Monday, February 24, 2014

Winter Trudgery

Only one strap of my snowshoe was fastened around my boot today, when suddenly the wind came roaring down the river valley, bringing along a stinging blast of driven snow, so thick the very air was opaque as chalk, and I couldn't breathe without sucking in icy lungfuls.  "Oh, the heck with it!" I grumbled, undoing that strap and throwing my snowshoes back in the car.  I didn't really want to go trudging through those deep heaps, anyway, and although the sun resumed shining brightly only a mile or so later, I didn't turn my car around but continued on home.

I'd had quite a workout the day before, slogging along through thigh-deep drifts in the rolling hills above the Hudson at Moreau.  Not another human soul had ventured along this powerline clearcut, so my snowhoes sank deep with every step, and every footstep was weighted with clumps of heavy snow that clung to the tops of my boots.  I almost gave up before I had gone 20 yards, but I soon found my stride and pushed ahead, happy to have this beautiful windswept height of mountains and forest to myself.

Well, almost to myself.  From the looks of all these animal trails, it appears that many other creatures travel these heights.  Most of the trails were made by deer, and I pitied them for how their small pointed hooves plunged deep, deep down in the snow.  The foxes and fishers and porcupines managed to mostly cruise along on top of the drifts, but the coyotes also must have found it hard going, to judge from the depth of their tracks.  There were turkey tracks, too, and these hardly dented the crusted snow around a thicket of hawthorns.

The temperature rose to almost 50 degrees yesterday,  and that warmth -- along with the heavy work of breaking deep snow -- soon found me stripping down to my longjohn shirt.  After less than an hour, I figured I'd had enough exercise and looked for the streambed that I would follow down the mountainside to where it joined the Hudson.

I found the river wide open below the Spier Falls Dam, its wind-rumpled waters a dazzling blue beneath a clearing sky.   There were bright-white dots of American Merganser drakes out on the water as I approached, but of course they flew away before I could take their photo.  I sat on the riverbank a while, hoping to maybe catch sight of a Bald Eagle fishing, but not today.

On Sunday, Sue and I had visited a stretch of the Hudson further downstream, at South Glens Falls.  There, the river was still solidly frozen from shore to shore, so we didn't see any eagles fishing there, either.  We did see dozens of Robins, though, flocking in Staghorn Sumac trees to eat the persistent fuzzy red fruits.   More and more often, we are seeing Robins all winter long, so we can't consider them harbingers of spring anymore.

Although we're just beginning to hear the Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees start to sing their spring songs, we know that winter still holds us in its grip.  In fact, the weatherman is forecasting a return of polar cold this coming week.  Sometimes, just to keep my spirits up, I look through my photo files to remind me of the delights that lie in wait, in not too many more weeks.  Spring Beauty and Bloodroot are two of our earliest flowers to bloom.  How I will welcome them!


suep said...

I'm already dreaming of the perfect day to go to Denton Preserve and catch those Spring Beauties in BLOOM ...meanwhile, keep those snowshoes handy

The Furry Gnome said...

Yes, looking forward to those spring flowers! You certainly live in an interesting landscape; every outing sounds great.

Ellen Rathbone said...

I love bloodroot - it is one of my favorite spring flowers. A very pure spirit.

Carolyn H said...

Ah, you had more ambition than I did. I ended up not snowshoeing down Roundtop Mtn.