April 30, 2003

Ah Spring, I Hardly Knew Ye

It always comes and goes too fast, and I always promise myself I will not let it happen 'this year'. Yet here I am once again, watching spring disappear out the tops of mountains and roses (wild ones, and countless familiar spring weeds and wildflowers) will bloom unseen. I watch the season oozing into summer from my truck window as I drive the Great Valley east from Shawsville to Salem.

The valley floor lies a good bit lower than home... some 1200 feet versus 2100 for our place on Goose Creek. From the road I travel to work I can see to the south a series of stair-step broken ridges cresting at 1700, 1900, 2700 and 3500 feet. The lowest gentle slopes are in mixed pasture dotted with grazing cattle punctuating the grounds of venerable old plantations that are archtypical Virginia countryside at its loveliest; the highest range some 4 miles away is Poor Mountain, the highest peak in the series of mountains that forms the southern rim of the Roanoke Valley.

Spring starts where the weather suits its clothes... in the warm, sunny, sheltered valley floor at the lower elevations. And as the season matures, the bloom-line slowly day by day trudges up the mountain slopes (sooner and faster on the southern exposure) toward the crest, where for all practical botanical purposes, this week it is still winter yet, bare and brown and threadbare above a riot of green and chartreuse coming up from below. It is fully mid-spring in Salem; in two weeks, if I go to the Naturalist Rally at Mt. Rogers, it will be perfect early spring at the campgrounds at 4000 feet, spring wildflowers at their peak there that have been gone for weeks here at the house.

One final observation in regard to chronobiology: using the stair-step ridges as a yardstick, our hillsides here in our small valley are blooming and budding more like they lived at 2500 to 3000 feet instead the actual 2100. We are in a 'sheltered valley', a cold sink, a frost pocket... a microhabitat such that we are cooler than one would find for this elevation in general. This is a problem when it comes to frosts and freezes for the garden and fruit trees; but it is not always a problem. This sweltering summer, I'll hear the typical forecast for southwest Virginia:

"Today in Roanoke, highs 80 to 85, except 5 to 10 degrees cooler for the New River Valley (where we live) and points west". To which I will gleefully add: "And another 5 degrees cooler on Goose Creek!".

Posted by fred1st at April 30, 2003 06:33 AM | TrackBack

You ain't got to rub it in like that, you know. I live for cool weather, the summer heat just wears me out and makes me long for September's return.

Posted by: ronbailey at April 30, 2003 08:36 AM

I love you 'cause you see beauty in the simple things most of us take for granted. It also helps that you're not afraid to use your wit (i.e. appear very silly) in public with great abandon.

p.s. erica started it!

Posted by: Anne at April 30, 2003 03:25 PM

It sounds idyllic, actually. Somehow you always make me miss living on the mainland.

Posted by: Venomous Kate at April 30, 2003 09:41 PM

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