In the wintertime, when the natural world is slumbering under a blanket of snow, we still find country hikes vastly different from city trails. At least, this is what the 11 of us found out on today’s hike around Oster Lake in Elk Island National Park.
For one thing, we found unexpected silence and solitude. The Tawayik Lake parking lot was at least 60% full when we started out on the trail. But the area is so vast that we came across no more than ten small groups in the five hours we were walking on the trail.
The other thing is that the natural world is not really slumbering. We saw the traces and tracks of animals everywhere—the footprints of small creatures all over the pristine snow…the tree branches that had been chewed bare of their tasty and nutritious bark by hares…the beaverlodge which had a well-worn path in its snow cover from the top down to the ice, betraying where the beavers enter their home…and the circles of ground where the snow had melted, because a small herd of ungulates had bedded there for the night.
In the wintertime, we love getting outside for the fresh air and exercise. But a trip into the country gives us so much more. Peace and quiet…truly fresh air…and a strong impression of how the wildlife around us get themselves through the winter.
You can experience this again in two weeks, when Irene leads the hike in Blackfoot Recreational Area on the south side of Highway 16. (And some of us are bringing our snowshoes. If you have them, bring yours.)