Trying to make up for our tame winter, March roared in like a lion on the heels of a winter storm and dropped eight to ten inches of snow across our northwestern CT landscape. Two days after the storm, I made tracks over to Topsmead to play in the snow. No such luck. March, with its moody temperatures and increasing hours of sunlight, was already warming things up. The snow was disappearing fast. Blame it on the approaching vernal (fresh/new) equinox (equal night) that arrives March 20 and marks the turning point when daylight hours equal darkness hours.
When I arrived at Topsmead, the dirt surfaces of Chase Road and the parking lot were already snowless and softening in the midday sunshine. Clearly this wasn’t going to be a glorious afternoon of tromping through the snow. Nevertheless, I struck out across the fields en route to the butterfly garden to look for tracks that would tell the story of who had been traversing the Topsmead landscape.
The first tracks I saw were a flurry of horse hoofprints in the mud. Ah, Lee’s Riding Stable had been taking advantage of the warmer temps to lead out trail rides. In the meager snow running alongside the trail ride hoofprints, I could see a lone set of cross-country ski tracks that I followed into the long field, around its edge, and back up towards the butterfly garden. In spots, the snow had disappeared, taking the ski tracks along with it.
Then I saw something curious—a track that was a bit of a mystery. A track with treads…following the same route as the skier. Suddenly there were two pairs of treaded tracks running parallel to each other. Then they merged. I thought maybe it was a cyclist with specially treaded tires for riding in the snow. Then I thought maybe it was a mini bulldozer. Identifying the treaded tracks was tricky because the intermittent snow cover melting into the hayfield in a zebra stripe pattern—white snow alternating with straw-colored stubble—interrupted the tracks.
Walking back towards the cottage, I saw tracks that I had been expecting—snowshoe tracks—but so melted that they were barely recognizable. I didn’t get to see that lone skier, snowshoer, or mystery trackmaker in all of their gliding and tromping glory, but it was fun to imagine them out there making tracks that would leave no trace once the snow melted.
Today, March came in like a lion again with more snow, but the inevitably warming weather and longer days are challenging the legacy of tracks in the snow. No matter. Make tracks in the snow while you can, all the while knowing that snow and darkness are receding and a fresh new season of spring is on the way.