Fresh snow coated our landscape this morning and I eagerly grabbed by snowshoes for a venture out to a nearby trail. As I headed out, the snow began to fall with a light dusting and I watched as it settled on the leaves and branches of each tree and into the crevices of the bark. The temperature was low and the trees were crisp and starched with frost. It seemed the only sound I could hear was the swish-swish sound of my snowshoes. With each step, I looked to see if any sign of life had come before me and no tracks were seen in the frozen stillness.
The delicate flakes began to fall heavier and the bows of branches began to encroach closer to the trail. I pulled off the trail and snuck under a bow of branches and began to watch the snow fall before me. Snow has a way to bring order to the woods. Every creature has its place and the arrival of the first flake, that coats our landscape, graces us on a different day each year. The expectation can be seen with the scurry of squirrels and chipmunks across the landscape, in search of food to store for the coming season, and the filling of our pantries with canned goods to relish in the bounties of summer in the dead of winter.
Just as the sun began to break the horizon and peak into the woods, a loud popping sound echoed in the forest. I initially jumped from where I stood, in the unanticipated sound that broke the silence of the woods. The sound was the result of a rapid expansion and contraction of water in the phloem or inner bark of a tree. This process is often referred to as “frost cracks” and is the result of a temperature change in the trunk of a tree. The temperature drops abruptly and causes the outer trunk to crack from the inside out.
Moments like these I tend to linger in the woods and drink in the winter season as if it’s a wonderful cup of hot chocolate. As I headed head back to the trailhead and thoughts of a warm fire waiting before me, I ponder as to the next trail I will venture onto. However, I am always looking for new places to embark on and places away from heavy foot traffic. Therefore I ask you “What trail should I embark on next?”