Tag Archive 'winter'

Feb 17 2017

Profile Image of Walt

Cutting Tracks in Local Woods

Filed under Blog Post

Two back-to-back winter storms dumped 20 inches of snow this week. That’s more snow than we’ve seen in a long while. It’s finally starting to look like Vermont around here.

A couple days ago I did my fair share of shoveling, clearing out a 10 by 12-foot space in the back yard for one thing – a place for my dog Matika to pee. But she looked pathetic when she was out there walking tight circles in her prison yard. She looked as cooped up as I was feeling. So I strapped on my snowshoes yesterday and cut tracks out of the prison yard, across the fresh snow, and into the woods. Matika happily followed.

It wasn’t easy cutting tracks. I broke a good sweat. But the air was clean, all was quiet, and the snow still clinging to naked tree branches looked beautiful. Wouldn’t say I have cabin fever these days, but being outdoors feels a lot better than being indoors. I really get tired of sitting inside, staring at a computer screen all day, don’t you?

After completing a big loop in the woods, I doubled back on my tracks, creating a nice smooth trail. The second time around is always much easier so I able to really enjoy my surroundings. Matika enjoyed it, too. She romped in the snow like a puppy, collecting ice balls in her thick fur. Nordic dog!

This morning I looked out my office window at first light and spotted that snowshoe trail crossing the back yard. It’s calling my name now. How long will I be able to resist it? No doubt I’ll be out there again, tomorrow or the next day, cutting more tracks in local woods. Not quite as good as being in the mountains, but there’s something to be said for snowshoeing right out the back door. Wild nature doesn’t feel very far away at all.

 

 

Comments Off on Cutting Tracks in Local Woods

Feb 15 2016

Profile Image of Walt

The Power of Wind

Filed under Blog Post

Lake Champ in FebFeeling cooped up after three days of subzero temps, I went to Kill Kare State Park for a short walk. My dog Matika was just as happy as I was to get out of the house.

I walked the icy road from the park entrance to the parking lot, stepping aside for passing cars as several ice fishermen left the area. Others hunkered down in their shanties, while one hearty soul sat exposed to the elements with his back to the wind. My eyes teared up as a gust of frigid air hit my face.

Walking out to the point, I leaned into a powerful wind blowing from the southwest. With temps rising rapidly, I knew this was a warm front moving in but it sure didn’t feel that way. I buried gloved hands in the pockets of my jacket and pressed forward.

The lake was iced over as far as I could see. Ominous clouds gathered over the Adirondacks. I didn’t stay on the point long. Matika had already turned back and was waiting for me to follow.

Returning to the car, I marveled at that one exposed fisherman on the ice thinking more about fish than comfort. As for me, well, I’d had enough, struggling across the windswept park as if making my way up Everest. If the weather forecasters are right, temps will be well above freezing in another day or two. I’ll go back out then.

 

 

Comments Off on The Power of Wind

Feb 11 2015

Profile Image of Walt

Cutting Tracks

Filed under Blog Post

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.

One response so far

Nov 17 2014

Profile Image of Walt

Winter Begins

Filed under Blog Post

SnowTreeAfter a pleasant weekend spent with visiting friends, my restless dog and I head for the woods. A wet snow falls from a grey sky but we don’t care. We need to spend some time outside.

Snowfall clings to rocks and trees. It also covers the ground. This is the first of it here in the Champlain Valley, really.  Last week a few flurries came down at midday and a dusting of the white stuff appeared on the grass before the sun got to it. But this snow is accumulating.

Winters are a challenge here in the North Country. You don’t want to live here if you can’t handle the cold, long dark nights, or the ground covered with snow for months on end. Although tomorrow afternoon’s temperature could melt off the snow now landing, it could easily stay with us for the next four or five months. It’s happened before.

I’m not big fan of winter and all it entails, but it’s good for literary work. If I lived in California I’d probably do a lot more hiking and a lot less writing. Sunshine and warmth have that effect on me. As things are, though, my life is more balanced. The seasons suit me.

During my first winter walk, I place my feet carefully so that I don’t fall. I go down once all the same, slipping on a slanting, snow-covered rock. While getting back to my feet, I laugh knowingly while saying, “There it is.” It begins.

The season of slip-sliding around is upon us. So is shoveling, treacherous roads, getting up in the dark, and frigid walks. But those crisp, blue-sky days when snowshoeing is such a delight are also coming. So are the many pleasures of indoor life.

Yeah, bring it on. I’m ready. I love Vermont year around. If I didn’t I would have moved away a long time ago.

 

 

One response so far

Mar 26 2014

Profile Image of Walt

Last Winter Outing

Filed under Blog Post

snowshoes, Preston BrookI had hoped that by now I’d be hiking in cold mud, but winter lingers. I drove to the mountains anyway. Had to get out. Couldn’t stay cooped up inside, snow or no snow.

The snow was deeper than expected – about a foot and a half. Good thing I had brought along snowshoes. I strapped them on and ventured up a narrow trail packed by a lot of other restless souls. Eventually I stepped off trail and cut tracks down to Preston Brook.  My dog Matika followed, post-holing yet just as happy as me to be outdoors.

I followed a set of bobcat tracks that pointed upstream, threading through the woods. The brook remained hidden for the most part. Temps remained below freezing but cutting tracks is hard work so I stripped down to shirtsleeves to keep from sweating too much.

Upon reaching a favorite spot along the brook, I took off my snowshoes, donned a heavy sweater, and made a seat out of the foam pad I’d brought with me. With my back against a tree, I was quite comfortable sitting there for a while.  The sun shined brightly, illuminating the snow. The brook murmured beneath the snowpack. Trees creaked in the gentle breeze.

Back on the move again before catching a chill, I took pity on my post-holing dog. I looped over to the beaten path instead of retracing my tracks. She was happy to have solid footing again. I followed her. I tramped along in something of a daydream, remembering previous outings along Preston Brook on much warmer occasions. Soon spring will begin in earnest, I kept telling myself. Soon, very soon.

 

2 responses so far

Feb 04 2014

Profile Image of Walt

Winter Walking

Filed under Blog Post

Rail Trail, FebA couple months ago, I started a new job about a mile away from home. I’ve been walking to work since then. It’s a welcome change from commuting. All the same, I get the urge every once in a while to walk in more natural surroundings. That’s when I usher my dog Matika into the car and drive to a trailhead.

The Rail Trail is close to home. Even if I drive to my favorite section of it, I can be there in ten minutes. So that’s where I went yesterday, after a round of writing and running a few errands.

I didn’t need snowshoes. Thanks to manic temperatures, most of the snow that has fallen so far this winter has melted away. But walking through a couple inches of the white stuff is much like walking in sand. No matter. I took my time and the walk was pleasant enough.

Regardless what time of year it is, the fresh air and silence work on me like a tonic. Being among trees helps, too, even if they are naked. As anyone who does it regularly will tell you, walking is good for the soul.

I do my best thinking when I’m walking. My indoor thoughts tend to be stinky, downbeat, myopic. But outdoors, on my feet and moving, my thoughts are fresher, more upbeat, expansive. All that circulating blood helps, I’m sure.

I prefer walking in the warmer seasons, but a winter walk is still better than sitting inside all day. Come spring I’ll head for the hills and really stretch my legs. In the meantime, this will do.

 

Comments Off on Winter Walking

Jan 02 2014

Profile Image of Walt

A Room of My Own

Filed under Blog Post

my roomOne thing leads to another. A month and a half ago, I switched jobs. That put my wife Judy and I on the same schedule, making it difficult for me to do literary work and her to relax at the same time in our common living space downstairs. The solution was simple: move my office upstairs. After all, we have a bedroom up there that is used only a week or two each year. So last week Judy helped me move my furniture. Then I built some more shelves and hauled all my books and papers up the stairs.

Now I have a room of my own where I can close the door and work undisturbed. After spending a little time in this new workspace, I wonder why I didn’t make the move a long time ago.

It’s ten below zero outside this morning. The weather forecasters say it won’t get above zero today. I had planned on going for a hike with my dog this afternoon but I think we’ll stay inside instead. So it goes this time of year.

Funny thing about being an outdoor/nature writer: I do most of my work indoors. Oh sure, I venture into the woods when I can and scribble in a field journal while I’m out there. But the work is done on a computer screen at home. The way I figure it, the cold season is the best time for writing since I prefer being outside the other seven months of the year.

Deep winter. I expect to get a lot of work done during the next few months. Now I have a good space in which to do it. The world will thaw out soon enough. Then there will be plenty of things to draw me outside.

 

4 responses so far

Nov 25 2013

Profile Image of Walt

Long Winter Siege

Filed under Blog Post

winter gardenEven though I’ve been expecting it, the first snowfall of the season always takes me by surprise. It came with a vengeance the night before last: wind howling, sudden whiteout, and the highway home as slick as an ice rink.

I awoke yesterday morning to find a latticework of frost spreading across the window. I went outside before breakfast to feel the arrival of winter. It slapped me in the face the moment I stepped out the door.

The garden in my front yard still has a little color in it. Traces of leafy green and autumnal red linger there. But for the most part, the plants have died back and are hunkered down for the long, cold season. The siege is on.

Here in Vermont, a casual approach to winter simply will not do. I have snow tires on my car now. The storm windows of my old house are down and the leaks around them have been sealed with rope caulk. My plow guy has staked the corners of the driveway in anticipation of the first big dump. Salt and shovels have been moved from storage to the front porch. I am ready.

At midday yesterday, I went for a walk on the Rail Trail with my dog Matika despite temps in the teens. The biting wind gave me an ice cream headache. Matika, with her thick coat of fur, frolicked in the snow. She loves it. But I only tolerate winter, seeing it as an opportunity to get a lot of literary work done since I’ll be inside for the most part. When you live this far north, you find ways to cope with long, cold season. Either that or you go a little stir crazy. Vermont winters are not for the faint of heart.

 

One response so far

Dec 18 2012

Profile Image of Walt

Darkness and Light

Filed under Blog Post

We spend half our waking hours in the dark this time of year. Not so much an issue when we’re indoors, but outside we sure notice it. So it’s nice to see the colored lights strung everywhere. They’re festive. More importantly, they diminish the impact of darkness in early winter, making it easier to tolerate.

Even though I’m no big fan of Christmas, I put lights on my house. I like seeing them there when I come home from work late at night. They make me smile no matter what kind of day I’ve had.

Pagans dragged trees into their houses and celebrated the Winter Solstice with light long before Christians hijacked the holiday. It makes sense, really. Why not light a candle on the darkest day of the year? No sense sitting in the dark and whining about it.

Winter is just beginning. There’s a month lag between the shortest day of the year and the meteorological middle of this season. Yeah, that means the temperatures drop even as the days lengthen in January. Then it’s another two-month crawl out of winter – here in northern New England, anyhow. That’s a dismal prospect for those of us who neither ski nor snowmobile. Oh sure, I’ve polyurethaned my snowshoes and will break them out when the first big dump of the white stuff occurs. But I do so reluctantly. I much prefer the greener half of the year.

Forget about summertime. The Winter Solstice is upon us. Boil up water for tea or hot chocolate, revel in the indoor warmth and light, and surround your self with friends and loved ones. Plenty of time for dark thoughts later. ‘Tis the season. What the hell, why not take whatever pleasure you can from it?

 

Comments Off on Darkness and Light

Dec 20 2011

Profile Image of Walt

The Dark Season

Filed under Blog Post

I can’t help but think of the holiday hoopla as a distraction from the dark season. With the days brutally short, temperatures dropping and all the green gone, this is a tough time of year. So we drag evergreens into our houses, put up colorful lights, then engage in a series of elaborate rituals that keep us busy until we can get used to winter. I do it and I’m not even a Christian. Many of my nature-loving friends aren’t Christians either, yet we exchange greeting cards. Write it off to cultural pressure if you want, but the truth is that we all welcome the distraction. The days surrounding the Winter Solstice are hard to take.

There wasn’t time enough to get into the woods yesterday so my dog Matika and I did the next best thing. We went for a long walk on a nearby section of the Rail Trail. The naked trees clattered in a fierce wind. The ground underfoot was frozen solid, and the endlessly grey sky overhead provided no solace. Yet it felt good to get out and stretch the legs. Properly dressed, the chill wasn’t too bad.

From Ebeneser Scrooge to the Grinch, those who don’t embrace the holidays are held in low regard. And rightly so. It’s hard enough getting through these dark days without the extra negativity. There are frigid months ahead, so break out the sweets, strong spirits and good cheer. Whatever gets us through this darkness is a good thing.

Oh sure, there’s the hyper commercialism of Christmas to criticize, but what’s the difference between December and the rest of the year? Only the intensity. Fact is, we live in a consumer culture. Christmas is merely the grand finale – the climax to an orgy of spending that begins anew every January. Complaining about that is like complaining about sunlight . . . or the lack thereof.

No doubt I’ll be taking more winter walks in the weeks ahead. No doubt I’ll be daydreaming about the greener season while I’m slogging across snow and ice. But I wouldn’t want to live in the southern latitudes where the darkness is much less pronounced. This way I don’t take anything for granted, not even the sun rising.

 

2 responses so far

Older Posts »