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Winter: The Adirondack's most enduring season

Winter rarely arrives in the Adirondacks all at once, rather it spits and sputters to a start like a car in need of dry gas. Although the first burst of snow is usually brushed away by a combination of rain, thaw or warm winds, winter remains the most enduring of the seasons. In many ways, it is a season that defines the region and the people that inhabit it. Like the season, they are stubborn and resilient, cold but possessing a warmth that can thaw a soul even the hardest of times. Some would argue it is interrupted only by the month of July, though deep snows typically dont accumulate until late-December. Despite this truth, kids still begin praying for snow days the first week of the school. As black ice slowly secures the lakes, massive flows of blue and green ice blankets the rock walls of the mountains. Invariably, the snow steadily piles up as four wheel drive becomes the vehicle of choice. Winter thunder sounds from the blade of a passing plow truck and the earth is reduced to monotones. Bears have retired to the den for the duration and deer no longer fear for their safety. The North Country received its first legitimate snowstorm of the season with a two day storm that delivered the largest accumulation since Valentines Day. I expect the fresh cover will jump-start a season full of outdoor recreational activities; for those willing to seek them out. Although the storm did not live up to its predicted eight to fourteen inches; it did provide a mixture of sleet, freezing rain and snow that has provided a fast and firm base topped with four to six inches of powder. While this may not be adequate for all winter activities, it should keep the skiers, snowshoers and sledders entertained. Caution is still advisable until another foot of snow to adequately covers rocks and roots along the trails. The winter woods are more distinct now than in any other season and signs of a multitude of creatures are evident everywhere. Tracks, obvious in the fresh snow, offer indications of where wildlife feed, play and bed, which makes this an especially interesting time for children to be in the woods. As creatures venture out with the passing of the recent storm system; kids have an opportunity to investigate, discover and ponder the tracks while interpreting the winter landscape.- Deer will paw through the snow for ferns, as mice and voles scurry under low cover for seeds and nuts. Rabbits and squirrels seek cover among the conifers as signs of a fox tag along on their trail. Four toed tracks of a ruffed grouse begin out of nowhere in the powder, and depart with the tell tail trace of a wings beak sending them aloft. Starry skies will illuminate below zero nights as irregular pops and cracks will emanate from deep within the forest and the low rumble of lakes making ice will echo in the cold, wood smoke scented, evening air. Some would ask how a person could enjoy breathing air so cold it causes you to cough or being out in winds bitter enough to make your nose sting? The answer is simple. Winter offers activities that cant be had in any other season. I welcome the winter weather and pray that it is here to stay. It is too long a season not to embrace it. You certainly can't hide. I am always on the lookout for new or unique approaches to outdoor recreation. This search has lead me to ice boating, a winter pursuit that is quickly gaining popularity in the North Country, due to high quality, snow free ice available on Lake Champlain. Speeds exceeding 50 mph are common while skimming across the frozen surface of the lakes and helmets are recommended. Im also a skater and innovations such as Skeets, a unique combination of ski technology and speed skates have opened up a whole new realm of possibilities in the sport of Nordic skating. Wearing Nordic ski boots and short skis fitted with a blade, ski/skaters now use poles to travel marathon distances across the big lakes. Kite skiing, another new winter pursuit, will humble a person to the power of the wind. Kite skiing or boarding is quickly gaining popularity in northern climates where snow skis or boards permit skiing in a wider range of conditions and terrain, including open fields and golf courses. As winter progresses, kite skiers and skaters can be found in ever increasing numbers along the Vermont side of the Big Lake. While these new pursuits probably wont replace the hardwater anglers that traditionally flock to the lake each year, the pursuits offer a viable option for excitement outside the confines of a shanty and serve to expand the traditional winter sports spectrum.

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