Robert Frost (1874–1963).  A Boy’s Will.  1915.
10. A Prayer in Spring
OH, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,         5
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,         10
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,         15
But which it only needs that we fulfil.
Today we traversed the Green Mountains for a tour at Breadloaf.  We woke to negative temperatures — cold enough to gel the diesel in our van.  Our goal for the day was to climb to the beaver swamps, explore their surface and then wrap around Watchtower Hill on the Wagon Wheel Trail.  After this journey we would pop out at the Robert Frost Cabin to read a few poems.  The brilliant light and pristine snow-covered landscape beckoned you to pay attention so as not to miss every beautiful sight.  On the drive over I was impressed by the number of bluejays flirting about along the road — enough so that I offered the kids hot chocolate points if they could spot them before me.  Even with persisting cold temperatures the increased birding activity is an undeniable sign of a vernal future.
Every trip to Breadloaf brings back memories of my past: college, skiing and perceptions of a landscape formed by training and competing on the trails.  As a collegiate racer I was always under a rather heavy training load in the winter and it was easy to relate the difficulty of climbing each hill with my strength.  The memory of the trails leading up to the beaver swamps were that of a great journey, and also an escape from the repetition of training on the racing loops closer to the touring center.  Many years later, with much different designs for my skiing, the woods are inviting and the climb feels negligible.  Today we were greeted by varied surfaces, from impeccable firm tracks, to glassy refreeze from yesterdays sun and finally shimmering snowmobile drawn tracks.  As we made the final descent to the ponds it was a invigorating to hold onto your speed without getting thrown out of the trail into breakable crust.
As we passed onto the ponds we were able to float on a foamy crust layer,  just firm enough to support our weight on racing skis.  It’s a sublime feeling to be able to balance your weight equally on this surface and use your poles in a light manner so you can keep enough momentum to stay afloat.  It had been several years since I got out there and this spring’s plentiful snow made the landscape a little different than I remembered.  Perhaps my fondest memory from the college days was sliding from crust out onto smooth ice.  One afternoon during the winter of 2000, Tim Weston and I had a surreal experience out there, where we could slide onto the ice and flat spin (sometimes multiple revolutions) on our skis before hitting the snow on the other side.  Our movements transcended our understanding of using skis as a means of getting from Point A to Point B, and perhaps we humored ourselves that we were suddenly able to make artistic motions with our previously one dimensional mindset.
Today the surface was a more uniform crust with just a few open patches of ice.  As we returned towards the trails we were able to find a few terrain features and skim small pieces of ice, which still provide a quite exhilarating acceleration.

Whether we were the first out there this year or not, there is an unmistakeable feeling of exploration and solitude as you pass out into the open. 

Back on the trail we really got into the spirit of things with a hoot-filled descent of the Kiwi Trail.  A track had been pressed into the now refrozen snow, and it’s speed and tightness created a sporty challenge while negotiating a few tight turns.  The kids are not only developing their aerobic engines, but also a creating a feel and balance on skis that is true athleticism.

The focus, balance and desire to negotiate these surfaces defines skiing for me and it brings me great satisfaction to listen to their laughter and watch their skills improve.

Mike Hussey was able to drive the Pisten Bully all the way out to the Middle Branch of the Middlebury — setting a sweet double set of tracks leading us back to the Frost Cabin.  As the trail climbed and rolled along you could open up long strides or make a few double pole pushes and enjoy the glide.

March 25th, 2014.

I was drawn down to the river which is just starting to gurgle under a firm layer of snow and ice.  Traveling over the river on the snow is nothing short of magic and it gives me pause to think of the spring when I will paddle on these very waters downstream.

So the blue jays… On the way back there were more!  Several times we flushed up flocks of at least ten birds.  “What’s going on?”  And then a turkey.  More blue jays.  Another Turkey.  Between the Snow Bowl and Hancock we must have seen over 50 Blue Jays, two turkeys and nothing else.  For sure they must be feeding on the road salt settling out of the snowbanks.  And make us happy in the darting bird.

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