Archive for February, 2024

Feb 18 2024

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Snow at Last!

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Five inches of snow brightened the dreary, barren landscape here in northern Vermont. It came in two overnight storms, back-to-back. My first thought yesterday morning was to grab my snowshoes and put them to good use for the first time this year. I drove to Sheldon Forest, only 10 miles away, and was breaking trail within minutes of parking my car.

With temps in the 20s and the sun peeking through the clouds, I was comfortable enough even though the middle finger on my left hand complained. It was frostbitten years ago and reminded me that I need to be careful out here. After all, I’m a 60-something man snowshoeing alone. So I cut my pace.

A pair of snowshoe tracks came in from another direction. I traced them for a while as I followed the perimeter trail but couldn’t resist the trackless path disappearing into the conifers at the next junction. I went that way. Soon I was enjoying that deep woods feeling even though the road was less than a mile away. The trees around me were heavily laden with snow. The occasional gust of wind shook some of that snow loose, dusting me. That made me smile.

Stepping over large fallen trees isn’t easy with snowshoes, but it’s a small price to pay for getting off the beaten path. All the same, I was glad to get back on the main trail. Then mine was a pleasant, daydreamy tramp back to the starting point. The sun shined brightly through the canopy, illuminating the forest. This is the way the Northern Forest should be in February, I thought. I reveled in it, even as sweat ran a chill down my spine. My beard was frosty by the time I got back to the car. Yeah, a good outing.

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Feb 04 2024

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Midwinter Daydreams

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For several weeks now, I’ve been getting up early each morning and writing about my various excursions into Adirondack backcountry during the past half dozen years. Talk about scratching an itch!

It’s the middle of a mild, somewhat dreary winter, and the world outside is mostly gray. Occasionally I venture into the cold for a long walk somewhere, but I’m really missing the lush, green seasons. Even if Vermont received enough snow to reclaim its title as a winter wonderland, I’d still be thinking green.

Last August, I ventured deep into the Silver Lakes Wilderness to a small, unassuming place called Canary Pond. There I grooved with the wild to my heart’s content. It has been foremost in my thoughts lately, as I work hard to regain my health. A bout of dizziness sent me to my doctor who, in so many words, told me that I either improve my diet or forget about doing what I love most. Ah yes, the hard choices of old age… Actually, it’s a no-brainer. I can’t afford to lose deep woods solitude. I’d go mad without it.

The wild green forest is fecund and brimming with activity in the middle of the growing season. There’s no substitute for it. Winter sports are good for one’s health, and there are no blood-sucking bugs to deal with this time of year. But being outdoors in February, well, it’s not the same as tramping through a dank forest crawling with activity. The latter is my cherished domain.

I hope to wrap up my collection of Adirondack hiking narratives soon, and get back to being fully in the here/now. Despite the cold, dreariness and lack of snow, the natural world still goes about its business. Short-eared owls have been spotted recently in the nearby Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. Judy and I have made one unsuccessful attempt to see them. It’s time to try again.

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