This winter has been a mild one in Addison County, but it has also seemed the harshest of the three Vermont winters I’ve experienced. As the days get longer, it’s exciting to see a few signs of spring.
Don’t get me wrong — the mild winter has been a benefit to many of Vermont’s inhabitants. Warm weather and lack of snow has made things easier for those who faced damage during Tropical Storm Irene last summer, and has eased the financial situation of those struggling with high costs of heating. The lack of snow and relatively dry conditions also mean that a repeat of last year’s spring thaw flooding is highly unlikely. Still, there are unique trials in dealing with what a friend has referred to as ‘four months of November’. A mild winter in Vermont is still by no means warm, and it’s been harder to keep active compared to last year when it was at times possible to cross country ski right from our porch. The brown, snowless fields also remind me of dry times in southern California, where drought, not cold, is the limiting factor to most forms of life.
While I’m still hoping for a late dumping of snow, I’m also looking forward to spring. This past week, temperatures rose above 50 degrees in much of the area, and for the first time in several months I was able to comfortably sit by the river in a light sweater. We enjoyed a downright warm walk up Chipman Hill in Middlebury and I even saw some snowdrops blooming in a front yard. Despite a cold start to this week, more spring-like weather is on the way, and even warmer temperatures are possible this Thursday.
As spring enters full swing, I look forward to the signs of the changing season - the songs of spring peepers and wood frogs, the emergence of spring ephemeral wildflowers, and that short spring period where the maple trees are painted pink by their newly emerging leaves. We may also be spared a nasty mud season due to the lack of melting snow, though deeply frozen ground in some areas may still cause problems as it thaws. By the time June rolls around I will be more than ready for warm nights of fireflies and distant lightning, and tentative dips in slowly-warming lake waters.
Perhaps it was the ‘sameness’ of our four subsequent “Novembers”, more than anything that made this mild winter seem so long. As bird activity increases around me, and the first green shoots of early bulbs poke through the ground, I am reminded of my favorite part about spring: the promise of progression and change, and the anticipation of the landscape coming to life again.
Charlie Hohn is a recent graduate of the UVM Field Naturalist graduate program. He has been closely watching the weather ever since he was a child in southern California. Charlie will be posting occasional blog posts here about Addison County weather. He also maintains a blog about water at slowwatermovement.blogspot.com.