Today marks the official start of spring -- the vernal equinox occurred at 1:14 this morning -- but it already feels like summer in the Black Hills and Badlands. In fact, it"s been that way for more than a week. Temperatures last weekend were downright balmy -- mid to high 70s both days. The lilacs are starting to bud, the tulips are emerging and there"s a hint of green on some of the pastures. The spring equinox, by the way, is the moment that the sun passes directly over the equator as the Earth -- its axis slightly askew from its orbital path around the sun -- begins exposing its northern hemisphere to direct sunlight. The first day of summer, June 21, is the day that the sun reaches its northernmost point, the Tropic of Cancer, and starts heading south again. But in the Black Hills, summer is well underway by June. And on March 20, you are just as likely to see a foot of snow piling up in your front yard as you would see the crocus emerging from the flowerbeds. So how do you know that spring has arrived? Here are eight signs that spring has arrived in the Black Hills:
- Motorcycles suddenly seem to be everywhere. It"s not unusual to see motorcycles in the Black Hills. The biggest difference is the ear-to-ear smiles you see behind the handlebars at this time of year.
- On Interstate 90, the eastbound trailers loaded with snowmobiles meet westbound trailers loaded with four-wheelers.
- Skis and snowboards mounted atop Subaru Outbacks are replaced by knobby-tired mountain bikes.
- The needle on those fire danger signs jump from "moderate" to "high."
- 5. On weekdays, you see seniors pulling their golf bags through the parking lot at Meadowbrook and other golf courses around the Black Hills.
- On weekends, the golf course parking lots are full of cars.
- Motorhomes, RVs, Airstreams and Buick LaCrosses start appearing on the highways as retirees and snowbirds begin their annual northward migration.
- Help wanted signs sprout from motels, hotels, restaurants, retail shops and seasonal attractions.