Archive for February, 2005

Winter Commute on the Trails

Written for the Portland Trails Newsletter

I’m no lover of winter.  Short days, sun that barely makes it over the rooftops, shoulder-clenching drafts, dry skin – how delightful.  I might have been born and raised in the Mid-Coast area, but my blood has tropical longings.

But two years ago, I discovered the cure for the interminable Maine winter.  To get some exercise, I started to use the Eastern Promenade and Back Cove Trails to commute to work on foot.  I live on Munjoy Hill and work as a mechanic at Young’s Service Center on Forest Avenue.  Today, I continue to throw my lunch in my daypack, pull on some snowpants and sneakers and head off into the winter morning.

If you had told me at sixteen I’d be wearing snowpants around town at age 32, I would have just died.  But I love them!  As a friend says, the wind can whip up its own little weather system on the Back Cove — and snowpants (plus a well wrapped scarf) makes all the difference in comfort. The snow itself is generally minimal on the trails, except just after storms. The freeze-thaw effect on what little is there can make for dicey walking at times, but usually there is crusty snow pack on the sides to dig into.  These small challenges aside, it simply feels liberating to be out there and not trapped indoors by outside temperatures.

I enjoy walking my route the other three seasons, but there’s something about winter.  Maybe it’s because I experience the changes in light more tangibly.  In the morning, I walk down to the Eastern Prom into the sun.  The sun!  And most afternoons, my husband jogs out to meet me at about 4:15 at the parking lot across from Hannaford’s.  As we walk home together in January we notice the incremental lengthening (sloooowww, but it exists!) of the days.  Of course, the mournful beauty of late afternoon light in winter is something to behold in and of itself.  And I even enjoy the early nights in December when the last rays have burned out in the western sky and we can see the first stars above the city lights.

Then there is the company of winter bird life along the trails.  As cold sets in and my fellow exercisers hit their Stairmasters, several species of sea ducks arrive to winter over on the Back Cove.  Each morning and evening I witness a different stage of the tide – and the varying bird activity that accompanies it.  In addition to the usual gulls and mallards, there are eiders, mergansers, and goldeneyes, as well as the little guys I saw for the first time this season last Monday: the buffleheads.  The smallest of the diving ducks, dear and perky; they dip their heads briefly and — blip! — disappear under the surface.  Even though it means winter has truly arrived, I find I am happy to welcome them back.

February 12, 2005 at 10:56 pm Leave a comment

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