SNOW HAD gradually changed to drizzle before I finally got around to heading out for a planned, hopefully last of the season, snowshoe. The temperature hovered just below freezing but for some reason it felt cold and raw. I put on a light quilted vest under a hooded winter coat that would offer some protection from the drizzle. With my phone secured in the zipped pocket and my camera tucked inside my coat, I went out to put the snowshoes on.
These snowshoes were new last year. I do like them — they are lightweight, fairly small, have substantial grippers, are red in color, and came with a set of poles. The bindings across the boot are easy enough but my only complaint is the contortions required to buckle (and worse, unbuckle) the strap that goes around the back of the boot — the buckle is on the outside which makes sense that it won’t be rubbed by the opposite foot but one needs a mirror to operate them.
Finally, I headed out the porch door. My goal was to walk our so-called “big loop” — the one-mile-ish perimeter access road around our property. I hadn’t walked the big loop in a couple months which is highly unusual. I was looking forward to it; maybe this would be the beginning of the end of winter. My husband and I try to keep a snowmobile trail at least along what I call the “small loop” so I can walk the dogs (two small and one old) throughout the winter. That trail was fairly easy going — packed but not so packed that it wasn’t a bit of a workout.
We open a portion of our property to the local snowmobile club. They are very respectful and each fall come by and trim the trail edges and replace signage. There were a few more signs this year than usual — one reminding sledders to go “Slow,” which I appreciate.
The “slow” sign seemed to be the theme for the day. Not only is winter slowly departing but I was going pretty slowly! I stopped to take the accompanying picture which first required removal of gloves. Then I had to dig my camera out of its nest under my jacket. Then I attempted to unfog my glasses, which didn’t work so I tucked them into the zippered pocket with my phone. I got my picture but not without first noticing that my camera battery was flashing that it was low.
I was further slowed down as I attempted to put everything back together, including getting my fingers into the bunched up lining of my fleece gloves. As my snowshoes flopped along this more densely packed snowmobile trail, I began to think that except for that first few hundred feet, perhaps I didn’t need my snowshoes. But anyone who has walked on snowmobile trails knows that the path made by the snowmobile’s track actually can make walking more difficult since it doesn’t create a hard surface but slips and shifts underfoot. So I kept the snowshoes on.
Hoping to see some wildlife and to catch my breath, every time I crested a small hill I stopped and looked around. Once I saw three or four chickadees cross the trails and land in snow-covered hemlocks. I talked to them and assured them that spring was on its way, that the forecast was for relatively mild temperatures in the upcoming week, that it was only a matter of time before they would be able to breathe a little easier and not work so hard just to stay alive. That was it for wildlife; there weren’t even the usual plethora of tracks after a fresh snowfall. Everyone was tucked in.
Ultimately, I got back to my porch feeling like I had gotten a decent workout while getting outside and on our trails. I had abandoned my gloves, my hat, my foggy glasses, and my coat had added some weight to my workout since its water-propelling properties did not last long. The sign along the trail may have said “Slow” but I decided that, in fact, spring is fast approaching.
Several people emailed with what they find to be a sign of spring:
• Carolyn in Canterbury feels like phoebes nesting by their front door is a sure sign of spring.
• Cookie feels that the great blue heron’s appearance is the signal she is looking for.
• John says the sight of the common mergansers gathering for a week or so on the ice-free Salmon Falls River before heading further north means spring.
• David saw goldeneyes on the Merrimack River and sent pictures with the subject line “Spring almost here.”
I hope David is right, that spring is almost here.
Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. Email her at email@example.com.