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surprise exploration

This afternoon after our school friends left the boys and I headed out to walk the dogs. We weren't planning anything big—just a quick loop in the nearby woods and then back home to do all the home things we had to do. But at the furthest point in the loop Zion asked if we could check the ice on the swamp—the swamp that's so fun and so hard to explore most of the year, the ice of which has been stubbornly refusing to get really solid—so of course I said yes. To our great pleasure, the giant puddle on the path that's featured on so many of my pictures was frozen over, and so was all the flooded swamp right up to Hartwell Brook. Even more amazing, the brook itself was almost completely frozen over, and it was easy enough for us to use its course as a path heading upstream towards the cranberry bogs and the airport, over territory we'd never been able to really explore before. As new vistas opened up before us, my delight was tempered by only one thing: I didn't have a camera with me! Not even my phone.

So sad. And yet, it's really only sad for you, the reader, because we got to experience the horizon opening up as we left the tall grass, the frozen dams where we stepped up six inches to higher levels of brook, and the cranberry bogs themselves where we slid on the ice and wished, like another time long ago, that we had a shovel to scrape off the little bit of snow that fell last night. We also experienced being a little bit lost, and I had the joy—once we were off the actual ice surface and just crossing puddles in the woods—of breaking through and submerging one foot completely. Never mind; we weren't more than 15 minutes from home at that point and it was totally worth it anyway.

We're thinking about going back tomorrow to slide some more, or even try skating. The bogs are a much better surface than they have been for years; I guess that's what happens when it rains all fall and then freezes suddenly with very little snowfall. It's my theory that the high water is also responsible for the brook freezing: years ago we determined that it could be running even when everything else is completely solid, and that's been true every winter since then. But this year the water level was so high the brook didn't really exist—not that we ever could have determined that before the freeze! But now we see that the ice in the swamp extends straight and flat over the brook's course, which may have slowed its flow down enough to freeze over. The brook is certainly still running under the ice, and there were a few spots of open water we had to detour around (and lots of sticks and dead trees to maneuver past) but overall it was as good an exploration route as you ever could want.

Yes, the kids and I were excited, the dogs were thrilled at the extended outing, we added to our outdoor time... it would have been the perfect afternoon if only I had had my camera! Almost perfect will have to be good enough.

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