Rowing season

A joy to be back out on the river!

Finally. May has arrived, the docks are in, and the morning weather is warm enough for me to get out my shell and make a quick sculling trip before work.

Ever since the time I capsized in early April, some years ago – it was my first outing of the year, I was a bit rusty – and I experienced first-hand the danger of spring water sports when one is tossed into near-freezing water that can bring on hypothermia in minutes… I’ve set a personal rule not to row until May. Furthermore, throughout the season, I don’t row if the air temp is below 40º. Call me wimpy, but I skip sculling when it is raining or windy. I’m out there solo, so it’s best to be safe.

Today was a beautiful morning, with air temp (at the riverside) about 41º … and for the first time, just for yucks, I measured the water temp: 53º. Glad to say I stayed above the water today.

Forest spring

Spring arrives in ‘my’ forest.

I often ramble along the forested hillside above our home – and often write about it – and this morning I had an opportunity for a quick walk before heading to work. It was a beautiful sunny morning, with temp in the high 30s, as I strode quickly up the steep slopes toward the ‘summit’ of this little hill. As I approached the top, a deer leaped across the path and down through the trees to my right – exactly the same place I’d seen deer several times before, and shared a video with you. A nice way to start the day.

Near the road, a spot that gets a bit more sunshine due to the gap in trees, I found spring’s first Trillium.

On my way down I passed a vernal pool I know well. It had been rather dull and quiet – but this week seems to have burst forth with new green.

I’ll keep an eye on it, as more vegetation emerges over the next few weeks, as the amphibians emerge, and as local critters visit for a drink or a snack. I made many visits to this pool last spring.

Snow line

Winter and spring in one scene.

Early spring (late winter?) storms sometimes give one the opportunity to see the dramatic difference elevation makes. It rained yesterday afternoon, hard at times, for many hours. When I hiked up to the top of the Lyme Pinnacle this afternoon – it’s really just a grand hill, not really fair to call it a small mountain – I enjoyed the broad views into Vermont on the west and the hills of Lyme to the east. Most prominent, today, was the vast bulk of Smarts Mountain, with its level summit ridge and its fire tower rising above the trees – all coated in a fresh dusting of snow.

Smarts Mountain – dusted with snow – from the Lyme Pinnacle.
Continue reading “Snow line”

Holts Ledge

What a difference a week makes.

A mere five days after I went snowshoeing through winter’s glorious powder in the Kinsman Range, I went hiking with two friends … in decidedly spring conditions. Granted, Holts Ledge is much lower (elevation ~1069′ rather than 4293′) but there was much more snow at the base of the Kinsmans than there was at the summit of Holts. This week’s rain and unseasonably warm weather (close to 60º during our hike) has turned the low-elevation trails into mud, and (no doubt) the higher elevation trails are packed ice.

Ken and Dave on Appalachian Trail, Holts Ledge. Photo by Tim Burdick.

This section (and other low-elevation sections) of the Appalachian Trail is now basically done for the season, and should be avoided until after mud season.

Holts Ledge cliff overlook (near the summit). Snow almost gone!

Ironically, the view above is at the top of the Dartmouth Skiway… fewer than 100m from the top of the slopes. There, skiers were still happily skiing on spring-condition snow. At least there were some views, below.

David with Tim Burdick atop Holts Ledge on a late-winter day. Photo by Ken Kaliski.
A stream crossing on Holts Ledge, with plenty of meltwater.

Sigh, we haven’t even reached the spring equinox yet.

Ice out

Spring is here, like it or not.

Tuesday morning I saw the first spots of open water along the river as I drove into town. By Tuesday evening the river had opened up a channel down the center, near home. By Wednesday evening, below, the water was widely visible, the ice slowly dissipating and breaking up. I don’t have good records, but this sure feels early…

Vernal pool

An ephemeral opportunity.

Today was my second visit to a vernal pool in three days. These small empheral pools appear for only a few weeks in the spring (hence the name), typically in shallow depressions that capture snowmelt and early spring rains. They serve as an important breeding ground for frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians… and then disappear for the summer.

This vernal pool, near home, has grown in with moss and grasses.

Today, as I strolled along the fading skidder trails that lace the patch of forest above my home – an area I tend to explore when under winter’s deep snowpack, as I did back at the beginning of February – I was surprised to see I was not the first to visit this pool today.

A mossy tree stump served as someone’s dinner table.

Let’s take a closer look. This tree stump was covered in feathers – very fresh feathers. I’m assuming some carnivore – a fox, perhaps? – had used the stump as a dining table for consuming an unlucky member of the local avian population.

Curiously, the feathers were on the stump – and only on the stump.

April Fools

And you thought it was spring.

Every year, as the snow melts, the birds return, and we get a few warm days, people who are new to New England think winter is over. As some old-timers recently told me, with a knowing look, don’t be fooled by mother nature. Spring may have decided to arrive, sure; but winter usually hasn’t quite yet agreed. April is a time of surprises – it can be 70º one day and then snow six inches the next. So it was no particular surprise to me that yesterday, April Fool’s day, it snowed several times. Just briefly. At the end of the day, though, as it became colder, a bit of snow decided to stick. Now, at 7am, it’s snowing hard!

Spring equinox

Spring is here in the valley.

Today is the vernal equinox – the spring equinox – when the length of day and night are equal (equi = equal, nox = night). Actually, “They are not exactly equal, … due to the angular size of the Sun, atmospheric refraction, and the rapidly changing duration of the length of day that occurs at most latitudes around the equinoxes” [Wikipedia]. Here in New Hampshire, Sunrise was at 6:51am, Sunset at 7:01pm.

For those who welcome the arrival of spring, today is when we are adding more minutes of sun per day than at any other time. We’re on the steep part of the curve! This is great news for our solar tracker, which put in a banner effort today under nearly clear skies, with a total production of 45.57kWh:

Technically, the equinox is “the instant of time when the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the geometric center of the Sun’s disk” [Wikipedia]. This year, that occurred at 0937 UTC, or 5:37am here in Lyme, which happens to be about when I got up this morning.

Interestingly, it has long been noted this is the “day when the Sun rises due east and sets due west, and indeed this happens on the day closest to the astronomically defined event.” [Wikipedia again].

On cue, the Connecticut River decided it is also ice-out day – the day the winter’s ice breaks up and the river begins to visibly flow. I’m pleased to see open water, because it means that bald eagle might be seen more often in our neighborhood once again, now that it has an opportunity to fish.

ice-out on the Connecticut River, in front of our house

The forecast shows nothing but clear skies, warm days (50-60º) and cool nights (20-30º). Great weather for sugaring! More on that to come…