Written By Joshua VanBrakle.

Posted on February 2nd, 2016.

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I do not enjoy winter. My apologies to skiers, snowshoers, and hockey fans, but I simply do not like it. I grew up in a place where 2 inches of snow led to closed schools, pandemonium on the roads, and a run on milk, bread, and eggs so fierce you’d swear everyone in town had a sudden hankering for French toast. Usually by December my wife and I are already saying, “We’re ready for spring.”

I do not enjoy winter. My apologies to skiers, snowshoers, and hockey fans, but I simply do not like it. I grew up in a place where 2 inches of snow led to closed schools, pandemonium on the roads, and a run on milk, bread, and eggs so fierce you’d swear everyone in town had a sudden hankering for French toast. Usually by December my wife and I are already saying, “We’re ready for spring.”

But there is one time during winter when I actually find the season pleasant. Picture this. It snowed yesterday, but wrapped up in the evening. There’s plenty of time overnight for the plows to get out and clear the roads. Then the new day dawns: bright, sunny, and clear. A freshly fallen silent shroud of snow (say, that’s catchy) lies on the ground. The deep blue sky and the sparkling snow give a new look to old sights. On those mornings, I don’t hate winter. Instead, I want to be the first one out in it.

On one such morning, I head out for a hike on a local trail. Even before I make it past the trailhead, though, I realize others have been out and about before me. A bouncing set of matching 4-part prints confirms a squirrel has beat me to it.

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As I enter the trail, I see more tracks. A mouse has wandered across, its tail dragging in the inch or so of snow that fell the day before.

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A little further, and the tracks of a rabbit dot the snow, the back feet appearing out ahead of the front ones thanks to the creature’s hopping stride.

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It soon becomes clear that not only am I not the first one out here, I wasn’t even close. I can’t go ten feet on the trail without seeing some critter’s tracks.

A couple things occurred to me on this walk. First, a few inches of fresh snow makes for an ideal time to see winter wildlife tracks. Second, even in the dead of winter, your woodlot is a surprisingly active place.

In fact, winter is a great time to gain a new appreciation for how much wildlife use your land. I’ve walked this trail dozens of times, but I’ve never noticed mice scurrying around. But with a single hike in winter, I now know that they’re all around this woodlot, along with a surprising variety of other critters.

You know, maybe winter’s not so bad after all. Hmm. Nah. Still ready for spring.


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