Red and orange will soon be followed by white
I am a chionophile – someone who loves snow, who thrives in winter conditions. The first snow floats into my dreams in late August: in those dreams, I’m usually skiing or at a window watching it fall and then running to grab my skis.
I just read a delicious description of hikers making a trip into the Cairngorms, mountains in the northeast of Scotland, to check out the longest lasting snow patch in the UK.
(The last snow in Scotland, by Cairngormwanderer - Neil Reid, Oct. 4, 2017)
For me the best part of the story is why they went up - it wasn’t just to climb the mountain but rather to check and see if all the snow had melted.
Braeriach is the third highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,296 metres; the snow patch is below the summit at 1,140 metres in a big round bowl – what the British call a corrie or cirque – a steep-sided hollow. The bowl is called Garbh Choire Mor, or big rough corrie, and has only been without snow five times in the last 100 years (1933, 1959, 1996, 2003 and 2006).
2017 will make six times. When the hikers reached the snow patch, the 11-year-old snow had melted to the size of a welcome mat and is now, in all likelihood, completely gone. Not to worry though: it’s snowing again there and new snow will soon start piling up.
The author of the article, now in his 60s, mentions that despite his best efforts he “never did see the Garbh Choire Mor completely snowless”. It is something that few people have ever seen.
I love that those three people were that curious about snow - and it got me thinking about the importance of paying attention to natural cycles and rhythms – to the ephemeral elements of our world.
I made a point this past Thanksgiving weekend to get out in the backcountry to check on the maple trees. Some leaves were starting to turn around the shore, where most of us live, but I had a suspicion the colours were farther ahead inland - we’d had that frost the first couple days of October and I figured it was enough to trigger the big show.
Sure enough I took a quick paddle down the Mistake River, south of Porters Lake, and the maples along the stillwater were aflame in reds and oranges. But even as I paddled, the wind was blowing the leaves from the trees – the colours will not last forever. But my memories will, as will the feeling of wonder and joy at seeing those gorgeous sumptuous colours.
I also took a friend for a longer trip to the stillwater on Franklin Brook, southeast of Lake Joli. The same bright colours and even more leaves were flying from the trees there.
I’ve been trying to encourage others to watch, to really soak it up, and to record it too. I have been collecting Digby County fall colour photos on the digbytrails.ca webpage – if you’re seeing a good show where you are, how about tagging me (Jonathan Riley on Facebook) on your Facebook photos, use the hashtag #FALLingforDIGBY (simply type #FALLingforDIGBY into the comments under the photo), or message or email me – so I can share the colours with others.
Starting Saturday, I’ll be away from a computer for a while but send me your photos and I’ll add them to my collection when I get back.
Jonathan Riley, trails and open space coordinator with the Municipality of the District of Digby