The thermometer is reading single digits at noon on a day that the calendar is still claiming its hold on October. The ground is white in all directions with a couple of new layers added over the past week. Winter has arrived early and unannounced, and has been welcomed like the unexpected arrival of a loved relative, which is to say awkwardly until preparations can be made for the stay.  And while skiers revel, builders rebel, or at least they would if it would do them any good. We all know this time of year can be unpredictable for construction projects, and the time for getting work done outside was already limited by a short summer on the front end. Only time will tell if a reprieve is coming. The current forecast foretells of a stretch of sunny weather, with temps getting up into the upper 30s and sometimes even 40s (wahoo!).  While not great for working in the ground around town, this should keep the higher trails that are deeper in the woods, in the shade, or at elevation well-kept.

The Experimental Forest has been providing good, reliable coverage, and the last couple of snowfalls, while not rabidly abundant in volume (not surprisingly, considering these mid-winter temperatures), should have freshened up the tracks that had become somewhat glazed by the warmer, more seasonal temperatures. Some of the roadbeds offer a good snow surface, even though they may be still open to vehicular traffic at this point in the season. The summer trails that are so well-loved may still be on the narrow and uneven side of things, as rocks and roots will take a little more time to be covered, especially as these forest pathways continue to be used by pedestrian traffic, whose footfalls tend to compress more deeply than a foot shod with a ski or snowshoe.

Dogs have to be walked, no matter the conditions, and they, with their masters or surrogates, have been the predominant presence on the trails thus far. If only we could convince dog owners that it is not cool to leave a little plastic baggy with their dogs doings in it on the trailside, thinking that they will be back to pick it up on the way out. Even if they have the best intentions, sometimes things get forgotten, and even if they’re not forgotten, no-one wants to see that on their journey into the natural world. If you are on a packed trail, chances are pretty good that someone else will be on that trail before the sun has moved very far. Triple-bag if you must, but please don’t leave it on the trail to be seen by all who pass by before your return. Thanks!

If your skiing taste is not yet drawing you to the wilder routes, a rather extensive network of trails has already been packed and groomed at Snow Mountain Ranch, our local YMCA of the Rockies, with thanks to Bill Pierce. The skiing has been phenomenal, and people have been traveling from at least as far away as Vail for some early season training. While most folks across the country still have green turf to play on, our playground has already turned white. As they say, when in Rome…

Happy Trails!