50 Shades of Snow

Posted on: 17 Jan 2017

Snow is a pleasant novelty when it first arrives, which it did on 3rd January. It was foggy and -4°, but sufficiently alluring to get us out for a 6 km walk round the woods, which were looking very Narnia-like.

More walking 2 days later, but only the couple of kms to and from work, via the new cycle track (former railway, which now runs underground). Snow looking a bit patchy now, even with intermittent dustings of new snow. But a big snowstorm later in the day took care of that.........

........... and the next day, everything was pristine white again. I was inspired to try a run. It was lovely, with even some sun, but very, very cold (-5°), and I needed all my onion layers. Time to dig out the angora knickers! (Yes, I do actually possess such a garment.) I stamped my way up the side of the woods, did a round of the fig. of 8, down via the hut, across the middle of the woods, and home via Waldrand. Here and there under the already trampled snow I saw the glint of ice; but mostly it was good to run on, if a bit harder work than usual. Even the notorious steep corner where the kids like to sledge was still okay. So, slow and careful, that was 8.35 kms in just under 1 hr 15. Hip aching a bit by the end - maybe the cold, or the unevenness of the footing. That was January 6th, 'Dreikönigstag': '3 Kings Day'. Traditional on that day is 'Dreikönigskuchen', a teacake-like bread in the form of several small breadcakes surrounding a larger breadcake, and crowned with a golden cardboard crown. There are ideally as many of these smaller cakes as there are people present to eat them, and in one is concealed a small plastic king figure. If you find the king in your cake, you get to wear the crown. Well........ this year I ended up with 3 crowns! (I am never usually lucky.) First G. brought one round, and in my first piece was the king; then our dresser brought one to that evening's performance, ditto (embarrassingly my colleagues made me wear it in the dressing room, and I nearly forgot to take it off before going on stage!); then J. bought one the next day when he went to the market........ though it did take me until my second cake to find that one. (Nothing to do with running, sorry - just the only thing that breaks up the uneventfulness of January.)

More blizzards on the Saturday. By now the novelty of the snow was beginning to wear off, and I was quite happy to sit at home, watching it flying horizontally past the window, rather than venturing out in it. 4th and final performance of the week on the Sunday afternoon; I did briefly (for about a millisecond) consider going out afterwards, but it was quarter past 5, getting dark, I was hungry........... Dinner won.

Monday 9th January: a seriously dull day, not inspiring, but we did go for a walk along Waldrand. The snow by now was quite hard and lumpy, but not too slippery until That Corner, where we contemplated the shiny bits for a few seconds, then turned round and walked back. We did venture some way up a steep path, thinking we had found a new, hitherto undiscovered route up to the Vita Parcours, before realizing it was just the forestry workers' access to a place where they dump useless wood. (And also used by deer - we saw tracks.) After the adventure of getting back down again, we decided to go home before we broke something. I have to say my gore-tex Salomon trail shoes do a great job of keeping my feet dry - they are a bit heavy and clumsy for running in (I generally use them for walking), but magnificently waterproof.

Still Monday 9th January: arriving ludicrously early for work that evening, by virtue of thinking I'd better allow extra time because of the snow, and going one bus earlier, only to find it was no problem after all, I decided to pass on the spare half hour by exploring some more of the cycle track. Walked on for about 12 minutes until I reached the place where it was still blocked off (conversion presumably not finished yet), turned round, and walked back again. In this time, though, I encountered 6 runners - the track is popular! I can see why: like a road, it is cleared of snow (black tarmac, and completely non-slippery), but the only occasional traffic is bicycles. Handy to keep in mind.

Tuesday 10th January: more snow, falling hard all afternoon, and on into the evening. Feeling sorry for the birds, I proposed a 'birdseed walk'. We've noticed that there are some sheltered places along the side of the woods where they scratch the leaves away. In past winters we've left birdseed here, and they've taken it. Well, that was half the reason I suggested it - the other was just that I liked the idea of going out in the new snow at night: something different and mildly adventurous. So kitted out with headtorches, bag of birdseed in pocket, off we set......... and this ostensibly rather prosaic outing turned out to be pure magic. It was so beautiful, so peaceful. The snow was virginal, unwalked-on - ours were the first and only footprints. Still falling lightly, it glittered like a net of light in front of my headtorch (J. had turned his off - we hardly needed them until we got in among the trees.) Birdseed deposited, we carried on walking up the side of the woods, the snow creaking in that enjoyable way new snow does; occasionally we stopped and listened, hearing........... absolutely nothing. The silence was profound. Up at Oberrüti, we found our footprints joined by others, none of them human. Most were deer, but one very persistent set, going exactly the same way as we were going, might have been a hare. Down below in another world, little orange lights crawled along unseen roads as late motorists headed home. A bigger, slower set must have been a gritting lorry. Bidding goodbye to the invisible hare (he had gone off across a field), we turned in among the trees and made our gradual way down through the woods. Approaching the hut, we saw a light coming up the main track - a mountain biker, also out enjoying the challenge. We were heading the same way, but he was faster; his rear light soon disappeared in the distance, leaving us once more with the illusion of being alone in the world. It was so lovely, I hardly wanted to go home. Just magical.

Wednesday 11th January: Some sun in the morning, but it had gone by the time I set out for a run in the early afternoon, following basically the same route as the previous night, but adding in a few extra loops: a complete fig. of 8, middle hills, a round of the triangle. The wind had changed, it was several degrees warmer, and the snow was melting, particularly up the side of the side of the woods, where it gets the sun. Where we had been tramping through several inches of fresh snow only 16 hours before, there were now bare patches, and what was left was grainy and pockmarked from the dripping of overhead branches. I looked for the birdseed; some of it was gone - not all. No animal footprints to be seen any more, obliterated now by human ones and bike tracks. It was nice, but no longer magic. My heart was not quite in it - it seemed a bit second-rate after last night - but 7 kms got done.

By now, the ominous scratchy sensation I had been feeling in my throat since Monday had outed itself as a cold. Thursday was miserable, now it was my nose that was running. I got through the evening's performance somehow, noticing on the way home how mild it had become. In the city, the snow had virtually gone. Sitting up late, reading, I became aware of banging somewhere in the house. Fearing it might be someone breaking in, I woke J, and he went to investigate. Not a burglar, he reported, just the start of a big storm, courtesy of the Föhn - that very strong south wind responsible for the sudden thaw I had noticed. It was making the long glass panels in the stairwell bang against their frames - that was what was causing the noise. He public-spiritedly did what he could, wedging something in between, and we slept through the rest of the night okay. The storm continued into the next morning, and I was really glad it was a free day. I spent most of it sitting at the kitchen table, huddled up to the radiator with my book, drinking endless hot tea and blowing my nose every other minute.

Saturday passed much the same, minus the Föhn, but plus more snow, and with marginally less nose-blowing.

Sunday.......... ah, I feel much better! Walkies! Still accompanied by much snotting on my part, we walked up to Oberrüti (via the zigzags for a change), where a sudden mini-blizzard caught us briefly, but was just as suddenly over. Down through the woods, noting casualties of the storm; one was across the path, but negotiated without problem. A runner with a dog overtook us, and on a steep uphill section too, making it look depressingly easy - mind you, he was about 20 at most, so had a certain advantage. Also encountered 4 horses, various pedestrians, and some more happy dogs. The horses had helpfully broken up the frozen snow on one downhill, making it less slippery, but we knew the section down from the ponds and along Waldrand was best avoided (the sledging polishes it like glass), so we turned back along the top path of the Vita Parcours, and returned down the zigzags. A quite satisfying 6.4 kms in the end, and the time (1 hr 26) was not too shabby either, considering the conditions.

And that concludes last week's weather report! - I hope to be a bit more sparing with the 's' word next time.........

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