Hiking our trail often becomes a kind of Zen exercise. The way is familiar, so the mind wanders freely. We usually hike in and out in company, at least two of us together, if not all three, but on the single file, trail conversation is difficult. We all tend to speak softly, and our voices don’t carry well unless we shout, which never feels right in the forest. Most discussions become a game of telephone, with the person in the middle of the line called on to repeat everything the person in back says to the person in front, and vice versa. Invariably, we lapse into silence.
Recently the winds abated slightly, dropping from around 50 knots to 35. The wind chill rose from -30s to -20s, so we struck out to the car to bring in supplies. As usual, I fell into a reverie of free association in the silence. Here’s some of what passed:
The dry weather is evaporating the snow. It has disappeared off our trail almost completely up until about the 100 foot level on the ridge.
Lack of snow and cold temperatures will be bad for the smallest neighbors, voles, shrews, and mice. They rely on an insulating layer of snow to make it through the winter. If this keeps up, what will it mean for our homestead? Less voles in the garden, but will the predators around us have a harder year as well?
A coyote is back in the neighborhood, and it’s hunting the cat that leaves tracks near the homestead. I hope it’s not Tiger, the neighbor’s beautiful new cat.
Do the coyotes range closer to the cabin in the winter, or do we just see more evidence of them because of the snow?
One of the tall dead trees in the blow down on the back corner of our land, the one I’ve had my eye on to fell for firewood, is leaning dangerously, and seems aimed directly at the place where we stashed our bikes!
The seeps have frozen over the trail in several places. The hill Aly calls “‘Druther Not” may require creepers soon.
I wonder if we’ll make it home before my handkerchief is completely soaked?
What’s for dinner tonight?
And, most often: Good King Wenceslas is the best hiking carol ever! Good tempo, excellent marching cadence, endlessly repetitive, and thematically appropriate for trudging through the woods with a heavy pack in midwinter.