Timing Is Everything

   This time of year, you have to time your outdoor activities to take advantage of optimum conditions. With the sun higher in the sky and packing more wallop, conditions change rapidly.

    I went for a trail run this morning in some maple woods near my home. The trail has been run and hiked all winter, and it’s well-packed. But I knew if I waited too long into the day, the trail would get soft and my feet would punch through the snowpack. No fun.

    Lucy, my yellow Lab, and I hit the trail just right. It was still set up hard, and the roughed-up snow from previous travelers was crunchy. Traction was good. Prime time for running or hiking this time of year is probably the first two or three hours after sun-up. After that, even on a below-freezing day, the sun will soften the trail.

   I could see, while running, the tracks of those who had hiked or run the trail in warmer conditions. Their shoes or boots had punched through at the edge of the trail, making travel a bit more difficult. Still worth it, I’m guessing, but just a little less convenient.

   I got to wondering if the snow off the trail had crusted up firmly enough to walk on, so I left the trail and took a test-walk. Sure enough, I could stay on top in most places. But then I punched through, sinking at least a foot into soft snow. For serious crust-walking atop the snow, you don’t want any break-throughs. All we need is a few more days with highs in the 40s, and the crust will set up firmly. And even then, you’ll want to do your crust-walking early in the day. By midday, the sun will soften the surface and you’ll be punching through.

   Now, if I were going paddle the Brule River instead of go for a trail run, I’d try to be on the water at midday to take advantage of all the sun’s warmth. The sun would be high in the sky, and it would feel mighty good.

   I think I might clean out the garage today, too. But I’m waiting for the warmest part of the day. Timing is everything in March, in the North.