A Farewell to Winter

         Hard to believe the first official day of Spring is only 3 days away! Although I know a lot of folks out West and Midwest had some crazy Winter weather last week, we here in Pennsylvania got a taste of the warmer days ahead with mid-high 60’s late last week. My girlfriend and I built a fire and grilled on it Friday evening. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel pretty good and get me a bit excited for the next Season!               

         One of the things I love most about living in this part of the country is that we have 4 definitive Seasons and I love living in each one. Even if I’m a bit nostalgic for one as it passes, I am ready to revel in the next one once we get into it!

         So, before I go all out Spring, here are a handful of some of my favorite hiking moments from February and the first half of March to honor these last couple days of official Winter... 

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“Ice, Kissed by Fire”

          Another round of snow and ice is on tap for us here in the Northeast! It has me thinking of this image from my collection, an oldie but a goodie! This goes back to 2011, February 23rd of that year to be exact, and one of my first perfect exposures after transitioning from my Olympus 35mm to my Mamiya RB67 medium-format film camera...

         I can recall several snow storms followed by ice, sleet, and freezing rain this particular Winter which left the deciduous forests of the mountains a magical icy wonderland.  When I left my house about an hour and a half before dawn that morning, it was 0 degrees.  The mile plus hike on the mountain top was invigorating to say the least!  As I got set to await the Sun's greeting, winds were whipping hard, reading well into the negatives I'm sure.  But the moment that giant fireball peaked over the horizon and lit the icy branches in front of me aglow, I felt nothing but its beautiful warmth.  The magic lasted only a few seconds, but wow am I glad I was out there for this one!

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“Ice, Kissed by Fire”   -   Brandon Kline

A Winter’s Dream

From my journal - January 30th, 1:09am

Alder Brook Cottage, A Tiny House in the Woods of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont

         These past few days have been something out of a pure Snow White Winter dream, void of time and space. I don’t think my words can or will really ever be able to comprehend its beauty. Chalk it up to being just part of Vermont’s rustic charm. 

         Anna and I arrived in Vermont Saturday evening January 26th after spending the day on the road from our Pennsylvania home with a pit-stop to deliver my artwork for a family in Massachusetts. We found Kingdom Taproom in Saint Johnsbury for dinner and local brews before getting to the Inn by the River in Hardwick, VT. A lovely little Inn in the quaintest little town, the likes I am convinced only New England can produce. On the morning of the 27th, we dined at the Village Restaurant, reveling in our Jasper Benedicts - eggs Benedict covered in one of the world’s best cheese-makers Jasper Hill cheese sauce! All the while, snow falling down on this beautiful, charming town as we watched out the window.

         After picking up our firewood and a few other things, we arrived... facing a rolling ridge dense with Spruce, Cedar, and Birch, our Tiny Home Cabin awaited as we carried our supplies across the little bridge, up the rocky snow covered steps and through the forest. The fact that it snowed that entire day and evening upon our arrival only added to the quintessential Vermontness of our adventure!

         These three days have been everything one could want Winter in Vermont to be... Snow, fresh powder sticking to the Evergreens and Hardwoods. Cold, crisp clean air. Single digits to negatives in crystal clear blue skies and a dark, rich star filled night. Sitting by the wood-stove, cozy and warm with my love. Eating world-class cheeses, drinking world-class beers. Cooking meats, grilled sandwiches, and beef stew all upon the wood fire stove. Playing Scrabble, reading and drinking coffee and tea while eating Maple cookies. Relaxing, reconnecting.

         Snow, falling down again. Sparkling diamond-dusted snowflakes adding inches to the feet already piling up upon the forest floor. Hiking, or rather trudging, through ankle-high, knee-high, waist-high snow depending how deep I might fall in with each step. I explored the forest of this ridge amongst blissful quiet, peace, and solitude. It makes one feel like a kid again, buried this deep in snow and calming silence amongst this wooded Winter Wonderland. It all seems like a dream...

         Yet, I have the accutest awareness that I am living it, living this life. This snow-draped dream, one of magic in this Kingdom of Winter. 

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Winter Delights

         It’s been a busy week, but I was able to get out twice since last Saturday, January 19th, to enjoy the snow accompanied with Winter Storm Harper. On Saturday, just as the storm was beginning to drop significant snow, I reveled in a 2 mile hike from Galbraith Gap to Three Bridges Trail and back in Tussey Mountain.

         It was magical, delightful, just flat out awesome to be out in it while the snow was coming down! Although it was late afternoon until I embarked, I thoroughly enjoyed the Wintery stroll through twilight and into the dark, loving the cold air and snow upon my face.

         It is tough sometimes, dependent on the timing of the storm, to get out and have fun in the snowfall itself given the snow removal work that I do. (Well, I enjoy that too to be honest! :-)) But I hope to embrace more moments such as this as Winter rolls on... 

         After a good 19.5 hours of solid work removing snow on Sunday the 20th, then salting in the -18 degree wind chills of Monday the 21st and a blissful rest that night, I found a Winter Wonderland of a trail on the Jean Aaron Path from Bear Meadows Natural Area on Tuesday January 22nd! Trudging my way across the frozen swamp and rhododendron thicket from parking to the trail, I found myself amidst towering Hemlocks beckoning with their snow draped cloaks.

         I exposed my first two sheets of film in 2019 and despite the onset of dusk, decided to meander the 1.4 mile out and back through a forest full of Evergreen eye candy while the stars of the Winter sky twinkled high above. 

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First Snowfall, First Hike of the New Year!

         We had our first snowfall of the young year here in central Pennsylvania this past Saturday night into Sunday morning, January 12th-13th! It may not have been anything crazy, but it provided about an inch to cover the ground and dust the tree branches with fluffy white powder.

         Subsequently, I got out for my first hike of the year as well on Sunday afternoon! Driving deep into Rothrock State Forest during a magical snow squall, I enjoyed a wonderous two and a half mile jaunt around Alan Seeger Natural Area, a first for me! (To all you locals - I know, and I am ashamed of this :-))

         For years I have heard of the magnificence and big, old-growth beauty of Alan Seeger. And again, it’s just another one of those places right in my back yard I had yet to explore. ..

         Well, I finally have and I immediately fell in love!  Amongst the abundant pine and fir trees, tower the predominant old Eastern Hemlocks with thick Oaks and other mixed hardwoods. Add Rhododendron tunnels galore and the most peaceful, crystal clear stream and this freshly snow dusted forest was nothing short of enchanting! It is a perfect Winter Wonderland full of Evergreen delights, and I believe I shall be going back often...

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