Lingering Winter

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I took a couple of walks this past week at two different locations that are only a mile or so apart, but the conditions were very different.Spring is trying to arrive here in upstate NY, but the miserable winter we have been stuck with all year is still hanging on. That means some ice and snow are still lingering, but it is slowly melting into mud and slush in some places. Just when most of the snow cover is gone, we get three inches overnight, but then the next day it just melts into goo. Oh well.

106-0952.jpgMy first walk took me to an old stomping ground where quite a lot of the snow cover has melted; even up at the top of the hill. The walking was easy over mostly open ground. The streams only had ice along the edges and were running high with bubbling rushing water.

Even the sun was out – a rare event in the last few months. I could have spent all day taking photos and just hanging around watching the water run, but I was only able to sneak out for a few hours and had to get home.

A couple of days later I went to a forest just across the valley. As I drove up the dirt road to the trial-head, the conditions looked about the same, but as I neared the top of the ridge things changed drastically. The muddy dirt road got all icy and a solid blanket of snow covered everything in all directions. Getting out of the car I was met with snow crunching under foot, dark heavy clouds sprinkling sleet, and a biting wind.

There are several points to access this area, but some are on unmaintained roads that aren’t open yet. A trail of three or four miles leaves this spot and winds through the trees to the other side and then it circles back around another three or four miles. I planned to follow the trail out and then drop down a gully or two and work my way along the side of the hill back to the start.

This turned out to be a tough job. The six inches of snow on the ground was the kind that has a hard crust that will almost but not quite support a person’s weight. So each step went well at first, but as my weight shifted, the crust would break and my foot would drop a couple more inches with a jolt and then I would drag my foot out of the hole it had made while the other foot crunched down into a hole of its own. If you have ever walked far in this kind of snow, you know what a tedious business it can be.

106-868.jpgAfter slogging along like this for an hour or so, those heavy threatening nasty looking clouds that covered the sky from end to end suddenly vanished! The sun came out, the wind died down, and in what seemed like a matter of minutes, the temperature rose ten degrees.

Now I was over dressed. In no time I was wiping the sweat from my brow and stuffing my hat and gloves in my pockets. It got so bad that I had to take off my coat and carry it over one shoulder with my backpack on the other shoulder and my tripod in one hand as I crunched, crunched, crunched through the woods.

Eventually I came to a gully that I know with some pretty nice waterfalls. I wanted to see if I could get some spring thaw type shots of the rushing water here like I did the other day across the valley. Unfortunately the stream was still mostly covered in ice. I could hear the water running, but it was hidden from sight.

I worked my way downhill for a while and found a spot of open water here and there. I thought I would find open water further down, but before I got that far I came to an impassable spot – no way down without a longish jump down the ice covered rocks – the hillside still frozen and too slick to climb. I had to back track.

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Eventually I came to a place where I could cut across the hill again. I stuggled on around the curve of the hill crossing several other gullies that were just as frozen solid. Hours later I came back to the car hot, tired, and thirsty.All in all it wasn’t the best day I’ve ever had in the woods. I was really amazed that the conditions could be so different from one day to the next. The hills here generally aren’t tall enough to influence the weather that much – a couple of thousand feet tops.

Oh well, like they say about fishing “A bad day hiking is better than a good day at work”

MDW

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7 Responses to “Lingering Winter”

  1. wortman Says:

    great pictures :)

  2. megatrekker Says:

    This well illustrated narrative shall motivate me into the “wilds” of north central Pennsylvania on this sunny day. Spring is springing :)

  3. suburbanlife Says:

    Amazing shot the top picture – scintillating fine sprays caught like dry-brush marks, the warm colour of the rock – just lovely! Your writing caught the variable nature of the back country at this time of year, where conditions cause surprise, some discomfort in hikes. Great post! G

  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Your narrative is so descriptive, it feels like being there. I can empathize with that shift from shade to sun and how it affects your internal temperature. I came back from a two week holiday and find that spring is coming on apace here. We have a few cherry blossoms ready to burst their jackets. I love spring.
    K

  5. forestrat Says:

    Thanks for all your kind comments everybody.

    I have plans to go to the Adirondacks for a couple of days in about three weeks. I hope we get some warm weather before then or I’ll need to take my snowshoes. I hear they got heaps of snow this winter.

    MDW

  6. Ratna Says:

    Looks like you are really winter weary. Here is a link to some photos I took recently, of spring buds. Hopefully they will cheer you up:

    http://creativejoys.wordpress.com/2008/03/31/pregnant-with-a-book/

    Ratna
    http://creativejoys.wordpress.com/

  7. forestrat Says:

    Thanks Ratna. I’ll check them out.

    MDW

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