The first spring thaw
It was a great weekend in a way, we finally had some warmer weather around here. We’ve been having one of the coldest winters since the mid 70’s, and we haven’t been above freezing since New Years Eve. Since the Ground Hog’s Day blizzard, our high temps have only been in the teens, and usually with an even colder wind blowing, so it was nice to get out on a couple warm, sunny days, with temperatures in the mid to upper 30s.
I walked in Aman Park on Saturday, and it was absolutely beautiful out there. There was hardly a cloud in the sky when I began walking, and I was able to get some good pictures that show just how much snow we’ve gotten.
The walking wasn’t bad, the trails were packed down fairly firmly, although I was surprised that after just a few hours of above freezing temps, the packed snow would give way now and then as I walked. I was on the first loop yet, when I saw a small flock of bluebirds feeding in the brush along Sand Creek. I was trying like crazy to get pictures, but they were actively feeding, and wouldn’t sit still very long. If they did perch long enough, either they were too far away, blocked by brush, or in the shadows. I followed them for a couple hundred yards along the bank of the creek, and finally one perched long enough for me to get a pretty good picture.
I had just snapped this picture, when a couple of cross-country skiers came along and the entire flock of bluebirds flew off to the other side of the creek, talk about timing!
I continued on, found a few more good photo ops…
As I continued on, the clouds started rolling in, so any pictures I would have taken would have seemed rather bland. It was also very crowded in the park, so other than a few birds, there wasn’t any wildlife around to photograph anyway. I really like walking Aman Park, especially in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming, but the park does get a lot of use, since it is close to Grand Rapids, and Grand Valley University in Allendale. If you are into wildflowers, you really should try Aman Park the end of April, first of May. There are acres of trilliums, and many other flowers as well. I seldom go there in the summer months, just too crowded for my taste, it is a fall, winter, and early spring place for me.
I was meeting Mike and Connie for Dinner at the Kopper Top that evening, so I actually had to keep track of time for a change. It was slow going in the park, the farther I went, the harder the walking became. The hardpacked snow would give way under my feet in some places, in other places, it was so hard pack that it was almost like ice.
That’s one of the downsides to how much use the park gets, the trails can become hard-packed ice so slippery that people have a hard time staying on their feet. I bought a set of Yaxtrax after one such day a few years ago. Yaxtrax fit on the bottom of your boots to bit into the ice to help you maintain traction. On that day it was extremely slippery, there was a crowd of people trying to climb the hill up from the creek to the parking lot, I thought I was going to have to break out my rope for people to use to pull themselves up the hill. Every one must have made it as I haven’t found any skeletons at the bottom of the hill where people have died.
Anyway, the going was so slow that I had to cut out one of the loops I normally do in order to be on time to meet Mike and Connie, so I only walked a little over 2 miles Saturday, then it was off to the Kopper Top. If you’ve never eaten there, you should give it a try. It is a small little bar at the corner of Stocking and 4th Street in Grand Rapids, but don’t let that fool you. The menu is not that of the typical small bar, and the food is great! Not only that, but they go way over the top in decorating the place for every holiday, you have to see it to believe it. I also am mentioning it because Mike and I were covered in cocktail sauce there Saturday, very good cocktail sauce in fact. The waitress dropped a dish of it, and it splattered all over the two of us, but the food and conversation were so good that it was no big deal.
On Sunday, I tried to walk Palmer Park, but it was even tougher going than Aman Park was the day before. It didn’t matter if I was on one of the groomed cross-country ski trails, one of the hiking trails, or trying to avoid the trails altogether, the amount of snow on the ground and the fact that it was thick, heavy snow from thawing made walking very hard. My old abused ankles were hurting really bad when I was done, and I only walked a little over two miles on Sunday as well. Too many years of riding dirt bikes and playing basketball have taken a toll on my ankles. I can’t recall how many times I have sprained them while playing basketball, and riding dirt bikes wasn’t easy on them either. I walked up the west side of the main road to the boardwalk, but the boardwalk was such a mess that I didn’t even want to try on Sunday. I cut over to the golf course part of the park, and that wasn’t any easier. Normally when I get to where the golf course and the park meet at the bridge over Buck Creek, I go back up the east side of the park, but not Sunday. There were a lot of people trying to ski, and a lot of people falling because it was either very slippery, or they broke through the crust on top of the snow, so I wasn’t the only one having problems. As I walked out of the park on the road, I met several other people who had been going to walk the trails, but gave it up due to the snow. I never even got my camera out of my pocket on Sunday, and it was a sunny day out. I saw a lot of birds, but never could get close enough for any pictures, and I was too busy trying to stay on my feet to do much looking around.
I’ll be glad when the snow is gone, not that I don’t like snow or mind the cold, but from here until the snow is gone, I’ll be dealing with ice, slush, mud, and maybe even floods in some of the parks. Besides, I am looking forward to seeing green trees again, it has been winter long enough, time for spring.