By Merisa Sherman
It’s hot. I mean, not like Arizona hot but way too hot for November hot. Like, who are we kidding here with the crazy non-snowmaking weather? These consecutive and beautiful sunny warm days that don’t seem to stop. I am kind of confused as to whether or not our entire state has been transported to a different section of the earth or perhaps the moon got all twisted somehow and is messing with our climate.
I slip on a thick section of yellowed leaves, but somehow I manage to stay upright and not slide down the entire leaf covered hill on my bum. On second thought, that might have been really fun and I look back over my shoulder, debating whether or not I should hike back up and give it a try. But then I remember the rocky path that this is during the summer and decide to just protect my booty and keep walking.
And walking and walking and walking. Because it’s now the beginning of November and we are still. Not. Skiing. Like not even close. And so we look to experience other parts of our world that maybe we don’t notice when the addiction starts to kick in and we spend all our time on the snow.
So I’ve been enjoying the leaf covered trails and the vistas that come from all the leaves having fallen. I’m studying where the rocks are hidden in the woods so that I can protect my skis and body parts from destruction later this season. I am studying. Learning the contours of the terrain because now we can really see what’s there. The rock walls that line the old properties of Vermont are visible to the naked eye from afar, exposed by the lack of canopy.
And so we can see Vermont in a fresh coat of leaves, still bright from having fallen rather than the sad, water logged brown of springtime. As a backcountry skier, I am loving these research driven hikes, exploring new pathways and old, lost in the the snow filled dreams of what is to come – but comforted by the fact that I know the angle of that one stupid pointy rock that I keep hitting during a low snow year. I think I have a good idea of how to approach it.
So I keep walking, either sticking to the skin track or venturing out into the woods themselves with my muck boots on. I can still feel the flow of the mountain beneath my feet and I maneuver around the birch and pine, careful to avoid the boggy sections that will become icy blocks in the months to come. I look for the potential powder pockets and the clearings that will enable a few unconscious linked turns within the obstacle course that is tree skiing.
I think to myself, maybe it’s not the snow that I love but the freedom to meander in the trees. To wander this way and that, away from the beaten path and toward my own adventure. Is the flow and the float there? Obviously not, as I step in muck up to my ankle for like the third time in the past quarter mile, but it will be. And if I close my eyes and let the wind whistle through the trees, I can feel it. The wind, wrapping around me, just as it will in a few weeks when the snow starts to fall.
Because I have faith. Faith in our beautiful little state, where winter begins and ends. Faith that the world will continue to transition from summer to fall and then to be covered in the glory that is a snowy winter. But before we lay down that thick white comforter, it’s hot enough to just sleep with the top sheet on. That thin layer of leaves that insulates the earth from the cold snows.
Oh jeesh, this walk had definitely taken a turn for the weird and I should probably focus more on not tripping over all these rocks hidden by leaves than the snow that will be coming. It’s kind of like a powder day – I mean, I cannot see my feet through the thick layer of leaves and sometimes I get to slide a little bit when they are too slippery.
So you see, you can find the feelings of winter anywhere, at any time, if you let your soul take you there. Let nature hold you in its branches and let you be. Because winter is coming. And it will take us by storm. Literally. Have faith, my friends. And go play in the woods (but don’t forget your orange!)