Tag Archive 'snowshoeing'

Mar 19 2017

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Last Day of Winter

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A nor’easter dumped two and a half feet of snow earlier this week. That’s a lot of snow even by Vermont standards. Aside from shoveling the white stuff, I’ve stayed indoors for the most part ignoring it. The bright March sun has already melted off half the snow. I figured I’d just wait out the rest. But my dog Matika kept bugging me so out we went today, tramping in the snow one last time.

Right out the back door, I strapped on snowshoes and cut tracks into the woods. I was sweating in no time. With temps pushing up towards 40 degrees and an unblinking sun overhead, I lifted several pounds of heavy wet snow with each step. Not a cloud in the sky, though, and the pristine snow looked inviting. I was almost as happy to be outdoors as Matika was.

Not far from the house, we flushed several deer from the woods. Matika got on their tracks right away. I followed them for a while. Then we reached the quarry where someone else has been out snowshoeing. Yeah, it’s hard to stay inside this time of year, no matter how good the books and movies are.

We didn’t go far. I stomped out a small loop near the quarry then headed back to the house. A half hour of that was enough. Truth is, I’m already thinking spring. The vernal equinox is tomorrow and the first unmistakable signs of spring aren’t far away. Hmm… technically speaking, tomorrow’s equinox makes today the last day of winter. Snowshoeing was a good way to send it off.

 

 

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Feb 17 2017

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Cutting Tracks in Local Woods

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Two back-to-back winter storms dumped 20 inches of snow this week. That’s more snow than we’ve seen in a long while. It’s finally starting to look like Vermont around here.

A couple days ago I did my fair share of shoveling, clearing out a 10 by 12-foot space in the back yard for one thing – a place for my dog Matika to pee. But she looked pathetic when she was out there walking tight circles in her prison yard. She looked as cooped up as I was feeling. So I strapped on my snowshoes yesterday and cut tracks out of the prison yard, across the fresh snow, and into the woods. Matika happily followed.

It wasn’t easy cutting tracks. I broke a good sweat. But the air was clean, all was quiet, and the snow still clinging to naked tree branches looked beautiful. Wouldn’t say I have cabin fever these days, but being outdoors feels a lot better than being indoors. I really get tired of sitting inside, staring at a computer screen all day, don’t you?

After completing a big loop in the woods, I doubled back on my tracks, creating a nice smooth trail. The second time around is always much easier so I able to really enjoy my surroundings. Matika enjoyed it, too. She romped in the snow like a puppy, collecting ice balls in her thick fur. Nordic dog!

This morning I looked out my office window at first light and spotted that snowshoe trail crossing the back yard. It’s calling my name now. How long will I be able to resist it? No doubt I’ll be out there again, tomorrow or the next day, cutting more tracks in local woods. Not quite as good as being in the mountains, but there’s something to be said for snowshoeing right out the back door. Wild nature doesn’t feel very far away at all.

 

 

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Feb 11 2015

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Cutting Tracks

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snowshoeing in mtnsThere comes a day every winter when I have to drop everything I’m doing and head for the hills. That day came yesterday. I loaded my dog Matika into the car and drove an hour to my favorite place to snowshoe: a mountain brook where few people go.

I hiked half a mile up a packed logging road before putting on my snowshoes. Two feet of pristine powder lay before me. I figured it would be tough cutting tracks through it but didn’t realize how tough until I got going. My snowshoes sank 6-8 inches with each step. Matika stayed on my heels for the most part. Smart dog. I pushed forward, trying to set a steady pace, but was unable to go more than fifty yards without stopping to catch my breath.

I tramped for a little over an hour that way, following a mountain brook that barely murmured beneath the snow. I marveled at the silent forest – no birds, no trees creaking in the wind, nothing but my own heavy breathing. “This is why I come out here,” I kept thinking. Silence and a beautiful stillness.

When the going got really tough, I stripped down to shirtsleeves. I sweated profusely anyway. I was tiring but with temps in the teens and my thermal undershirt soaked with sweat I didn’t dare stop. Instead I pushed up a steep, narrow ravine, groping slowly back towards the logging road. Fallen trees blocked the way. At one point I passed beneath one. It showered me with snow in the process. Matika scrambled up the slippery sides of the ravine without success. Then she fell in behind me as I plodded forward, one carefully placed step after another.

What a relief it was to get back to the packed logging road! I took off my snowshoes then strapped them onto my pack. I stopped long enough to feed my dog some kibble and wolf down an energy bar with a half-liter of water. The walk out was as pleasant as it was easy.

Completely exhausted, I went to bed early last night. Tough outing but well worth the effort. I flushed a lot of gunk out of my system in the process and am now in a better frame of mind to resume literary work. No surprise there.

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Mar 26 2014

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Last Winter Outing

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snowshoes, Preston BrookI had hoped that by now I’d be hiking in cold mud, but winter lingers. I drove to the mountains anyway. Had to get out. Couldn’t stay cooped up inside, snow or no snow.

The snow was deeper than expected – about a foot and a half. Good thing I had brought along snowshoes. I strapped them on and ventured up a narrow trail packed by a lot of other restless souls. Eventually I stepped off trail and cut tracks down to Preston Brook.  My dog Matika followed, post-holing yet just as happy as me to be outdoors.

I followed a set of bobcat tracks that pointed upstream, threading through the woods. The brook remained hidden for the most part. Temps remained below freezing but cutting tracks is hard work so I stripped down to shirtsleeves to keep from sweating too much.

Upon reaching a favorite spot along the brook, I took off my snowshoes, donned a heavy sweater, and made a seat out of the foam pad I’d brought with me. With my back against a tree, I was quite comfortable sitting there for a while.  The sun shined brightly, illuminating the snow. The brook murmured beneath the snowpack. Trees creaked in the gentle breeze.

Back on the move again before catching a chill, I took pity on my post-holing dog. I looped over to the beaten path instead of retracing my tracks. She was happy to have solid footing again. I followed her. I tramped along in something of a daydream, remembering previous outings along Preston Brook on much warmer occasions. Soon spring will begin in earnest, I kept telling myself. Soon, very soon.

 

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Dec 31 2012

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Cutting Tracks in the Snow

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“Let me know when you are ready,” I said to Judy as we lounged in our living room reading the Sunday newspaper online. The wind was howling in the distance. I was hellbent upon going out and cutting fresh tracks in the snow but Judy was balking. So I was surprised when she came down the stairs all dressed to go before I had even moved from my chair.

Our dog Matika didn’t hesitate. She jumped into the car the second I opened the door. She didn’t care that the thermometer registered twenty degrees below freezing. “Let’s go!” her body language said as she flashed a big, canine smile.

An overnight storm had added another four inches to the foot of snow dumped a few days earlier. Conditions haven’t been this good for snowshoeing in nearly two years.

We cut tracks in virgin snow while enjoying the peace and quiet of the wintry woods. Conifers heavily laden with white stuff provided ample cover from the wind. Our morning trek couldn’t have been more delightful. The energy we burned while tamping down the deep powder kept us warm enough.

Matika made us laugh as she romped through the snow. She buried her head in it whenever she caught the scent of some passing creature. Judy and I stopped several times to catch our breath and marvel at the simple beauty of the white world all around us. Even to a lover of green things like myself, nature in winter has its appeal.

By the time we got back to the car, Judy’s toes were half numb, I had rime in my beard, and Matika’s paws had iced up. Still it was fun. Hot chocolate and a warm bath took the chill away. And we thoroughly enjoyed being indoors for the rest of the day.

 

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Mar 16 2011

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Almost Spring

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A sunny day with temps in the high 30s.  Good day to head for the hills, so that’s what I do after a few hours of desk work.  “Is that a robin?” I ask myself, catching the shadowy shape of one on a rooftop while loading gear into my car.  On second look, it’s gone.  Maybe I was just imagining it.  Too early for migrating birds.  After all, there’s still a foot of heavy snow on the ground.

Stepping out of my car at the trailhead, I immediately hear the rush of water.  I walk over and, sure enough, there’s Preston Brook open and running fast towards the lowlands.  That puts a smile on my face.  I strap snowshoes to my rucksack and shoulder the load.  A trail of hard-packed snow points up Honey Hollow Road – closed for the season to all vehicles.  Then I begin what should be my last winter hike, going deeper into the mountains.

For nearly an hour I trudge steadily uphill, putting one foot in front of the other.  My dog Matika dashes from one sniffing spot to the next.  The woods are full of good smells this time of year.  Hares, squirrels and other forest creatures are awakening and moving about.

When the road levels out a bit, I fasten the snowshoes to my boots and leave the trail.  Matika runs across a thick crust of snow.  I sink no more than an inch into it, pleasantly surprised by this ease of movement.  Good thing.  Soon I’m following the trace of an old skidder trail next to a deeply cut ravine, descending rapidly towards the brook.  It’s a bushwhack now, just me, my dog and the trackless wild.

A smile breaks across my face when I spot the brook again.  It is rock-strewn and running hard, but still wide open and as clear as any mountain stream gets on a cloudless day.  The sun burns bright through naked trees, warming my face.  I’m hatless and in shirtsleeves now, yet still breaking a sweat.  Matika catches a scent then so do I.  It’s the nearly forgotten smell of the earth just beginning to thaw out.  Several days before the equinox, it is almost but not quite spring.  I caress exposed ferns and moss growing on the side of a huge boulder before following the brook farther downhill.

Matika cavorts about the woods, delirious with the freedom of the hills.  I tramp along as if living a dream.  The warm season is about to unfold in all its muddy, wet, bug-ridden glory.  And that’s a prospect that makes me happier than words can say.

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Feb 10 2011

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Heavy Snow

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Last weekend half a foot of heavy, wet snow fell, compacting the deep powder already on the ground.  I spent the better part of two days shoveling it, then shoveled a few more inches of lighter stuff that followed until the piles around my driveway were six feet high.  All the while I daydreamed about snowshoeing.  I knew the conditions in the woods would be ideal.

Yesterday I drove to Indian Brook Reservoir with snowshoes at hand and an excited dog pacing in the back seat of my car.  We hit the trail around noon.  The temps had climbed into the high teens by then.  I tramped a well-beaten path for the first half mile, then veered away from it following a side trail that hadn’t been traveled in a while.  There I left a nice, tidy set of tracks across the snow.  I stopped frequently to look back and admire my work.

Returning to the main trail, the going was much easier.  Matika ran up and down the trail like a dog possessed, while I ambled along admiring the heavily laden branches all around me.  Several trees had fallen since I had last visited the reservoir, making the trail through the woods more interesting than usual – all twists and turns.  A strong wind brewed up, shaking the boughs overhead.  Snow came showering down.

There is something about laying tracks through snowy woods that soothes the soul.  Given a choice, I would take hiking a muddy trail over ‘shoeing a snow covered one every time, but I’m always glad to be immersed in Vermont’s “winter wonderland” when cabin fever forces me to it.  Snowshoeing is clean, quiet, and incredibly calming.

Nature in winter is subdued, yet it is still nature.  It is good to be reminded of that, especially late in the season when people start complaining about winter as if it’s some kind of scourge.  In February the light returns, illuminating the white world, putting to rest the darkest thoughts.  Then melt water drips from icicles and I sense that spring isn’t that far away.  More importantly, I understand that the seasons cycle around with dramatic flair at these northern latitudes as they have for centuries.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Here in Vermont, we’ve already received our average winter allotment of 80 inches.  From now until spring, the rest is extra.  And while the snow shoveler in me dreads the prospect, I look forward to more white woods wanderings.  The heavier and deeper the snow gets the better.  My snowshoes are parked next to the door and there they will stay until it all melts away.

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Feb 03 2011

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Snow Day

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Over a foot of snow fell on northern Vermont yesterday – the tail end of the big storm that rocked half the country.  I spent a good part of the day shoveling it, and there was still plenty more to tackle this morning.

After three more hours of shoveling, you’d think I’d seen enough snow.  But the sky broke open around midday, temps climbed into the high teens and, well, I had a hankering to go snowshoeing.  So that’s what I did.

Vermonters aren’t easily shaken by the white stuff.  Most of the driveways that I passed on the way to the trailhead had been plowed out, and everyone was pretty much going about their business as usual.  If you can’t handle a little snow, then you shouldn’t live in Vermont.  So I’ve learned to adapt.  I take to the woods with my trusty pair of Green Mountain Bear Paws whenever the snow gets knee deep or better.

I started out on a well-groomed snowmobile trail so I really didn’t need the snowshoes at first.  But half a mile into the walk, I got a powerful urge to cut fresh tracks across the pristine snow.  Every snowshoeing fool knows that urge well.  I stepped off trail and felt the difference immediately.  My heart was pounding hard five minutes into it.  My dog Matika was delighted by the detour. She leapt through the powder, leaving chest-deep holes in her wake.

Eventually we stumbled upon a fresh deer trail and the going was a little easier.  Until we veered away from it.  When the deer trail headed for a marsh, we opted for higher ground.  We followed a small ridge taking us back the way we came.  And forty minutes after leaving the snowmobile trail, we tagged it again.  A short but sweet excursion.  Just enough clear my head.

Back home now, the sun is setting in a cloudless sky.  Wow.   I haven’t done a damned thing all day – nothing that qualifies as productive work, that is.  But snow days are like that.  When a big dump comes, you can either complain about it or embrace it.  Today I chose the latter and thoroughly enjoyed the diversion.  What the heck, I’ll get back to work tomorrow.

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Jan 11 2010

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Getting into Winter

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I’ve never been a big fan of winter, and after shoveling the white stuff for a few days, I begin to hate it.  But it’s unhealthy to live in a place like Vermont and stay home from the first snow flurry of the season to the last.  So even now, in the middle of winter when all I want to do is hibernate, I make it a point to get into the woods when I can.

A Nor’easter struck a week ago.  For all you who don’t live in New England, that means lots of precipitation straight from the ocean.  In this case, it came in the form of snow falling for three days in a row.  Between one and three feet of it, depending upon where it was measured.  Good if you like to ski; not so good if you have to shovel your own driveway.  I fall into the latter category.  But once I finished pushing back the white stuff, I grabbed my snowshoes and headed for the hills.

There’s a wild area on French Hill, not far from home.  I go there whenever time is tight but I need to get out.  I went there a few days ago and cut tracks across the trackless snow until I reached a snowshoe trail that someone else had cut a week earlier.  Even with fresh snow, I still found it easier to follow that trail than to cut new tracks.  Fortunately, it led to where I wanted to go: a beaver pond less than a mile from the road.

My dog, Matika, loves the snow.  I’m not sure why.  I think it holds smells better than dirt does.  At any rate, she likes to frolic in the snow, occasionally burying her snout in it to investigate some hidden treasure.  She looks silly with her face all frosted but she doesn’t seem to care.

First thing I notice whenever I’m alone in the woods after a big snowstorm is how incredibly quiet it is.  An ominous quiet, that is.  Robert Frost nailed it with his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” of course.  But standing  in a cold, white forest, it’s easy for me to believe that I just discovered the terrible beauty that wild nature becomes in deep winter.  Trees heavily laden with snow are both magnificent and surreal.  As they droop towards me, I keep thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be alone out here.

The beaver pond was frozen over – a black-and-white photograph brought to life.  Starkly beautiful.  The gray clouds overhead thickened and a flurry commenced.  Matika wanted to keep going deeper into the woods, but I thought it best to turn around.  By the time I reached the car, my own sweat had chilled me.  But it was good to get out.  And whatever gripe I had earlier in the day was forgotten by the time I got back home.

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