I arrived this week at the cabin to find pasqueflowers sheathed in ice and crumpled over in some posture of resignation (below). They had been buried under 28.5 inches of snow that got dumped two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t here to witness the storm, but when I arrived a week later, I could barely get in my front door because of the huge piles of snow that had accumulated and slid down from the roof.
I thought then that the ground-hugging purple flowers, the ones that herald spring, had met their natural end, but I hadn’t counted on their resiliency. They must contain some kind of natural de-icer or maybe it’s the fine silky hairs that insulate them. As the sun warmed the ground, the flowers revived, a little battered and worn, but with their heads held high.
In the mountains, early spring has arrived in some kind of rush, everything returning all at once. The South St. Vrain Canyon Creek, all winter an embarrassing trickle in the huge channel created after the 2013 floods, has now become a full-fledged stream, rightfully taking its place among the canyon walls.
On the Twin Owls trail, the usually hard rocky ground is squishy and soft, a perfect sponge for new vegetation, although the new ferns prefer the protection and shade of boulders. Seedheads dangle from the aspen branches (above), and the small creeks are running—clear signs of spring. These streambeds are empty nine months of the year, and only come to life in spring as water finds its way from the top of the peak down through the creases in the earth, some of them just a low patch of grass. These are rivulets of water that you could step across, not the huge churning rivers, so their sounds are intimate, soft and melodious rather than roaring and fearsome.
I can’t think of a nicer sound, unless it’s sweet trill of the house wrens that just arrived. Two weeks ago I first noticed the white and gray swallows, when they were doing their aerial dances in the side yard as I sat at my computer; last week I heard my first hummingbird and frogs. In the background now are the soft rushing sounds of Tahosa and Cabin creeks, full enough with snowmelt that I can hear them from the cabin, running fast and brown.
All winter, I wait for these tangible signs of spring, but when I went out one morning to greet the day and view the massive white block of Mount Meeker, I felt something else, something less solid, something that aroused all my senses and put me in a spring mood more than the creeks or frogs or swallows. It was a warm breeze, not the fierce winds of winter, but something soft; it spoke of ease, of relaxing instead of fighting the weather. I could put away my winter jacket and the snow shovel, uncover the back picnic table, do nothing but sit on the front porch and take a deep breath. I'm on easy street now.