Monday, January 17, 2011
Cold Day for a Warming Hike
Zero this morning. Brrrr! Too cold to go for a hike, I told myself. Besides, I just got back yesterday from a week away and I had lots to do at home. But that brilliant sun shining from a clear blue sky was pouring in my window, warming my face as I sat to read the morning paper. And then I saw the weather forecast for tomorrow: FREEZING RAIN! All our beautiful fluffy snow is about to be ruined. I just had to get out and enjoy that snow today, so up to Moreau Lake State Park I drove, to hike on snowshoes up the Red Oak Ridge Trail.
This trail runs along a high ridge through a lovely mixed hardwood forest, with occasional views of the lake down below and just enough steepish climbs to get your heart pumping and your temperature rising to a comfortable coat-shedding level, no matter how cold the day may be.
This trail eventually connects with a spur trail that leads even higher up the ridge, to a place of boulders and caves that my friend Sue calls the Valley of the Porcupines. Sure enough, I soon located the distinctive troughs made by these wide waddling critters as they make their way from den to feeding tree. (I think a fox may have shared that trough today, since I saw an occasional dainty five-toed canid print among the fat flat prints that Porky makes.)
There were new porcupine trails today, leading to hemlock groves that had yet to be pruned to baldness by Porky's gnawing teeth. There was evidence, though, that that task had begun, to judge from the hemlock twigs littering the snow. I followed one of these new trails today to where it led into a cave. Porky must have been hiding out down there, because I did not see any bristly brown critters climbing among the treetops.
Close by the porcupine boulders runs a little stream that was decorated with pretty frost formations. Some were like feathery ferns, . . .
. . . and others like cascading stars.
After descending the trail to the lake, I walked on the frozen surface, staying close to the shore where the dark convoluted limbs of High Bush Blueberry showed in stark contrast against the glittering snow.