Nature's Speed Bumps Tell the Tale
Driving along paved roads at this time of the year, particularly north of here at the time of this writing, there's nothing that shouts Spring as sure as the frost heaves rising up to greet us.
A Rollercoaster of a Ride
Robert Frost once wrote, "Nature's first green is gold ~ Her hardest hue to hold..."
I take some exception to Frost's belief that gold is the first green of Spring. I've looked at the hillsides in late winter and the first green I see is red, which is when the buds begin to pop. So, today, I'll regale you with a new version of how to be on the lookout for Spring here in the Upper Valley.
Winter's last gasp grows cracks ~ As asphalt jars our backs
Make no mistake, once frost heaves begin to blossom in perpendicular arrays across the roads we drive, Spring is close at hand. Today was that day for me — Valentine's Day 2017 — driving up and back to Franconia, NH for a day of skiing with my son at Cannon Mountain. As bone-jarring as the ride was to get there and back, I celebrated the nearing of our next season.
There's More to a Frost Heave than Meets the Eye
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about frost heaves:
"Frost heaving (or a frost heave) is an upwards swelling of soil during freezing conditions caused by an increasing presence of ice as it grows towards the surface, upwards from the depth in the soil where freezing temperatures have penetrated into the soil (the freezing front or freezing boundary). Ice growth requires a water supply that delivers water to the freezing front via capillary action in certain soils. The weight of overlying soil restrains vertical growth of the ice and can promote the formation of lens-shaped areas of ice within the soil. Yet the force of one or more growing ice lenses is sufficient to lift a layer of soil, as much as 1 foot (0.30 metres) or more."
The Lowly Frost Heave Stands Tall as the Surest Sign of Spring
One late winter many years back, some acquaintances from Long Island came up to ski. Everywhere they drove they saw frost heave signs. Not knowing what these heaves were all about, they spent their time watching out for frost to be heaved down upon them from above. They said it was terrifying! Oh, to be among the frost heave uninitiated.
Back when I rented apartments to Vermont Law School students, they would all live in town as close to the school as possible during their first year. In their second year, they wanted to experience the rural beauty of Vermont. Many busted springs, shocks and dollars later, they returned in droves to South Royalton's downtown. It was like the swallows of Capistrano coming home to roost. Of course, the local mechanics would never let on to first year students about the terrors of frost heaves, or the potholes they create. It was a never-ending stream of business for them.
Now that we know all about frost heaves and what creates them, let's pay homage to the lowly bumps in our path knowing they are truly the first harbingers of Spring.
Dave Celone of Lyme, NH and Post Mills, VT writes for Poetic Licence. Dave oversees the Long River Gallery & Gifts artist collective in White River Junction, VT. To follow Poetic Licence posts, please Click Here to sign up to receive an email each time Dave publishes a new piece.