“Every sunlit desert morning has a magic moment. It may come at five o’clock, at seven, or at eleven, depending on the weather and the season. But it comes. If you are in the right mood at the right time you are suddenly aware that the desert’s countless cogs have meshed. That the world has crystallized into vivid focus. And you respond. You hold your breath or fall into a reverie or spring to your feet, according to the day and the mood.
The leaping lizard heralded such a moment. I do not mean that anything very dramatic happened. A waspish-banded fly took a hovering look at my nylon rope, than snapped away into invisibility. A butterfly landed on one of my red socks. A hummingbird buzzed the sock and the butterfly flickered, vanished. The hummingbird cased the orange parachute, rejected it, up-tailed away to a nearby bush, and perched there with constant nervous quiverings of its violet-banded neck. That was all, I suppose. That, and a sharpening of the sunlight, a thickening of wind-borne scents, or perhaps a deeper vibration somewhere down in the silence. But I know that all at once, standing there on the red rock terrace, still watching the lizard, I was knife-edge alive.
I stood in silence beneath the curving harmony of three huge sandstone boulders. I wondered what lived down a tiny vertical shaft in hot red sand. I even found myself listening to birdsong, which is not, I’m afraid to say, my habit. Found myself really listening -- to a piercing intermittent blast so like a referee’s whistle that it kept stopping me in my tracks; and to a soft, contemplative warble that repeated, endlessly: ‘Years and years and years and years and years...’”
-- Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time (Vintage Books, 1967)
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Are you ready for summer? It’s true that for many of us, spring never lasts long enough. So much beauty in nature, so many interesting changes taking place, and not nearly enough time to take it all in. And then suddenly it’s summer again…
The pace of change does seem to slow down a bit during the summer months, but nothing really stays the same for long. New wildflowers will bloom each week, vegetation will become ever more lush, and average temperatures are sure to rise.
Having distinctive seasons is rewarding in many ways, but we do pay a price, in that some of our favorites seasons like spring seem to fly by way too quickly.
We’re also blessed with almost every conceivable kind of weather throughout the year. That can occasionally include extreme weather events, but thankfully the most dangerous ones like tornadoes or hurricanes don’t visit us very often.
This past spring furnished another example of how widely seasons can vary from one year to the next, unlike areas of the US where there’s less seasonal variability.
In 2016 we had a very dry April, and the waterfalls we visited on many spring hikes were extremely low. Whereas this year April was “wonderfully wet,” so many of the mountain streams were roaring and the waterfalls were spectacular.
We had more cloudy and cool weather on spring hikes this year than last, and some of you would have preferred more sunshine. But on most weekends we enjoyed superb hiking weather. We only hiked once in “serious” rain.
Our 5/26-29 wilderness camping trip in Shenandoah National Park was another example of great hiking and camping weather, where temps stayed mainly in the cool 50s-60s and we only had about an hour of rain one day (plus some major fog).
Until now we hadn't seen a real heat wave this year. We’ve just entered what's likely to be a brief hot spell, since by Wednesday daily highs are expected to drop back into the 70s-to-low-80s for a number of days. But higher temperatures are possible anytime. Thankfully, it’s always somewhat cooler in the mountains where we hike.
-- Charlie Cook