It’s Dragonfly Herding Season
But everyone makes the most of what they have and what I have is the Mohonk Preserve. With dozens of miles of rolling, mostly doubletrack climbs and a few pockets of singletrack, it’s a great place to get a quiet, quick workout, and it’s just a few minutes from home.
No, this isn’t a giant, open western landscape of gnar. It’s third-generation forest, a park very much altered by several centuries of cultivation that was then let go, free to turn back to woods, renewed by time and nature. On any given ride at dusk I’ll see a random porcupine scuttling up the trail or raptors of several stripes swooping down from the canopy to charge at a chipmunk. I’ve seen bears in the fall, though they’re small and more threatened by me than vice versa.
This time of year it’s far more common to spot tortoises digging holes to bury eggs and turkey vultures riding the thermal updrafts of the Shawangunk Ridge on five-foot wingspans, soaring by on a wave of…stink. Turkey vultures defend themselves with barf. No joke. The stench drives off would-be predator eagles.
This is also the fleeting, rarely discussed dragonfly-herding season — although I think if the dragonflies could talk they’d call it mountain biker herding.
My climb takes me through a huge open field, past the arms of a massive oak, long dead, but still somehow standing and reaching impossibly wide. When I hit the meadow I’ve just come through a shaded canopy and into direct, hot sun. Then, bang! I’m swarmed by an escort of hundreds of black-and-white 12-spotted-skimmer dragonflies. They move as I move, maybe 8 mph, flitting beside me, by my ankles, just ahead of my front knobby at a perfectly even cadence, precisely my pace. Perhaps they’re pushed by my light wake of sweaty air?
Ten, maybe 20 yards later, the first group peels off, like flying motorcycle cops on their black-and-white Harleys and, just up ahead, dozens more launch from the trail and hover beside me. This lasts maybe five minutes as I huff along through the high grass and wildflowers, the sun beating on me, the magic dragonflies doing more for my imagination than Disney ever could.
Then I hit the next layer of maple-tree canopy and the dragonflies vanish and it’s all face flies and mosquitoes again for another few miles of shaded churn. I take heart, though. Fifteen minutes more climbing and I’ll be at the next open field, and the black and white party will rage again when I get there.