Deep snow covers the forest.  Hemlock bows bent under the weight of a blizzard makes branches intersect the deep white cover forming arches that sculpt the woods.  Howling winds reshape the landscape creating little eddies against large trunks. 

Save the wind, life in the forest during a storm is sullen.  Most who inhabit this environment choose to lay low.  Deer bed in groups beneath heavy hemlock cover on south facing slopes. Partridge bury themselves in deep snow and stay free from the penetrating wind.  Coyotes stay with family groups and lay down in tight balls under partial cover letting the snow pile up around their dense fur while covering the nose with their fluffy tails.  Voles and mice, already living in snow tunnels created along the forest floor, search for food amongst the readily available detritus.  Porcupines hide in their den; the art and pleasure of multiplying is not far off.  Chickadees, in a miniature act of defiance, are still active and clamor over the seed of ironwoods and birch to insure enough energy to stay warm on this snowy day.  And the king of the northern forest, the black bear, sleeps quietly and dreams of sunny days while hibernating in a den prepared in the autumn.

As I move short distances on snow shoes I cannot help to notice that there are no tracks to follow in the 16 inches of snow.  There is still more to come.  Yesterday, before the storm moved it, there was much wildlife sign; typical of the day before a nor’easter.   Deer tracks were plentiful and following them brought me to secret stashes of acorns where they were consumed in a sudden desire to add calories for the next winter event.  Clippings, the end of hemlock branches, covered the snow.  Porcupines seeking food had spent the precious night nibbling on branch tips.  There were coyote tracks galore; perhaps the reason that the deer decided not to stay in any one spot for an extended period. Fisher tracks were found along the top of a stone wall where small rodents might be located to provide a meal before the snow arrived. A nervous ermine darted along a stump in the distance, its white body blending in with the snowy background.

Today I must be content with the blowing wind, the falling snow, and the cold winter air biting at my face.  My beard is full of ice where condensation freezes from my breath.  I move from tree to tree enjoying the weather and examining branch tips to see which succulent leaf buds have been used as food.  There are always clues to be found in the forest no matter what the weather.  

The steel gray sky seems lighter to the northwest.  Perhaps the storm is winding down.  I check the watch attached to my belt loop and note that it is almost lunch time. A slow steady trek back to the homestead is in order where a nice venison stew awaits in the crock pot. 

Winter is here for sure.  I hope it stays around for a while so that we can get adequately reacquainted.

  • Annie

    Got the RSS to work for me this AM. Thank you for looking into the difficulties.

    Loved today’s narration. I haven’t been able to get up to the snow with my shoes yet but soon my sis, Miss El (my sister’s snow-crazed black lab) and I will be tromping around enjoying the sights and sounds of the Sierra. Until then I’ll be content to lead children on wetland adventures in the foggy delta, seeking out the wonders of it’s environment.

    Thanks again for your help and for sharing your stories. I’m happy to know that I won’t be missing the next one.

  • Sandy

    I think we got the better end of the storm. The wind was almost worse than the snow while cleaning up outdoors. Thanks for the information about how the animals and birds weather the storm. I saw crows and woodpeckers out during the day, but not much else. We did have tons of birds feeding on the ground the day before, though.

    My snowshoes were the leather ones made in Canada. I have not tried the newer ones. How do they compare?

  • bill

    Hi Sandy

    We ended up with about 20 inches of powder snow. Luscious. I still have a pair of ash and leather Ojibwa snowshoes (Chippewa)but since I’ve been using the newere style made of aircraft aluminum with easy slip-on bindings and cramp-on cleats I seldom use the old ones. My snow shoes are huge, about 3 feet long, to support my very large frame. Occasionally in heavy, packed snow I use my wife’s that are about half the size and you can really cruise around. But then again I’ve been on snow shoes my whole life.


  • Lynn Biederstadt

    A beautiful blog, this! Thank you for having the eyes to see these things, the generous heart that lets you appreciate them, and the skill that lets you share them with us!!
    -LynnB @

  • zoologirl

    Speaking for myself, I have been adequately reacquainted with winter this season, but I do love snowshoeing! My dog loves it too and tries to ride on the back of the snowshoes in deep snow. I also love the fresh blankets of snow for new tracks.

  • Emily

    I was thinking of you with all that new snow! I lovelove that second paragraph. Sometimes when I am out and about, I am so focused on what the weather is doing to the landscape that I forget about all the creatures who are going about their lives under the day’s top coat. Thanks for this, as always.

  • bill

    Lynn-Thank you for your compliment. Having read your blog I know you are a good writer so I value your opinion.

    Zoologirl-My bloodhounds love riding on the back of my snow shoes, as you know it doesn’t work!

    Emily-We received another few inches of snow on Saturday, and expect another, albeit wet, snow storm on Tuesday. Really fairly typical for this time of year.

  • Montucky

    Very enjoyable read! I’ve been out enjoying our snow too, but haven’t used my show shoes yet. Your post has stimulated me to get out on them and now I will in the next few days.

  • Emma Springfield

    Bill, you have a marvelous sense of how to spin a yarn. I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing through this site. Winter is rampant here too. The Great Plains have always been a favorite of “the snow gods”.
    WildRamblings is Nature Site of the Week at Nature Center Magazine.

    Emma Springfield

  • Out on the prairie

    A nice retreat through the woods. I always find something new, it doesn’t have to be much to add to being outside. I see winter as a cleansing season for nature, and find it cleanses my soul as well.

  • Find an Outlet

    My days of snowy woods are behind me but your skillful observations set free a surge of repressed images. Nothing kept me from the woods of the east either, each season bearing its beauty on wing, paw, and branch.

    Thank you for gently reminding me of my native home–and the only reasons I stayed as long as I did.

  • Jack Matthews

    Sounds as if you have reconnected. I like the detail on examining sign and your use of terminology.

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