The weather was very spring-like today - well, at least it was in Burlington. Like April without the showers. The highest I noticed on our car thermometer was 53 degrees, but I suspect there were times and places in town where it was warmer than that. It was certainly very pleasant, with sunshine and of course absolutely no snow there. Along the river there were fields of ice blocks left by the high water last week.
I had a couple of things I needed to do in Cabot, so we came home that way. Fred had asked me a couple days ago what sort of mud season I thought we'd have this year. This is almost like guessing the Ice-Out date - it's pretty hard to figure out what makes mud season worse. Is it when a.) it rains a lot, b.) there's not much snow cover so the frost goes deeper, c.) there are big temperature swings causing alternating freezing and melting, d.) none of the above, or e.) all of the above. We had just left paved Route 215 onto Cabot Plains Road when we hit a kitchen table sized spot with slimy deep ruts and glistening mud. A little further up the hill, where the sun had hit, another, slightly larger spot. The rest of the road had the usual firm stretches of road pocked with potentially bottomless mud bogs in the early stages of formation. We had our answer. This has all the earmarks of a really nasty (and I mean that literally) mud season lurking in our future.
A former Cabot road commissioner once commented to me that he couldn't understand why anyone would want to live on a back road. Indeed, he lived in the village, and had all of his lifetime. I didn't tell him I felt the same about anyone living in the village. I admit all the years we've pounded through muddy springs to get to where we needed to be have not been wonderful; but after mud season is over and we return to dusty back roads winding through tunnels of big old maple trees and between stone walls and broken down fences that outline fields and pastures, I'm more than just happy that I live on a back road. I wouldn't have it any other way. Above, mud season, 2004, West Shore Road. Somebody stuck a log in the hole so nobody would drive into it. The culvert had washed out under the road.
Since the answer to the question above is e.) all of the above, I'm predicting that this year we'll have a mega mud season! And it's already begun on Cabot Plains Road, so think about laying in a supply of whatever you'll need in case you're caught on the wrong side of the mud holes.
Folks who live on back roads have various ways of coping with mud season. Some have a "mud-mobile" and put up their "good car" for the duration. Some use a "two-car" method: they leave a car on the good end of the road and have a second parked on the other side of the mud bog. They then walk through the mud as best they can and continue with the second car. We had friends in East Hardwick who always took a trip during mud season. Some folks have been known to prevail upon friends to put them up for a week or so; some others just stay home and hope there's no emergency need for them to have to go any place. That's mostly what we do - hang out at home. That and watch the road to see who is brave enough to try to battle through the mud.
Here's something that may interest some of you:
Confronting the Challenge of Climate Change:
Local and Global Perspectives on the Climate Crisis with Brian Tokar
Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
The warmest Vermont winter in history has made it clear that unsettling climate changes are upon us. We will discuss what people are doing in Vermont and around the world to address this emerging global crisis.
Brian Tokar is an activist and author, Lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, and a board member of 350Vermont and the Institute for Social Ecology. He is the author of The Green Alternative, Earth for Sale, and Toward Climate Justice: Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change.
At the Jaquith Public Library: Old Schoolhouse Common,122 School St. RM 2, Marshfield, VT. 802-426-3581