Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cross-Country Skiing at Last!

Finally we got a serious snowfall on Saturday, about 8-10 inches of powder, and they were able to track-set the cross-country ski trails at Glenelg Nordic. And that was followed with a beautiful sunny Sunday for skiing!

The main trails go through 400 acres of public country forest just southwest of Markdale, and the club is entirely managed by a group of volunteers, including nearby landowners. This is beautiful rolling hardwood forest, with the odd pond or wetland, and some patches of reforestation, now getting fairly mature. In places, the trail was really beautiful with snow draped over everything.

Most of the property is hardwood sugar maple forest, and it's actively managed for logging, but they manage to maintain a good balance between the occasional forest harvest, and ongoing recreational use. This time the snow was fresh, the track-setting had just been completed, and the skiing was the best so far this winter.

There was a fair wind with the snowfall on Saturday, so the snow had been blown clear of the trees on the higher elevations, but in the hollows the snow was clinging to every branch. All the horizontal branches of the dogwood understory were decorated in white.

This county forest sits on a very rolling hilly section of a glacial moraine, so if you walked on a compass bearing through the property, you'd be climbing up and down challenging hills. On one side you look down into a deep hollow, and then you're climbing nearly to the top of a hill. They have managed to route the ski trails around the sides of these hills and hollows to at least minimize the death-defying runs downhill!

In one stretch there are a number of dead white pine skeletons, overtaken by hardwoods growing around them. They stand like ghostly sentinels blanketed in white at the edge of the trail.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Deer Herd

We have a small group of 4 or 5 white-tailed deer in the yard quite regularly, but usually overnight. I see their tracks in the morning. I tried a new birdseed mixture 2 or 3 weeks ago, and the very first night the deer stopped by, knocked all the seed out of the feeder and gobbled it down. I tried one more time and then gave up. We'll stick with sunflower seed and the chickadees.

But one day last week I looked out and thought I saw something moving in the field across the road. At first I thought it was our little herd of 4 or 5 deer, but they just kept on coming - I think it was nearly 20! Virtually anyplace you go walking in the woods around here you see deer tracks.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One of those Lifetime Firsts!

We're back to winter here, a white blanket of snow, and beautiful cold sunny days, at least for the weekend. We notice the birds at the feeder outside the window, but yesterday there was something that looked a little different. We had to stand and watch for several minutes, while it flew away to the pine trees, presumably dining on it's stolen sunflower seed.

Once we got a good glimpse of it, we had to get out the bird book, 'cause this light and gray bird had a crest, and there aren't many birds like that. It turned out to be a Tufted Titmouse, a species I have never seen before. I got out the camera, and waited. It only stayed for 10 seconds, but I managed to get one clear shot.

This is the actual picture I took, the one above is cropped down from this. I must have been lucky with the focus to enlarge it and still have it this clear.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wacky Winter

Well, I say with a sigh of frustration, we're getting another snowy day. Here's hoping it's a more serious accumulation of the white stuff than we've had so far! Local people who have lived here far longer than I have say they can't remember a winter like this. Not only do we only have a thin blanket of snow (too thin for cross-country skiing or proper snowshoeing), the temperature continues to bounce up and down between rain and snow - creating ice far too often. In places walking is getting treacherous.

Today there's a low pressure system blowing through, with serious windchill, and snowing steadily. After the storm passes, the winds are supposed to shift around, and hopefully we'll get some of those 'lake-effect snow squalls' to add to the accumulation. 5-10 cm. is forecast, but that's only 2-4 inches. I'd rather have at least 25 cm. to rescue the cross-country ski season.

But then it's supposed to go up above zero again next week and rain! Disgusting!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Moonlight Snowshoeing

We enjoyed our first moonlight snowshoeing hike 3 days ago, and there was actual moonlight! The conditions were pretty terrible really, with temperatures above zero, and the snow soggy and wet. It stuck to the bottom of the snowshoes constantly, making walking sometimes frustrating.

The snow conditions were pretty thin too - only about 6 inches, which may sound like enough. But once the first ten people have walked the trail, it's packed down to the rocks. So you had to watch your footing pretty carefully at times.

We gathered after dark, with headlamps bobbing as people struggled into their snowshoes. The owner of a nearby home came down to see what all the strange lights were about! Turns out the OPP had been there all afternoon chasing pot growers.

In spite of it all, 25 people enjoyed the snowshoe walk along the Niagara Escarpment and into a picnic table on the edge of an old meadow. Unfortunately no-one was waiting there with hot chocolate or donuts, but we now look forward to our next moonlit snowshoe or ski.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Up and Down, Up and Down!

It was 5 degrees and raining with hardly any snow left only 40 hours ago! Now we have 10 inches, and it's 20 below and windy - with a wind chill that was bitter enough to drive me home after only a short walk, while the dog lay in the snow and loved it. It's supposed to warm up and rain again by the weekend. I don't remember winter weather that went up and down like this ever before.

I dress up to stay warm, the scarf wrapped around my face makes my breath condense on my glasses, and the temperature makes it freeze. I can't see a thing until I actually go inside and unthaw the glasses! A good day to stay inside if you can.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Much Better Winter Day

The snowqualls forecast last night did materialize, and the world started turning white again. We arrived at a Bruce Trail potluck last night in the rain, and left 3 hours later in an almost blinding blizzard. I was hoping for a lot more snow this morning, but it's still snowing, and we do have 6 or 8 inches, so I guess that will do for now.

But there's ice on the road under all the snow after yesterday's rain. Walking the dog this morning in the cold blowing wind my feet went out from under me several times, and I landed on my butt or my knees more than once! If the blowing snow stops maybe I'll get some pictures later on.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What Crappy Weather!

Sitting here listening to the rain, pouring down and drumming on the steel roof. And there was a snowshoe hike scheduled today! Couldn't be much worse weather for New Year's Day! I'd much rather have cold and deep snow than this muck and slush. Though there is a snowsquall warning for tonight, and temperatures are supposed to plummet again (they seem to keep going up and down), so here's hoping for a real blast ofwinter.

Don't have any pictures of rain in January (nor do I want any), but just 2 or 3 days ago we had lots of white fluffy snow all over everything. I hope tomorrow is like this again: