Tag Archive 'early winter'

Dec 05 2021

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A Good Day to Get Outdoors

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I hunkered down to work as the length of day slipped below 9 hours, but I could feel myself sliding into a funk all the same. I needed to get outdoors. After a week of wintry conditions, with snow covering the ground and temps staying below freezing, I looked for a window of sunshine in the forecast. It came Friday morning as promised – the sky breaking open after a snow squall at breakfast. I took care of what business had to be addressed then headed for Niquette Bay State Park.

Niquette Bay, on the shores of Lake Champlain, isn’t exactly deep woods but I figured the snow covering the ground would be negligible here, unlike the mountains. Sure enough, there was only a trace of white stuff left. Rain the day before had washed away most of it. I had tucked a pair of Microspikes into my jacket but didn’t have to use them. My boots provided traction enough as I hiked at a brisk pace across the half-frozen ground.

The clouds cleared out during my walk, allowing sunlight to wash over the landscape. That’s what I came out for primarily, but stretching my legs and breathing in the cool, clean air also felt good. I cut my pace, in no hurry to do the three-mile loop around the park. A short climb uphill gave me a bit of an aerobic workout. After cresting the summit of the hill, I stopped long enough to enjoy a good view of the snowcapped Mt. Mansfield looming over the Champlain Valley. That and the forest sprawling at my feet reminded me why I live in Vermont. Nature struts its stuff here.

Life is good when the sun is shining no matter what time of year it is. The days are short this time of year so smart Vermonters get outdoors and enjoy the sunlight when they can. Like everyone else I’m a thinking creature, comfortable enough with indoor life and all my abstractions. But I’m a creature all the same. The elements leave their mark on me, and most of the time that’s a good thing.

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Nov 26 2021

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Winter Begins

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Snow is falling right now. Not the first time this year. But it’s accumulating this time and will continue to accumulate through the night. I’ll probably be shoveling it tomorrow morning. So it’s safe to say that winter has begun. The way I see things, winter began this afternoon.

The time changed a couple weeks ago so today the sun sets a quarter past 4 here in northern Vermont. For a light-sensitive guy like me, that’s harder to take than the steadily dropping temperatures this time of year. But I’ve braced myself for it. The main thing is to stay busy. That’s what I’ve learned through the years. It’s not a good idea to be idle when the long darkness sets in.

It seems almost sacrilegious to live in Vermont and not be a big fan of snow, but I live here for the joys of the other three seasons. In winter, while the skiers are hitting the slopes, I stay indoors for the most part. I do a lot of reading and writing this time of year and get outdoors as needed to keep from going stir crazy. This arrangement works well for me for the most part. But the month between now and the Winter Solstice is tough, I must admit.

Every day is a good day, and all weather is fine by me so long as it’s not life-threatening. I like the variety. I wouldn’t be happy living a thousand miles south of here. This time of year, I remind myself of this on a regular basis. But I’m always a little melancholy when winter begins. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard.

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Dec 08 2020

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Eagles at Lake Carmi

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Judy is going deeper into birding. She has recently picked up several books on bird behavior and has spent the better part of the past few days reading about them. So I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she wanted to go to Lake Carmi because people from an online birding group had spotted bald eagles there. But a light snow was falling yesterday as we were getting ready to leave the house. I thought for sure she’d change her mind.

We ate our lunch in the car while parked at the Lake Carmi State Park day use area. That’s when we saw several bald eagles flying over the lake a good distance away. Shortly thereafter, while walking a nature trail around a nearby field, we spotted another one overhead, silhouetted against the grey sky. Judy wasn’t able to get a good shot of it, though. We wandered about the day use area a bit more, chilled by a steady wind out of the north before retreating to the car.

Now what? Judy suggested that we drive the road running along the northern edge of the lake. We did just that but spotted only a few songbirds in the process. Then I suggested that we drive the access roads to private camps along the west shore of the lake. It was a long shot, but we had the time so why not?

Most of the camps were closed for the season. A thin layer of snow covered the dirt road. Judy scanned the trees along the lake’s edge as we puttered along slowly. “There’s one,” she exclaimed, “Stop the car!” I did just that. Then Judy stepped out with her camera, shooting at a bald eagle resting on a branch. But the grand old bird was annoyed by my shutterbug wife so it flew away.

We sighted that eagle again a short while later. Judy stepped into the cold for a few more shots. That’s when I told her she was hardcore. Then I laughed. But I was right there with her, binoculars in hand. Such a funny pastime birding is. An endless hunt. So many different kinds of birds in all kinds of habitats. So much to learn.

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Nov 18 2020

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Walking It Off

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Once again I’ve found myself slipping into a funk – a Covid funk. The current surge of new cases means there will probably be another lockdown soon. Like the political bullshit and the shortness of the days isn’t enough to deal with. And then this morning I awaken to sub-freezing temps and a dusting of snow. Although previewed earlier this month, winter has arrived in force here in northern Vermont. Ug.

While my first thought was to stay indoors and continue stewing in my juices, I decided to go for a short hike in a local pocket of woods and embrace the season instead. Besides, the funk wasn’t going to go away on its own. I had to do something proactive.

After a round of writing and shipping out some books, I stepped onto the trail winding up and around Aldis Hill. Not much of a hike, really, but getting outside, stretching my legs and breathing fresh air for a short while was all I needed. It worked wonders, of course, as it always does. And it was nice being among trees again, even if they are in a city park. Nothing compared to that challenging Jay Mountain Ridge hike a few weeks ago, but not every outing has to be a rigorous one. Sometimes a 40-minute walk will do.

The funk had diminished considerably by the time I returned to my car. I know how this goes, though. I’ll have to get out again in another day or two to keep it at bay. Even then, the news will still be full of political bullshit and the days will keep getting shorter for another month or so. No matter. I do what I can to get through these dark days thinking: What a glorious year 2021 is going to be, once a mass vaccination has done a number on that nasty bug! Then we’ll all have a life again.

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