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The Snow Hike

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chet started poking his toenails into my thigh at noon today. He knew that, since both kids were in school, he was due for a good fast hike in the snow. I finally caved in at 1:45, after tomorrow's agenda had been set, after I'd finished one drawing and transferred another. We trotted out the meadow through two inches of brand new snow.
It blew so hard last night that the house shook; I woke up at least five times, hoping the kids would sleep through it. They're both leery of wind, but it never woke them. Amazing, how kids can sleep through storms and thunderclaps right overhead. I slept through a grain elevator blowing up across the street from our grandmother's house when I was Phoebe's age. I noticed that the neighbor's flag looked suddenly tattered this afternoon. All the flags on the ridge are tattered now.

It was in the 20's when we set out, and the realization set in that I'd worn the right boots (Keen Cortina Mids) and exactly the wrong pants for conditions. Keen boots are the best--waterproof and utterly comfortable. Note to self: Calvin Klein stovepipe hiphuggers suhk in snow. They were soon soaked up to mid-thigh, their rolled cuffs collecting great gobbets of wet snow which then obligingly melted and crept up my pants legs. Brrr! I moved as fast as I could to keep from freezing.
But the woods were ravishingly beautiful; the snow made crazy patterns on tree bark
and on the Christmas ferns. They looked like fish skeletons on the forest floor. There was one small peek of bronzy sun all afternoon, and I happened to be in the newly flowing creek bed when it happened. The brook was singing for the first time in months, and there were little waterfalls everywhere, where there had only been dry rock and leaves.
Chet and I spooked a pileated woodpecker at work. I thought Chet had seen a squirrel, but it was a peckerwood! He didn't even have time to clear the chips from the hole he'd just dug in a big sassafras. For you ivory-bill hunters, this is fresh work.
There were wood chips scattered atop the snow, not a flake on them.
We climbed an enormous ridge, and broke out of hawthorn thicket onto a field--the same golden field the kids had run across last weekend. What a different aspect today! The wind whipped at my soaked pantslegs, and Chet and I broke into a dead run for home. We had done a hike that takes three hours with kids, in only an hour and ten minutes. It was great to be able to scramble up the slopes without worrying about who might be falling behind. Good to get the heart pumping hard, like it's supposed to. Amazing that I used to spend days on end without getting my heart going--just idling along in my chair. Once you get hooked on it, sitting around just doesn't cut it anymore.


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