Winter Hiking (in Spring)

Thanks to the generosity of my sister-in-law and her husband we're spending a little bit if spring break at their cabin in northeastern Wisconsin. Of course "Spring Break" is merely a technical pleasantly for its name. Snow covers the ground three feet deep here. But the temperatures have at least been above freezing during the day.

We're spending our days reading, drawing, playing games, rubber band loom weaving, doing jigsaw puzzles, sitting in front of the fireplace, and playing outside.

We discovered yesterday that I can lift the boys onto the garage roof, and they can jump off the back side into the snow. It's deep enough that at least once each of them got stuck and couldn't pull their feet out.

We've also been watching the deer that frequent the woods nearby. They walk near the cabin a few times a day. We've seen at least five together.

Deer tracks in the snow.
It's been beautiful weather to be outside. My youngest son and I went for a hike yesterday. We discovered that it was best to follow the deer trails. They use the same paths frequently, so the snow on the path is compacted and hard.

The moment is stepped off the trail I sank up past my knees in the snow.

My oldest son and I did some snowshoeing. Snowshoes don't allow you to walk on top of the snow as is often believed (though I suppose with the right snow conditions you might be able to). Snowshoes help you walk more easily through the snow.

Snowshoes spread your weight out over a wider area. With snowshoes on I sunk only eighteen inches instead of the three feet I sunk without them on. Without snowshoes boots easily got stuck in several feet of snow. Unless you happen to put one snowshoe on top of the other or get snagged under a hidden branch snowshoes don't get trapped in the snow.

Still, snowshoeing is hard work and good exercise. A short jaunt through the forest left my brow with beads of sweat. The hikes we took were good workouts.

Outside of the deer tracks and a few rabbit tracks (the squirrels and other rodents were apparently light enough that they didn't leave tracks in the heavy snow on the ground), it was clear that no one else had been in the woods recently. We had it to ourselves--except for the occasional nuthatch and chickadee that would swoop in and perch for a moment on a branch before flitting off to the next one.

It may not be like discovering something entirely new but there's a serendipitous feeling that comes with exploring pristine corners of creation. I get to see things that no one else has seen--at least in several months.

And it's peaceful. I don't hear sirens, and except for an occasional car on the nearby county road, there isn't much traffic noise. The air is fresh. I can smell the faint earthy smell of birch bark and the sappy smell of evergreens.

This is a good way to spend spring break. At least for me. I need the break from busyness and city life.

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