We were lucky enough to get a dusting a week or so ago, and they’re calling for some weather tomorrow. Penelope Davenport, our Outdoor Education Supervisor, shared some thoughts about snowy days in the James River Park:

I rolled out of bed and blinked at the window. In the morning darkness, I could only see it directly under the street lights, but it was there. “It’s snowing,” I whispered, not yet ready to break this sleepy moment of wonder. Then louder, as my joy bubbled over, “It’s snowing!” My little sister sprinted from her bed to verify. Large lazy flakes drifted under still-lit street lamps, and we both squealed in excitement. Let’s go on an adventure!

Hurry, hurry! Breakfast and put on all the clothes. I can’t find matching socks! I can’t find matching gloves! Where’s my hat? That coat is too small for you! You need at least two more bites of toast. Will it still be snowing by the time we can go?

It is still snowing. The sky changes from dark morning blue to steel grey as we head down, down, down the hill to our favorite tangled, wild place: James River Park System. We always love it here, but snow has transformed the landscape into pristine crystalline magic.

There’s not much yet, but it’s coming down with promising speed, blinding us as we run. What has fallen so far has thinly blanketed the meadow at our familiar local park. Bright red winterberries stand out against this new white background. I notice that each tree limb along the river has a ridge of cotton gathering on it. A big fat limb looks even bigger and fatter, but the delicate branches reaching toward the sky have been outlined in white and look as fine as frosted sugar cookies.Cardinal in Snow

On we tumble, headed east through the forest toward Belle Isle. Crunch, crunch, crunch go our feet on the frozen ground. Mine feel warm and snug in my new boots, but my sister has my old ones, and a year of wear has slicked up their soles. She slides on the wet ground and flops onto the side of the trail. She laughs as the snow clinging to low plants embrace her, and she stands up caked in snow, drenched and muddy all over.

The whole world is quieter when it snows, and it seems like small sounds travel farther. I hear branches creaking under their new load and an occasional optimistic songbird. As we approach Belle Isle, we hear the thunder of James River rapids before we see them. They echo differently too: more roundly sonorous, richer, and deeper.

The inky blue-brown river indifferently swallows and destroys each vulnerable flake that has the misfortune to land on its surface. My sister and I throw snowballs into the water to see if they can survive for longer, but they’re gone in an instant too. We dip our hands in the river, just for a moment, because we wonder if maybe the James stays as warm as it is in the summer time all year round. It doesn’t! We blow on our fingers and hastily return them to the safety of our gloves to rid ourselves of the bitter needles stinging them.

Snowy branch in riverI spy a great blue heron, out on a rock in the middle of the river. His feathers are all puffed up and his eyes are nearly closed. He stands as still as grey stone while little piles of snow grow on top of his head and the ridge of his back, then shakes all over to dislodge them. I know that the heron has a long neck when he hunts for fish, but today it’s tucked in tight against his disgruntled body. I wonder whether he has somewhere to get warm. I wish I could give him a hot chocolate.

My sister and I lie on our backs in the white field on Belle Isle, giggling and swishing our arms and legs to make snow angels. Shocks of cold water trickle down my neck inside my coat collar, and I start to shiver. It’s time to warm up and dry off at home, but I already can’t wait for our next adventure in James River Park.

Featured Image via Dave Parrish Photography. Interior Images via Scenic Virginia.