Tag Archive 'snow'

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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Nov 27 2018

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Snow-laden Trees

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As the early morning light illuminated our back yard, Judy and I enjoyed the white beauty before us – snow gently falling from the sky, adding to what remained on the ground from last week’s storm, and clinging to the branches of trees. No doubt four months from now, snow will lose all its charm. But now, at the undeniable beginning of winter, it pleases the eye.

Opening the door, I marveled at the stark contrast between the naked, dark gray branches and the snow gathering upon them. There is something about snow-laden trees that borders upon the mystical. Or perhaps they just bring out the romantic in me. I looked up to see the treetops kissing the formless sky, sensing the sublime there, and knowing full well that I do not possess the skills to capture such things with either camera or pen. Some aspects of nature cannot be transmitted. They can only be encountered.

Having already done a couple hours of literary work before breakfast, I heard the computer keyboard calling my name from the study upstairs. It was time to stop admiring Mother Nature’s handiwork and resume the task awaiting me. But as soon as that was finished, I stepped outside with a shovel in hand to push around the heavy, wet stuff. By then the tree boughs were bent over from the burden they carried. The power went out then quickly came back on again, bringing to mind the image of a fallen tree branch somewhere down the line. Sublime, indeed. Even in her quietest moments, Mother Nature still flexes her muscles.

 

 

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Oct 24 2018

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First Snow

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The first snow of the season always comes as something of a surprise, but when it comes in October it’s downright shocking. Snow is to be expected in the mountains this time of year, powdering the summits as a fair warning of things to come. But here in the Champlain Valley, it’s rare to see the white stuff accenting the brilliant reds. oranges and golds of autumn, while leaves are still clinging to the trees.

It was beautiful to behold – a light flurry of snowflakes falling to the ground early in the morning, slowly accumulating. It didn’t last long. By noon most of the snow had melted away in temps well above freezing. Now in late afternoon, sunlight finishes the job, illuminating the foliage and thereby redeeming the season. Still I can’t help but brood over the rapid passage of time. The clock on my computer screen conspires with the calendar on the wall to keep me off balance in my gathering years. And now this!

One shouldn’t take it personally, of course. Father Time, unlike Mother Nature, treats us all the same way. But the seasons slip past faster in our advanced years than it does in our youth. It’s hard to keep pace.

I don’t remember how it came up, but this morning my wife Judy asked me if I fear death. My answer was ambiguous. “Yes and no,” I said. Being the cognizant, self-aware creature that I am, I naturally fear death. I know its coming and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. That said, more than death I dread the prospect of living to a hundred. There’s a time to live and a time to depart. I wouldn’t want to be immortal.

All Hallows Eve is right around the corner, followed by the Day of the Dead. Different cultures call it different things, but it amounts to the same thing: a time to stop and remember those who have passed away. Darkness pervades as winter approaches. The harvest is nearly complete. Soon we will hunker down for the long cold season. This is a good time of year to reflect. It’s also a good time to put on some blaze orange and go for a hike – while there is still soft earth underfoot. There’s no time to lose.

 

 

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Dec 05 2016

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Snowy Illumination

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snowy-walk-1For days a dismal grey light prevailed as the above-freezing temps slowly melted off Thanksgiving snow. Then this morning we awoke to it: a fresh coat of the white stuff brightening the world. And just in a nick of time for yours truly, sinking into a funk as the days grow shorter and the nights seem to go on forever.

Midday, after doing necessary work and running a few errands, I put on my boots and went for a walk. I kicked up light powder with each step. My dog Matika ran ahead, happy to be out of the house for a change. I slogged down the driveway, along the freshly plowed road, then slipped into the woods.

Snow clung to the branches. Snow kept falling. Snow piled up underfoot, everywhere, but I didn’t mind it. Much better than all that mud brown and sky grey. A winter wonderland? Not how I see the world but, like Matika, I was happy to be out of the house all the same.

Reaching another road, unplowed, I gravitated to the powder to keep from slipping in the packed, icy track of some car that had passed this way. I pulled my hat down around my ears as we turned a corner to face a bitter wind blowing steadily from the west. My eyes teared up. Still better than staying indoors. Plenty of time to thaw out later.

Back into the woods again, closer to home, I suddenly realized how good it felt to be outdoors, moving, and not altogether comfortable.  Hmm…  Explain that to those who have never found the sweetness in a chunk of stale bread, or to those who have never willingly done anything hard.

Note to self: do this more often, only next time head for the hills. Take a real break from the work… or suffer the consequences.

 

 

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Dec 29 2015

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Winter Finally Arrives

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snow barrelsA full-blown winter storm was underway when I got out of bed this morning. Not the kind that makes headlines or excites weather forecasters, but a steady, all-day affair that is blanketing the region with white stuff. If there was any doubt before about what time of year it is, there isn’t now.

I go outside and notice right away that my half-barrels and sap buckets are crowned with snow. I use them to grow herbs during the warm season. In fact, the stubborn remnant of an oregano plant peeks through the cover. I am not fooled by it. I grab my shovel and start to work on the driveway, digging out the cars.

Here in northern New England, the first big dump comes as something of a relief. You know it’s coming – just a matter of when. And you know that it is only the first of many to come, gradually accumulating through the half-hearted thaws until we’re thigh-deep in it. Only then will the great springtime melt begin. But that’s months away. Best not to think about spring.

I heard the other day that Vermont has lost population during the past year. That comes as no surprise to those of us who live here. Good paying jobs are few, living expenses are high, and the winters are hard to get through. As for the latter, it’s best if you have some hobby or craft to keep you busy until April. For some it’s skiing, ice fishing, or snowmobiling. Others, like me, have indoor preoccupations. I get a lot of writing done this time of year.

Still I feel a tinge of dread as I push snow around my driveway for the first time this season. There’s a lot of backbreaking work ahead, not to mention deep cold. And all things green, except conifers, lie dormant beneath the snow.

 

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Dec 15 2014

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Snow-laden Boughs

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snowladentreesA Nor’easter struck New England last week, leaving over a foot of snow here in the Champlain Valley. The rest of Vermont got a whole lot more. For four days I shoveled and roof-raked it – when I wasn’t working, that is. Then yesterday I tramped through nearby fields, finally looking up to see the boughs of trees heavily laden with snow. A winter wonderland to be sure, and well before Christmas. This is the Vermont that skiers and sentimental songsters dream about.

Yeah, I can appreciate it, even though I’m more of a green forest kind of guy. Back in Ohio, where I grew up, my mother reports that the landscape is typically dreary. I remember it well: various shades of brown and endless grey skies. No, I don’t miss that. Though much longer and colder, Vermont winters are more aesthetically pleasing.

This much snow this early in the season is an ominous sign. Climate change has made recent winters rather erratic. A good, old-fashioned Vermont winter with blue skies and plenty of snow would be nice, but fluctuating temperatures could make a sloppy mess of things again. That’s what happened last winter, as well as in years past.

I try not to think about climate change, mostly because there isn’t much that I can do about it. Oh sure, we could in theory shift the global economy away from fossil fuels before things get way out of hand, but how realistic is that?  This morning I read that 196 nations signed an agreement to start setting limits by 2020. Hmm… I can’t help but think that it’s going to be too little too late, especially in countries where folks are just now moving out of abject poverty. Then there are those who still say that climate change is an elaborate hoax. No, it doesn’t do me any good to think about it at all.

And yet the boughs of trees are heavily laden with snow. It is both beautiful yet deeply concerning, especially since the temps are supposed to get well above freezing tomorrow. Did I say beautiful? Yes, let’s focus on that, and let the politicians deal with the rest of it, at least until someone comes up with a viable alternative to what passes for environmental concern in these days. It’s not good to be always focusing on the negative.

 

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Dec 31 2012

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Cutting Tracks in the Snow

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“Let me know when you are ready,” I said to Judy as we lounged in our living room reading the Sunday newspaper online. The wind was howling in the distance. I was hellbent upon going out and cutting fresh tracks in the snow but Judy was balking. So I was surprised when she came down the stairs all dressed to go before I had even moved from my chair.

Our dog Matika didn’t hesitate. She jumped into the car the second I opened the door. She didn’t care that the thermometer registered twenty degrees below freezing. “Let’s go!” her body language said as she flashed a big, canine smile.

An overnight storm had added another four inches to the foot of snow dumped a few days earlier. Conditions haven’t been this good for snowshoeing in nearly two years.

We cut tracks in virgin snow while enjoying the peace and quiet of the wintry woods. Conifers heavily laden with white stuff provided ample cover from the wind. Our morning trek couldn’t have been more delightful. The energy we burned while tamping down the deep powder kept us warm enough.

Matika made us laugh as she romped through the snow. She buried her head in it whenever she caught the scent of some passing creature. Judy and I stopped several times to catch our breath and marvel at the simple beauty of the white world all around us. Even to a lover of green things like myself, nature in winter has its appeal.

By the time we got back to the car, Judy’s toes were half numb, I had rime in my beard, and Matika’s paws had iced up. Still it was fun. Hot chocolate and a warm bath took the chill away. And we thoroughly enjoyed being indoors for the rest of the day.

 

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Mar 09 2011

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Trout Dreams

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A big winter storm struck northern Vermont two days ago, dumping two feet of snow.  That’s the third largest dump on record for these parts, making this the third snowiest winter.  Or something like that.  I spent the better part of yesterday shoveling and roof raking, and that was after the plow guy had cleared my driveway twice.  Yeah, a lot of white stuff.

Right now it’s sunny outside, about twelve hours before the next storm strikes.  I should grab my snowshoes and take advantage of this break in the weather.  But that’s not where my heart lies.  Last night I dreamed of a mountain stream teeming with large, wild trout.  And this morning, well, let’s just say the view out my window doesn’t match the fantasy.

Stepping outdoors for a moment to start up my wife’s car, I hear a cardinal singing loudly from atop a leafless maple.  He’s thinking the same thing I’m thinking.  And the warm morning sun assures us both that spring can’t be that far away.  But all this snow . . . egads!

Judy and I have a late-winter ritual: when the snow is deep outside, we cook and eat the last of the trout that I brought home the previous summer.  Granted, I’m mostly a catch-and-release fisherman these days, but I make sure to bring home a few of them just for this occasion.  We ate the trout a couple weeks ago.  And that’s just about the time I started yearning for the warm season.

This morning I opened the newspaper and learned that the writer/naturalist John Hay just died.  This news sent me to my bookshelves right away.  I cracked open The Immortal Wilderness where I had it bookmarked and reread this:  “Behind the world so recklessly and uncertainly claimed by politics and economics lie the magic and inexorable laws of the wilderness, known to every life.  The flower is wiser than the machine.”  My sentiments exactly.  So now I’m dreaming of wildflowers as well as trout.  Right now I don’t give a damn about the government’s budgetary problems, the health care debacle, or the price of oil.  I just want to see a brook trout and a purple trillium again.

Is this cabin fever talking?  You bet it is.  But there’s no sense stewing in it.  So I’ll strap on my snowshoes and make the best of the situation.  My dog Matika is ready to roll.  Unlike me, she lives in the moment.  She will romp in the snow as if it’s the first powder of the season.  And I will follow, somewhat reluctantly, dreaming of spring.

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Feb 03 2011

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Snow Day

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Over a foot of snow fell on northern Vermont yesterday – the tail end of the big storm that rocked half the country.  I spent a good part of the day shoveling it, and there was still plenty more to tackle this morning.

After three more hours of shoveling, you’d think I’d seen enough snow.  But the sky broke open around midday, temps climbed into the high teens and, well, I had a hankering to go snowshoeing.  So that’s what I did.

Vermonters aren’t easily shaken by the white stuff.  Most of the driveways that I passed on the way to the trailhead had been plowed out, and everyone was pretty much going about their business as usual.  If you can’t handle a little snow, then you shouldn’t live in Vermont.  So I’ve learned to adapt.  I take to the woods with my trusty pair of Green Mountain Bear Paws whenever the snow gets knee deep or better.

I started out on a well-groomed snowmobile trail so I really didn’t need the snowshoes at first.  But half a mile into the walk, I got a powerful urge to cut fresh tracks across the pristine snow.  Every snowshoeing fool knows that urge well.  I stepped off trail and felt the difference immediately.  My heart was pounding hard five minutes into it.  My dog Matika was delighted by the detour. She leapt through the powder, leaving chest-deep holes in her wake.

Eventually we stumbled upon a fresh deer trail and the going was a little easier.  Until we veered away from it.  When the deer trail headed for a marsh, we opted for higher ground.  We followed a small ridge taking us back the way we came.  And forty minutes after leaving the snowmobile trail, we tagged it again.  A short but sweet excursion.  Just enough clear my head.

Back home now, the sun is setting in a cloudless sky.  Wow.   I haven’t done a damned thing all day – nothing that qualifies as productive work, that is.  But snow days are like that.  When a big dump comes, you can either complain about it or embrace it.  Today I chose the latter and thoroughly enjoyed the diversion.  What the heck, I’ll get back to work tomorrow.

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