The first snow of the season came early this year, November 15. It doesn’t take much to make the New York area gridlock but this was a nightmare for thousands.
A friend was forced to sleep in his car when a Pennsylvania highway was closed. This after spending hours trying to cross the George Washington Bridge. Politicians are busy blaming each other and ‘fake weather’ reports for the problems caused by an early snow.
But like most things, trial for one is opportunity for another. I left work early and was able take to the woods on the first snowfall.
The early snow took even the trees in the forest by surprise. Many trees still had leaves on the branches. Usually leaves are hidden by the snow but this time, the leaves fell on top of the new blanket of snow. As the post-storm breeze began to build, the leaves fell like the snow they were covering.
This snow storm caused problems for many but for me it allowed a first foot print. Many of the hiking trails around here are heavily used but there are times when you can be alone. There are still times when yours will be the first foot print. Not quite the first man on the moon but there’s something special about being the first to blaze a trail after a snow. It belongs only to you.
The trail winds down a steep hill and then through a stand of dark pines that dripped dollops of snow into the pristine blanket. You could hear them fall like invisible steps all around.
A little further and the trail crosses a stream that leads into Little Dam Lake. It has been rainy lately and, between the wet weather and melting snow, the stone steps used to cross the normally placid stream were covered by water. The water rushed over and around the rocks before emptying into a lake rimmed with ice formed around the edges.
The wind in the trees and the sound of the bustling stream drowned out all other sounds. No motors, no radios, no man-made sound. Just the whisper of the forest. That primeval sound, the same as when the first man stalked through the first forest. Its rare that we get separated from the plug-ins and noises of the modern world. Enjoy every moment of the separation, the natural world is what’s real and will still be here, in some form or fashion, long after the noises of man have faded away.
Upstream, the wet weather and snow raised the water level and its banks overflowed. The normally narrow channel spread wide and overcame its banks. The stream creeping wide and submerging the low-lying land around it.
There is something eerie about a flooded forest. It’s not really forest and it’s not really stream. It’s the transition between black and white, between cloudy and clarity.
Officially it might not be winter yet but it was obvious that the weather had changed into its winter pattern. The forest of the summer and fall were gone, from now on it would be the forest of the winter.
Last summer’s life lay on the forest floor, branches were bare and the canopy empty. The brown and falling leaves were merging with the first snow of the year. For now.
Spring isn’t that far away.