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The winter creep at Point au Roche

Adirondack Bark

A monarch butterfly, one of the last bastions of summer, clings to a milkweed at Point au Roche.

A monarch butterfly, one of the last bastions of summer, clings to a milkweed at Point au Roche. Photo by Shaun Kittle.

Out on Ram’s Head, the cliffs that define the point drop sharply into Lake Champlain, giving a fine view of the open water and some of the mountains in Vermont and the Adirondacks. In the summer the bay here is as relaxing as it is rugged, and in the winter its location secludes it from some of the worst of the lake’s wind. The walk back follows the shoreline — a jumbled mess of logs and broken stones that is transformed into a crude ice-sculpture garden as spring begins to break the lake’s frozen surface. Every aspect of the landscape is decorated, from the upturned shelves of jagged ice to the great icicle fangs that hang from branches and rock overhangs and have been bent sideways from constant exposure to the wind.

It is somewhat unreasonable to play favorites with nature, but I do find myself constantly drawn to that spot in the meadow on Long Point, where the blue jay likes to perch. It is wonderful and open and dotted by stands of both red and white cedar, juniper, elderberry and all of the other things that flourish in open spaces.

Walking through the waist-high vegetation two weeks ago, a flicker of campfire orange lit up the corner of my eye. I stopped and, upon closer inspection, found a monarch butterfly clinging to the stem of a milkweed plant like the last warm days of autumn beating back the encroaching frost-cloaked mornings. It was a strange sight this late in the season, seemingly left behind by the annual monarch migration.

I left the creature as I found it, slowly opening and closing its wings, and made my way up a small rise in the field, where I could see over the trees and on to Lake Champlain. Maybe we all cling to summer a little bit, but the seasons will go forth regardless of our wishes. Emitting a cloud of frozen water-vapor breath I turn away from the monarch, and the summer, and head home with the setting sun against my back.

For information, visit friendsofpointauroche.org

Shaun Kittle is a reporter at Denton Publications and an avid outdoor enthusiast. He can be reached at shaun@denpubs.com.

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