As I write these words, a raw wet day has slowly dissolved into an evening that is just as sodden. Combined with the earlier onset of evening occasioned by the annual fall time change, one can appreciate Ishmael’s comparison of his low spirits to “a damp, drizzly November in my soul.” Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick describes a fictional world, the author’s long sojourn in Albany and Pittsfield makes it clear that he was speaking from firsthand knowledge of the great Northeast.
However, as any experienced leaf gatherer knows, once the rain stops a little dampness in the leaves serves to quicken the process: They are less likely to blow away, and one can cram many more of them into those paper lawn bags. Anything that hastens yardwork is laudable because time saved in raking means more time for hiking! Of course, that seasonal progress toward shorter days and longer nights is a subtle reminder that winter cannot be very far off.
Nature’s message was loud and clear to Martha and me recently on an especially cold hike on the Taconic Crest Trail (TCT). As we arrived at the peak of Tower Mountain, a wave of wind-whipped sleet greeted us at what proved to be our turnaround point. That particular trail is a fine example of the transformative effects of winter upon the landscape. Its 37 miles feature a handsome park (Pittsfield State Forest), a research area owned by Williams College (Hopkins Memorial Forest), slaty ridges of rugged beauty, impressive Shaker remnants (Twin Pond), and a gaping crater that tenaciously clings to winter well into summer (the Snow Hole). Rather than diminishing these features, winter serves to enhance them. Once the deciduous trees have released their warm-weather burden, filtered views open up throughout the trail, offering scenes that are only available in winter. With the onset of snow, the occasional scarring from ATV damage disappears under a white blanket that renews the entire trail.
This edition of The Cloudsplitter features some outstanding opportunities for winter recreation. Among the offerings, there is a 10-mile trip on January 26 that includes the TCT and the beautiful Mattison Hollow Access Trail. If you are an aspiring Winter 35er, outings are scheduled for Doubletop (January 26) and Plateau (February 18) as well.
These are the reasons I love winter, and I hope you do, too.
Albany Chapter Chair