Tag Archive 'weather'

Jun 29 2023

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Wet Summer Hike

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A combination of smoke from Canadian wildfires and stormy weather has kept me indoors lately, but I did slip away for a short hike on Tuesday. That whetted my appetite for more so yesterday I went to Niquette Bay State Park for a longer walk on the perimeter trail. Rain was in the forecast but I didn’t care.

I headed out mid-morning hoping to beat the crowd and just maybe get in a hike before the worst of the rain. I was surprised to find over a dozen cars at the trailhead. I set forth at a good clip, happy to be stretching my legs even though I’d be running into people. Whatever.

With temps in the 70s, it took a while to break a sweat. But when I did, the sweat just kept coming. So it goes when hiking on a humid day. Grin and bear it.

The trail was still damp from a shower the day before. Yeah, it’s been a wet summer so far, following a dry spring. The forest vegetation is loving the moisture, of course – especially the ferns. Everything is looking so green and lush these days. I don’t mind sweating for that. The bugs are loving it, too. Hmm…

I picked up my pace, happy to be hiking instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. While breathing heavily, fresh air filled my lungs. No forest fire smoke today. Even clean air shouldn’t be taken for granted.

A hermit thrush sang in the distance. Thrush songs are reason enough to hike in the woods, I think. I encountered a few people on the trail but it didn’t matter. I was alone for the most part – just me and a deep forest quiet.

Surprisingly enough, I got back to my car long before the rain started. Got back home even. Sometimes it’s best to ignore the weather forecast and go for it. Soaked with sweat instead of rain, but it was well worth it. A hike is good for body, mind and soul.

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Dec 07 2011

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A Mild Winter?

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During the balmy days of autumn, I stumbled upon a dozen or so woolly worms in various places, and studied them for some sign of the coming winter. The wider the brownish-red band, the milder the season or so the saying goes.

Well, it looks like it’s going to be a mild one this year.

I’m not a big one for folklore, and don’t really believe that tiger moth caterpillars can predict an entire season any better than our weather forecasters can. Yet I wonder what lies ahead. Right now, in the dismal light of December with a bone-chilling fog clinging to the barren, snowless landscape, the woolly worm prediction seems to be holding true. Will the trend continue?

Predicting the weather is difficult. Predicting an entire season even more so. Nature is chock full of omens but earth science is another matter altogether. The planet is a complex system. There is never enough information to say with absolute certainty what is going to happen in the near future. All we can do is make educated guesses. And climate change? There is always a need for more information when it comes to that. If we want to know all the facts before taking action, then we will be waiting indefinitely.

I don’t know to what extent human activity alters the climate. I don’t know how hard this winter is going to be. I don’t even know with absolute certainty what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. But I’ve noticed that such things aren’t quite as predicable as they used to be, woolly worms or no. So I wonder with with considerable apprehension what lies ahead.


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May 06 2011

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The Deluge

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Here in Vermont, the deluge is all over the news.  Lake Champlain has just set a new high at 103 feet above sea level.  That’s three feet higher than it usually is this time of year, flooding shoreline camps, homes and roads.  The Islands are especially hard hit and the main artery to it, Route 2, is down to one lane.  Heavy snowfall this past winter has melted fast during the past couple weeks, adding more water to rivers and streams already swollen with seven inches of April precipitation.  And the rain just keeps on coming.

Last weekend Judy and I went down to the town park on Saint Albans Bay and walked the water’s edge.  It was strewn with driftwood and other debris.  The seawall was under water along with the beach.  The park trees have wet feet now, and the shore road is closed.  We watched some teenage boys use nets to catch the carp swimming about the flooded baseball diamond.  You don’t see something like that every day.  Yessir, this is a flood of historic proportions.

It’s amazing how great a role weather still plays in our lives.  Most of us live and work indoors most of the time, but walls do not insulate us from the impact that the wild has upon our world.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods – when Mother Nature is on the rampage, you’d better get out of her way… if that’s at all possible.

Mother Nature is on the rampage a lot.  In fact, that’s pretty much the way she rolls.  Changes that we call cataclysmic are business as usual to her.  Mountain ranges are great seas of rock rising and falling on a geologic timescale.  Wind and water wear down all solid things, given enough years.  And everything burns, as the stars remind us nightly.  In a face-off between civilization and the wild, it’s a safe bet that the wild will prevail on anything other than a human timescale.  We sapient creatures aren’t really very sapient at all if think we can defeat Mother Nature.  At best, all we can do is piss her off and make life miserable for ourselves.  Oh yeah, that and maybe wipe out a million species of plants and animals in the process.  But Mother Nature doesn’t care.  There are plenty more life forms where those came from.

When most people experience Nature’s wrath, they think:  “This is the end of the world!”  But it is only the end of our complacency, of our false belief that we have the world in a box.  I love natural disasters for the way they humiliate humankind.  That said, I dread the prospect of going into my basement to assess the water damage down there.  I’m no dummy.  I know when I’m outclassed.

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Jan 29 2009

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Yankee Blue Skies

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While slogging along a snowmobile trail the other day, I couldn’t help but notice the sun smiling overhead.  It shined brightly in the middle of a deep blue sky – the kind we see here in Vermont when dry, arctic air blows our way.  Yankee blue, I call it.  There’s no equivalent in the Midwest where I grew up.  Skies so blue that it’s hard to believe that they’ll ever turn gray again.

Sometimes the snow is so bright white that you can’t help but love it.  Enough warmth radiates from the sun to make you believe that the worst of winter has passed.  And as long as you have your back to the wind, life is good.

Yesterday it snowed all day long.  I went out and shoveled it for a while, drank hot chocolate indoors at lunchtime, then went out and shoveled again.  My dog, Matika, romped in the snow piles undoing some of my work.  I didn’t care.  Neither did my octogenarian neighbor, Scout, who was happy to shovel away most of the day.  Vermonters like to brag about how cold it is in early morning when they go out to start their cars, and how high their snow piles are.  No sense fighting it.  After a while, the cold and snow simply become a way of life.

Is the cup half empty or half full?  That’s an age-old question whose answer reveals more about the person answering than what’s actually in the cup.  At first we respond to the weather, the seasons, and everything else by passing judgment on it.  Then, if we have any sense at all, we let go of that judgment and learn to live with what has been cast our way, maybe even finding joy in it.  Few circumstances in life are truly tragic: war, famine, pestilence, and that other dark horseman.  The rest is merely challenging, like the frigid wind icing over your face or the foot of snow that has to be pushed from your driveway.

I am one of those people who usually takes a dark view of things, who looks at the cup and sees what’s missing, not what’s there.  But every once in a while, I find myself enjoying my labors, even when chilled by my own sweat and running the risk of frostbite. The best part of my walk the other day occurred when I turned towards the wind, my face freezing all the way back to the car.  The best part of shoveling snow is the ache in my lower back afterward.  How can I explain this?  I can’t really.  All I can say is that sometimes adversity is good for the soul.  And when on occasion there are Yankee blue skies overhead, it all seems worthwhile.

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Oct 31 2008

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October Snowstorm

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Snow lingers on the ground despite the weather forecaster’s promise of a return to autumn.  I look at the calendar on the wall.  It’s not even November yet.  This is an unusual turn of climatological events even by Vermont standards.  A dusting of the white stuff before Halloween, sure, but lingering snow this time of year?  C’mon now.

The night before last, I drove home through the darkness just after the cold rain switched to wet snow.  It was a white-knuckle drive that made me think about things to come.  But I went to bed confident that the snow would be gone by noon the next day.  And now, into the second day, I’m trying to make sense of it.  I’m trying to make sense of Mother Nature’s capricious ways.  It isn’t easy.

The law of averages provides some consolation.  Given enough time, snow will fall in September one year, and flowers will bloom in December another year.  It all evens out, right?  Of course it does, unless Mother Nature is up to something we don’t know about.  Yeah, trust the law of averages.  It’ll pass.

On October 4, 1987, I was taken by surprise.  I hiked into the mountains that day with enough gear to spend the night and every intention to do so.  There was something in the forecast about possible rain and a big drop in temperature but I shrugged it off.  Way too early in the season for anything serious.  I was trout fishing in my shirtsleeves at noon, wearing my rain jacket by mid-afternoon, and dealing with freezing rain at dusk.  I set up my tarp against a fallen tree then started a fire to stay warm.  That sorta worked.  When the freezing rain switched to sleet, I put on the dry clothes I’d brought with me and slipped beneath the tarp.  I duct-taped my ground cloth to an emergency blanket, creating a waterproof pouch around my sleeping bag.  Then I climbed into it.  I was nice and warm even as the thermometer I’d brought with me dipped below thirty.  The sleet turned to snow.

Just before daybreak, I awoke to snow – several inches of it covering my camp – and it was still coming down.  I used a stick to beat the ice loose from my rain jacket, then I put it on. The trees swayed precariously in a strong wind blowing from the west.  I broke camp in a hurry, foregoing breakfast.  Then I bushwhacked out of the mountains, three miles downhill, following a stream.  A mature birch cracked loudly in a gust of wind and I jumped out of the way just as it fell where I had been standing.  I kept an eye on the trees all around me as I slogged through the slippery wet snow, falling down repeatedly.  It was a long hike out.

I’ve never been so happy to leave the woods as I was that day, but my tribulation wasn’t over when I reached the road.  It was another two-mile march along the highway, face to the fierce wind, before I reached the nearest town.  There I called Judy and drank hot coffee while waiting for her in the delicious warmth of a convenience store.  I still had icicles in my beard when she picked me up.

Whatever happens today, I’ll be sure to stay warm.  I probably won’t go outdoors for anything more than a little errand running.  It’s way too early in the season for a winter hike.  But I’ll be thinking of that time when Mother Nature really zinged me.  By comparison, the inch or two of snow covering the ground right now is no big deal at all.

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