21 February 2010
It is amazing what a little stretch of warm weather can do for your spirits after a cold winter.
This week has been just warm enough to get my imagination going.
Even today when the temperature is struggling to stay above forty degrees Fahrenheit, my hopes have not been crushed.
I still have the memory of visiting the beach on Tuesday night burned into my mind's eye. That is when I snapped today's picture. Even though the light was fading and the breeze had developed a cool edge to it, the colors on the beach triggered some much warmer thoughts.
It was easy for that to happen since the temperature had soared to sixty eight degrees Fahrenheit on Monday morning as we stood on our dock dreaming of warmer days.
February is a hard month when you live in the northern parts of the country. There is little hint of spring. However, in coastal North Carolina, February is a month where we count on seeing the first signs of spring.
Even in a tough year like this one, we have not been disappointed. The first sign that I saw was grass turning green on the backside of our bulkhead where it catches the first rays of the morning sun. I actually noticed that on Sunday of this week. Later in the week, I thought my imagination was playing tricks with me as my eyes kept telling me that one of the large fields which had been in corn last year had a green tint to it. Today I could see that weeds had actually started growing in the field.
There were other subtle signs. It has been at least five or six days since I have seen a pelican in Raymond's Gut which is behind our home. The blue and white herons are also no longer fighting over the small pond surrounded by cattails in the vacant lot beside our home in Bluewater Cove. I suspect the waters in Bogue Sound have warmed enough for them to change their fishing grounds.
There must have been some special colors on the beach Monday which really triggered my thinking about spring. It was the first time since late November that I could almost taste the salt water. Then today as I was walking out of our real estate office in Cape Carteret, I noticed that our daffodils are not only out of the ground but they are also budded. I suspect that all it will take for some blooms is a few warm days.
The thought that we might be just a week or so away from seeing spring flowers is a very reassuring one, considering that we saw snow on the ground only two weeks ago. Last year we had some really great weather in early February that got my hopes up early.
That has not be the case this year. Just about everyone has had to battle some snow this winter, but in spite of that it does not look like the flowers are far behind last year. According to a post that I wrote at the end of February the daffodils were blooming then.
In three days it is possible that we could see some daffodils. I will start looking now. Even as I write this the sky has turned a beautiful clear blue and the sun is shining brightly. I feel it in my frozen bones, spring is on the way. We can legitimately start dreaming of time on the beach.
I am in the minority, but I consider snow to be a four letter word when it visits southern beaches. That being said, I have to report that the majority of our beach residents thought our brief interlude with snow was fun and a nice diversion.
We were certainly in good company since all forty nine of the mainland states had some snow at the same time. I heard various figures in seventy-five percent range for the amount of the continental United States covered with snow.
With such impressive snow coverage, I was pleased that the snow on my personal driveway started melting almost as quickly as it fell. While it was good to see a driveway with no snow, In truth there is nothing more beautiful than a snow covered landscape as long as you can watch from the inside while drinking hot chocolate.
Most of the areas receiving snow this winter are not as lucky as the Crystal Coast. I was recently visiting some friends in Pulaski County, Virginia. Their home is about twenty three miles north of the intersection of Interstates 81 and 77.
My friends have lived in the same spot for over twenty years. This year for the first time, they have seen snow covering the ground for almost two months. That would not be a very big deal except they live over one half mile off the main road. This picture gives you a good idea of a driveway that has not melted since before Christmas.
In talking to some Canadian and New England friends, I have found out that they have been enjoying a mild, "open" winter. An open winter is one with almost no snow. They can be a bad thing when severe cold still comes and freezes underground pipes having no snowy insulation, but that is not the case this year. The Canadians have seen relatively mild temperatures and the frost has not been driven deep into the ground.
Anyone on the east coast will tell you that we have not been enjoying a mild winter. Many of our visitors who hail from the Washington, DC area can attest to the fact that they have just set a record for the most snow in one winter. That is an impressive feat since their records go back well into the eighteen hundreds. Pictures of the Northern Virginia and DC winter bring back memories of Canada where I saw over twenty feet of snow in some winters.
While the Crystal Coast has seen warming temperatures in the fifties, many areas in the Virginia and North Carolina mountains have stubbornly refused to get out of the low thirties. As consequence of these cold temperatures, there has been very little snow melt in the mountains.
As we are approaching March, I have high hopes for some sixties, but the long range forecasts are for continued cold. While the snow at the Crystal Coast did not last long, there is plenty of it just a few hours west and north of the coast. I have just finished a trip to our home in Roanoke, Virginia. Recent storms had blocked the mouth of our driveway with over four feet of snow. There were even drifts of two feet up against our garage doors.
While I had to get some mechanical help to deal with the mouth of the driveway I still spent the better part of two days shoveling snow. The snow was what we used to call igloo snow. The only way to deal with it was to cut it in blocks and then shovel the heavy blocks.
Compared to igloo snow, the self melting snow of the Crystal Coast sounds pretty good. Those temperatures in the fifties are about as warm as one can find these days. While the quick snow that visited the Crystal Coast was fun, it was not without its inconvenience. I even saw that a marathon race scheduled in Myrtle Beach was canceled because of snow.
With snow making an appearance in all the states, I think we are definitely approaching a time when we might find near unanimous support for an early warm spring. That is certainly at the top of my list of things I hope to see in March. One thing I do not want to see is more snow.
I did get lots of snow pictures sent to me. I have two batches online. One covers the whole snowy Crystal Coast and the other is just pictures of a snowy Beaufort.
I would like to thank everyone for contributing pictures including the main picture for the post which was taken looking from Breezy Point into the White Oak River.
I am pleased that we have been treated to great weather this weekend.
I suspect that with this dose of warmth, we have old man winter on the run. While we are likely to suffer through some cooling later in the week due to blizzard conditions up north, I think we are done with most of the really cold stuff.
It has been getting warmer and warmer for the last several days. Saturday was a very nice day, but I was busy working all day. Fortunately Sunday was even better. We managed to have a great day.
We worked in the yard, went for a hike on the Croatan Trails, and even took a drive over to the beach. This morning was even better.
First off we awoke to a temperature of fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. By 11 AM the temperature in our backyard with sixty-eight degrees where I was standing on the dock with a friend who had come to check out a problem with our boat.
With the warm weather, my thoughts had turned to boating, and on Saturday when I tried to start my boat, there was dead silence. This morning I had called my friend for a diagnosis, and he checked things and figured that my bilge pump had drained my battery in all the recent rains.
I try to start the boat every other week, but I think that I missed a week when I went up to Roanoke to shovel snow. I am hoping that a drip charger once the rain stops will get my boat going so I can take an early spring boat ride down the White Oak.
It is a true pleasure to be thinking about spring. We really had a hard time leaving my dock this morning. It was exceptionally pleasant standing out there in the sun. We did a fair amount of dreaming about this year's fishing. I can hardly wait. There are certainly fish out there now, but I am truly a warm weather fisherman. I would rather fish when I am wearing shorts and the water is warm.
Last October we had a truly memorable day on the water. We caught bluefish until our arms ached. A day like that every few seasons will make you a dedicated fisherman.
Often it is not the number of fish you catch and release, but the setting you are in and the company that is with you. Fishermen do not talk a whole lot, but the conversations are easy going and stress free which is something to value in today's world.
It is not unusual for us to find our own private island for surf fishing in Bogue Inlet. Even the boat ride to and from the Inlet can be so nice that it does not matter whether you catch fish or not.
The good news is that February is almost over, and some of these summer dreams will come true in the next few months along the Crystal Coast. Last year our first really nice trip on the water was April 24. That is actually not that far away.
We have lots to keep us busy. The Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival is coming up on Saturday March 13, and the Swansboro Oyster Roast will be one week later on Saturday March 20. Those two events alone are enough to make March go by quickly.
Then there are the strawberries that hopefully have survived the difficult winter. We should see them around the first week in April. With Saint Patrick, steamed oysters, strawberries and warm weather on our minds, I think we might have this winter weather on the run. Even the pansies are starting to do really well. Thriving pansies are great sign of winter in its last days.
If that is the case, I cannot wait to go for my first spring beach walk. Just maybe there will be some beach days on the horizon before we know it.