Actually, it’s around 1058 words.
Originally I intended to let the snowshoe path pictures in my previous blog post speak for themselves. Today, Pyrrhite’s comment on that post got me wondering about what makes Balsamea’s snowshoe paths so attractive to me that I popped off more than 200 snapshots hoping to get lucky in the handful I found worth posting here.
In pithy Pyrrhite style, I read, “I love snowshoe trails. Nothing much is quite as compelling.” Why are they so compelling? Okay, Py, you pulled the cord to muse up a scribblement. Let’s see if I have the gas to shoot through it quickly, because I am supposed to be doing something else. I may be a scribblement addict, and you an enabler.
Maybe it’s the way that they smooth everything over like a flat sidewalk, erasing so many rocks and hollows, logs and stumps and bumps buried under a white level surface.
Maybe it’s just that snow is one of few media where paths can be exactly the same color as the surface they transect, and, in the case of snow paths, very soon they will disappear forever.
Undoubtedly for me, part of the attraction is the artful grace of their curves, and their gentle rising and falling. So often as I approach “Five Stump Skypatch,” where the path snakes through virtually sexy snow humps over big stumps, and the humps drop precipitously to the ground in the deep, sheltered hollows under dense balsam firs, I stop, take a deep breath and smile at the grace of that weaving, wavy slice of white contrasting itself through more white, and all of it thrust against dark walls of evergreen.
Views of the paths and the places they go change continually throughout the day. Dawn light. Midday. Sunset. Moonlight. Especially moonlight, which seems always a miracle, and I don’t know why. It is downright magical on snow in a forest.
There’s headlamp light, which I often use in red mode, to preserve my night vision and decrease my artificial white light’s distortions of the deep flow of the night snow’s glow. In normal white light mode on the headlamp, I can use the headlamp for snowshoeing much longer between battery recharges, because so much less light is needed on snow.
There’s also the searching beam of bright white light from my 3-D-cell LED Mag-Lite, when occasionally for a few seconds I poke its pole through the trees to things hidden afar, its radiation magnified by the reflecting snow, from the ground and often from snow in the trees, too. (Hmm. Is there some sort of subconscious phallic symbolism in waving around that pole, or rod of light? For a long time you won’t be able to shine a flashlight into the night, especially into a mist, without remembering I said that. That’s the only reason I said it.)
The snowshoe paths are there in air-crusting cold and sunny snow-blinding warmth, sometimes powder soft and sometimes crusty hard, when the snowshoes make such a scraping racket I have to stop frequently for the relief of silence or to hear the wind wafting and woofing in the trees, or an animal calling. Sometimes I stop my walking noise to try to see what made Buddy suddenly go dead still and point his radar-swivel-ears, night-light eyes and omnipotent nose at things I can rarely see, hear or smell.
Or the path can be in a mushy state, compressed an inch or two under each of my gigantic footprints, building layer upon layer to become an ice-ribbon that will snake through the woods in spring, long after all the other snow is gone.
Truly, these special paths are never the same any two times in a row, even from walk to walk at three or four times within one day.
Crossing the rock walls, the snowshoe channels are smooth ramps over the rocky steps of other seasons. But watch your step going down. It can be slippery, and the hard surface supported by rock below is a real funny-bone masher.
Maybe there’s some magic in how so often they become buried or half-buried in fresh snow, so the grooming resumes, like some kind of very slow wave of activity washing ashore and receding throughout the winter life of Balsamea. There is an ebb and flow of effort, and appreciation for the process, starting out difficult in deep fresh snow, gradually becoming easier with repeated use, each time flattening and packing down the surface more, then cycling back to a good workout in the course of a mile when it snows heavily again. (Our primary loop is 0.8 mi., then there are branches and sub-loops, and often a second time around, or back the opposite way.)
Maybe it’s the endorphins or other chemicals and the heat generated and calories burned in this “walking-plus” activity that defies cold air enough to need less warm clothing than in normal walking.
Maybe it’s because the deer like to walk on the firm floors of the snowshoe channels and I am amused to find their prints following my path.
I enjoyed searching out views that could be represented at least a little bit in pictures, then sifting through them, back and forth repeatedly, finding ones to delete until “good enough” came out of the process. Then I deleted several more, because they didn’t say anything not already said by other shots. Like writing, so much of photography is deleting.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about the paths would be the pleasure that another finds in them, and the sharing of that. Share the blessing; double the joy.
Then, like caramel syrup on ice cream, on top of it all, there is the self-amusement of writing about it. Let’s face it. In personal blogs that have no clear mission, no focused topic range, and are riddled with irreverence, when it’s not sharing pictures or things found elsewhere on the web, it’s basically just mental masturbation.
You’ve just spent some time in the product of that. Was it good for you?
I blog for my entertainment.
- Snowshoe Adventure (Part 1) (rebeccainthewoods.wordpress.com) – my favorite naturalist and environmental blog
- Balsamea Winter: daily walking snowshoe paths (thebalsamean.com)
- Snowshoeing Postlude (superiorfootprints.org)
- Go Outside: Snowshoeing in Donner Memorial State Park (peopleandplacesandthings.com)