Thursday, March 24, 2016

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring

The last day of winter was cold and wet, and as I drove to Leesburg on Saturday morning the rain started falling. I was meeting up with my new cycle group and Sandra was coming on the ride too. As I drove along contemplating how I could very well be stark raving mad a car passed me loaded with 2 kayaks, and I thought, well, at least I'm not the only one.
We did complete the ride, 14 cold and wet miles, and after lunch with Sandra, I rushed home to get the wood stove fired up. Snow was due later that afternoon but as I passed through Middleburg the flakes began to flutter down and by the time I got to my hill, it was falling thick and fast.
 Once indoors I threw out seed and nuts for the birds and Sebastian then settled in front of the crackling flames with Kota and Rosie Lee. A heavy fog was pressing down on the hill but the snow wasn't sticking to the road. I just hoped all the newly sprouting bulbs and buds would survive this icy blast.
Early on Sunday, the snow was barely hanging on to branches or the grass, it was melting fast. With dark skies and a sultry feel to the air, I drove out to look for signs of spring at Blandy.
 I loved seeing the higher elevations still capped with a covering of white and decided to take a detour to Mount Weather, wondering if they had any snow left. And as Stuart climbed up the steep hill we entered another land. It was Christmas card perfect snow, thick snow clinging to every branch and bramble. They had had about 3 inches up here but the roads were clear. I soon realized that it was melting fast as huge clumps fell down from the trees, landing on the road and the car. But it was beautiful.
 I parked up and walked into a small glade. It seemed as though it was still snowing until I realized that the soft thumps and flakes falling was actually the melting snow losing its grip on the trees and falling to the ground. I looked around at this tranquil beauty and thought of all the people who were in church as I stood here.. Looking up at the tree tops I thought, this was my church, this silent white woodland with its crisp clean air. I stood and quietly drank in the atmosphere. I felt very grateful that I'd taken the road up here, it had been spur of the moment decision.
Some bright yellow caught my eye and moving closer I saw it was a Spice Bush. It has fragrant leaves and later, red berries, favored by robins, catbirds, raccoons and opossums. These flowers looked so fragile, like little golden sunbursts on the delicate branches.
I suddenly realized that I was hungry and walked back to the car to leave. As I drove down the hill I noticed that where I had stopped less than an hour ago the snow had almost disappeared. It was melting incredibly fast. Again I realized how fortunate I'd been to witness this short moment of time and see this beautiful landscape. If I had come an hour later I would have missed the magic.
Down in Millwood I stopped at the Locke Store to grab a sandwich and coffee. Their food is amazing and today I chose their tuna sandwich, thinking I could munch it while driving. Not so, this was not driving food! Before I could raise the sandwich to my mouth globules of tuna salad landed in my lap, where luckily I had some napkins in place. There was so much filling of crunchy peppers, onions and lettuce, that it couldn't be really be contained by two slices of bread. I had to sit and eat it before I could move on. It was delicious, as was the coffee.
I made it to Blandy, relatively tuna stain free and had another walkabout to see how far spring had progressed since my last visit. It was holding back. Daffodils were shooting thousands of green leaves upwards but there were very few golden trumpets. I had hoped to see blossoms but these were also not wanting to open up. Every tree, shrub and bulb seemed to be holding their buds tightly closed in case more cold weather would try and surprise them.
But after walking about I did see a few brave displays. I love the Christmas Roses, or hellebores. These had been flattened to the ground by snow and rain on my last visit, so I was ecstatic to see they had fully recovered and were blooming abundantly, standing proudly under the conifers.
The magnolias were just starting to bloom too, and I just had to stroke those soft sepals, velvety outer leaves that protect the flowers while they're closed.There weren't many people walking about but the birds were plentiful, singing and squawking as they passed overhead. It was a joy to hear them. For some reason Virginian woods never have this wonderful accompaniment when I'm hiking, but Blandy seems to be Bird Heaven as there is always an avian choral ensemble whenever I'm here.
I took the long way home,stopping to take photos of a Christmas tree farm and the railroad at White Post. I then passed over the low water bridge at Front Royal. This is slated to be replaced this year so I took a video as I crossed it, here.. I'm sure the new bridge won't be half as interesting. There's even a Facebook page for it. The new bridge will apparently have railings, be two lanes wide and be much higher to allow small boats to pass under. And of course will likely be lacking in any character... There's an interesting article about it here.
And so having driven in a huge circle I ended up taking the back way to return to Marshall, passing along this little lane flanked by stone walls and nut trees, and often the spot to catch a beautiful sunset. Despite the rough surface I love driving along here, having never passed a soul each time I've pottered through, except once when an old farmer in his ancient Dodge truck stopped and helped me identify the nuts I was picking up from the wayside and who grinned in an understanding way when I told him I was helping a resident squirrel with his winter store.

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