Our first snow of the season was really little more than a dusting. It was heavy and clung to the tree branches – as evident in the photograph above.
Our second snowstorm was much more promising! It was bitter cold and so created a nice, fluffy layering of snow. It was significant enough in depth – about 10″ – to guarantee that it would qualify as a “snowshoe” snow. It’s always exciting to pull out the snowshoes for the first time each winter and head into the woods.
I’m very fortunate that our 10-acre property is surrounded by neighbors who have larger tracts of forested land. For over 20 years, I’ve had permission to snowshoe through their woods. It’s so rewarding to be able to just head out my back door adorned with snowshoes and walk for hours. I have to be patient and wait for hunting season to end, but once mid-December arrives, I’m good to go with no fear of disturbing anyone.
For many years, my faithful border-collie/black lab dog, Lucy, accompanied me on these snowy treks through the woods. I had developed a fairly consistent route that I would reestablish at the start of each season. I used existing logging roads or 4-wheeler hunting trails developed by the landowners, with occasional connecting paths made by me between the properties or established trails. These “connector” trails were identified by me each year through landmarks in the woods – an ancient, gnarly maple tree marked one turn while a giant, multi-trunked pine growing next to an opening in a stonewall guided me on to the next landmark – and so it went. At times, I would have trouble picking up my path from the previous year during the initial trail-setting. There were always changes in the forest from the previous year – either naturally-occurring or man-made – that would alter how I remembered a particular spot.
This is where Lucy came to the rescue. She had an uncanny ability to “pick up” our route from year to year. I remember at times standing in the snow, scanning the landscape around me, desperately trying to find the correct direction to the next landmark. All I had to do was say “Lucy – which way?” and off she would go in front of me – guiding me almost precisely through a thicket or pine stand in exactly the same place as the previous year! She loved to run ahead of me following scents and sounds, but she never failed to circle back and check on me – making sure I was okay.
Yesterday, we started snowshoeing with the temperature hovering around 14 degrees. The air was still and the skies were bright and blue. Perfect conditions!! 🙂 I always start my trek by heading back past our sugarhouse and up into our woods. Once I cross over the stone wall that marks our boundary, I bushwhack my way up through a scotch pine stand and pick up my neighbors logging trail. From there, I weave my way through the acres and acres of woodland – zig-zagging between both my neighbors properties. The quiet is almost deafening! 🙂 It was a glorious day on the trail!