Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost Not Quite Enough Snow

Cross country skiing in Central New York is a challenge at times. Winter doesn’t seem as cold or snowy as I recall from my youth when it seemed like the snow fell near Thanksgiving time and remained until spring brought relief. I’ve learned these last few years, that you need to take your opportunities when they come, since if you wait until the weekend, say, the snow might be gone, melted away by winter rains.

Yesterday morning Heather and I dressed in layers of outdoor clothing, loaded the skis in the back of the Subaru and drove to the nature trail behind the college. We strapped on our skis and optimistically set out. Quickly we realized two things. 1) There’s almost not quite enough snow for cross country skiing. 2) They’ve added gravel to the trails instead of more small cinders, making for some stony places where the snow is especially thin. Put the two things together, and it was not the best skiing experience. We’d be striding along, then abruptly, though briefly, be halted by a rock hitting one ski. Almost enough to make your forward momentum tumble you over, but not quite.  (Well, Heather fell once going down a slope, but the camera was in the case so I didn't capture that on film!  And I went a different way - there's a benefit to following in someone else's ski tracks.)

Nonetheless, it is lovely in that oasis of nature just off the bustle of the commerce of Grant Avenue. The shrubs were covered in layers of snow where they are protected from the wind. We saw deer tracks and bird tracks amid the human and dog prints. We seemed to be the first skiers, and didn’t see snowshoe tracks, as I’ve noticed in years past. We looked for dried milkweed to pick for craft projects; I had a plastic bag in my pocket and a small knife in case they were resistant to hand picking. No luck – makes me think I should have picked some when I was at the wildlife refuge a month ago, but I hesitated to “take anything but pictures” in that protected place. (I guess my rule keeping doesn’t extend to the college property somehow.)

We made our way around the loop a couple times, and returned home,
ready for tea and a Christmas cookie after we changed out of our outdoor clothes. Both of us were a bit warm and had slightly overdressed for the exertion of skiing. Hopefully, we’ve left the skis and poles in the back of the car. I see snowflakes falling right now, so maybe another inch of snow has buried the gravel a bit deeper – making for a more pleasant excursion today and tomorrow before the weatherman’s prediction of rain for Christmas comes true. We’d better get dressed and go out this morning, saving the last of the cookie baking until later. Don’t want to miss the promise of just enough snow for skiing.

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