A Snow Story

Let me tell you the story of snow in my piece of Vermont, mostly through photos with brief descriptions.

January was frigid. Trust me, it was cold. Temperatures dipping close to -30F a couple of nights, well below zero most nights, and some days not making it above zero. Add wind gusts of 15-30 mph and wind chills kept my dogs and me huddling inside most of most days. It snowed off and on, and when the weather allowed, we enjoyed getting out in the fields and woods across the road.

Then, in a 24-hour period starting the night of February 3rd, it snowed. And snowed. When it finally stopped there was 18 inches of new snow. On top of the 9-12 inches that was already there.

Prior to the storm, the snow was manageable and fun. By the end of January there was maybe a foot of snow on the ground. The boys and I enjoyed our walks through the fields and woods across the road, me on snowshoes. Some hilltops were scoured bare of snow from the strong winds, other places held deep drifts, but it was never so deep that we couldn’t navigate our way through. Conall would willingly break trail, me following his meandering route (often following critter tracks). Always, Conall’s routes eventually took us right over the trails we follow the rest of the year when snow isn’t blanketing the landscape. Finn followed in my snowshoe tracks for better footing on his aging legs and joints.

dog on snowshoe trail through woods
In the woods, where the snow isn’t as deep and doesn’t drift, before the big dump of snow in early February. January 22, 2022.
dog behind person's leg on snowshoe trail
Finn’s usual position, right behind the tails of my snowshoes, waiting for a treat. January 22, 2022.
dog sitting on snowshoe trail in woods
When new snowfall came in increments of 2-6 inches, it was easy to keep our path packed. January 22, 2022.
windblown snow closeup
The wind here is no joke. It blows snow into drifts, but also forms rifts and waves and ridges, adding texture to the landscape, a bit like sand dunes. January 22, 2022.

Then the storm arrived. And dumped lots and lots of snow.

two-plus feet of snow piled on deck table and chairs
Snow on my deck the morning of February 4, 2022.
snow piled against doorway and one top of car
I needed to make a run to the transfer station, which is only open on Saturday mornings. Lots of snow shoveling was required on Friday before I could even think about leaving. February 4, 2022.
dog running along snowshoe path in yard
The snow in the yard was so deep the boys barely ventured past the door. So, I strapped on my snowshoes and made paths for them. Conall appreciated my efforts. February 4, 2022.

The next few days were either too cold, too windy, too snowy, or a combination of those things for the boys and I to want to venture out into the fields and woods. Conall and I ran on the plowed roads, but otherwise, we all just played in the yard until finally, on February 9th, the sun reappeared and the temperatures were tolerable (for me). I strapped on my snowshoes and we headed out.

I have now learned that in addition to Conall’s keen sense of direction and place, he has the ability to suss where the snow is least deep. So, I let him set our course, and follow his tracks, even when it doesn’t seem he’s going the right direction. This makes for meandering routes, but we always eventually get where I want us to go (the usual trails when there isn’t snow) with the least amount of floundering.

dog peeing on a plastic-covered hay bale in snowy field
Starting out, Finn left a message on one of the snow bales near the road. February 9, 2022.
dog among several plastic-covered hay bales in snowy field
Conall broke trail, but was sinking up to his belly. Except around the snow bales where the wind left troughs of bare ground. February 9, 2022.
trees casting shadows on snow-covered field
Our goal that morning was that break in the trees and into the field beyond. February 9, 2022.

As we neared the tree line I stopped to take a couple photos. Conall followed critter tracks a few yards, then came back to me. Rather than resuming the lead toward the break through the trees, he positioned himself behind me and sat down on the backs of my snowshoes, looking back the way we’d come. He’s never done this before.

It was obvious to me Conall was making a statement: “Let’s go home.”

Dog sitting on snow.
Conall communicating clearly that he’s ready to head back. February 9, 2022.

So, we did.

Dog on snowshoe trail across snow-covered field.
Heading back along Conall’s meandering path. February 9, 2022.

But it was such a gorgeous day! Sunny! Not too cold! Not too windy!

I figured Conall and I, without Finn, could set additional tracks so that in coming days Finn could enjoy longer walks. That afternoon, we headed out again. Conall was dubious but happy following our earlier tracks. Then, we arrived at the break in the trees and ventured into the next field.

Conall valiantly tried to set tracks, virtually swimming through the deep, soft snow, until he finally just sat/laid in the snow.

Dog laying on snow in field.
Conall: “This sucks.”
Conall wallowing in the deep snow, happy to turn back for home. February 9, 2022.

I couldn’t argue with Conall’s assessment. We turned back.

Two days later, another gorgeous sunny morning greeted us. The three of us set out once again into the snow-covered fields.

Snowshoe tracks in field with plastic-covered hay bales.
Some of our earlier tracks, filled with wind-blown snow, near the snow bales. February 11, 2022.
dog looking at tracks in snow-covered field
Conall looks at those hard-earned tracks from two days ago. February 11, 2022.

Conall once again made it clear, when we reached the end of the tracks set on the 9th, that he didn’t care to break more trail. Who am I to argue?

dogs on snowshoe trail in field with trees beyond
Even Finn was happy to turn back without setting new trail. February 11, 2022.

So, after a short romp with the boys, I took them home. I then headed back out on my own to set more trail. I looked forward to working up a sweat, and I did.

snow-covered knoll, trees in distance
My objective: the top of the rise. February 11, 2022.
snowshoe trail across snowy field
Making progress.
snow-covered field with trees in distance
Success! The top of the knoll. Next job, for another day, setting trail to that gap in the trees casting shadows on the snow. February 11, 2022.
deep snowshoe tracks
Heading back, trying to step opposite of my tracks heading up, to create a smooth trail. When the snow is this deep and heavy, it’s a workout, especially going uphill. February 11, 2022.
animal tracks through snow
Critter tracks. Given how little they sink into the snow, I’m guessing fox, moving fast based on the distance between prints. February 11, 2022.
snowshoe tracks through snow in open field
Looking back at my work, happy that the boys will have more terrain to enjoy without sinking up to their bellies. February 11, 2022.

My goal, over the next couple of days, is to re-set tracks on a loop of about two miles that includes wooded sections as well as the open fields. I want Finn to be able to enjoy nice long walks in the snow he loves so much while his legs and joints are still able.

This is winter. I love winter! But I do prefer for the snow to arrive in smaller increments.

31 thoughts on “A Snow Story”

  1. I have to say I’m a bit jealous. You’re getting the snow like we used and don’t anymore. We got 2 inches to your 18 and now it’s melting then freezing into an awful mess. Temperatures are crazy warm for this time of year. Supposed to be 46 today.
    🥴
    Beautiful pics of your beautiful boys!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I now understand what locals meant when they told me our little area has its own micro climate. More snow! And wind, and frigid temperatures.

      Sorry you haven’t had a good winter. Ice sucks. And mud. Just today, the temperature rose into the low 40s F and the dirt roads became horribly slick mud. Worse than ice! Ugh. We had “mud season” in Idaho, but something tells me Vermont’s mud season is going to be a lot worse!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A winter wonderland! Here in southeastern Vermont, we’ve probably gotten a dozen inches of snow all winter. On the other hand, because January was so cold, the conditions have been consistently good for skiing in the cornfield. Even yesterday, with temps well above freezing for the first time in weeks, I was able to ski on the thin, crusty snow, which had softened just enough that I wasn’t sliding all over the place. Remarkably different from what you have!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! When there’s fresh snow, light and sparkling in the morning sunlight, it is a winter wonderland! I’m glad you’ve had enough snow to give your skis some exercise. Crust is better than ice! While I love having so much snow on the ground, I admit, I prefer it arrive a bit more spaced out over time, you know, 4-6″ per dump. Oh well, we make the best of what we have!

      It’s been a lovely winter so far! Spring must not be too far away, though; some Black-capped Chickadees have been buzzing around my deck this week, after hardly a bird (other than occasional crows and jays) all winter. I think the previous occupant must have put food out for them, and now I’m feeling awful I haven’t done so!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you put seeds out, they will come! The week before last we had a huge flock of goldfinches and pine siskins. I’d estimate around 200 goldfinches and 100 pine siskins. It was probably the coldest week of the year. Before that we only had a few of each on the feeders. (Pine siskins only show up in the winter; goldfinches live here year-round.) The huge flock was here about a week and went through 25 pounds ($60) of shelled sunflower seeds. And then, just like that, they moved on.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Bear, I try, but some days she asks too much. Sure, she’s got those big awkward contraptions on her feet that keep her from post holing in all the fresh snow, but me? My feet are big, but not that big. Wish I could ship some of this snow our way. Oh well. Finn says howdy. ~Conall

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had heard about re-establishing the Fed protections for grey wolves and was just thinking of you and here’s a post! I won’t mention that right now it is 84 degrees here and that I am wearing cargo shorts in lieu of snowshoes. Instead, I’ll just compliment you on your photos and on your collective constitutions for going out in all that white stuff. Beautiful to look at but I started shivering by the fourth picture and had to retreat to the hot tub by the end. I can practically hear Conall saying, “Finally, temps and snow that suits my fur.” You do good work…if there is ever a job for Dog-Track Setting Snowshoer” I hope you apply.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay for wolves in the Midwest and parts of the West, but sadly that court ruling doesn’t help those in ID, MT & WY because they’re “managed” by the states rather than the feds. But I’ll take progress on that issue wherever it happens.

      One reason I don’t live in a climate like yours is that I can’t rock cargo shorts.

      As for setting dog tracks: you’ve given me a terrific new title to add to my LinkedIn page! Thank you! I’ve always wanted to have a unique job and now I do!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, that’s a lot of snow. We’ve only gotten a few inches this winter so I’m a bit jealous, but not of those temps. It’s been in the fifties the past few days and I’m really ready for spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was unseasonably warm here today (low 40s F) but temps are tumbling tonight and I should wake up to sub-zero tomorrow. The variations in temperature, day to day, are giving me whiplash! And while I love all this snow, I would prefer it come in 4-6″ increments, spaced out, with a few days in between each dumb to enjoy it and pack down tracks.

      Soon after moving here last summer, meeting neighbors, they’d tell me our little area – at 2,000 ft elevation and atop a ridge – has its own micro climate. Now I understand what they meant: more snow, more wind, more temperature extremes/variations than in town just 700 ft below us.

      You’ll be running in shorts and t-shirts long before me, I bet. Enjoy your early spring, whenever it arrives!

      Like

  5. I’ve never thought of snowshoes as something you need regularly in winter. That’s so great. If it’s being blown around in the wind then it must be a dry powdery snow, and I think it might be perfect for cross country skiing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done more snowshoeing this winter than in my entire life, I think! My preference for travel on snow is: running shoes, xc skis, then snowshoes. In Idaho, the snow and terrain supported shoes on trails and xc skis in the groomed area; here I’m finding the land I have easy access to is best enjoyed on snowshoes because the snow is too variable and unpacked to support me in just running shoes. That said, I’m planning on getting out my old telemark skis and boots and making some new tracks soon, just for fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That is a whole lot of snow. Looks beautiful, though makes getting around more difficult. Gosh how do those cute doggies manage with the depth. Conall has had enough of this. Looks like you’re making the most of winter regardless. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the photos of the nests; can’t wait to see the hatchlings! You all are amazing and I’m thrilled to participate in my small way to your project!

        Like

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