On New Year’s Day

For the most part, I would like my little blog to be about my experiences hiking and being in the outdoors. However, the truth of the matter is, at least for the last year, there has been an elephant in the room, or perhaps in my yard. I moved from Portland to Bend two summers ago and then into a house later that summer. I have always really loved to garden, mostly in the form of planting bee and butterfly friendly wildflowers – be kind to pollinators – as it were. Monarchs and Milkweed – my motto, if I have to have a motto – is that a motto?

My new house has the most generic of suburban landscaping, featuring a ton of lawn, which I loathe, and very little else. I haven’t owned a lawnmower in years and the first thing that happened with my previous two houses that I owned was that I removed the lawn. Well, suffice to say there was (is) a lot of grass in my current yard, and unlike Portland, I learned the chilling truth that at some point during the winter the ground freezes here in Bend (!!!) and thusly my year-round project of digging up sod came to an untimely end last winter.

The project of digging up grass, and taking it to the landfill, is sadly, mostly never-ending, for both my back and sad Subaru cum pickup. On the other hand, my first summer of planting flowers in the newly opened flower beds ended up with a plethora of different pollinators visiting my new plants, which made me very happy, and made for a successful summer, even if my hiking suffered.

I will be trying my best to balance between yard and trail this year, but my obsessive nature (feed the bees and butterflies) will probably swing more towards the yard again in 2015, at least until the grass is gone and more native and pollinator friendly flowers and shrubs have gone into the yard.

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Dorothy Wordsworth wrote, “It is a pleasure to be the real lover of nature to give winter all the glory he can, for summer will make its own way, and speak its own praises.”

On the first day of 2015, the snow that covers my yard also covers the Badlands wilderness, and a sunny first day on the year is enticing reason to get outside for some fun winter photography while stomping around off-trail in the snow!

After a few days in the teens or below, a day in the upper 20s seems downright balmy. A thermos of hot tea, a few layers of clothing and my camera and we’re off for a little late afternoon wander in the snow!

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My starting point briefly follows the tracks of a fellow human into the wilderness before I veer off in my own direction through the pristine snowscape. The fresh coat of snow may cover the ground like a blank canvas but that snow also reveals that life in the Badlands remains active, with the various types of animal tracks revealed criss-crossing the landscape. The Badlands may be silent on this winter afternoon, but there’s definitely wildlife out here, even in the dead of winter.

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On a sunny winter’s day the fresh snow on the ground turns the Badlands into a land of contrasts. Deep blue sky, dark green junipers, and their brown hued snag brethren, rising above a sea of white. The gibbous moon in the cobalt winter sky becomes another facet of the landscape.

Normally, the Badlands are filled with the scent of juniper and sage. On this day, the brisk air is sterile, cold is the scent of no scent. Juniper, a fantastically prolific pollen producer, shut down. Snow covered sage is sageless.

Every few steps revels another lovely pictorial snowscape. A limited palette of colors nevertheless reveals endless beauty at every turn in the long shadows of a late winter’s afternoon. Snow and ice glisten from junipers and sage; droplets of snow melt and refreeze into silver drops that capture and refract sunlight. Basalt pressure ridges become still foam white waves on the land. On the horizon, snowcapped Cascadian peaks via for attention. The cold moon oversees this snowy expanse through branch and snag.

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One thing I don’t miss about having a film camera is the ability to fire off unlimited photos from various angles and settings to try to get the most intriguing and beautiful shots of what I am experiencing. Cold, clear and silent. Every boot step silenced by the thick layer of snow, as I wander, silently observing light and shadow change as the sun quickly lowers in the southwest. In every season I appreciate the endless size, shape and personality of the junipers of the Badlands. Today, a snowy shawl and icy ornamentation, adds to their character.

On a rise, I watch the sun setting. For a brief period orange and golds add color to the snowy mantle of tree and snowscape, before dropping below the horizon.

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The most important point of today’s little adventure is to try and remember to create as many opportunities as possible to get out and hike, especially in winter and early spring, before the world thaws and I’m back planting in the garden once more.

Get out.

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