Spring equinox is March 20, but that does not mean that winter is over. Welcome to the North!
Love it or leave it, I say. And if you are one of those who can’t wait for winter to be over, you might as well stop reading now.
No surprise to those of you who read this column all the time, I love winter. A good winter is one with a reasonable amount of snow, and temperatures cold enough to keep it. My passion for snowshoeing grows each year.
Winter allows us to visit places that would be impossible any other time of the year. Snowshoes allow us to go beyond the end of the motorized world — so deep into the forest that it feels as though no one has been there before.
Just looking at the maps makes me want to stop typing and go outside. I want to climb through that ravine to get to the other side of the hill. Then hike to the top of the hill to the amazing viewpoint overlooking the lake on the other side.
The winter of 2018 found Allan and I out at least four times a week for long snowshoeing treks. We discovered some of the biggest trees ever: a white pine that is more than 48 inches in diameter, red pines more than 28 inches and groves of tall, straight cedars exceeding 20 inches. In the flats between the steep valleys are small forests of yellow birch and sugar maple.
Each day before the hike, we take another look at the maps. We’re looking for the high points and the low points. Towering cliffs, open swamplands and little ponds. Traversing the wetlands can’t be done any other time of year. Walking around them in summer would not be fun. We glide right through the middle in winter. We can explore for hours.
This being a good winter does not mean it has been easy. Snow in the forest is deep. More than four feet deep in the open forest, and Allan sinks half that depth with each step. Under the pines the snow is less than half that deep and on the ponds we nearly stay on top. This adds to the attraction of the wetlands.
In these conditions, we travel at only one to two kilometres an hour. This is why we’re looking forward to spring. As the days lengthen and the heat of the sun changes the character of the snow, we’re hoping for a strong crust on top of the deep snow. Once we get into the freeze/thaw cycle typical of spring nights and days, we’ll be able to walk on top of the snow in the mornings without snowshoes. Then we’ll be able to travel far.
Spring travel through the wilds brings new vistas. Warmth of the sun, burbling streams, and that amazing crusty snow.
Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.