The scene outside my kitchen window enticed me to venture out and explore. I paused to check the thermometer. The small screen displayed a reading of 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Balmy, I thought as I prepared for my evening walk. The previous evening, the temperature had hovered around zero. The cold alone would not have deterred me, but a walk had just not been possible. I put on my coat, boots, gloves, and hat and then headed out the door.
The crisp, fresh air hit me full in the face. The snow that had fallen the night before lay like a fluffy blanket on the ground. A squirrel hopped from branch to branch as clouds of snow followed his movements. I noticed that the heated bird bath was dry again. I made a mental note to fill it with water upon my return.
The sun was already low in the sky. I figured I would have less than an hour before the sun would finally depart. That should give me plenty of time, I thought, as I headed down the road toward the marsh. It wasn't long before I had stepped off the road and began breaking my own trail through the freshly fallen snow.
I came upon a deer trail and decided to follow that. The trail meandered through some cattails and eventually opened upon a path that had been left by some unknown four-wheeler. One side of the trail was bordered by marsh grass that stood eight feet high. On the other side of the trail, the vegetation had been laid flat by strong winds earlier in the week. For a few minutes, I stopped to ponder why some areas were left standing while others were flattened. During this pause, I noticed that the setting sun had begun to cast a golden glow on the magnificent world around me.
When I really stopped to look, I saw little specks that twinkled like tiny diamonds in the snow. Looking closer, one miniature glimmer might be blue, while another might be red. As I continued to observe, I also saw yellow and orange lights sparkling in the snow. What an amazing phenomena, I thought, as I continued on my way.
After a lengthy hike, I finally arrived at the beaver's lodge. From experience, I knew the lake was just a short distance away. With a bit of a chuckle, I recalled how I had tried to warn my son-in-law not to get too close to the beaver's lodge. Unfortunately, I had been too late and had cringed when I heard the ice crack as the surface gave way. He had only fallen into a few feet of muck, so I was easily able to help him back onto a stable surface. By the time we had returned home, his pants had become frozen stiff.
I continued through the cattails and entered the frozen expanse of the lake. In all directions lay an unbroken surface of virgin, white snow. I had often thought of how fun it would be to clear off an area in the middle and skate under the light of the silvery moon. From previous walks, I knew that the ice under the snow was of good quality and would be perfect for such an activity. Maybe someday that dream would finally be realized.
I continued my walk to the opposite side of the lake. A white field of powder lay before me and the gentle blue heavens hung above me like a dome. I tried my best to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. There were no walls or barriers to restrict my movements. There were no whistling sounds, puffs of smoke, or bursts of light in the sky. The only sounds were those of the gentle wind. I was surrounded by a world of peace and calm. "Freedom" was the word that came to my mind.
I continued on my way. It was not too long before I had reached the other side. On this portion of my walk I would need to break a new trail. For a moment, I regretted not bringing my snow shoes. The shoes would have helped to compress the cattails and snow as I walked. I pressed on regardless, taking care to watch my step so that I didn't fall into any holes or trip over any obstacles.
After some time, and a great deal of effort, I found myself standing on the edge of a thicket. Now ... I want you to know that I love a good thicket. The problem is that it lives up to its name. Tangled trees, bushes, and branches spring up everywhere. It is this randomness that gives the woodland its unique flavor. After pausing for a moment, I carefully began to work my way through the tangled web before me.
Spiky branches and tiny thorns pulled on my outer garments and frequently snatched away my hat. Hidden snares needed to be carefully located and stepped over. Low hanging branches would force me to bend down low.
Finally, I found myself standing in a small clearing that resembled what I would describe as an animal freeway. Tracks of all shapes and sizes crisscrossed the trampled snow. I paused to imagine how fun it would be to watch the parade of traffic from the hidden shelter of the brush.
I continued to make my way through the next portion of the bramble. I eventually found myself on the edge of a large area of compacted cattails. I carefully worked my way across that area and finally located another deer trail, which I then followed.