Tag Archive 'early spring'

Apr 10 2020

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A Walk Around the Reservoir

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A couple days ago, Judy and I drove to Essex Junction to pick up some cotton dinner napkins. Before delivering that material to those making face masks, we stopped at Indian Brook Reservoir to walk the two-mile loop trail there. We hadn’t done that in a while.

The parking lot was full of cars when we arrived mid-afternoon. No surprise. With the pandemic raging and people “sheltering in place” for weeks on end, the urge to get out and stretch one’s legs becomes irresistible. Trails like this, close to Burlington, are a good place to do that.

The crowd was expected, as were the dogs accompanying them, but I was not prepared for the flood of memories. My canine companion Matika accompanied me on many walks around the reservoir. She died a year ago, but her spirit was still with me during this walk.

Judy was horrified by the wear and tear of the trail. After thinking about it, we realized that half a dozen years have gone by since she was here last. Yeah, the trail has taken a beating since then. Too close to Burlington and too well known.

So there was a touch of sadness in our walk. All the same it was good getting out, good ambling through the woods on an early spring afternoon, seeing the handiwork of industrious beavers and watching the natural world slowly coming back to life. We aren’t too picky these days. We take our small pleasures wherever we find them.

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Mar 27 2020

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Getting Outside

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Judy and I have been staying home for a while now, staying away from other people that is, as strongly urged by the Vermont governor and health authorities. It’s the best way to slow the spread of Covid-19. But “social distancing” doesn’t mean staying indoors all the time. That can drive a person stir crazy, especially in the end of winter. So we’ve started getting outside and walking more.

Yesterday we hiked in the Milton Town Forest. We left our car in a full parking lot then set forth on a fine gravel trail that soon became a wide, muddy path. Seeing all the boot prints in the mud, and passing several groups of other day hikers, it soon became clear to us that this trail is being used more this spring than usual. That’s bad for the trail but good for everyone’s mental health.

Temps crept above fifty degrees in the middle of the afternoon, quickly melting off the patches of remnant snow. Evergreen woodferns still pressed to the ground were a welcome sight, as was the bright green moss on rocks and downed trees. Spring runoff filled the brooklets – their trickling over rocks being music to our ears. The grey, leafless trees still had the taint of winter about them, but the occasional bird calling out softened that.

Halfway to Milton Pond, it became clear to me that the spring season is unfolding in all its cold-mud glory. I love it! But Judy was too concerned about the slippery trail underfoot to enjoy it at first. Not until we reached the pond did she start grooving on the wild. Then I had to be patient. On the way back to the parking lot, she stopped several times just to look around. I did my best to keep from rushing her.

Today won’t be quite as warm but we intend to get outside and go for a hike again. The pandemic rages on tv, but the forest retains its eternal calm. The latter is the better choice. There’s no doubt in our minds where we’d rather focus our attention, anyhow.

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Apr 10 2019

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Bare Ground

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Awoke to snow this morning. Just a dusting of it that would melt off before the end of the day, but snow all the same.

Snow or no, I had to get outdoors. So after dealing with the IRS and other sources of infinite frustration for most of the day, I slipped on my boots and headed for French Hill.

The plan was to do a little bushwhacking across a mix of snow and bare ground. But not more than five minutes into the hike, I was slogging through several inches of old, crusty snow left over from winter. Not what I had in mind, so I aborted.

Shortly thereafter, I was walking the mostly bare ground of the Rail Trail on the Champlain Valley floor. Much better. I flushed half a dozen robins from the trail as I hiked at a good clip. That assured me that it is spring despite the white stuff lingering like a tiresome drunk at the end of a party. The steady breeze out of the north had a chill to it. Temps hovered around 40. All the same, I was able to take off my hat half a mile into the walk.

When I reached the half-frozen wetlands, I was hoping to catch the high-pitched chirp of a spring peeper, but it’s too early for that. Patience. Another week or two. Instead I enjoyed the steady rush of meltwater in the cut running parallel to the trail. This time of year, we need to take our simple pleasures wherever we can find them.

Before returning to the car, a shy sun peaked from the gray clouds overhead, offering a ray of hope. The warm season is running a little late this year but it’ll get here. And my next outing, if I stay out of the hills and mountains a while longer, will be nothing but bare ground.

 

 

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Mar 28 2019

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Between Winter and Spring

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Yesterday I went for a hike despite the foot of snow dumped by last weekend’s storm. I’m sick of winter, but with the sun shining through an azure sky and temps in the 40s by afternoon, I simply had to go out.

I went to Milton Pond, assuming that the trail around it had been packed down by other restless souls. That was, if fact, the case. All the same, it’s a good thing I had Microspikes on my boots. The trail was icy in places and the snow punky in other places. Without the ‘spikes, I would have done a lot of sliding around.

I hiked at a good clip, soon breaking a sweat. I was smart enough to leave my sweater in the car, but had to strip off my jacket halfway around the pond and carry it. It’s always a strange feeling being in shirtsleeves while traveling over snow. That’s the smart thing to do sometimes, between winter and spring. Still it felt strange…

Looked like winter but felt like spring. The pond was iced over, of course, and there was snow everywhere. Yet a springtime sun shined brightly, meltwater ran fast through runoff streams, and the buds on maple trees were swollen. Definitely between seasons.

I thought about my recently deceased dog Matika during the hike, and how she would have enjoyed the outing a couple years ago, back when she could handle it. We enjoyed a lot of good hikes together through the years. But when I saw a yellow spot along the side of the trail, I was glad I didn’t have to stop and wait for her to sniff it. Slowly adjusting to hiking alone again. There are certain advantages to it, no doubt.

 

 

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Apr 13 2018

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Landscape All Brown and Gray

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“April is the cruelest month,” the poet T. S. Eliot said, and we northern New Englanders know all about that. The funk of winter persists in our hearts despite the first green shoots pushing up through the newly thawed earth. And when the weather forecasters warn us about a coming snowstorm, those among us dreaming about t-shirt temps are outraged. It shouldn’t be this way, some say, but this is par for the course around here.

Snow, or the lack of it, is the main reason why I enjoy a simple walk along the Rail Trail this time of year. The landscape is all brown and gray, but it feels good just being able to move freely again. No slogging through slush, sliding over ice, or post-holing in deep snow. Only a relatively effortless foot-to-the-ground forward movement again. I had almost forgotten about it.

The starkness of April is the mirror image of November, only now the prospects look good for lovers of growing things. The days are getting longer, the birds are back, and soon the grass will be greening. After that, well, we all know what’s coming.

So I’ll take it. The grey skies, morning fog, and all-day rain – yeah, sure, bring it on. Even a little snow thrown into the mix, why not? It won’t last. This time of year, even a hard-nosed realist like me leans towards optimism. The great vernal bloom is inevitable. The growing season is already underway, though one has to look hard to see it. And these brown/gray days have a certain dismal charm. I revel in it.

 

 

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Mar 30 2018

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Snowmelt and Cold Mud

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As I drove over French Hill, dodging frost heaves, the snow closed in around the road. Back home it was nearly gone from my yard so I wasn’t quite prepared to see so much white stuff. What a difference a few hundred feet of elevation makes! By time I reached the town forest parking lot, bare ground was the exception to the rule. Oh well. My dog Matika and I needed a good hike anyway, snow or no snow. We’d been cooped up for a over a week, thanks to a cold virus that I picked up.

At first the trail was several inches of punky snow, but eventually it opened up, becoming stretches of soft, cold mud in places, saturated by small streams overflowing with snowmelt. My boots became thoroughly soaked as I waded across one particularly wet spot. But I didn’t mind it. With temps in the 40s and the forest all to myself, it felt good to be tramping around.

Moss and ferns shouted their over-wintered green at me from rocky slopes. A grey squirrel chattered hello as Matika and I passed. A pair of crows cawed back and forth through the naked trees. Very early spring in the Vermont woods. With all the snow slowly melting away, it’s an altogether pleasant thing to behold.

I broke a sweat and coughed repeatedly as the trail slipped into a particularly deep patch of punky snow. Matika started panting heavily as well. But the big smile on her face mirrored my own. There are those who won’t be happy until the last of the snow is gone, and others who long for fresh verdure that’s still several weeks away. But it’s enough for me to hear the rush of water, smell raw earth again, and feel the give of thawing ground underfoot. Every season has its charms, even this one, when everything is cold, brown and wet. Happy spring!

 

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Apr 27 2017

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Early Spring Overnighter

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Every once in a while I feel an overwhelming urge to spend a night alone in the woods. Either that or my wife orders me to do so when I become too grumpy. Yesterday the urge came hard and fast.

My dog Matika became very excited when the backpacking gear came out. She knows. She was all smiles during the ride to Johnson. There I left my car at the Long Trail parking lot and headed south.

I like to hike the LT south from Route 15 in early spring because there’s not much I can do to damage the trail. It crosses a meadow, tags a rail trail, follows a logging road, then becomes a skidder trail as it climbs into the mountains. By the time it’s a bona fide footpath, I’ve left it and am bushwhacking along a stream.

The loggers are taking a break during mud season so I had the woods all to myself. Just me and my dog, that is.

I travelled light, only taking with me what would fit in my old rucksack. A three-mile hike put me deep into the woods. I found a nice place along the stream to make camp. Afterwards I collected wood and made a small campfire. I can sit and feed sticks into a campfire for hours. Matika likes just looking around and chewing sticks.

An hour or so after dark, I slipped beneath the tarp to sleep. Matika was already there waiting for me. The sky broke open and the stars came out. You know what that means. Radiational cooling. I froze my ass off despite the fact that temps shot into the 60s yesterday and the 70s today. But it was worth it to crawl out this morning to a sun cresting the nearby ridge, deep in the woods. The mountain stream roared endlessly. And a breakfast campfire made it easy to shrug off last night’s chill.

Hiking out, I found a small patch of spring beauty, then a purple trillium in bloom – one that had still been closed the day before. Ah, spring! Matika crossed paths with a red fox that vanished in the blink of an eye. Something for both of us.

 

 

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