Monday, December 17, 2018


     A warmish weekend and settling snow tempt us into the woods. A snowmobile packed trail makes it possible. Off the trail the snow is up to the dogs’ shoulders. Determined, they struggle, but then lose their resolve.
Snowmobiles packed a trail.
    The trail dips into a hollow filled with catkin loaded alders. A stream meanders, leaving patches of bare ground at the turns. Thick spruces and fir trees shoulder the alders, with a few wild apple trees crowded in. Everything about the place looks like grouse country. The dogs taste the air and test the snow. It’s tough going.
     Does grouse scent waft in the air? Are the birds in the trees and watching us? Probably. The dogs venture into the woods and then return to the packed trail.
     Up the road further, where it divides hardwoods on the low side to the right and mixed growth to the left, a grouse rockets across to safety in a thicket of young softwood trees. The dogs and I fight our way up to the tangle of fir trees. Colby, the older dog with arthritis issues, stops in chest deep snow and waits. I hesitate a step or two beyond, then the thunder of wings.
     Maggie, our youngster, flies through the snow into the firs. Her tail is a blur as she sorts out the scents and hunts hard. The snow is not so deep under the thick boughs and she is a joy to see.
     Eventually she comes back to me, admitting the bird has gone. We turn back toward the truck.
     Back in the hollow, Maggie plows through the snow beneath the alders. Grouse tracks meander and droppings color the snow. A squirrel has shucked a mountain of spruce cone scales. Deer tracks snake through the woods. No grouse are on the ground.
     The snow has tired us all. It is time to head home.


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