A sunny winter day

Sunday morning, December 17th, I headed out for another hike in the snow covered woods. As I went up through my field I noticed I was following my shadow. Looking down at my shadow in the snow I thought, “Glad you could come along Henry.” It was about eight degrees above zero and a very bright and sunny morning. As usual I was wearing jeans and my wool black and red hunting jacket. Underneath is my father’s, 1960s insulated zip up under jacket. It’s old but very warm.

A typical Vermont “no-name” ridge. Photo by Ron Patch.

Deer tracks wander throughout the woods, crisscrossing here and there. I came to one location where the deer tracks were everywhere. It was as busy as Grand Central Station. You could see where they’d pawed through the snow to get to the ground under the oak trees. As they paw up the leaves and sticks they kick up acorns to eat. They’ll stir up a large area looking for acorns. In places it looked like a bomb went off.

When the snow gets deeper, the deer will yard up in a stand of evergreens. The snow under the evergreens is not as deep and more packed down allowing the deer to move around in the yard. During this time when the deer are in the yard, about the only food they can find are new buds growing on the tips of branches. If it’s a long cold winter the deer will suffer terribly from hunger. Some will die.

Interestingly, I have noticed in past years deer coming out the deeryards and walking along my well packed snowshoe trails. I have several snowshoe trails behind my house. With the deer able to travel my trails they are exposed to new browsing areas.

Later in my December 17th hike, I could tell I was starting to overheat. I unbuttoned a couple buttons of my wool jacket and unzipped my insulated jacket to let some body heat escape. You always want to be aware of your body heat. A workout like hiking will cause you to sweat. That’s a curse when the sweat later freezes.

Deer tracks Grand Central Station. Photo by Ron Patch.

When I was about a mile from my house I noticed how blue the sky was. I took a few photos that day. One photo is of an area where the deer had crisscrossed in the snow pawing for acorns.

Another photo I like is a long distance view looking toward Grafton. You can see blue sky and distant mountains. In that photo you see the subtle shades of gray the tree shadows create. While this is a nice photo it doesn’t hold a candle to being there.

I most always go alone. It’s my time to connect with what I call ‘my church’. All I take for extras are a few matches. I travel light.

I have one fairly long main trail that meanders about a mile to the ‘Junction’. At this point if I turn left I can go over to Crow Hill. If I go straight up over a steep ridge I’ll come out over near Spoonerville. If I turn right I can go along the base of this steep ridge and also come out in Spoonerville.

Looking Grafton way. Photo by Ron Patch.

I don’t know what the entire mileage of all these trails is but it’s probably close to eight miles. There is not one house in that entire distance. No snowmobile trails and the only time I have seen a human was during deer season. Most of the land is open and not posted.

You might wonder, “Why do I write about such a mundane subject?” Because I know how enjoyable it is I want to encourage others to give it a try. You won’t get lost, killed by a bear or suffer any other tragedy. You’ll clear your head and use muscles you didn’t know you had.

The December 12th snowstorm deposited about a foot of snow in my area. It has since melted some but the cold weather has frozen it pretty well. This forms a good base for snowshoeing if we get another foot or so of fresh snow. I have a pair of Tubbs wooden snowshoes that I use. They are five feet long which displaces my weight over a larger area than modern aluminum shoes. As a result in deep snow I don’t sink in as much as those on aluminum shoes. I can’t wait to go!


This week’s old saying was heard in a conversation between two old codgers.

Question: “What’s your point?”

  Answer: “Just beyond your grasp.”

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