This is Maine. In February. If you’re not from here, you might have images in your mind of endless fields of snow crisscrossed with snowmobile tracks and ski trails, brilliant blue skies, wind-driven pine trees and mercury-cracking temperatures. And you’d be right. Ordinarily, anyway. Especially last year, when we had the coldest winter on record and the second-most snowfall we’ve ever recorded.
This year, however, has been weirder than weird. We’ve only seen 19″ of snow so far for the entire season. We had 76″ at this point last year, well on our way to 150+. It’s raining today, and temperatures have been in the 30s and 40s for days, with Monday hitting 56 degrees. And we have another week (at least!) of similar temps ahead. This is no January Thaw, a phenomenon we see here every winter when, for about a week (in January, of course), the temps rise, the snow cover melts, then we get plunged back into a nice deep freeze and get dumped on once again. We had that. Minus the dumping (thanks for staying south of us, Jonah. ‘Preciate it). This is something else entirely. Take a look at the picture posted on my “About Me” page. When I took that shot, it was 3 degrees with a wind chill of -17. We had about 40″ of snow on the ground then, with a whole heck of a lot more to come. That was exactly one year ago yesterday.
What does this have to do with hiking? Well, I live just 75 minutes from Monson, the trailhead that signals the start of the 100 Mile Wilderness on the AT. And because of the temps and the melting, I’m so tempted to drive over there and check it out (I’ve never been there. Up until now, I’ve been a runner, remember?) with the hopes of maybe hiking a short symbolic distance into the woods to “begin” my section hike.
But I really need to resist that urge. Why? Because this is Maine. And this unusual weather over the last two-plus weeks is going to go away, and we’re going to hit the deep freeze and get blasted with snow. And then I’ll be left with that little taste of the AT, and pace the floor mumbling to myself and looking out the window until the trail in Monson is accessible to me for real. That’s not pessimism talking. That’s experience. And for someone who loathes winter, it would be like sitting by the edge of the pool in 100-degree heat and being told that I could dip my toes in, but I’d have to wait six weeks before I could dive in.
At least Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his little rodent shadow. So I might actually get out there sooner than I think…