Sunday, May 13, 2012

First Signs of Spring

It rained all last week.  Steady drizzle and occasional downpours left the town soggy and puddles everywhere.  When the rain finally let up a bit on Saturday afternoon, I decided to get outdoors for a bike ride.  I strapped my rear fender to the seat post and pulled on my rain coat, headband, and gloves and pedaled out of town along the bike trail which follows the highway toward Thompson Pass.
Last winter, we got over 400” of snow here, so, as you might imagine, it’s taking a while for all of that to melt.  The Department of Transportation has been steadily plowing out the bike trail, then returning to sweep it clear of debris – matted leaves, branches from trees that fell down back in November during a wind storm, gravel picked up and blown off the highway by the gigantic snow blowers.
The rotted snow pack on both sides of the trail is still knee deep, but has melted back from the asphalt about two feet, exposing a strip of earth where grass and fireweed shoots and pudgy cow parsnip are now growing.  Birch and alders poke through the snow and sport plump buds exploding with nascent leaves.
Several miles into my ride, I noticed my shadow and looked up, squinting at a bright spot in the sky where the sun was trying to burn off the clouds.  Though it was never quite successful in breaking through the screen, the pavement was dry in places and I felt comfortably warm.  Robins scattered off the trail as I passed.  They’d peck at the ground for seeds and bugs, then fly into the scrubby brush to commiserate with one another.
I rode ten miles and circled back toward home.  As I approached the Duck Flats, almost at the end of my ride, I saw a line of cars idling on the highway shoulder.  Drivers and passengers leaned out windows and some people had gotten out and were standing next to their vehicles.  Other folks trotted down the bike trail a few yards to get a better view of spring’s first black bear grazing on the mountainside above.  I followed the crowd’s lead and pulled to a stop, unclipped my shoes from my pedals, and got out my camera.  Like everyone else there, I knew my pictures would turn out to be unremarkable – just an indistinct black dot against a field of brown earth and dirty snow.  The bear was too far away on this dreary day to get a good shot, but, he was also far enough away to be safely ogled.  The bear ambled along slowly, digging up roots to fill his belly after his long hibernation.  I looked around at the other wildlife watchers and I realized that, to a person, we were all locals.  Not a tourist amongst us.  We were all pleased as punch to be standing alongside the road we drive, bike, and walk every day – rain, snow, or shine -- giddy with the excitement of this perennial sign of spring.
I told you it would be unremarkable. 
He's right in the middle under the electrical wires.

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