Tag Archive 'walking'

Oct 24 2022

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The End of the Warm Season

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“Why am I indoors?” I asked myself at noon yesterday after working at my desk all morning. With temps in the 60s, it seemed silly to be inside. After all, a long, cold season lies directly ahead. Even though I’m ready for it, there’s no sense wasting the few warm days left.

I hopped in my car. Judy and I drove down to Dead Creek the day before yesterday to enjoy the warm temps and do a little birding, so I wasn’t in the mood for a long drive again. The woody section of the local rail trail is only ten minutes away. I figured that would do. I drove there, then walked up the wide gravel path, kicking up leaves and spooking a couple garter snakes along the way. I stepped over a few woolly worm caterpillars, as well, warning me that it’s going to be a long, cold winter. Good thing I came out.

There was a little color in the leaves still clinging to the trees, but the so-called peak foliage has been gone for a while now. Between the last peak color and the first skiable snowfall in the mountains, Vermont belongs to Vermonters. I reveled in the beauty and solitude of the quiet woods, ignoring the occasional cyclist passing through.

After walking a mile and a half, I sat down on a knoll overlooking a small pond in a clearing. Crows cawed in the distance. There were also songbirds out there, flitting about in the half-naked trees, but they were too far away to identify. No matter. I just sat there a while, enjoying the warmth and still air, with sunlight filtering through the mostly cloudy sky. I marveled at how quickly the warm season passed this year. The fresh verdure appeared not too long ago, or so it seemed. The days go by a lot faster now that I’m in my 60s.

I took my time walking back to the parking lot. I drove past a farm selling pumpkins for only five bucks and thought about getting one. Sat on the patio in my back yard reading for a while as Canada geese flew overhead. I sat until the sun passed behind the house. Then I caught a chill and went inside. The small bag of nuts on me for the resident chipmunk never came out for my pocket. He never showed. Could Chippy be settled in for winter already? I don’t think so but I’m sure he will be soon.

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Mar 15 2022

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The Gradual Thaw…

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A little over a week ago, Judy and I enjoyed a local walk on nearly bare ground as temps shot into 50s. Then it snowed again – a big dump of the heavy, wet stuff that kept me busy shoveling the driveway for two days. A second walk last weekend was more winter-like, but a cardinal was singing his territorial song and the remnant snow was covered with animal tracks. This morning I hear a woodpecker knocking, also staking out his territory. No doubt about it, spring is imminent.

Winters are long here in northern Vermont, especially for those of us who aren’t skiers. I’ve stayed indoors for the most part during the past few months and have gotten a lot of literary work done. That said, I’m ready to get outdoors for more than an hour or two slog in the snow. I’m ready for spring.

T. S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month, but I think March is. Just when you think spring has sprung, another winter storm comes along. The ground is clear one day, then snow-covered the next. Enough already! Let the big thaw begin.

The big thaw is underway, actually, but like all other seasonal changes it’s gradual. Nature is like that. It’s constantly changing in small increments that add up over time. The days have been getting longer since the Winter Solstice took place months ago. The sun now blazes for nearly twelve hours a day. Fact is winter’s back has been broken.

I’ve been paying close attention to the gradual change. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited. The migrating birds are starting to arrive, the buds on trees are swelling, and the ground is softening up. Soon I’ll be tramping cold mud again. Maybe even later this week. I look forward to that.

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Oct 21 2021

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A Walk in the Rain

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Today I went for a walk in the rain. Depressed by the news, frustrated by a failing desktop computer, and annoyed by minor setbacks while running errands this morning, I couldn’t wait for the skies to clear before stretching my legs. So I donned rain hat and jacket then stepped out the door.

A thin drizzle fell as I slipped through a nearby woodlot on a narrow gravel track, making my way to a paved road that loops back onto itself — an easy two-walk. Not a deep woods experience, but it would have to do for now. Dark clouds overhead threatened heavier rain.

I felt better as I made my way past Bud’s quarry before reaching the paved road. The geese that had inhabited the quarry for weeks on end were gone, having flown south. Would more come down from Canada? Hard to say. Late October already. Well into the migration…

Half a mile down the paved road, the drizzle thinned to practically nothing. A slight breeze shook leaves loose from trees already looking thinned out. Here in the Champlain Valley, the foliage is past peak now. No matter. Still plenty of color to delight the eye.

When I broke a sweat, I thought about removing my jacket. But no, it was best not to tempt the rain gods. The clouds overhead were still dark. I cut my pace instead.

While heading back home, I resolved to go for a good long hike in the mountains soon, before deer hunting season begins. Already snow has fallen in the higher elevations. Soon winter would be upon us. And with that thought I took a deep breath, inhaling the leafy, tannic smell of autumn. Then the last of my morning funk dissipated, just like that.

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May 23 2021

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On the Coast

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Once again Judy and I headed for the Maine coast, right before the busy summer tourist season began. This time we stayed in a quaint little cottage in Cape Porpoise only a few minutes from the ocean. We took the place for a week and were glad we did. Our leisurely days there slipped by fast.

Judy is still big into photographing birds so we spent much of our time on the coast tracking them down. First we went to Scarborough Marsh where we saw egrets, a lone sandpiper, and the surprisingly colorful glossy ibis busy feeding. A short walk in the Scarborough River Preserve later that day and another at Wells Reserve the following day educated us in the curious ways of catbirds. We encountered brown thrashers, an eastern towhee and a mockingbird, as well, along with numerous warblers flitting about. The forested spots along the coast are busy this time of year.

Judy and I visited Goose Rocks Beach a little past low tide in the middle of the week. That was the highlight of our visit, per usual. We had the place to ourselves for the most part – one of the advantages of going to Maine off season. I watched the tide roll in while Judy walked the beach, reflecting upon her first visit there 35 years ago. The place hasn’t changed much since then.

In Wells Harbor towards the end of the week, we got into the shorebirds. I found willets immensely entertaining while Judy worked hard to capture least terns dive bombing for small fish. She got a good shot of a male tern offering a minnow to a female along the shore’s edge. Ah, the mating ritual! Cormorants, eiders, and the ubiquitous gulls were hanging out there as well. The more one looks for shorebirds, it seems, the more one finds.

On the last day, I drove up to Portland and caught a ferry to Peaks Island to visit my old buddy Steve. He took a day off from his mapmaking business to walk and talk with me around the island. His wife Angela joined us for lunch, then the three of us lounged on the deck of their house for a while before I caught the ferry back to the mainland. Judy and I watched common terns feeding at Mother Beach at dusk later that day. It all happened so quickly.

I’m a woods wanderer at heart, most comfortable in mountainous wildlands far removed from the heavily developed coast. But I find the rocky coastline, sprawling beaches and the green spaces down east alluring all the same. And the ocean stretching to the distant horizon as it does certainly puts things in perspective. After all, we live on a water planet. Even as sunlight washes across the landscape for days on end, it’s good to remember that.

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Jan 16 2021

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Midwinter Sunshine

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We waited several days for it. When finally the sky broke open as promised by the weather forecasters, Judy and I went to Colchester Pond. Judy is still passionate about photographing birds, and a few interesting ones had been spotted there recently. But the main thing was to get out and enjoy the sunshine. That’s not an easy thing to do in the middle of winter – not this year, anyhow.

The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived. Evidently, we weren’t the only ones looking to get out of the house. Half a dozen ice fishermen were camped out on the pond. Mostly gray-haired folks like us were walking the trail around it – on a Friday at noon, of course.

I glassed a few cardinals and blue jays with my binoculars but Judy didn’t even raise her camera. She can see those at home. No matter. We soaked in the relative warmth as we meandered slowly along the beaten path. With temps above freezing, Judy actually broke a sweat. I was quite comfortable.

After the walk, we sat on a bench along the edge of the pond, not far from the parking lot. That’s when Judy’s cousin Rick hailed us. We met him halfway between the bench and the parking lot and chatted with him for half an hour or so, keeping our distance because of the pandemic. Then Judy spotted a bird landing in a tree not far away. I glassed it, telling Judy she’d better get a shot because it was a raptor of some sort – one I couldn’t identify. It turned out to be a merlin. A rare sighting. What a fluke! A nice finish to a very pleasant day.

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Dec 22 2020

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Mac’s Bend

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Judy found out from her online birding group that bald eagles have been seen recently at Mac’s Bend near the mouth of the Missisquoi River, so we went there yesterday afternoon. Sure enough, we spotted a pair of them perched atop a tree on the other side of the river, not more than ten minutes into our walk. Unfortunately, they were too far away for Judy to get a good photo of them. So it goes with birding during the winter, more often than not.

We kept walking, following the gated, gravel access road to the Jeep trail ahead. We kept our eyes peeled for whatever else might come along. A woodpecker and a few nuthatches appeared. That’s all. Still it was good getting out of the house, getting some fresh air and stretching our legs. With the pandemic raging these days, we’ve been homebound for the most part.

The river was iced over and covered with a thin layer of fresh snow that also covered the access road. With temps above freezing and no wind, we were comfortable enough as we walked. Sunlight seeped through fissures in the grey clouds overhead. Animal tracks crisscrossed the river. All was quiet as the landscape settled into its winter dormancy.

After checking the time on my cell phone, I realized that there was only another hour and a half of daylight left. No surprise there, this being the shortest day of the year. Winter Solstice. The official beginning of winter. The good news is that the days will be getting longer from here on out.

Judy and I linked arms as we strolled back to the car. We chatted a bit but kept things light. There is enough darkness this time of year – especially this year. Upon reaching the car, we decided to drive around a bit on back roads and continue looking for eagles and other raptors. We spotted a hawk perched on a pole in the middle of a field and saw another one devouring a field mouse she had just caught. We enjoyed seeing houses adorned with colorful lights during our drive back home – Christmas being only four days away. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year.

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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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Apr 10 2020

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A Walk Around the Reservoir

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A couple days ago, Judy and I drove to Essex Junction to pick up some cotton dinner napkins. Before delivering that material to those making face masks, we stopped at Indian Brook Reservoir to walk the two-mile loop trail there. We hadn’t done that in a while.

The parking lot was full of cars when we arrived mid-afternoon. No surprise. With the pandemic raging and people “sheltering in place” for weeks on end, the urge to get out and stretch one’s legs becomes irresistible. Trails like this, close to Burlington, are a good place to do that.

The crowd was expected, as were the dogs accompanying them, but I was not prepared for the flood of memories. My canine companion Matika accompanied me on many walks around the reservoir. She died a year ago, but her spirit was still with me during this walk.

Judy was horrified by the wear and tear of the trail. After thinking about it, we realized that half a dozen years have gone by since she was here last. Yeah, the trail has taken a beating since then. Too close to Burlington and too well known.

So there was a touch of sadness in our walk. All the same it was good getting out, good ambling through the woods on an early spring afternoon, seeing the handiwork of industrious beavers and watching the natural world slowly coming back to life. We aren’t too picky these days. We take our small pleasures wherever we find them.

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Jan 17 2020

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Frigid Walk

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When the temperature outside got up to zero this morning, I put on my thermals and other warm clothes then went for a walk. Nothing special, just the local loop. A couple miles. Just enough to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.

The sun shined brightly through an azure sky. The naked trees cast blue shadows over snow that had fallen the day before. I cut fresh tracks through the woods, then walked the road as an occasional car passed. No one else was stirring otherwise, neither man nor beast.

My eyeglasses frosted over as I walked making it difficult to see. When a gentle breeze kicked up, it stung my exposed cheeks. I usually scoff at wind chill, but not today. Yeah, any kind of air movement when the temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit gets my attention.

I crept along slowly, unwisely having left my crampons at home. I had expected the road to be clear. Slipped and fell once, causing more embarrassment than injury. Like it wasn’t silly enough for me to be out walking on a day like this.

Ah, but stepping back inside after a frigid walk was a true delight! And I’ll enjoy being indoors the rest of the day as a result. Sometimes a little exposure to the elements is just the thing to make one appreciate the comforts of home.

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Dec 11 2019

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Long Walk on a Short Day

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The snow that had blanketed northern Vermont since early November melted off during the past few days. That gave me a chance to get out and really stretch my legs this afternoon, before it snowed again. So I did just that, heading for the wilder section of the nearby Rail Trail to hike hard and fast across barren ground.

Mid-afternoon and already the trees casting long shadows. The days are short this time of year. No matter. The nearly cloudless, deep blue sky lured me out of my warm car and into the seasonably cool air.

I became a little melancholy yesterday, while listening to holiday music during a book-hunting road trip. My mother loved Christmas so I couldn’t help but think of her, and my father as well. They’re both gone now, along with my canine companion Matika who walked the Rail Trail with me countless times during the past twelve years. But there’s a time to grieve and a time to get on with life. This afternoon, I chose the latter.

There was still ice in the wetlands this afternoon, and patches of snow lingered beneath the trees. It won’t take much for winter to reclaim this landscape, but for an hour I walked with a warm-season gait, leaving faint tracks in the partially melted surface of the trail. I crossed paths with a chipmunk that was also taking advantage of the day. This time of year, it’s wise to get out while one can.

Back home now, I’ll soon return to the work I was doing this morning. But first these words jotted down while savoring the last bit of daylight. The sun is sinking fast into the western horizon. Less than nine hours of light today. The Winter Solstice approaches. Glad I got out and soaked up some rays while I could.

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