Pushing the Season

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I wore gloves because the steering wheel was so cold. My daughter, in the passenger’s seat, covered herself in a blanket as we drove out the driveway. A couple of miles from home I glanced at the car thermometer. It had warmed up to -5ºF. Then I glanced in the rear view mirror. Following us was a guy on a motorcycle.

We were driving about 45 miles per hour at that point. It was hard to tell exactly what the guy was wearing but he was wearing white shoes–running shoes, tennis shoes, something like that. At a stop sign he pulled over to adjust his helmet, right behind us, so I could tell it was a he. At least he was wearing big fat mittens. One hardy guy, ready for spring.

A few more miles up the road I had to swing wide to pass a bicyclist. This person wore a  reflective vest similar to the one on the motorcyclist, so at least he was going for high visibility. In warm weather along that stretch I feel a sense of bafflement at why so many people on bicycles do not ride on the bike path, which is right next to the road. Why skirt auto traffic when there is a smooth and safer path right there? But today that bike path was covered in snow and ice. It was not smooth or safer. So I passed widely and offered a Godspeed. That dude was just as hardy.

I am looking forward to spring as well (although I have enjoyed skiing the field lately) but below-zero biking? Imagine standing out in below zero temperatures facing a sustained 45 mile per hour wind. That was the motorcycle dude. And a bicycle isn’t much warmer, despite the self-propulsion factor, when the temperature is so low.

Hats off to those two hardy fellows, but I have news for you. Wanting spring does not make it arrive. Acting like it is warm does not make it so. Still, I have to admire them. Even if I had extra time to bike, or was crazy enough about fuel efficiency to choose a motorcycle, I don’t think I would push the season quite so. For activities such as that, I will wait for spring to actually arrive.

No Snow Day Today

Everyone was excited for the storm. Several inches of snow might fall. Up to a foot! And the timing would be just right. The heaviest snow would come down just in time for the morning commute. It was going to be a snow day for sure. Until it wasn’t.

The forecast changed last night–less snow, the timing not quite right. By dark it was barely snowing yet. I suggested to my children that it was unlikely school would be canceled. They were not happy with me for suggesting such blasphemy. How insensitive of me.

It was snowing steadily at first light. Light fluffy stuff covered the bird feeders outside my bedroom window. Three inches or so had fallen. It was lovely. But school was on. It was a bit of a grumpy morning.

My kids got to school. I made it to work. Our road was not plowed when I steered the car out of the driveway. But the roads became more navigable as I headed to town. I traveled more slowly than usual but I got there.

And it was beautiful. The snow started out wet enough that it stuck to everything. Trees were painted white. Everything was painted white. I tried to tell my daughter, as I drove her to school, to be aware of that beauty. She was having none of it. “It’s not worth it,” she claimed, upset to the end that the snow day fizzled.

Still, I had to try. If I can least show her what it means to look at the world with a positive outlook, she may adopt that stance one day. We can focus on what we do not have, or we can ogle the snowflakes coating the fire hydrant. I guess it’s up to her in the end. But I’m hoping she chooses the latter.

Winooski River Portrait 2018

Yesterday I participated in the Winter Bald Eagle Survey. My route was the Winooski River, from Waterbury to Lake Champlain. While I did not see any eagles, I got to see the river in its winter splendor. It was cold. The day started at 3 below zero and got all the way up to 6 degrees. Here is the Winooski River as I saw it yesterday.

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Just after sunrise in Waterbury

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Winooski Street Bridge, Waterbury

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Deforge Hyrdoelectric Dam. Note the ice after high water earlier in the week.

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From the Long Trail access point, Duxbury

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Long Trail footbridge

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From Jonesville bridge

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Warren and Ruth Beeken Rivershore Preserve

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Town park, Richmond

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Near Fontaine Canoe Access, Williston

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Overlook Park, Williston

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Woodside Park, Colchester. The river is under all that ice.

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Winooski River Walk, Winooski

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Winooski, Vermont

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Flooded fields at Ethan Allen Homestead

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From the bike path bridge as the Winooski River ends at Lake Champlain

Stormy Day

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First it rained–a winter rain, cold. Then it got warm, and kept raining. By yesterday afternoon the temperature rose to 61 degrees. And that rain. The snow disappeared. By the time I got home from work the snow was gone. The fields were flooded. My headlights reflected on the flooded fields.

In the night, sleet ticked against the windows. The wind grew and the sleet pecked the windows. By morning, snow was falling, the wind tossing it around. Snow eddied in front of the garage and on the porch. Drifts stacked in front of the row of pines. With temperatures in the teens, the wind chill was below zero.  We went for a walk anyway.

My wife and I bundled up–down jackets, snow pants, mittens. We trudged through the snow, literally. The drifted snow, mixed with sleet, was heavy on the road. The plow had not yet come by. Ever walk in wet sand on a beach? It felt like that, except without the bare feet and warmth. Nevertheless, we persisted.

After a while thick flakes started to fall. We watched them drop into the river. Fields all around were flooded. The river ran high. Really high. Yesterday it had come up over the road. Yellow ice crunched under the snow. Circles of snow-covered ice clung to the base of trees, a few inches up. Farther up the road, our boots found slush.

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The walk back was colder. We walked into the wind. Back at home I drank coffee, ate the blueberry muffins I had made earlier. I read. I stayed inside. The two of us walked the driveway later to get the mail. Snow still blew sideways. The temperature dropped to single digits.

I had planned to do the Winter Bald Eagle Survey again today, but driving was just not a good idea. I will rise early and do that tomorrow. Hopefully I can access points along the Winooski River, where my portion of the survey takes place. It was be a cold morning. I’ll need to bring coffee. And at least one of those muffins.

Snowy but Cold

fullsizeoutput_869cThis morning I was eager to check the outside temperature. Yesterday was cold. And windy. The high for the day at our house was 0 degrees. With the wind it felt much colder. Once it got dark the temperature dropped further. So I wanted to know just how cold it had gotten. Right before sunrise, typically the coldest part of the day, our thermometer read -20. Haven’t seen that in a while.

Walking to the mailbox yesterday was a frigid experience. I was mostly warm enough but the small parts of my face that were exposed got nibbled by the icy wind. I wore glasses, which I don’t usually wear in such cold temperatures, but it was just a walk to the mailbox, a tenth of a mile. The wind made my eyes tear. The tears froze. The tears fogged my glasses. The fog on my glasses froze. It was a bit of a visual shutdown. My wife, who had made that long trek with me, chuckled at me, shouting “systems failing!” Funny woman, she.

The squirrels this morning, at one point four of them chasing each other to get the prime seat on the hanging bird feeder, were covered in frost. They looked like little snowballs. That frost started to melt once the sun rose, but they kept eating. Sunrise brought birds back as well–Tree Sparrows and Juncos and Blue Jays and Chickadees and more all gathered around the feeders. Breakfast party.

I had planned to ski around our field yesterday. It snowed lightly all day, adding to the snow we already had. But after that walk to the mailbox I said forget it. It was bitter. The temperature should rise more today. Now, not quite 9:00 in the morning, we are still waiting to hit 0, but it is Sunday. I’ve got some hours yet.

In the meantime I will pay some monthly bills, read a book, join the breakfast party from the other side of the window. I made muffins yesterday and we should probably finish those off today. I need to do my part. Once the sun does some work I will think about enjoying this fine sunny day out in the cold. With contact lenses. Keep those systems from failing, if you know what I’m saying.

Snow for Christmas

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We wish for it every year, but it rarely arrives. We have rain. Or wind. Or spring-like temperatures. We typically wake in the dark and gradually see the world wake up to whatever weather graces us. But snow? Doesn’t happen.

It looks like this year, however, we will have snow for Christmas. Yesterday it snowed all day. I spent the day in a meeting room, having many conversations, all of them with snow falling behind me. Perhaps I should have sat in the opposite chair. I could have watched the snow.

When I got home we went for a walk in the dark. The snow still fell heavily. It was light, fluffy, scattering in clouds when we kicked at it. It coated our hats. It squeaked underfoot. The trees wore it. The woods were quiet. Back home we took a sled run or two, shoveled off the porch, filled the bird feeders.

This morning snow coated the field. Late morning it started to rain. It rained most of the day, sometimes just a drizzle, sometimes heavily. But the snow stuck around. There was enough of it. Just before dark it started to snow again. With everything wet from the rain, the snow easily adhered. Branches are white again.

More snow is in the forecast for Monday. There is a winter storm watch for Christmas day. We are looking to get up to eight inches. We had hoped to go see the new Star Wars movie that afternoon. We may have to scratch that. We don’t really want to drive in heavy snow. And if we have that much snow, why go anywhere? We can stay home and ski and sled and romp.

Christmas is only two days away, so the forecast is likely to be fairly, if not totally, accurate. Still, I have my doubts, only because I can hardly believe it. A white Christmas, even here in northern Vermont, is a rare thing these days. I am afraid we will have fewer and fewer of them. But if we get one this year, I’ll take it. In fact, I’ll hoot about it and run around in the snow in pajamas. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Double Snow Day

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It happened once before, several years ago, but that is a once-in-a-school-kid’s-lifetime situation–two snow days in a row. Now I guess we have proved it can happen twice.

Snow started falling about 9:00 Tuesday morning. It kept falling all day. It was cranking late on Tuesday, just dumping, piling up and blowing. It was a storm indeed. A blizzard, as it were. Snow kept falling overnight. At morning light it was still falling hard. And it did not stop until late in the day. The sun, if we could have seen it, would have been hanging just over the horizon when the snow stopped falling. As we ate dinner, late, the last of the snow sifted down. And then it stopped.

By the time it was over we had over 30 inches of snow. We got lucky. And when I say lucky I mean we got more snow than elsewhere. Some towns nearby got 14 inches or 22 inches or 18 inches. Somehow we ended up in the sweet spot. We trudged through it and dug tunnels and made tracks to ski in the meadow. And then we skied in the meadow. We jumped and did flips to fall into drifts. We came in to dry out and played games and ate lunch and watched a movie together. It was some quality family time.

It was a gift. Sure, it is fun to get to stay home from school or work. But having the time to do things together, when we are definitely not going anywhere due to the weather, to play and laugh and share the days–that is something you can’t beat. We took advantage of it, which is good, because two snow days back to back won’t happen again. At least, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen again.

Today, I have to get back out there, at least for a little while. I had a meeting cancelled (roads still not cleared) so I need to take advantage of that, too. Another gift. I need to appreciate it while I’ve got it.

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