Tag Archive 'northern Vermont'

Apr 27 2024

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The Unfurling of Spring

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photo by Judy Ashley-McLaughlin

Late April is a glorious time of year here in northern Vermont. The snow and ice are gone in all but the highest elevations and the remote corners of the state, the trees are covered with catkins kicking out their pollen, the swollen buds of bushes are beginning to open, and the grass is greening everywhere, everywhere. Oh sure, there is still plenty of brown in the leafless forests and tilled fields, and the occasional snow flurry on colder days reminds us of winter’s recent passing. But the blazing sun is working its magic all the same.

We are well into the growing season now, even though it’s too early to break out the shorts and flip flops. Some people anxiously await those 75-degree days, resenting the rawness of the first half of spring. “Mud season,” some Vermonters call it contemptuously, but I am never as hopeful as I am this time of year. Every day brings a new development in the natural world, and directly ahead of us is the warmer half of the year and endless green.

In the mountains a little over a week ago, I tramped in cold mud next to a raging brook up to its banks in snowmelt. Walking along the Rail Trail the other day, I spotted wood frogs and clusters of their eggs in ephemeral pools. Spring peepers sing out every night from nearby wetlands; songbirds do the same during the day. Robins, blackbirds, and other migrators showed up weeks ago, and hummingbirds are not far away. Ants, mosquitoes, and scores of other insects are busy now. Worms appear whenever I scratch the soil with my rake. The resident chipmunk has come out of his burrow, running circles around me until I hand over some nuts. The sun is now up early in the morning – almost as early as I am. And it’s all happening at once!

But it’s the flowering plants that drive home the drama of endless renewal this time of year. In the wilder corners of my back yard, round-lobed hepatica and spring beauty are in bloom, along with the less obvious wild ginger. I kneel down before them for a closer look. In tamer places, a solitary pansy struts its stuff – an outrageous burst of yellow. The bright green leaves of columbine and bleeding hearts have already leafed out – the latter sporting clusters of pink and white flowers on the verge of opening. I can hardly believe my eyes…

Then yesterday late afternoon I stumbled upon a patch of purple trilliums on the forest floor, already in full bloom. I nearly swooned from it. What an incredible world this is! How fortunate to be alive! There is nothing more miraculous than the unfolding of spring, and no joy greater than being totally immersed in such fecundity. That’s what an unrepentant pantheist like me feels this time of year, anyhow.

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Nov 21 2022

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The Long White Begins…

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Winter arrived in northern Vermont last week with the first snowfall blanketing the earth. Only a couple inches of the wet, heavy stuff, but it has lingered as temps have stayed around freezing. And so the long white begins…

I went for a short hike yesterday despite the inviting warmth of home. Didn’t go far away. The 3-mile loop in Niquette Bay State Park was good enough since deer hunters are prowling the Green Mountains these days. I passed half a dozen people on the trail, but was alone most of the time. Alone while making tracks in half-frozen mud, inhaling cool air.

A steady wind rocked the naked trees overhead, causing them to creak and groan – a woody conversation while I moved silently below. The late afternoon sun, setting so early this time of year, sank towards the western horizon. Forest shadows beneath a mostly azure sky. I hiked at a pace slower than usual to keep from chilling in my own sweat.

Just a few patches of snow here and there, but more will come no doubt. I’m ready for it. I’m ready to spend entire days indoors thinking, reading and writing. I’m as ready as I can be for holiday darkness, and the frigid temps that will follow. I polyurethaned my snowshoes when it was still warm enough to do that outdoors, so I’m ready to lay tracks in the snow, as well.

There’s no sense fighting winter when you live this far north. Better to embrace it, making the most of a season that has its own charms. Hibernation simply will not do – not when the cold season lasts nearly five months. Yeah, much better for sanity’s sake to embrace it.

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Nov 18 2019

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Early Winter Hike

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Last week a big storm dumped 8 inches of snow on northern Vermont, and temps haven’t warmed up enough since then to melt it off. Not unusual for this time of year, but it caught me off guard all the same. I still haven’t put winter tires on my car.

Snow or no, I had to get into a pocket of woods and stretch my legs yesterday. Too much time staring at a computer screen makes me cranky. So I grabbed my boots, pulled the a set of crampons called Microspikes out of my closet, and headed for Niquette Bay State Park. I went into Burlington to meet a friend for breakfast, actually, and stopped by the park on the way home.

By the time I reached Niquette Bay, it was late morning and temps had already reached into the twenties. The sun was shining brightly, as well. Without a doubt, it was going to be a pleasant walk.

I pulled the Microspikes over my boots and voila! Excellent traction despite packed snow and ice. I hiked along the trail effortlessly and shot up the icy ledges as if walking across bare ground. The air was crisp and clean, and the climb just rigorous enough to get my blood up. Descending the ledges on the other side, I came upon three people struggling on all fours to negotiate the treacherous, icy slope. Their crampons were still in storage.

Upon reaching the beach, I was surprised to see nothing but open water in the bay. The lake hasn’t even begun to freeze over yet. Then again it’s only November. A few ducks floated close to shore. Why are they still here? Evidently, they haven’t received the memo yet: winter has arrived.

I could have kept going, but a couple miles was enough. I looped back on a shorter trail and reached the parking lot about fifteen minutes later. I’m not a big fan of winter but crampons sure make it a lot more tolerable. With them I can stretch my legs just about any time the snow isn’t deep enough for snowshoes. So I think I’ll keep them in my car until spring.

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