Remarkably, the past few days have seen daily high temperatures in the 60 to 70 F range. Under the full sun, I repeatedly felt shocked to find patches of snow in the shaded corners of buildings around my neighborhood. Yet, just over a week ago, all of Durham was covered in a layer of snow and ice for a brief and elegant visit from winter.
On Friday the 22nd of January, sleet fell endlessly, quickly accumulating on the cars and dusting the ground. Most of my neighbors and I myself opted to stay in the warmth to enjoy the frozen storm — and for good reason, as many of the roads quickly became impassable. However, never ones to be cooped up inside for very long, my trusty dog and I embarked on a hefty four-hour expedition around a snowbound Durham.
Our first destination: the Al Buehler Trail. I was impressed to see at least six steely folks with headbands and mittens, braving the elements to jog along the trail. Their quick light steps on the crunchy ice and snow made my hiking boots seem comically cumbersome and unnecessary. When no one was nearby, my absolute favorite thing was to stand still, and listen to the sound of silence that accompanies snow. Northeasterners know this very well, I am told by my friends, and some Midwesterners too. But for me, this sound is something I seldom have experienced in my life. I even tried holding my breath to better hear it, the almost inaudible tinkling sound, produced, I like to imagine, by the tiny ice crystals bouncing off each other, that creates the most tranquil atmosphere. If it were not so cold, I could have stood still there listening for hours.
Our second destination: Duke Gardens. While still quite a hike to get there (it took a full hour to walk home afterwards), Duke Gardens was well worth visiting. A fair number of students were out on the field, enjoying the slope on make-shift sleds. With the snow, Duke Gardens became 55 acres of winter wonderland. I walked into the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum where I looked out over the big pond. An ice layer extended from the shore over the water, and a mixed flock of ducks stood near the ice’s edge, while a couple of their companions swam by. The red color of the iconic arched bridge seemed exaggerated by the white snow around it. It was starting to get late, but I could not head home without seeing the majestic Roney Fountain. On any given day, this century-old fountain is a sight to admire, but partially frozen and draped in icicles, the sculpted birds had me and some fellow onlookers spell-bound.
It’s too bad that Punxsutawney Phil says spring is coming early this year. I for one would be happy if winter’s visit to Durham could have lasted just a little bit longer.