As per tradition, Noah and I welcomed the new year by taking a hike - after filling up on sauerkraut and sausage of corse! With the high in the single digits, windchill below zero, and snowy icy back roads to all of our favorite spots we decided the bog would make for a lovely start to the new year, and with all the trees perhaps it would be insulated enough to cut back on some of the wind.
The drive there takes us past some of my favorite vistas, with the addition of snow and a very fine mist of fog it was like being in a painting, the rolling hills covered in snow, divided by fence rows, edged by trees, with the occasional cow/sheep/horse looming near the barns. Rt 3 between Wooster & Craigton use to be my drive home, and in all those many years I never tired of the view just north of the intersection of 3 and Jefferson. From there you can look out for miles over rolling farmland, the sun rising over the highest point in Wayne Co, the fog would linger among the hills... that view still stirs up something deep within my soul.
But I digress.
Arriving at the bog parking in the pull-off covered in snow. I parked at an angle feeling smart, I won't start off this new year by getting stuck (thank you 4wd)! We get out and bundle up, wrapping scarves around our faces fighting off the sharp cold stinging our eyes and noses. Once thoroughly bundled we headed through the snow, boots crunching at each step. The distant kame covered in snow rising up from the field like a mosquito bite in the summer. It has always looked out of place, a perfectly shaped mound plopped right in the middle of the smooth glaciated land, as alien as it feels, it still has been there longer than we have and it will be long after we're all gone. Stepping onto the boardwalk my boots added a creaky-squeak to the crunching snow soundtrack, the snow squeezing between the frozen boards and my boots. We followed the tracks of the brave two or three others who ventured out in the snow before us. Although the cold drew awareness to every tiny crack in our clothing where the layers gave way when we did, we stopped from time to time, ceasing the creaking from our boots to listen to the total silence of a snow covered forest. The birds were silent, the wind was still, the road - generally quiet as many back roads are - was extra quiet, maybe one car drove by our whole time out there. It was the kind of silence that creates a ringing to ears that aren't accustomed to such levels of quiet. I removed the scarf from my face breathing in the silence and the cold crisp air, like breathing in new life, a new start, a new year. Like nature uses the winter to reset its cycles, its rhythms, I too felt - as the cold filled my lungs - that it had been too long since winter had come. As the prospect of renewal filled me we heard twigs snap, looking up from the boardwalk towards the looping trail hill we watched as 7 deer, young and old, became aware of our presence and single file bounded from the hill down to the valley where the trees meet the field and out of sight. We ventured on. Upon reaching the clearing of the boardwalk where the trees open to the sphagnum mounds, we realized we stopped following the tracks of other people and have instead been following those of the deer who have taken to use the boardwalk as a safe way to traverse the bog while nibbling the cranberry twigs and sphagnum moss in hopes to find some nourishment remaining. Eventually the deer tracks veered off through the poison sumac and we were left to lay the first tracks in the snow. There's something wonderful about being the first. Sure, it's a boardwalk and it's been trekked over many times, but laying the first tracks in the fresh snow I feel a sense of discovery, like my tracks say 'follow along this way, there's great things to learn just ahead' no-one has seen this exact view before, and never will again, it is just for us.
Walking back we turn off to take the loop trail through the woods where just a few minutes ago we had watched the deer run. Zig-zagging across the trail it was apparent the deer had well worn paths they rarely diverted from - just as we do - but it made me think about why we follow trails, roads, paths, everyone together going the same ways, why we don't meander aimlessly (more often). The explanations are vast and very interesting but I'm not going to get into that now, but I do highly recommend the book "On Trails" by Robert Moor - it goes into the subject in great detail - a very interesting read and it looks at trails from deer paths to college campuses to hiking trails to highways, explains the evolution of trails(cutting paths from the planned paths), trail leaders (sheep), so much more, check it out.
The familiar journey around trees, shrubs, up hill, down hill, looking over distant farmland always feels new under snow cover, trees are accented harder, their shapes large and elaborate. The lichen growing on the trees provide the only color to be seen - the dusty blue green to deep green to orange.
We finish the loop and creak back onto the boardwalk, back up the hill, and to the car. Unwrapping my scarf, I take another deep breath of the fresh new year's air and I think about all the things that will be possible after this period of rest ends.
We take off easily from the parking pull-off and head on into the new year.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.