Even though winter is still upon us, occasionally pummeling the southeast Catskills with icy nor’easters, or fierce arctic winds blowing lake-effect snow past our mountain shield, there are unquestionable signs of spring. The sun is our biggest clue. There are more hours of daylight and increasingly so by the day. Not only that, but the angle of the sun’s rays is higher now, allowing their effects to be more fulsome. This increase in sunlight is the trigger for many plants and animals to start the spring seasonal cycle. Having said that, I must point out the hard (cold?) fact that these effects are very, very gradual, making this season possibly the most frustrating of all. That’s why I divide “spring” into winterspring (early spring) and summerspring (late spring). Summerspring is what everyone loves, when nature comes alive with greenness. March seems to take forever, getting us to that point.
As the winter progresses and our days gradually get longer, the sometimes wan winter light is trying fitfully to penetrate and warm us down here in Waghkonk. It has been a “roller-coaster” of a season, as we’ve gone back and forth from mild to cold, snow to sun numerous times, only receiving any real accumulation of snow this past week. As March begins that higher sun-angle will have more of an effect on recent snows, allowing the inexorable growth of grasses and wild chives and more buds will start on shrub and tree. It is evidently a record early season for the maple-sugarers, buckets out already, as well as their spider-web of plastic sugaring-lines running through the sugar bush. Also, we’re seeing black vultures already, another sure sign. What’s next — early wood frogs and spring peepers?
Our holy mountain, is looking over us, a mostly silent witness to our wintry travail. I say “mostly” because there is never total silence outdoors in our part of the world. Even if for just a short while you were able to walk deep enough into the woods to separate yourself, however temporarily, from the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, to eliminate the sounds of vehicles, wheeled or winged, you might be surprised how much life is around you. Particularly in any south-facing location, evidence of life will abound in our seemingly-lifeless wintry desert, and more light will reach the forest floor, quickly melting snow to expose small plants hungry for warmth. That same light will encourage the occasional moth to unfold from under tree-bark and may initiate the first, very early unfoldings of spring.
Remember the freeze/thaw cycle and watch for ice on the trails. Also, this is when they start getting muddy during the day, so please wear the right footwear and stay on the trail – don’t go around puddles (which expands trails and can destroy delicate plants about to come up), go through them. I thank you and the small plants thank you, as does the trail keeper.
To reach Dave Holden, call 845-594-4863 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; also see Woodstock Trails on Facebook; rangerdaveholden on Instagram or www.woodstocknytrails.com.