Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snowshoeing Snow

Continuous cold weather has maintained the beautiful soft snow that fell last Wednesday. The snowshoeing is the best in memory. Often it seems, we get rain or warm weather soon after a nice snowstorm that melts away and ruins the snow. Not this year, not yet. The snowshoeing is fabulous.

Yesterday afternoon I led a group of 24 people on snowshoes into the nearby Northwood Meadows State Park. By the time of our snowshoe hike in early afternoon the temperature had warmed from -2 F at 5 am to the low 20s. I tend to set a fast pace in between stopping to look at winter buds or examine an animal track or listen for resident birds. Everyone kept pace; all were enthused, energetic, and excited when we saw various tracks including deer mice, snowshoe hare, long-tailed weasel, and river otter among others.

Cold temperatures in winter typically bring clear blue skies, so much the nicer for a snowshoe hike. Our good fortune continued this afternoon as we set out with some friends on snowshoes into another local state park (Pawtuckaway). We crossed a frozen wetland, walking among wetland plants -- black spruce, pitcher plant, and others -- something that one cannot do easily during the other seasons, unless you want to get very wet.

 A small black spruce growing on a small hummock in the frozen wetland

We climbed a familiar trail that leads passed a huge rock outcrop and boulder field that is home to bobcat and porcupine in winter and nesting ravens in summer. The trail meanders up and then along a ridge with nice views.

 The view from the top -- looking toward the New Hampshire seacoast

It was along the ridge that we paused to tap a small white ash tree dotted with a line of old woodpecker holes. After a few taps a flying squirrel poked out his head, then scurried out and around the tree trunk, and then back in the hole. A second flying squirrel poked his nose out then ducked quickly back inside.

 The flying squirrel tree; they popped out of the second hole from the top

Every outing on these fine winter day reveals new sights and sounds of winter. There are few distractions out in the woods on these clear, cold days. Only us and the flying squirrels now nestled in their tree and the porcupine tucked into his rocky den and the whistling of the wind as it blows down the length of the wetland as we retrace our steps back to the cars.

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