This past November, the fella and I drove to the Adirondacks to scale one of the 4000+ footers. I was expecting a chilly autumn hike, but instead we seemingly stepped straight into deep winter. At home the last of the leaves had fallen from the maple outside, and the ground was beginning to develop that satisfying crunch of long dead detritus. But when we reached Mount Colden, it was as though the mountains had wrapped winter around their shoulders long ago.
We drove up the evening before, in order to get an early start on the 16 miles we would be covering the next day, and hunkered down in a double sleeping bag laid out in the back of the car. Since we had entered the Adirondack region in complete darkness, it wasn’t until the next morning that we realized just how wintery the area was. All was crystalline and silent.
After getting our gear in order and my lamenting for a few minutes that trail-running shoes were not the best choice, we stamped the cold from our feet and quietly moved up the path.
How quickly lungs expand to take in a sky full of air and muscles stretch to traverse entire valleys in one step. In these places, I feel myself spilling into every bark fissure and dripping from every hemlock cone, cracking open to reveal glacial streams for veins and exhaling the north wind.
Here, I again remember that living in densely populated areas is a struggle. In towns and cities, one must fold and contract to fit between all the buildings and cars. Tuck in the elbows to avoid bumping into passersby. Quiet the voice to match the small, windowless offices. Slow your feet to match the flow of the the sidewalk. Now hustle to get out of the street. Now slow down. Now move. Contract. Fold.
But on mountains and in forests, I could fairly scream out (to no one in particular), “why be a 2-hour parking space, when you can be an entire glacial valley!?”
The beginning of the trail was dark and snowy, the light barely filtering through the trees though they were without leaves. Balsam fir boughs were heavy with snow and the forest was silent, save for the crunch of our micro-spikes on ice covered puncheons.
As we moved up in elevation, the trees began to seem as though they were taking cover against the mountain. Twisting branches stretched out valiantly, dipped in hoarfrost and battered by the wind.
Above the alpine line, the cold veritably swept us up into its arms, and made me glad to possess a body that generates its own heat with only a bit of movement. It was -9°F at the summit, and all the colder for our damp clothing and mid-day respite.
How I am envious of the birds. The forests are theirs, as is the sky. From the top of Mount Colden, we had a glimpse of what the snowy owls chasing the light down from the arctic tundra see, and what a landscape it was!
It was then that I felt pulled to work on my annual North Wind collection, featuring snowy dendritic agates and icy howlite, even though it was only November, and at home autumn was still resplendent with oranges and reds. With this mountain and frosty landscape kept in my mind, I sat down at my bench to begin working on the North Wind pieces. And in this year’s iteration, there would be owls.
Within a day or so before my North Wind shop update (which will be on February 28th at 7pm EST in the Etsy shop) I will post a full preview of this year’s offering. And it will be a bountiful one, a result of restless hands after experiencing deep winter two months early!