As I have written in the past, there is something cruel about early spring in the highlands of Pennsylvania.
The winter of 2011 will be remembered in these parts, not for the large amount of snow we received (actually only 50 or so inches here where I live) but for the relentless cold that maximized its impact, and kept the ground, sidewalks and at times the roads, covered with the white stuff.
In the forests, the snow cover was between a foot, or maybe two, for much of the winter. There was no true “January thaw”, like we usually experience.
It was so relentlessly “winter” here, that I decided to forgo my usual March Adirondack trip, and went to Florida instead.
Even there, the season’s grasp had not relinquished. We had cool temperatures during our travels, mainly in the 50s and 60s.
There had been multiple freezes in January and February, injuring the subtropical vegetation. From Jacksonville to Cape Coral, we encountered cold-injured palms, their fronds brown, and falling to the ground. In the estuaries and tidewater areas, the mangroves were lifeless when we were told that they should have been lush and green.
Because of this, several scenes I shot seem to work better as monochromes rather than in color.
Back at home, at least for some of us, there was an upside. We had reliable cross-country skiing and snowmobiling from early January until the first week of March.
On the downside, I burned a lot of firewood and of course, heating oil.
Photographically at least , snow and cold are helpful, shrouding what would be a brown lifeless landscape with season appropriate trappings , decorating the farms and forests.
Winter however, was starting finally break. Last Sunday afternoon, I walked a local trail, called “Frog Pond Way” named for the multiple permanent, and “Vernal” ponds, that it encircles.
It was a clear day with the bright spring sun warming to me to a degree beyond what the 50 degree air temperature might suggest.
The cries of a flock of newly arrived robins, the distant call of a pilated woodpecker, and the cooing of mourning doves filled the air.
In every suitable body of water I encountered, a pair of mallards paddled together, occasionally tipping their heads down to the muddy bottoms to search for food. I surprised a pair of cormorants resting at one of the larger ponds.
And at one particular pond I encountered what I consider the truest sentinel of spring. As I approached I could detect the first tentative chirping of wood frogs, beginning to search for females.
I knew that there was some mixed precipitation forecast for the overnight, but not something that should slow spring’s progression. Or so I thought. One Monday morning we awakened to find two inches of snow on the ground. Twenty four hours later, eight more had fallen. We’ve had daytime temperatures in the low thirties since, with lows in the teens.
I cross-country skied again yesterday, the scenery once again resembling what is seen in late January.
As always, March is full of surprises.