that have appeared either in The Adirondack Almanack (High Peaks Treasure at Livingston Pond & “Message in a Bottle”), and/or on my adirondackoutlaw.com blog (“When the Ghost Whispers “Dig”, “Outlawed”).

While we lived in Lake Placid, my dad bought two aluminum Grumman canoes. We took canoe trips everywhere in the Adirondack Tri-Lakes region surrounding us. Shortly after our family moved to Saranac Lake, one of those trips was along a route that remains my most frequented favorite to this day, the canoe route into Middle Saranac Lake via South Creek.  Dad and my brother Raymond (my younger brother was always called “Raymond” then, never “Ray”) would man one canoe, while my Mom and I would paddle the other.

Early in our pre-Bull Rush Bay family canoe camping career, we would cross the lake, past Umbrella Point, Halfway Island, and Windy Point up into Hungry Bay. There we either laid camper’s claim to the lean-to at Martha Reben, or made our way further up through the boggy, buggy, frog filled lily pad creek to pitch camp on Tick Island, Weller Pond.

weller sign

Other than “Middle Saranac”, “Weller Pond” and “Martha Reben”, I did not know any of the names of the other points, islands, and bays back then. I was more focused on important kid stuff, like fishing, swimming, devouring the contents of Mom’s camp food cooler, and the ever-exciting discoveries of exploring.

Of all those many Dad guided, canoe mounted, exploring expeditions, one that remains amongst the most fascinating to me, to this day, were and are forays into the primeval confines of Little Weller Pond.

Little Weller Pond sits nestled against the foothills of Boot Bay Mountain, about halfway between Hungry Bay and Weller Pond, up a shallow not always easily boat navigable narrow boggy creek flow. Little Weller is a quiet little pond. Its water is tannin-stained mucky tea dark. It’s rimmed with beaver huts, tamarack trees, stunted red maples. cedars, and water lilies. About eight foot deep in the middle, Little Weller Pond not more than about a hundred and fifty yards across.

Notwithstanding my nephew Forrest’s mythical monster pike legend, and Dad’s wishful thinking that dinosaur sized pike lurk in those waters, the primary residents of Little Weller Pond, by my observations, are black ducks, mosquitos, painted turtles, and frogs.

However, despite the distinct lack of dinosaur pike direct evidence, there is one prehistoric carnivore that still lurks in those Little Weller Pond bogs.  It doesn’t have fins, flesh, feathers or teeth, but it’s a survivor, and it eats meat.

pitcher plant

What is the dinosaur survivor to which I refer? Of course- it’s the Pitcher Plant!

      They thrive in that bog in small clumps and clusters, luring in insect prey with their sweet smelling nectar and pretty red flowers, before ravenously drowning, dissolving, and devouring them, bones and all, dinosaur style.

In all of my Adirondack adventures and travels, I had never seen or encountered pitcher plants anywhere else but in that one Little Weller Pond bog. To me, they have always been prehistorically special.

Then, about three years ago, I was once again rowing my Zen boat canoe in along my familiar South Creek route on a summer day trip with my wife Robin. We were taking our time, enjoying the day, taking snapshots of sunning turtles, water lilies and frogs, when suddenly, I spotted something I am quite certain that I had not ever seen there in South Creek before. I recognized it immediately.  The dinosaur pitcher plant’s distinctive red flower. We immediately stopped and snapped photos.

As we continued towards the lake, I saw several more colonies lining South Creek’s shore. I looked out across Middle Saranac Lake. Pitcher plants had migrated from remote Little Weller Pond to firmly establish themselves on the near side of the lake.

All of my pre-historic childhood dinosaur memories came flooding back. I was excited. A dinosaur migration! Occurring right there in front of us!

As is generally the case, my mind wandered. My imagination took over: “I wonder how big “Jurassic Park” pitcher plants got?” “What did they eat way back then?” “Were they big enough to devour dragon flies?” “What if they were big enough to consume frogs, snakes or turtles?” “Did they ever grow big enough to eat cavemen and dinosaurs?”

    I studied the migrating colonies with increasing caution as we paddled the rest of our route for a day on the lake.

What were they up to, these pitcher plant carnivores, quietly migrating?”

“Were they simply biding their time? Slowly building their numbers as they plot their next rise, beyond humans, to re-claim dinosaur carnivore pitcher plant pre-eminence?”

 “Am I to them but a potential future food source?”

     “To Pitcher plants are humans nothing but fat juicy North Face clad dragonflies?”

     Now, as I row my Zen boat along that familiar South Creek route, I remain far more vigilant.

“Are Adirondack dinosaurs watching me, salivating?

Sometimes I wonder.

          turtle

Photos by Richard Monroe

 

 

 

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Richard Monroe

Lifelong NYS resident. Raised in Saranac Lake. Cornell graduate(ROTC). Army veteran, Airborne/Ranger qualified, 10th Mtn Div, stints in Honduras and with JTF VI. 3rd degree Black Belt; 3x cancer survivor; published writer with several featured stories in Adirondack Life Magazine. Residing in Watertown NY with wife Robin & our 3 adult children. Loving Life. Living in the Day I am in.




14 Responses

  1. Susan says:

    You can also view these beauties on the boardwalk walk at Paul Smith’s VIC. They are so interesting!

  2. Harry Rissetto says:

    You certainly can write. Thank you.

  3. drdirt says:

    thank you ,.,.,. keep em coming ,.,,. LOL

  4. Mark Soloski says:

    I have always marveled at these beautiful plants when I find them. Last time was this summer at Rankin Pond in Minerva where they thrive. The article has me raising an eyebrow about these carnivorous creatures and next time I vist the Pond I will check for evidence of an uprising threatening our very existance 🙂 In the meantime I’ll enjoy these as one of the many treasures of the ADKs.

  5. Victoria Oman says:

    I loved reading this. History, memories and adventures! I can’t wait to share this with my granddaughter!

  6. Tom Vawter says:

    This is a fun article, nicely written, so you seem to have achieved at least one of your ambitions. I’d never heard of Dinosaur Piitcher Plants except as a truly extinct genus, but I guess the common name remains for some living relatives of other living pitcher plants. I’ll look for some pictures.

    I’d make a couple of other related points. From your description, what you wanted to become was a paleontologist, not an archaeologist. Also, true dinosaurs are not all extinct. In fact, there are hundreds of living species. We call them “birds”.

    Thanks for entertaining natural history story.

  7. James Valastro says:

    Great story!

  8. Evelyn Greene says:

    Glad to see one of the many “carnivorous” Adirondack plants featured in your amusing essay. But I suspect you have escaped being eaten by scores more carnivorous plants as most lakes with quiet coves, inlets and outlets and virtually every bog pond has pitcher plants, sundews, and many kinds of bladderworts, all carnivores. You just have to slow down and look closely. And they all bloom, though without such huge, weirdly wonderful flowers.

  9. Keith McHugh says:

    Lens Lake in Stony Creek has plenty.

  10. louis curth says:

    Please keep on writing Richard. Your essays are a wonderful mix of fiction, non- fiction and Adirondack experience that is very enjoyable for us to read.

    I also think your writing helps to draw us out from our various strongly held opinions, and helps to remind us that in our love for this place, we all share a common humanity that transcends whatever differences may divide us. Thank you for that.

  11. Gary Hungerford says:

    Tells a story of the past and somewhat of our future love it.

  12. Richard Monroe Richard Monroe says:

    Thank you everyone! Both for all of the wonderful compliments on the story & for all of the GREAT insight & comments regarding our “Adirondack Dinosaur” pitcher plants. I knew that there were pitcher plants at the VIC. I suspected there were likely thriving populations elsewhere as well. Thanks to those who confirmed that that is indeed the case. I am thrilled at that news.
    It did occur to me- (in the event one has not yet been done.) A botanist (or whatever “ist” is appropriate- as I have been duly informed that I may not always have my “ist” together (A state of affairs of which my wife & children also REGULARLY inform me- Ha!); be that as it may- a FIELD STUDY of the Adirondack pitcher plant population- identifying all the current colonies, their location, density, health, & other pertinent data, etc. (ARE they spreading elsewhere? Are there high peaks bog populations? Are all populations the same, or are there different varieties/strains, etc.) would, I think, not only be a fascinating project( PSC student field/thesis project, perhaps?), but also provide a useful baseline for future comparative analysis on climatic impact (climate change/global warming/acid rain/pollution, etc.) on pitcher plants. I bet a guide that listed/pinpointed resident pitcher plant populations along popular hiking/canoe routes would prove popular too, either as an addendum to an existing document, or as a stand-alone reference. Just a suggestion, for a student or “ist” who may have theirs together a bit more than I do.
    Thanks again to everyone for reading, commenting on & sharing my story.

  13. Lucinda B Traynor says:

    Your imaginative piece brought back fun memories of family and Scout camping on Middle Saranac Lake. We explored both Wellers, and, I imagine, we were closely watched. Thank goodness Mom didn’t dig up any plants, as she was known to take souvenirs home to her flower beds.
    Repercussions would’ve been swift and mighty!

  14. Kerry Huyben says:

    I have seen pitcher plants at the third lake in Hope NY. Fun article. Thanks

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