The Silence of a Snowshoe Hike

IMG_20131230_122322I’m an avid hiker, but winters can be long and cold here in the Maritimes. However, great snow cover and lots of sunny days make it easier to enjoy getting outside. I crave time spent in the fresh air.

My snowshoes are instrumental in staving off cabin fever when the weather decides to turn to winter. With the right gear, I can go out no matter what the conditions. When the meteorologist predicts a storm, I actually get excited. There’s nothing like a fresh dusting of the white stuff to inspire me to go for a hike in the woods.

There’s a stillness like nothing else that comes over the forest in the winter. It’s like velvet. The evergreens develop natural camps under their snow laden branches. A great place to take shelter from the wind. And the hardwoods stand bleak, frosted with feathery flakes. The whole of the woods becomes a natural cathedral.

I find myself spontaneously meditating when I’m on my shoes. The rhythmic crunch of snow under my feet and the tranquility has an hypnotic effect. Any troubling or rambling thoughts seem to tumble to the ground, refreshing and rejuvenating my mind. My ability to focus returns.

Then there’s the encounters with wildlife. Last year I was following what I at first thought were bobcat tracks: really BIG bobcat tracks. But then I noticed a tail drag between the paw prints. These were no bobcat tracks: it had to have been a cougar.

The rabbit trails zigzag through the woods,  sometimes followed by a fox or bobcat.The chickadees flit through the trees, and a startled partridge or two will fly off all in a flutter of wings. Chipmunks and squirrels chatter furiously at me, afraid I might find their stash. If I’m quiet enough, I might hear (and possibly see) a white tail deer blowing a warning to the other animals.

On a full moon, with the snow sparkling like diamonds, and the quiet intensified by the night, I’ll bundle up and strap on the snowshoes for a moonlight hike. Sheer bliss.

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