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Dec. 14, 2003

Let it be noted that the snows of this weekend reached a state of perfection at 2:00 AM Saturday the13th, at which time I woke up and took a quick look out the front door and saw that the snow was at least an inch high on the branches of trees illuminated by the porch light. When I got up a few hours later it was apparent that it was just warm enough that the snowfall was slowly melting and had already deteriorated somewhat from its pinnacle of beauty.

But that's the way of snow. There's always that moment when you see it all untouched, all unspoiled, perfect, without a track and without a flaw, and that's the moment I savor most, the moment when everything is still before you, yet to be enjoyed.

It may have already been past its peak, but it was still quite a lovely snow. So what's a snapshooter to do? Why, go for a hike, of course. I agonized over whether to take Junie, since the first rule of snow photography is "don't step in your composition," and there is really no way to keep a dog from doing that unless you want to tie her up. In the end, this time I decided it just wouldn't be as much fun without Junie, and after all, isn't that really the point?

Ironically, the slightly too warm temperatures, combined with some snow-blading by the highway department, meant that the highways were all clear and dry. So we had an easy time of it for awhile, and I didn't have to use the snow chains until we hit gravel roads and steep hills.

Although we stopped for a few minutes along the Buffalo, which is where the photo above was taken, the hike itself was up and down a pretty little creek where we made use of an old road cut to make our way much of the time. The snow in the creekbed, which was often bare bedrock, was melted away in spots, but it still lay solid up on the banks where it had fallen on leaves and dead ground cover. The creek, where it was running, appeared very dark, almost black, and the rocks and boulders were wet and often slick from melted snow. Now and then more snow would fall, but very lightly. And due to the slight melting that was going on, the snow tended to fall from the branches overhead in clumps so that all through the hike we were hit with little snow bombs. Snow bombs on the camera, snow bombs down the back of my neck, snow bombs in the photo bag if I was careless and left it open.

I've mentioned that it was slightly warm that day, but what I mean is that it was above freezing. It was overcast and plenty cold, although since there was almost no wind, it was much better than it could have been. Oddly, though, when I'm photographing, I usually don't notice the cold or other discomforts. Hours can pass unnoted, mealtime can come and go without a thought, and sometimes it takes a conscious effort just to stop long enough to take a swallow of water. I guess that means I enjoy doing it.