Archive for February, 2015

Feb 24 2015

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Frigid Temps and Cabin Fever

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Feb tramp AHLate morning. Having just finished a long writing session, I’m bundled up and out the door for a short hike up Aldis Hill. Temps are supposed to get up into the teens this afternoon but I can’t wait that long. I have to get out of the house now. Single digits will have to do. Better than the subzero temps that greeted us at daybreak, yet again.

At the trailhead I slip a pair of Microspikes over my boots for traction. The snow on the trail has been packed by the many snowshoes and boots that have come before me so traction is all I need. Looks like I’m not the only one who has cabin fever.

Naked trees cast blue shadows across the snow. They also creak in a frigid breeze. Rime quickly gathers in my beard. Walking in the snow takes considerable effort even with good traction, making me wonder if coming out here was such a good idea. My dog Matika races up and down the trail, happy to be out of the house regardless of the temps. Yeah, so am I – for a while, anyhow.

Chickadees keep me company. They are boreal birds to be sure. I look up every once in a while at the dark, grey-brown trees all around me. Otherwise there isn’t much to see on this snowy canvas. Then I look down, surrendering to the kind of daydreams that come so quickly and easily on the trail.

I’m not the kind of guy who tends towards optimism. Usually I see the glass as half empty, not half full. But one thing is for certain no matter how one looks at things: the harder the winter, the better spring will be when it finally arrives. This year it’s going to be a great spring.


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Feb 16 2015

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Late Winter Daydream

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spring bushwhackI’ve put off thinking about it as long as possible, but now the prospect of a leisurely ramble through a lush green forest strikes with irresistible force. There’s something about the strength of the February sun that sets up this daydream. The jet stream remains well south of here and subzero temps persist as they rarely have in years past, but the wild man in me responds to bright sunlight all the same.

On some level I know this deep freeze can’t last. When it breaks I’ll be hiking across cold mud. Then the verdure will come out, slowly but surely. It’s inevitable.

Funny how we get used to the white landscape, to the frost nipping at our cheeks, chapped hands and lips, and that dull ache in the lower back from shoveling snow. Though I wouldn’t call it warm, temps in the teens seem normal to me now. And I’ve grown accustomed to being indoors most of the time. All the same, I catch myself dreaming of spring at least once each day. My favorite season is only a month or so away.

Don’t get me wrong. I know exactly what time of year it is and how long winter lasts here in the North Country. I’m keeping my snowshoes handy. I’m doing my best to live in the present. Still this longing for the green forest can’t be brushed aside. I’m a vernal creature at heart.


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Feb 11 2015

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Cutting Tracks

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snowshoeing in mtnsThere comes a day every winter when I have to drop everything I’m doing and head for the hills. That day came yesterday. I loaded my dog Matika into the car and drove an hour to my favorite place to snowshoe: a mountain brook where few people go.

I hiked half a mile up a packed logging road before putting on my snowshoes. Two feet of pristine powder lay before me. I figured it would be tough cutting tracks through it but didn’t realize how tough until I got going. My snowshoes sank 6-8 inches with each step. Matika stayed on my heels for the most part. Smart dog. I pushed forward, trying to set a steady pace, but was unable to go more than fifty yards without stopping to catch my breath.

I tramped for a little over an hour that way, following a mountain brook that barely murmured beneath the snow. I marveled at the silent forest – no birds, no trees creaking in the wind, nothing but my own heavy breathing. “This is why I come out here,” I kept thinking. Silence and a beautiful stillness.

When the going got really tough, I stripped down to shirtsleeves. I sweated profusely anyway. I was tiring but with temps in the teens and my thermal undershirt soaked with sweat I didn’t dare stop. Instead I pushed up a steep, narrow ravine, groping slowly back towards the logging road. Fallen trees blocked the way. At one point I passed beneath one. It showered me with snow in the process. Matika scrambled up the slippery sides of the ravine without success. Then she fell in behind me as I plodded forward, one carefully placed step after another.

What a relief it was to get back to the packed logging road! I took off my snowshoes then strapped them onto my pack. I stopped long enough to feed my dog some kibble and wolf down an energy bar with a half-liter of water. The walk out was as pleasant as it was easy.

Completely exhausted, I went to bed early last night. Tough outing but well worth the effort. I flushed a lot of gunk out of my system in the process and am now in a better frame of mind to resume literary work. No surprise there.

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