Is February the worst month?

I was driving across Michigan a couple of days ago and listening to the radio and I heard a guy humorously talking about how February was the worst month since the holiday season is well behind us and Spring is still a long ways off. He said his dad used to tell him that if you can survive February you’ll probably live another year.

Ironically I had just told my wife how much I like this time of year. The days are getting longer and we already have good light at 6:30 pm so pretty soon it will be possible to do outside activities after dinner. Before I retired this was the time when I’d start seeing daylight during my commute again. The entire best part of the paddling season is ahead. It’s a short month and the first Spring-like weather usually arrives by end of Feb or shortly thereafter.

What do you think?

February used to be the coldest month of the year for us in New England. But not in recent years (we don’t get the “winters” of yesteryears). For me, I am not as bothered by the cold as I am by the lack of light. Despite the cold, I like February far more because of the increasing light than late November into December when I usually feel acutely the grip of SAD closing in on me.


I lived in Ann Arbor Michigan for four years or so when I was in graduate school in the early 80s. I can certainly see why someone would think February was the worst month. It seemed like eternal cloudy skies and grey dirty snow that had thawed and refrozen and mixed with freezing rain turned the city into an ice planet made from auto exhaust, road grit and the random bits of someone’s car exhaust system that had rusted out, and dropped at the side of the road from the road salt.

I think having something to do outdoors greatly effects ones view of the Winter world. I didn’t mind February so much because we were always going cross country skiing or hiking in the woods and not many other people were out. I grew up in Utah skiing in the Wasatch Mountains and February usually had the best snow, deep dry powder and usually just the pure in heart standing in the lift lines and we usually got two vacation days from school.

I also lived in Norway for a while and the first winter there I lived in a fjord valley where the mountains to the South blocked any view of the sun for many weeks. I remember on February 15th I was riding on a train headed south west and the sun rose and shown through the train window and everyone in the car turned towards the sun and made exclamations of joy and happiness at seeing the return of the Sun, which hadn’t happened since November. So I think it all depends on your point of view.

I heard on the news that we gained 20 minutes of daylight in the last week - spring is on the way. I definitely do more hiking than paddling in February. Ice can be a problem in February (maybe not this year) and a lot of people prefer the warm water of pool sessions. But whitewater season starts in March and is in full swing in April, so February is the last gap of winter.

February is underrated. I’ll trade you yours for my July, as long as I get my 3 days back. :grin:

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Coldest month Long Island is January, coldest water is March 1st.

That’s really more a problem for the freshwater rather than ocean paddlers. In my time of paddling since late 90s, I can only remember maybe two times where slushy ice took over Boston Harbor.

I used to work at a community center with a pool. I arranged pool sessions for NSPN for two years. Definite value to folks who want and need brush up on rolling and self rescue skills (myself included then). I get that. However, these days, I would take a session in winter surf over a pool session 90% of the time. Pool sessions don’t bring spontaneous smiles to my face.


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Face it, February in Michigan sucks. Although day length is an improvement over January, I’m pretty sick of winter by February and its the third month of mostly overcast. OTOH things are looking brighter by month’s end and you can get some nice floods to paddle in if there is rain on deep snow pack. March is better - promises of spring like skunk cabbage turning green and sunny days aren’t so rare.

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If I felt I had the time these days to take off for somewhere sunny I would probably do so in early February, just because the progress towards more light seems pretty grudging until March. And February is the most reliably “winter” month accounting for warming and jet streams jumping around.

But I am hard pressed to find that time these days…

Here in SC my vote for worst month is January. Beside February has Valentine’s Day and my birthday. Who said there are no holidays in February? To quote some song lyrics “The days are longer the nights are shorter…”. I hope to be posting some February paddling photos next week.

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November gets my vote for the worst month. Days are getting shorter, sunshine is almost non-existent, and lakes will be iced-up by month’s end. It’s also my birthday month, but that’s for another rant.
February may be the toughest on non-hibernating wildlife, though. The Whitetails are conserving energy as there’s not much left for them to eat. Even the squirrels are having trouble finding acorns under the deep snow. Although March is usually snowier than February, it helps to know that better days are ahead.

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February is looking good here. January seemed like non stop rain. So far February has been mostly sunny. I’m not as tough as Tom but Wednesday is looking like a good day for the first paddle of '23.

In Nevada there are only two rugged months, Dec and Jan. By Feb the thaw usually starts. We melt some snow, the daylight comes back and there are some warm days. It is not spring but often called false spring. It might snow later in April or even May, but Feb always has some really good days and after the long winter they are a Blessing.

Here in North Carolina, we can tell the change in light conditions by the beginning of January. The evenings start to get brighter first, even though the mornings are still getting darker. When I was still working I could get home while the sky was still somewhat light, if I tried. I had a short commute.

In February, the days are considerably longer and the earliest signs of spring have arrived. Some of the migratory birds are starting to come back from the south, the trees are starting to get thicker. We also have daffodils and plum trees in bloom. It will soon be time to start tomatoes, peppers and eggplant indoors for transplanting near the end of April.

The peach trees usually bloom in early March, by then spring will be in full swing and it will be time to plant the early crops, especially early peas, radishes and carrots.

Spring has sprung here in central FL. My allergies have been bothering me for about a month already, and the maple trees were showering us in “helicopters” on the Weeki Wachee on Saturday. Trees that lose their leaves will get them back shortly.

When I was a kid up north I didn’t mind February as much as Jan or March - short month and it was always school vacation which usually meant an airplane trip to somewhere warm for a week. Now in Florida, my least favorite month is definitely September - it’s still super hot, and it’s the peak of hurricane season. Different perspective for sure.

It’s fun to hear everyone’s differemt perspectives and the regional differences.

@SeaDart - it would be fascinating to hear what folks do in Norway to keep from going crazy in the winter.

@castoff - Happy Birthday. My birthday is in Feb too. And I’m with you on January…that would be my chosen month to flee south if I could convince my wife (or maybe Celia) to go.

@PaddleDog52 - amazing to me that you know your coldest water temp day. My river temps bounce around all year.

@raosborne - feel free to share some of your favorite recipes! I could use a good eggplant recipe.

@Buffalo_Alice - nice pic. The deer looks content. I’ve never thought about our Michigan deer struggling to find food in late winter. Our November was great with temps that got up to near 80. Then towards the end we had 6 days of winter storms. I was grumpy but then it warmed up again.

@ppine - the regional differences are fascinating. Sounds like you get an early Spring.

@Brodie - fun to hear that September is your clear choice. I remember my brother complaining about July in LA because of the smog.

@Kevburg - Feb sucks in Michigan? Let’s see, 45, calm and sunny today with a light breeze from the south. But I remember 2 years ago when we had an extended period of sub-zero temps in February and that sucked for sure.

February usually finds me on more often, than paddling in a boat.

…So therefore, it must suck.

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“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”

I was tempted and succumbed.

Everyone has a perspective. December is my downer , followed by January.
I enjoy the hot months. I’ll sit in the shade and drink a tall iced tea, sweet of course.
Paddle early and late.

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