Road Walking, USA
Comments 20

Unexpectedly Spring: Some Snowmelt Reflections

Well, the snow is starting to melt and the air smells like spring… 

That’s how Kate’s email began this morning (yesterday afternoon New York time). I was at once overcome with envy and nostalgia for that revivifying time when you feel the change in the air like the scent of hope and you know you’ve made it through the harshest of seasons. Pretty soon the first bulbs will be pushing through the melt-sodden earth.

Here in Brisbane the harshest season is Summer, and we’re not through it yet; it seems to have saved its heaviest artillery for one bloody last stand. I don’t know if it’s age, my general malaise, or if all those southern summers I missed while living overseas made me soft, but I’ve really struggled with this latest one.

Over in Upstate New York, of course, it’s been, by all accounts, an even harsher Winter than the one I lived through in 2014. That was the most consistently cold I’ve ever been, but it wasn’t just the temperatures, it was the grey, the gloom, the oppressive monotony of the season.

At least, that’s how the first half of it felt. I struggled with it; there were days I couldn’t get out of bed, or went back there after breakfast seeking the relief of unconsciousness. It’s possible I was experiencing Seasonal Adjustment Disorder. But I’d never been a big fan of snow and it was a bumper season for the stuff.

In time I warmed (heheh) to Winter — up to a point. I tried to keep up my walking, and somehow managed some road-walks of anywhere between eight and 20 miles at least a few times a week.

This was harder than it sounds, and it probably already sounds pretty damned hard. Readers might recall that I checked the weather app on my phone as I left the house one morning and was rather taken aback to realise it was below minus-20 C with the sun shining — or at least glowing feebly.

My fingers had been brutalised by Renaud’s Syndrome, a circulatory disorder that can freeze up the extremities so that even working a button or zipper is sometimes out of the question. I’d experienced it a few times on the PCT even in Summer, walking in a cold Oregon rain. Winter walks in New York meant so many damned layers that dressing to head out was a chore in itself — including long underwear, two pairs of gloves, and a shell if there was a hint of breeze.

But a weird thing happened during or perhaps because of all those walks: I got used to the cold. I started not to notice. By Winter’s end, temps as low as, say, 5C (which would be headline news in the Queensland Winter) seemed balmy. It was hard to believe that on my first walk around the block with Kate on arriving in January, I’d had to bail after a few minutes, genuinely shocked at the violence of the cold out there.

“Kate,” I remember declaring once we were safe indoors, pulling off boots and gloves and holding hands inches from the gas fire, “I don’t think I can do this…”

I could and did. We bought snowshoes and managed regular weekend mountain hikes and walks over frozen Moreau Lake. Actually embracing the season, or at least shaking well-gloved hands politely with it, made all the difference.

We had a great time on those missions into the south-eastern Adirondacks. And I discovered that I loved photographing the snowy woods, even if taking off a glove to squeeze a cold-metal shutter was never what you’d call fun, exactly.

I’ve managed, with all my free time over here this last Summer, to catch up on the editing of a ton of old pictures, including just about all of my shots from that interminable, harsh Winter.

By chance I came upon some from one outing I never wrote up in T.G.T.W. at the time, a record of a road-walk on the fringes of Saratoga I did exactly one year ago today. I’d labelled it in my photo library Unexpectedly Spring: Into Town Via 36, March 11 2014. The photo data tells me that six hours elapsed between the first picture shown here and the last.

I’d never even edited the pictures at the time, but prettying them up, I was reminded of the joyous feeling of a late-Winter’s day when the sun was out for real, the snow was melting (a little) on the roadsides, and here and there a glimpse of yellow-green could be seen as the world beneath the snow came gradually to life.

It kills me that I can’t be there right now to relive these sensations and share with Kate and her kids the excitement of the garden (which barely existed a year ago — we got damned busy when the snow was gone) revealing itself after months of hibernation.

Hopefully next Spring.

If you’re interested, I covered aspects of this route on different walks here and here. You might also have noticed that I’ve promoted “Road Walking” from tag to category, since I seem to have done so much of it.

I’m one of those weirdos in the walking community who actually “enjoys” it — especially when the snow’s retreating and you can get your sorry ass (I’m sure many American drivers assumed I had a D.U.I. conviction) a few inches further off the asphalt…


I shot these trees, not far from Kate’s, lots of times last year. It meant climbing up on the snowy embankment — and obscuring the camera whenever a car passed. Strange that pointing a camera at some trees should make you feel like a deviant, but it’s weird enough just to walk on roads in America, and I did, in Summer, get into a heated discussion with a local landowner who was outraged that I would want to photograph a weed (same species in the driving range shot below) from the road edge that was apparently “on my property”.


I loved those russety tones in the trunks.


Route 9, heading out of town. One thing I love about road-walking is the stories those roads tell…


Looking left from Route 9. In half an hour I’d loop left onto 36 over beyond that ridge.


I think it was out of business. Hard to believe it was ever IN business.


I wonder what the message was. Guess I’ll never know.


On County Road 36/Wilton Road. I always tried to photograph this old apple, but it was hard without trespassing and a zoom lens.


This barn in the town of Greenfield was another favourite subject on 36. I loved this road – just watch out for logging trucks.


A beautiful old farmhouse on 36…


..and a glimpse back from around the same point, suddenly in black-and-white, reverse Wizard of Oz-style.


I cut left down Locust Grove Road, a route I’d worked out by trial and error on earlier expeditions (I was always mapless). This old graveyard was right near the home of friends Dude & Trouble at the time.


Same cemetery. I really wanted a closer look, but messing up that pristine snow would’ve felt like vandalism.


A common roadside weed on Denton Road. Anyone know it?


There are some nice horse properties along Denton. This is looking back the way I’d come, my first time walking this road.


A polo place just off Denton as I looped around towards downtown Saratoga.


Under a railway bridge…


..past this nice patch of pampas-like grass…


..and some cheerfully meaningless street art…


..I negotiated some slowly expanding snowmelt lakes…


..passed Skidmore College without skidding and was soon downtown, where I undoubtedly stopped in at Uncommon Grounds for a latte, some surly hipster service and a cinnamon bagel with peanut butter and cream cheese. Damn, I’d kill for some of that surly hipsterness right now. Can it really be over half a year since my last bagel?


The homeward route via Clinton Road. This was always the most treacherous section — nice woods, but narrow road margins. A careless man could come to grief taking his last ever shadow selfie…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Darius Russell says

    Just reliving one of your old romances. Bittersweet, I’m sure, but beautiful that you walked the fandango nonetheless. What a beautiful adventure for you. Here’s hoping 2015 finds you embracing new love & life, Goat!

    Happy New Year!


    **You were right the A.T. was harder than I thought it would be. But, definitely well-worth the experience of what I was able to accomplish.

    • Hey Darius, here I am, alive and still kicking against the pricks. Yeah, I can look back now (thanks in part to the Zoloft) on my last and final American adventure with a lot of fondness, pride and gratitude. Seldom any pain these days. Sadly I’ll never be able to revisit my beloved Appalachian Trail thanks to the good people your government employs to keep America safe from people like me. But you’re right: at least I had the experience.

      Hope the year goes well for you. As I’ve been explaining to all-to-many commenters, I do intend to resume communication in some form shortly, when I will fill in some of the gaps in my recent resume. The blog may change its look, intent and even name, but I have to do something with all these damned pictures! Art and adventures, both lived and still embryonic, are sustaining me and I feel good about myself and things right now. More to come!

      • SO good to hear from you, Ian!!!!! Truly glad you’re alive & kicking, and still moving into and embracing each day (sometimes difficult or not.) I have truly missed you, My Brother!! (Wish I knew exactly what Uncle Sam’s issue is, I’d love to fix it, or litigate it, or something so you could get on your way where you want to go….)

        I know this sounds Fairy Taleish, but I’ve always believed if I’m supposed to be somewhere, I will be there. You don’t know if your “ban” will be “forever” –even if Uncle Sam told you that. I just have been surprised before….

        Anyway…God bless her, but moving on from that gal…unless you still feel the need to talk about her…, always glad to listen. Don’t know all that went down with that, and I don’t need to know….

        No need to explain yourself my friend! Logistics, or not, you are always welcome wherever I am on the Intergalatic web, or on terra firma, Aussie, U.S., or wherever otherwise…if it’s meant to be for you to return to the United States, you will. Until then, or if not, there truly are other fish in the sea, and great life and adventures wherever you are. (But I know you know that…Just sucks for you! –The U.S. isn’t so great anyway. We’re loaded with idiots who want to build a Mexican border wall by the likes of a brainless “himbo” named Donald Trump. “His Hairpiece” seems to think he should be president. God help us all!!! –We haven’t been in this much danger since Sarah Palin was almost elected U.S. Vice President! Yikes!! A Confederacy of dunces we are!!)

        Glad you are doing the Zoloft…I honestly admit I’ve gone to some pretty sad places after breakups a time or also. Important to get help moving on when you need it!

        Yes, I’ve taken Zoloft before. It is a sign of strength though our machismo cultures of denial like to insinuate otherwise. Highest of kudos for you to ask for help when we need it!!

        VERY well done!!! Feel better soon. You can stop taking it when it’s time and not a moment before then!!

        Been thinking about you a lot the past month or so, wondering if you were feeling better! –But completely understanding you might need a long break–you give so very much of your life and we give you nothing but consumption (but hopefully some welcome level of appreciation & admiration that you feel like you get something back.)

        I guess it’s Fall there? It was like Palm Springs weather down here in Houston where I ended up after the trail.

        Fully expected to relocate back to Western North Carolina, but after my nearly 80-year-old mother broke her foot (and promptly did a face plant on the cement driveway, and then had to be on a walker for the first time ever for six weeks, I’m glad I stuck around and helped her take care of some things.
        Think I’ll stick around and keep an eye on her, and land a job for awhile (Had a really good interview today in Downtown Houston.)

        Ohhh…it’s almost 3:30 AM, I’m such a damn Night Owl, and middling writer. GREAT to hear from you, Good Sir!! (Sorry to be so personal in this post–edit it, or don’t even post it at all as you need to!) We’ll talk again!


      • Hey, I like the comments the Goat gets, he’s obviously met so many great people on his travels, and I like the sound of this Darius fellow.

        Every time I see His Hairpeice on TV, I just try to think of all the decent, sensible people living normal, intelligent lives in the USA (I’m assuming they are there, having never been there, lol)… and hope they don’t have to be ruled by such a person!

        It’d be funny if it wasn’t so scary.


      • So what’s the ‘ol Goat up to these days? Working? –When, pray-tell are you gonna get back to writing your blog???

        Sent from my iPhone


      • Many wouldn’t describe it as “working” but I always try to total eight hours of art and study per day and usually exceed that (if I don’t have too much wine or beer in the evenings)!

        And I’m sticking to my five-mile minimum walking per day.

        I’m also giving the direction of the blog, perhaps even a replacement blog or a connected “side-blog”, a lot of thought. The days are too short…

      • When Trump turns up in one’s Zoloft-enhanced dreams, as happened to me recently, you know you’re in trouble. I have a feeling his star is waning though…maybe?

      • Darius/Dodger,

        Thanks for your supportive and entertaining comment. Sorry about your mother, hope she’s on the mend. Yes, technically it’s Autumn here, but it’s actually still the tail end of the most prolonged Summer in memory, with just a hint of autumnal cool in the shadows or the early mornings, which are absolutely sensational but soon shrivel up and give the stage back to the 30C-ish days. I’m wondering what sort of “Winter” we will have this year. It would be awesome if the El Nino/climate change compensated for the cruel Summer with a cooler-than-usual Winter, but maybe we’ll just jump straight back into Spring…

        The Zoloft is interesting. I’ll elaborate when my much-threatened post is ready. Overall I’m glad for it, but sleep…what is “sleep” again? Did I really use to go three or four hours or more without waking up? Anyway the dreams are fantastic.

        Zoloft (Vitamin Z), walking and photography are sustaining me, and my parents’ generosity in providing a beautiful place to live is of course key. I have plans for more travel and refining my artistic vision, plus of course getting better at the technical aspects of it etc. Speaking of which, I’m about to meet a local photo-compadre for another session at our laptops working on improving our post-production skills. So I’ll sign off and good luck with the job stuff!

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