The so-called January Thaw allows a few days of relaxation before tucking back in to await winter’s worst in the weeks before its inevitable, sloppy death. Snow on the ground forms a crust as its surface melts and re-freezes, hyper-extending the knee joints of those foolish enough to think they won’t break through, while lake ice takes on a rink-like polish as puddles fill in the low spots. Some years the January Thaw waits until February. Last year it never came at all. This year there were two thaws in January and one so far this month alone, so it could well be the case that we’ve actually had four hard freezes in what’s otherwise been a mild winter.
The snow on the ground has amounted to darn near nil this year, forming that icy crust with nothing left over. Fortunately, there has been plenty of rain to smooth it out and create a glaze that, if nothing else, reminds us that gravity is not just a good idea. It’s also the law. Misjudging the trajectory needed to reach the gate of the chicken yard, for example, is a good way to crash into the fence but, by really misjudging it, one can miss the fence completely, drop into a ditch and hit a hemlock a hundred feet down the slope.
Following the contour, scrambling to not lose more elevation before reaching the road, isn’t so bad once one gets the hang of slinging one’s self from tree trunk to tree trunk like a gibbon, providing one’s shoulder sockets hold up for a few hundred yards of that nonsense.
Sometimes, the best strategy is to just hunker down and shelter in place.
Every fall I make noise about attending one of the big fly fishing shows over the winter, but by the time I feel ready to deal with a couple thousand anglers, all at once, the shows are over and done. The closest show to Fish in a Barrel Pond is in Marlborough, MA, this weekend, and quite frankly it’s just too soon. You all go ahead with your eager anticipation of the season to come, but some of us are still recovering from the last one. Opening Day will be here soon enough. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the peace and quiet.
The best ice forms when it’s cold. Thus spake Quill Gordon, Chronicler of the Obvious, but we’re not just talking cold here. We’re talking real cold, where boogers freeze and snow squeaks under foot. The kind of cold where an unprotected finger feels like it’s been sliced by a razor and ears like they’ve been set afire. Cold made all the more shocking by following on the heels of a warm January thaw.
On Monday it was 50 degrees and pouring rain. Today it’s impossible to tell how cold it is — because the thermometer disappeared last night in the wind — and dry arctic air continues to assert its dominance by slamming into everything at 40 miles per hour. Except for wool trousers, which it sails right on through. Continue reading
On mild days, moisture is drawn from the snow pack into the air. Relatively speaking, warm air holds more moisture than cool so as temperatures drop at night some of that moisture is released as condensation. And if the object upon which that moisture condenses has been chilled to below freezing, frost will form on its surface.
Freezing fog (Beware the Pogonip!) can create frost and has its own eerie beauty but the best examples of frost are seen when the sky is clear and radiational cooling seems to suck the heat out of everything, hurling it out past the stars and into deep space. Delicate filigrees disappear quickly when the warmth of the sun takes over and by the time most people get up the show is over. Continue reading