Bask In The Solitude Of The Shoulder Season: A Case For Spring
Revel in the uncertainty, and experience the wilderness in its most honest hours.
As I am heading out to the Hoh, I realize I forgot my boots and a pen. I was in a hurry to leave, and it is just now 4:30 in the morning. No matter. Things can be done without, adjustments made. The important thing is that I am on my way.
Growing up in western Pennsylvania I would often hear the joke that on any given day in spring you can experience all four seasons in 24 hours. I’m sure the same joke is told in other parts of the country, but I didn’t grow up there. However pleasurable or un-, experiencing the weather, the cycle of our seasons, is the reason many of us suit up and head out on the trails.
Some of us are masochists and run summer ultras through the desert or head to high camp when the winter storms roll in because that shit is epic and you become part of a small percentage of people who have experienced it. Some of us love summer and low elevation rolling trails that provide endless magic spaces and dappled forest floors for reflection over a picnic of organic snacks because that experience is too perfect to miss. Some of us love fall and tour the country for the most wonderful colors, stopping only when the trail head is a parking lot with a restroom and a smiling ranger who has a wonderful .6-mile hike for you in a trifold he keeps in his pocket because that experience is critical for you to commune with who you were ten thousand years ago.
But we all go.
Spring provides a unique opportunity to experience the trail and the land as unabridged as it was made. I have been caught in a snow squall at 5,500 ft. and forced to descend through the snow, sleet, and rain to camp when the forecast has called for only 20% chance of precipitation. I have hiked tired and foggy valleys only to be cooked by the radiant heat of granite walls after the sun has burned off the atmosphere. And I have been awestruck by alpine breezes and warm sun along the mightiest rivers running hard into the Pacific. The weather dictates everything from our sleep cycle to when animals mate. Where we live. How we live. Everything.
And if you want to really immerse yourself in it—go in spring when you can see the mountains form as the melt water and rain move swaths of earth downhill exposing the huge stone faces that our great, great grandchildren will come to know; when the plants realize themselves in their fullest color and call out to the bees with breath still sweet of pollen; go in spring when everything is new and changing. Be a part of it because it will never be the same.
There is no bad time to go outside, but I think the best time is spring.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.