Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back to Normal, As Normal as it Gets

Well, Sunday brought the first big snow of this winter season and hopefully the last big snow of 2010, which was a very snowy year for these parts. I know a lot of the East coast got worse than we did, but it will suffice as enough to pin one in the cabin.

Now the paper said we officially got 2.2 inches of snow. I am here to tell you unofficially that they don't know what they are talking about or they used a broken yardstick. When I walked out on Monday morning I knew we had somewhere near eight inches. My back confirmed this estimate with every shovelful I lifted and tossed aside. Later I got my ruler and took a depth sample out in the center yard away from any drifts and we came in at 7.5 inches. The drifts along the East side of my drive were maybe a foot and half.

My bosses had called the night before and told me not to come to work, so I didn't have to fight the roads, however our street looked pretty good on early Monday morning. We do have good snow removal and I had heard the plows up and down in the night. I saw their lights flashing too during that 4:00 AM power failure.

This was enough to entice us to try going to our favorite restaurant as we do every Monday for dinner. The lower exit street from our development was a mess despite the plowing attempts and we went the long way by major roads, but we got there, had a nice meal and made it home.

Having successfully survived a little trip Monday night, I decided to see if I could get a walk in this morning. I missed taking one yesterday, but traipsing through eight inches of virgin snow can be a task. I didn't know if any trails would be any better today, but thought I would take a look.

First thing I discovered was the lower street was worse today than last night. What ever might have melted had refroze. I came to the first stop sign and it was immediately apparent I wasn't going to stop. I pushed the brake and the car just kept going, so I got off the petal quickly before it turned into a skid.

My first choice was to check out Bellevue, the nearest park. It was after eight o'clock so they should be open. I drove by on I-95 and could see the gates were open, but I couldn't see if the drive was plowed.  This gave me second thoughts. The drive there winds far back through the forest to a parking lot. I didn't want to take a chance getting stuck back there, so I went on to Rockwood.

My logic was thus: Rockwood is a museum, they give tours of the old house. It also has a conference center in the old carriage house where businesses meet and social affairs are held. They probably will have their drive and parking lots plowed, perhaps even the main paths.

I was partly correct. The driveway and parking lot was shaved clean, but as to the main path, who could find it? However, the hill was pocked with footprints and runner tracks. Obviously many people had been here yesterday to sled. I walked up within all the footprints and lines to the wooded ramp before the great house.

None of the pathways had been cleared, but I could see some people had chosen to walk the trails anyway. I set off following the tracks left by these others since this was the only way to see where the paths actually were.

Perhaps I am getting used to it or my clothes are very protective because I didn't feel the cold. It was 27 degrees and supposedly the wind chill was 15. It didn't seem that bad to me.

I circled about the first trees then paused to take a photo of the mansion in the snow.

The snow  was deep and I could feel the effort to walk in my ankles already. It was apparent from the footprints that perhaps a half dozen others had traipsed through here the day before, at least a couple on skis.


The problem though was that these prints had frozen over night and it made it both slippery and uneven to try and walk in them. I tried to stay in the unbroken powder and not slip off the edge of a path and twist an ankle.

It was beautiful up on the hill, pristine out across the meadows and very quiet. I was very much alone. The tracks were obviously from yesterday and I was not to meet another soul today.

It was just a matter now of how far I wished to go and if it were safe to do so. And as usual I didn't think to grab my cell phone.  I did remember my camera. After all, first things first in preparedness.

I was curious to see if the previous walkers had gone down onto the back trail and up into the woods or not.

In fact, I was curious to see if I wanted to go down the back trail and up into the woods myself, especially if I found only undisturbed snow once I got there. I had already misjudged once and slipped trippingly off the trail.

If no one left me any guidelines this could become way too common.

Still, I didn't want to miss my walks on my days off. Its hard enough to get enough of these and too easy to use bad weather as an excuse to stay home and vegetate.

But it wasn't long until I had my answer. These people did continue back into the wooded area. It also became clear they didn't always know where the trail was either. At places they wandered off into deep ruts on the ground where you sank a foot or more into the white stuff.

One way to try and guide yourself was by the lampposts. This park does have these old fashioned looking lampposts all along their trails. You look ahead to spot a post and then try to walk about four feet to one side of them. Hopefully this puts you squarely in the center of the path.

It isn't foolproof because at certain places it is a long way between these posts and you have to judge by the tree lines. Here again I slipped off the edge.

Remember, I was trying to stay over out of the former tracks because they were hard and slippery.

At times you will come to fences in the woods. These really help because you know the path is right alongside them. These fences usually appear on hills, so if it is slippery on the up or down grades you can use the fences as a railing.

One can, I didn't.

As noted before, I didn't feel cold, although by now my fingertips were numbing. I don't like the restrictiveness of gloves, so seldom slip them on when I walk. I didn't have my hood up for the same reason.

I had slipped sunglasses in my coat's breast pocket today because the sun was so bright and I didn't want to risk snow blinding. However, I never put them on either. The glare wasn't that bad once you got into the woods. I did wear my baseball cap under a wool cap. My biggest difficulty is strong light from above and I can only see outside on sunny days if I wear a brimmed hat.

By this point I had crested the big hill and reached the side trail that would go down the steep side. I could have chosen to call it a hike at this point and headed back to the parking lot, but now that I was here I felt I should go on.

Maybe I would just go down to Shipley Road and double back.

I paused here and looked up the unpaved, hidden trail to the gazebo. It is really hidden now, although you can see the gazebo atop the high point of the hill.

I was almost tempted to break that unbroken snow and go up to it; almost, but not quite and I just went on down the paved hill to the road below.

Now the question comes. Shall I cross the road and like the proverbial chicken get to the other side or shall I call it far enough in this mush?

What do you think?

I crossed the road, of course.

I do not know where the hikers and skiers of Rockwood went, but only one person was brave enough to cross through Bringhurst Woods before me.

There was a lone series of footprints ahead. One person and a dog had come through here yesterday. I knew it was yesterday because the prints had frozen into ice clusters.

The mystery to me was the tracks only went one way. The person had not returned through these woods. I wondered where they went? Had they been walking home yesterday? Had they walked through the woods, for they did go the entire length, and were picked up where they emerged? Had they collapsed along the way and now lie dead beneath a snow bank?

Then suddenly the tracks disappeared. No tracks went down the loop where I met the wood poacher last Sunday and no tracks went straight ahead across the gravel of the old parking lot. No tracks went up to the road where a car might have been waiting. No frozen bodies lay about either.

I didn't break the snow on the loop, but went straight across today.

Here on the other side is where the loop came up to meet me. Standing here it seems this portion of the loop is partially clear of any snow and just touched mostly by a thin dusting.

One might be tempted on the return trip to pioneer the loop, take what would entice as an easier, drier, warmer walk.

After struggling though deep stuff for so long, who could or should resist this tempting walk?

This guy, for one. On closer inspection, especially if you walked over a bit until the sunbeams could break the treetops to shine on the loop path.

Yes, shine and by that shine you see this dusting in nothing of the sort.

It is a crust of ice.

The possibility exists that beneath the snow further down on the loop there is a continuation of ice beneath and this could be a good place to take a sudden fall.

As I bypass the loop and start up the hilly section of path I soon pick up that lone traveler and his dog's prints once more. The winds of last night had blown away the prints on the more open and flat patch of the old parking lot.

There are other animal tracks here. I can't tell if the person had two dogs with him all along or if some other beast had run along this trail in the night.

There were actually quite a few animals tracks of various shapes and sizes crisscrossing the path and zig-zagging though the trees. Some of these tracks were very large, much bigger than a dog or perhaps fox would make. Maybe deer had been here last night?

Could it be the Delaware Cougar?

One thing takes me by surprise as I top the hill.

There is a little side path here off the main trail. It doesn't go far, it just circles off in the woods a bit and back to the main trail again.

I always walk that little circle and no one else seems to. Today I plan to follow my lone leader and expect I will not be doing the circle, but to my wonderment, his tracks go down that side path. So do I, as usual.

Now back on the main, it will be across a bridge out to Marsh Road. As I cross the bridge I look down on yet another frozen creek.

I plan now to go my full route. I will cross the next road and enter Bellevue State Park and see how far I can walk into it.

I usually walk into this park, turn up a path that will take me to the great center oval, cut across the bridal path between great evergreens, then back to the Northern Greenway Trail.

This is where I first met Hemingway, the cat.

I cross Marsh. The hard part is clambering through the hard piles left by the snowplows. Here my legs sink down a couple feet and I stagger up the banks to the sidewalk.

The sidewalk isn't cleared and heavy with snow, probably drifted because of the nearby fencerow.

I wonder what conditions will greet me inside the gate.

When I finally enter the park through the wall I find they have swept the paths of snow.

However, I don't go very far into the park and I am quickly grateful I had made the decision not to drive into Bellevue.

Yes, they blew the snow off the bellevue walkways and paths. None of the other parks had made any attempt to clear their trails. And in doing so the paths here became more dangerous than the rest.

Over night wet patches left on the paths here had frozen and created little slippery booby traps. Every other step I took found me skidding.

I went a few yards and retreated, retreated back to the deep snow of Bringhurst and finally the same at Rockwood.

I returned, though, with the joy of the walk and the satisfaction to see normalcy returned.

I climbed back up Rockwood Hill and down the steep path.

Here was the other rugged path up to the gazebo and I was amazed to see someone had taken it. The prints were small, certainly not a man's. They may have been those of a small woman or a child. The prints went up and returned down the same way.

I was almost back now, but one challenge lay ahead. The path up from the parking lot had never been touched. I wondered at the best way back. I decided to break virgin territory and go down the grassy knoll.

Those are my tracks running down the center. It was an interesting experience for the terrain was uneven and here and there were deep pockets where I sank to the kneecaps.

Eventually I came home. I stripped off my thoroughly wet shoes and socks, putting on a dry pair of socks. Then I sat down with a hot cup of coffee feeling great.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Ah, the Delaware Cougar. I had forgotten all about that mythical beast.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking your walk with you today. I feel guilty that I'm not walking. My two places to walk, the Rehoboth Boardwalk (out of the question now because of the cold and wind and snow on the road to Rehoboth) and the Oyster Rocks development located behind the development where I live. I should have walked today but I chickened out because of the cold (it wasn't that cold really.)
After reading your posting I have been shamed into taking my walk tomorrow, even though it will not be as interesting or adventuresome as yours was.