Apr 10 2009

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Spring Arrives in the Mountains

Posted at 8:44 am under Blog Post

After parking my car where Preston Brook spills into the Winooski River Valley, I hike the narrow dirt road up a steep grade into Honey Hollow.  There’s a dusting of snow on the ground and flurries in the air, but I’m dead set upon finding springtime here on this early April day.  I follow a deer trail down to the brook once I’m above the gorge.  The trail empties into a small clearing a short while later, where a hungry deer have foraged beneath a lone apple tree.  From there it’s an easy bushwhack along the stream, back to the base of Camel’s Hump – my favorite Green Mountain.  I set a steady pace to keep from wearing out too quickly.

I’m looking for signs of eternal renewal but my dog, Matika, doesn’t care.  Any day in the woods is a good one to her.  She leaps over a feeder stream, does a 180, then leaps over it again for the sheer joy of leaping.  She scratches here and there, sniffs, and runs about wildly.  She couldn’t be happier.  As for me, well, I’m halfway between being in my body and in my head – between sensual awareness and philosophical abstraction.  I hope to tip the balance towards the sensual before day’s end.

Preston Brook roars as spring runoff cascades through the rocks.  It is a bank-full tumult of whitewater racing out of the mountains, teasing me with mere glimpses of its clear, green pools.  This stream won’t be fishable for another month, but already my thoughts have turned towards the speckled trout lurking in dark corners just beneath the surface.  Icicles dangle from the moss-covered trees that have fallen across the torrent.  I look for a stonefly shuck amid the rocks along the stream’s edge but don’t find one there.  Soon, very soon.

Beneath my feet, the ground is soft, spongy, and covered with forest detritus.  In wetter places, I sink up to my ankles in mud.  While stepping over blowdown, I notice tiny, club-shaped reproductive organs arising from a patch of moss – a sure sign that the growing season has commenced.  The Christmas ferns, polypody, and evergreen woodferns pressed to the ground by winter are starting to rebound.  Deep green clubmoss pokes through patches of snow, making me think of a different era when the growing season was very short, indeed. And for a split second I feel Neolithic – fresh from the Ice Age.

Coltsfoot appears suddenly before me on a mudslide.  I am shocked by its tight curl of yellow petals on the verge of opening.  Already?  A bit later I spot a robin on the branch of a young maple tree – something common in the lowlands this time of year but rare here in the mountains.  Looking around, I notice the hemlocks adding welcome color to an otherwise brown and gray forest.  I thank them for it.  My eyes hunger for green.

Miles deep in the hollow, I take a seat next to the brook and rest.  Matika has a cup of kibbles for lunch while I eat a handful of nuts, a granola bar and a few pretzels.  Before long I’m chilled by my own sweat, so I pack up then tag the narrow dirt road for a long walk out.  I daydream along the muddy lane, recollecting other walks here in years past – many, many walks.  Growing older isn’t so bad.  My vault of pleasant memories overflows.

Through a break in the trees, I see Bone Mountain in the distance looking very cold and gray.  No matter.  A gust of warm wind blowing up from the Winooski River Valley reminds me what time of year it is.  I pass a dozen green shoots of wild lilies breaking through the earth.  Then I smile.  Yeah, it’s that time of year and I can feel a vital part of me thawing.  And before I get back to my car, I’m already planning my next outing.  This time of year, I can’t get enough of it.

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