“I walked out into another world.
It was a night such as one sees perhaps have a dozen times a winter. The sky was less a sky of earth than interstellar space itself revealed in its pure and overarching height, an abyss timeless and remote and sown with an immense glittering of stars in their luminous rivers and pale mists, in their solitary and unneighbored splendors, in their ordered figures, and dark, half-empty fields. It was the middle of the evening and in the north over a lonely farm, a great darkness of the forest, and one distant light, the Dipper, stood on its handle, each star radiant in the blue and empty space about the pole.
The greater splendor burned white and blue above the south. There exalted and assembled in one immense principality of the skies, the shining press of the greater winter constellations glittered above the little cold and dark of earth.”
-- Henry Beston, Especially Maine (The Stephen Greene Press, 1970)
* * * * *
Can you remember a winter like this one? Viewed from about halfway through, it seems to have been a totally topsy-turvy season, mainly defined by extremes.
As you may remember, last fall was one of our warmest ever, which led to one of the latest foliage seasons ever. Remarkably, we even saw some colored leaves in early December, several weeks after the season has usually ended.
Then in mid-December we plunged into a Deep Freeze, entering one of the longest super-cold-spells we’ve seen in decades, which lasted well into January.
The result was that our first two hikes of 2018 started in near-or-below-zero temperatures. Of course, that didn’t keep the hardy souls who signed up from enjoying themselves, as some of the photos from those hikes surely revealed.
Then temps abruptly soared into the upper 50s-to-low-60s, which melted all the snow that had accumulated, and heavy rain brought major stream flooding.
…Then back into the freeze we went for several days, and the following weekend we encountered sheets of ice along the trails (which we safely negotiated wearing spikes on our boots, which these days makes icy conditions totally manageable).
.. And then (nothing stays the same for long now!), another super-warm week melted the ice, which created spring-like (and drier) trail conditions that weekend.
No, I can’t ever recall witnessing so many extreme temperature ups & downs in succession. Thankfully we’ve been able to do our hikes as scheduled, one weekend dressed for near-arctic conditions, the next more lightly dressed for mild weather.
February has featured less dramatic temperature swings so far. But it was 10 degrees (F) at the start of our 2/3 hike, which took place in 2 inches of beautiful new snow -- and while long-range forecasts shouldn't be trusted, temps are expected to be above average for the next 10 days or so, with daily highs mostly in the 40s (plus a couple of days in the 30s & 50s) and no bouts of bitter cold on the horizon. And no major snowstorms have been sighted yet…
Spring officially arrives in about 6 weeks, and then we can usually count on temps being quite a bit warmer, on average. I hope you’ll be hiking with us then (or sooner) as we welcome budding plants, flowers, and other wonders of springtime!
-- Charlie Cook