A Big Old Dose of Spring

At Town Meeting, back on the 6th, I was told Mud Season would begin on the 7th.

It did.

A protracted spell of unseasonable warmth made it even deeper and more tenacious than usual and, two and a half weeks later, it’s still not over. Entire dump truck loads of stone continue to disappear in the slop.

While several feet of saturated road bed thawed in the warm spring sun this week, the ice on the lake remained thick, but not to be trusted.

Expansion cracks became drains, blanched by melt water, while puddles formed in low spots where the ice sheet sagged.

Geese by the hundreds streamed overhead, moving northeast to Lake Champlain and beyond, while half a dozen pairs dropped in, biding their time at the beaver pond until more space opens up and they can take their chances raising families among the snapping turtles and mink.

A month ago, while perhaps a bit tricky in spots, the lake ice was solid enough for travel — nearly a foot and a half thick. After more than a week of warm, sunny weather it was still thick last Tuesday, if somewhat degraded.

From beneath the surface, the ice looked like this:

Of course, with air temperatures so warm and water temperatures so cold, my camera fogged up quickly, giving me a nice selection of photos like this:

I managed one more interesting picture before my arm grew numb from the elbow down.

At its peak, the ice fractured like quartz when struck, with hard chips flying in all directions; by this past Tuesday, a simple squeeze was all that was needed to see how its structure had changed.

 The ice is off Fish in a Barrel Pond sooner than usual this year, due to the early spring warm spell, but what does the early warmth mean, other than open water in March?

Nature does not follow a calendar like we do, relying instead on cues such as temperature and daylight to set the schedule. Phenology (not phrenology, the study of head lumps) allows us to see the connection between climate conditions and periodic biological phenomena, such as the emergence of insects or the blooming of plants. Certain processes require X number of hours above or below specific temperature thresholds, which translate into “chill hours” and “degree days” and can be used to predict when those processes will start.

The degree days accumulated quickly, these past couple of weeks, but trees don’t express themselves through mathematical equations. Instead, they do things like burst into bloom.

Color returns to the hillsides as a gauzy, pastel haze visible from a distance but, up close, the woods are still the color of coyotes and grouse.

Along the muddy edges of roads and paths, colt’s foot blooms, sending up flowers as early as possible but holding back on the leaves until the danger of frost has passed.

The sun is as strong now as it was in September, and pollen fills the air. The bottom has dropped out of the road and it is possible, while just strolling along, to lose a boot to the mud. Getting that boot back on, without falling down, requires a certain amount of balance and skill but something doesn’t feel right about having it happen so early in the season. Experience has shown that, no matter the date on the calendar or degree day accumulations, this is a transitional time and, according to the forecast, winter is not done with us yet.

I still say it’s too bad you can’t just shoot winter in the head and get it over with. On the other hand, maybe the road will stiffen up a bit in the cold.

A friend told me the other day that our road was “much better” than it had been. Great news indeed, especially since I hadn’t made a run into town for several days. Thanks to a little duct tape, I am able to bring you along for part of the ride back home. There is some snow along the road toward the top of the hill; most of the overexposed light areas are 4″-6″ stone, dumped by the truckload to fill in a few “soft spots.” Hang on.

Fish in a Barrel Pond, March 23, 2012

Categories: Humor, nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “A Big Old Dose of Spring

  1. Great post…nice to see these signs of spring. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Today we had a caddisfly hatch out northern Illinois way. I live about a 2 minute walk down to the river. Since they are hatching out of the river, I want to know why they all flew from the river, up a hill and are now hanging out around my house in massive clouds.

    This has to be at least a month early and I wish they would stay down at the bottom of the hill where they belong.

    I guess I shouldn’t complain. It could be mud we have instead. Here in civilized society, our roads are paved, for the most part.

    • It’s probably your cigars attracting the caddis. Strange, the way things seem early everywhere this year …

      We’re civilized. We’re also cheap. The pavement doesn’t fare much better and is expensive to maintain. I joke that the mud keeps the riff-raff away but every day, someone who shouldn’t drive up here, does. I knew a guy who always made a little extra cash, pulling cars from the mud in front of his place, but he said it was a lot of work, hauling in water all night.

  3. Luke

    Great video. Who was the band that covered Johnny B. Goode?

    My favorite cover versions are by Johnny Winter and Peter Tosh.

    • I’m glad you asked, Luke.

      That was the group Coloured Balls, and it is from an album of highlights from the Sunbury Pop Festival, an annual Australian event from 1972-1975.

  4. Woolybugah

    Dear Quill, Thanks for the ride.

    • You’re welcome. I should have done it earlier in the week, when it was a really wild ride! I’m hoping it will be in better shape a month from now.

      • Steve S.

        Wooly- Doesn’t it remind you of a trail recently hiked in Patagonia?

        Quill, thanks for the post. The hills have a late April color. So how much water did it take to get the road in that condition?

  5. krap I

    Quill, What happens when you meet one of those nice friendly Vermonters coming the other way? Does not look like a whole lot of wiggle room.

    • It’s not the Vermonters I worry about, although meeting a fuel truck on the corner is interesting. You’re right, there ain’t much wiggle room at all, but collisions are likely to be very slow-speed affairs.

  6. Spring….always giving and then taking back. I find her annoying (in an endearing way). The video reminds me of a B-Maintenance road by our farm growing up in Iowa…there were always teenagers getting themselves stuck in it trying to go “mudding” in the spring. And your underwater ice pictures = cool!

  7. Pingback: a little fishwrap on Friday | fishing for words

  8. trout chaser

    You might not be able to shoot winter in the head, but some buckshots mightn’t be a bad idea on the truck to deal with roads like that.

  9. Jackie

    Don’t knock phrenology. And also, please don’t die. I heart you.

  10. I finally today, Quill, took the time to play the video that goes with this. Loved “The Road to Fish in A Barrel Pond” soundtrack. It reminded me of Jimi Hendrix’s version of Johnny B. Goode that he played live at Woodstock. In fact that’s who I thought it was, sort of, until the vocal started and I knew it wasn’t his characteristic voice. (Wasn’t there, saw the movie though).
    I did something like this once, stuck in traffic on I-70 near Baltimore, so I set my camera on the dashboard and played, Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55.” Thanks for the high-tech recording. ;-)

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