Daily Archives: February 20, 2019

It’s Gray o’ Clock in Oregon

Posted February 20, 2019 by Kerry McFall

So far this February, it’s been gray o’ clock almost all day every day.  Last weekend I laced up my hiking boots and braved the colorless cold for a little exercise, hoping for maybe a bit of early wildflower action at Bald Hill.  Nope, no flowers.  Silly woman.  But there were rewards!

sketches of pussy willow and newt

“Bald Hill Trio”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

The first was the whitewater rapids just off the parking lot, where usually there is a sleepy creek — on many days the gray has included a lot of rain.  The second was a lake fed by another rapidly running creek, where last summer the beavers had thought they were engineering a modest little pond.  And the third was… could it be?  A Mud Puppy! aka Rough-skinned Newt.  Haven’t seen one of those for years.  It was obviously a very cold newt, moving at the speed of “molasses in January” as my Dad would have said.  The vibrations of my footsteps must have warned it to stop moving and blend in with the lichen, but its’ bright orange “fingers” and underbelly edges gave it away.  I stood over it protectively for a long time to discourage bicycles and strollers, until it finally crept in comic slow motion off the asphalt and into the dead grasses.  Funny how such an encounter makes the whole chilly trek worthwhile!

There were also a few brave pussywillow catkins peeking out from their reddening stems, begging to be petted, urging me to find a place to step where I wouldn’t sink to my ankles in the ditch.  It was worth the jump and the stretch to feel their kitten-soft silver fluff under my cold fingers.  I think that’s as close to spring as we’re going to get for several more weeks!