This afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen browsing through my Observer-Reporter newspaper when my son-in-law, Mike, walked through. He was on his way to his part time job as caretaker at Camp Agape, the beautiful church camp in Hickory. That’s when he said something that brought joy to my old heart.

Camp Agape, where he caretakes, is making maple syrup. It seems they have a little sugar shack where they tap the trees and brew the sticky stuff to sell. No, it isn’t the sugary delightfulness of maple syrup that livened me up and caught my attention. But what it meant to me is spring. If the sap is up in the trees, then spring can’t be too far off. Or can it?

One year, I remember we were so excited to take a trout fishing trip out to Wills Creek in Somerset County on the first day of spring. We had a favorite fishing hole at the covered bridge there and we all piled into the car. Now, Wills Creek is very rough, rugged terrain to fish and we only could fish a few spots. The bank is full of sheer cliffs, lots of brush and a good population of rattlesnakes. If you get a chance to go there, don’t think you can just put on your waders and bypass the steep terrain.

The bottom of Wills is full of round, mossy rocks just waiting to be stepped on so you can land in the very icy water. But at our one favorite spot, it was very easy to fish and we liked to take the kids. The banks were tramped down, and it was a bit early for snakes, so off we went.

I had Eileen and both kids along and we were excited to head out. Well, the weather that year had been like this year’s weather, cold with a lot of snow. That day was clear, and we headed down the road. At first, it seemed to be getting colder and Eileen was a little worried about coats and boots and such. Then the first flakes started to fall. Pretty soon, the roads were getting slick. The snow was really coming down and visibility was way down when we decided to turn the car around and head home. It was a long treacherous ride back. It warmed up the next two days or so and that late snowfall marked the end of that very long winter. We would return a week or so later to fish that same spot.

This year. I am already looking for the first signs of spring. Yesterday, I saw a groundhog. You know if he is out and about, he may be just breeding or visiting female ground hogs, but it still means spring is coming. I haven’t seen any of my two spring birds yet. No, not that robin who winters over in the woods and hops about the first fine day. He lives here, and I do occasionally see them out and about in winter. I’m talking about the Redwing Blackbird or the Turkey Vulture. Now, those two are sure signs of spring and are due to migrate back here.

I am watching the ground looking for fuzzy yellow Colts Foot along the side the of roads everywhere. Soon, it will be time to visit that valley of wildflowers at Templeton Run and Enlow. Then we can talk again of signs of spring like Hepaticas. For now, we must be wary and watch the weather as it is constantly changing.

So, it goes. the season run round and round and I base my seasons on fishing and hunting as always. Trout is not too far off, time to dust off the fishing gear and start hunting for crappie and trout poles. It is usually in March that the weather starts to warm the waters at Cross Creek and the crappie will move in closer to the shore. Keep your eye out this week and next for signs of spring and if you head out to try the waters, pack a coat; you just never know.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter

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