Is It Just Me, Or Is Winter Losing Some Of Its Charm?

Normally I’m a too-much-is-never enough kind of guy who lives by the motto, “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

Yet, sadly, I’m beginning to have second thoughts about snow.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather live in Mogadishu, Somalia than Miami, Florida, and I’ll take a blizzard over a heat wave any day. I’ve slept in snow caves, scaled mountains in minus-70 wind chills, hunkered down in bivvy sacks during furious whiteouts, been stuck for a week with two other guys in a two-man tent at 19,000 feet in the Andes, crossed glaciers in the Alps, trekked in the Himalayas, ventured onto the sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, been certified as an ice-climber, and every Jan. 1 for decades have plunged into the icy waters of Fishers Island Sound wearing just running shorts.

But I have to admit, this winter is testing my mettle.

It’s not so much the incessant stoking of the wood stoves, which I’ve chronicled a couple weeks ago and won’t belabor now. Nor is it the frigid blasts from polar vortexes that freeze you right down to the bone. Nor is it the ice that has turned every driveway, deck and walkway into a skating rink.

No, it’s the %&*@!! shoveling.

The season’s early storms were only somewhat annoying, producing fluffy flakes easily swept away with a broom.

This latest tempest, I don’t have to tell you, has deposited rime-coated slush with the specific gravity of semi-hardened cement. Worse, it sticks to the shovel like Gorilla Glue.

A few months ago, flush from my triumph in a rake-vs.-leaf blower contest, I rashly conceived a similar competition, pitting me wielding a snow shovel against a friend with a snow blower. I’ve always denigrated those demonic machines that guzzle gas, make a racket and spray white clouds everywhere. A determined, efficient shoveler should get the job done faster, I believed.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I’m still willing to take on the challenge, but think I’ll wait for a storm with fluffier flakes.

By the way, fellow purists (masochists?) needn’t worry – I’m not about to buy a snow blower. For one thing we have a gravel driveway that doesn’t lend itself to such machines (or, for that matter, to old-fashioned shovels).

A snow blower wouldn’t work very well, either, on the dirt paths and stone steps leading to the wood sheds – these I dig out first, even before clearing the driveway.

But the worst job is shaking the snow off the net canopies covering my blueberry bushes and grape vines.

Maddeningly, the snow has been adhering to this netting instead of filtering through, creating heavy blankets that have pulled down support posts and crossbeams. So now I have to trudge up to the garden with a rake and knock the snow off, which can only be done from underneath. Newton’s laws prevail, and the snow comes cascading down – in your face, on your head down your neck.

Next year, after the harvest, I think I’ll remove the netting for the winter. Of course, that means I’ll have to put it back up again the following spring – either that, or allow flocks of greedy birds to chow down on my fruit.

But I’m not worrying about that now. I’m thinking about the next storm due this weekend – and there’s still more than a month of winter to come.

You know what? Enough moaning. Time to take a break and strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis. Enjoy it while you can.









Reader Comments


The Continental Divide Trail: 'Overall It's Amazing, But You Have To Be OK With Getting Lost'

After tramping more than a month some 700 miles along the fabled Continental Divide Trail, Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, who started hiking April 22 at the U.S.-Mexican border, finally rambled from the...

The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon: Racing Is The Easy Part.

By the time Phil Warner and I hit the water in his lightning-fast tandem kayak last Sunday for our team’s leg in the Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass., we had already spent a good part of the morning lugging gear...

There’s No Accounting For Taste When It Comes To Favorite Mountains, Or Tacos

En route to a hiking expedition in Nepal’s Himalayas a number of years ago, my wife and I took a detour to India and spent a day bouncing along on a bus from New Delhi to Agra to tour the Taj Mahal.

Mount McKinley Renamed Denali: Better Than Mount Reagan

Three cheers for the Obama Administration’s decision this week to officially restore the name of North America’s tallest mountain to Denali, which is what early inhabitants called the 20,310-foot peak in the Alaska Range.

The Endless Summer: Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Remember when you were a kid how your mom wouldn’t let you have ice cream every day even though nothing in the world tasted better on a hot day than a double scoop of butter crunch?

My Favorite Kayak Race: The T.I.A.G.A.T.I.N.M.R. In Rangeley, Maine

Paddling like the dickens last Sunday on Maine’s Rangeley Lake, we competitors had two choices: steer clockwise or counter-clockwise around Maneskootuk Island.

Selden Island: Once A Bustling Quarry, Now A Quiet Haven

More than 40 years ago, Dave Wordell of Salem took his then-10-year-old son, Dave Junior, on a boat ride up Selden Creek, a narrow, secluded tributary of the Connecticut River in Lyme.

Life As A Lumbersexual

I can never remember – do you apply facial cleanser before or after the exfoliating scrub, and then finish up with healing balm and moisturizer, or should you start with the scrub, work your way through the cleanser and then top...

R.I.P. Cecil the Lion: Let's Make the Trophy Hunter an Endangered Species

The international outrage sparked by an American trophy hunter’s killing of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s beloved lion, justifiably vilifies the despicable practice of slaughtering wildlife for sport – but it also exposes the human...

All Who Wander Are Not Lost: Searching For The Elusive South Bog Stream In Rangeley, Maine

"Head for that tree stump," I instructed authoritatively one afternoon earlier this week, as if I knew for sure where we should be heading. I have learned to exude confidence when giving directions on any expedition, even...

Scott Jurek's 'Reward' For Breaking Appalachian Trail Speed Record: Three Summonses

When internationally celebrated speedster Scott Jurek scrambled last Sunday to the 5,269-foot summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, he broke the record for the fastest assisted hike of the 2,189-mile...