Season stretchers

April is gathering momentum here, and most of our snow has turned to water. Around our house, there are only patches where the terrain and wind conspire to make big snow drifts. And even in the forests nearby, little snow remains. But I know of a trail, Lake Ann Pathway, not far from Traverse City, that gets more snow than other places around here and stays a little colder, so I went there yesterday to see if there was still enough snow on the trail to ski. My favorite section of the trail starts out on a southwest-facing ridge, and there was no snow on it.

But another loop I spotted ran through a forest full of snow. I put on the skis, sun shining down, maybe 36 degrees, and skied. I acknowledge there were a few places down by the river where I had to “ski” along where there was no snow on the forest floor, maybe 100 feet of this sort of leaf-moss-dirt skiing, but otherwise, it was a really nice time out. (And even the leaf-moss-dirt skiing wasn’t bad, it was just kind of funny.)

I ski for various reasons, but one of the most compelling ones is the way it makes me feel, and by the end of the short outing, maybe three miles, I was feeling fantastic. Most people I know avoid skiing this time of year because, as they say, “I’m so over winter.” But skiing in spring is not bringing winter into spring, it’s bringing spring into winter. You have all the great stuff you love about winter–slipping along through the woods on skis and feeling great–combined with that marvelous sunshine and warmth of spring. Love it.

But the best part happened when I was leaving. A guy pulled in with a pickup pulling a fishing boat. The ramp to the landing was rutted and slick with mud. Snowbanks as high as his truck cab lined the route. And I’d noticed, when I was down by the lake, that it was only partially open, by far mostly ice, but a few acres of water were rippling by the launch. He had his little boy with him. They were going fishing in the melt.

I liked this little bit of overlap that he and I were sharing as we stretched our respective seasons. I found my patch of snow surrounded by leaves and dirt. He found his patch of water surrounded by ice. I was squeezing the last of what I could from a really dynamite winter. He was squeezing the most he could from the start of spring.

Cheers to soaking it up.

Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and MyNorth.com.

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