Apr 15 2011

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Mud and Water

Posted at 7:55 am under Blog Post

After a week on the road, I wanted to reconnect with my home turf.  French Hill seemed like just the place to do that, so I parked my car in front of a closed gate yesterday and tramped into the quasi-public reserve there.  I went looking for signs of spring, of course.  It’s that time of year.

Matika ran about, wild and free.  She was absolutely elated to be in the woods again.  My reaction was a bit more subdued.  I felt relief, pure and simple.  The world is mad.  The quiet forest is the only thing that makes any sense to me.

Nearly a thousand feet above the Champlain Valley, the high rolling ground around French Hill is still recovering from winter.  Patches of snow linger on the forest floor, and both beaver ponds are still half covered with ice.  I visited the larger one first since it was close to the logging trail.  My boots sank deep into the mud.  My tracks filled with water.  Here in Vermont, you don’t enter the woods this time of year unless you’re okay with mud and water.

A few peepers chirped from the edges of the large pond – hardly the chorus I had hoped for.  Spring is coming late this year, thanks to all the snow that fell this winter.  That’s okay.  It felt good to have soft earth underfoot regardless.

I had to bushwhack to reach the smaller beaver pond.  I followed the tiny stream flowing down from the larger pond then approached smaller one slowly.  Three mallards were floating there.  I didn’t want to disturb them so I kept Matika behind me.

Woodpeckers had been busy digging in a dead tree along the edge of the pond.  The beaver lodge on the far end of the pond had a few new sticks piled on top of it.  The mallards swam over to the icy half of the pond then went for a short walk.  I watched them for a while before following a fresh set of deer tracks back to the logging trail.  Matika and I spooked the deer a few minutes later.

Before leaving the smaller pond, I found the bright green shoots of false hellebore breaking through the forest duff.  I almost stepped on them.  Didn’t think much about it until I reached my car, but those shoots were the first new vegetation I’ve seen in the Vermont woods this year.  John Burroughs once wrote that the first signs of spring are always down low in the wet spots, not on the high, dry ridges.  It makes sense really.  After all, mud and water is what early spring is all about.

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