“I think over again
My small adventures
Those small ones that seemed so big
For all of the vital things
I had to get and to reach
And yet there is only one great thing
To live and see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world”
-- Uvanuk, an Inuit woman shaman recorded in the early 1920s by Knud Rasmussen (quoted in Heron Dance magazine, Issue #27, 2000)
* * * * *
“Sometimes I go about pitying myself,
and all the time
I am being carried on great winds across the sky.”
-- Ojibway song (the Ojibway are Native American peoples of the US and Canada, often called the Chippewa in the US)
* * * * *
The weather never wears out as a popular topic. While in everyday life it serves as a conversation opener, it’s clearly a relevant subject when we’re heading outdoors.
Hikers frequently comment on the weather at the start of a hike, and I often offer reminders that weather changes and surprises are always possible during the day.
Although many days are uneventful, weather-wise, the likelihood of unexpected weather tends to be greater in the mountain areas where we hike than at home.
It’s not unusual for a sunny, blue-sky morning to be followed by a thunderstorm or showers in the afternoon -- even when there’s supposedly “no chance of rain.”
And at other times, on what seems to be a very rainy day, the clouds lift and we’re suddenly bathed in bright sunshine, contrary to all expectations and forecasts.
Many people are in the habit of treating forecasts more-or-less as fact, and making plans accordingly. We need to remember how fallible and imprecise forecasting is.
Over the years we’ve experienced some startling surprises on hikes. One was the September hailstorm we were caught in a few years ago, during which time the ground started turning white and temperatures temporarily plunged into the 30s-40s.
Another was the July 4th weekend snow that fell on us (for real) in the Adirondacks years ago. A few hours later the frigid air lifted, and soon thereafter we went swimming!
I remember another Adirondack day in September when the temperature in early morning dropped to an unbelievable 17 degrees (F) and later soared into the 70s.
And then there was the early January heat wave a few years back when temps leaped up into the 70s on one of our hikes, briefly transporting us back to summer.
Not to mention our “flood hike” in the Catskills, when we got 4-5 inches of rain in a couple of hours and had to hike out in ankle-to-knee-deep water. That may not sound like fun, but some hikers loved the adventure of it. And rain hadn’t even been in the forecast!
That isn’t to forget that there are many, many other days when the weather could be characterized as “uneventful” and/or corresponds closely to the forecast.
This particular subject came to mind after our recent 11/20 moderate hike, which had been moved to Fahnestock State Park because of high wind warnings in NJ.
To our complete surprise (and not in the forecasts), we found 3-4 fresh inches of gorgeous new snow on the ground and coating the trees and bushes, transforming an autumn outing into a splendidly lovely bright white preview-of-winter hike. Photos taken on that latest weather-surprise hike will be featured in an upcoming weekly slideshow.
-- Charlie Cook