I am always looking for the story the land wants to tell. A lot of it happens at ground level . Tracks. Trails. Scat. Fur. Feathers. I love these stories – they bring me great joy. During the winter, it’s pretty easy to read nature’s book because of the snow. Here is a photo of one of my favorite stories – he was very good at batting clean up!
The most common tracks and trails are from the little red squirrels. The red squirrel’s presence is betrayed by the mound of spruce cone debris at the base of a tree. The red squirrel is active all winter so he has to store a great deal of food in his underground house, called a midden. It is amazing to follow the various tiny, hard-packed trails of these industrious creatures – a super highway for squirrels!
Another story is told by the snowshoe hare. Pure white and difficult to spot against the snow, their trails are easy to find. They are creatures of habit, as most animals are, and I like to stroll next to the tracks seeing where the hare has stopped to nibble on a tender shoot that was somehow overlooked.
The image of the raven’s wings definitely has to be one of my favorites. I have gone to the dogyard on a moonlit night and caught the beautiful sight of of wings that have just dusted the sparkling snow.
Similar stories are told this time of year of course – it’s just harder to see them. You have to slow down and watch. There’s a game trail over there and it looks like moose. Near the berry patch is a wider trail – a sure sign the grizzly enjoyed gorging himself. If you have any doubt just look at the piles of poop filled with blueberries. A pile of feathers tells the story of a grouse who just wasn’t fast enough in getting away from a fox.
And then there are the human stories. The one from today had a ring of familiarity to it because I’ve been there. Our colder temperatures the past couple of days meant I was able to get further down the main winter trail. It’s important to bear in mind though, that what appears to be frozen just may not be.
One part of the trail dips gently down and crosses about 50 feet of swamp. The thing with swamps is that there is a lot of decomposing happening – leaves, grass and other plant life. The decomposing process creates heat and even gas and ice on a swamp isn’t to be trusted even if it looks fine.
So this little dip and water crossing had a tale to tell and it wasn’t a happy one for the person who was driving the ATV.
See these ice chunks. They look nice and thick don’t they?
Where did the ice chunks come from? Why here:
Somebody misread the ice and went through. It wouldn’t have been dangerous here; just miserable. The driver would have had to slog through thigh deep water with the winch line and get it attached to the nearest available tree. Then he would have had to slog back through that water, get on his machine and winch himself out. Been there, done that. And this is why I always carry a little kit with me that has, among other things, a flint and steel to make a quick fire. At 30 degrees this is just cold and miserable. At 30 below it’s deadly.
And finally, I took another picture of the river today. Just a week has passed since the last one and look at the ice that is forming!