This Winter Could Be Worse: You Could Be A Deer Or Wild Turkey

Before trekking to the compost pile and ash pit the other day, a round-trip distance of less than 100 yards, I suited up as if for a month-long polar expedition – mountaineering parka, balaclava, overmitts and studded boot grippers to ward off a sub-zero wind chill and provide traction on a path that relentless snow and ice have turned into a luge run.

So far this winter I've shoveled away tons of snow and spread nearly 500 pounds of sand on these paths, as well as on the gravel driveway and stone steps leading to the front door and the woodsheds. The ice simply refuses to melt, but I don't like using salt or other chemicals that could leach into the garden, evergreens and rhododendrons.

If and when spring ever arrives I'll spread most of the ashes onto the garden and use the rest to fill in potholes in my path network. At least once a week this winter I've had to shovel the residue of nonstop wood stove combustion into a 5-gallon galvanized bucket and dump the dusty mess to the pit, creating a mushroom cloud that looks exactly like a miniature image of the first hydrogen bomb tested at the Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1952. I stay upwind.

I usually couple this miserable ash-hauling chore with the equally unpleasant task of lugging a bucket filled with coffee grounds, pineapple rinds, apple cores, banana peels, broccoli stalks and other fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen to the compost heap, which is basically a fenced enclosure next to a 30-gallon drum filled with sawdust, crushed leaves and horse manure. I shovel this mixture on top of the food scraps and eventually the whole concoction turns magically into rich topsoil.

Anyway, the compost pile, like everything else, is now heaped with snow, but I’ve noticed that a critter, possibly a raccoon, has surreptitiously bent up a corner of the fence and burrowed into the frozen heap in order to feast on discarded scraps. I hope I never get that hungry. I also thought twice about sticking my hand in the hole – nothing worse than startling a hungry raccoon.

Elsewhere on the paths countless paw prints and hoof tracks crisscrossed the snow-covered forest floor: squirrels, mice and the ubiquitous deer.

These frozen impressions revealed that for the most part animals sensibly stuck to the cleared, well-maintained trails, but the deer often meandered, constantly foraging among the pines and spruce, seemingly oblivious to deep drifts and jagged crust. What a life.

We humans think we have it tough driving once or twice a week to the supermarket over icy roads – imagine having to trudge through snow every day just to nibble on frozen laurel leaves, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for coyotes and hunters.

While traipsing through the woods not long ago I followed a set of thin cross-patterned tracks and soon saw what made them: a flock of wild turkeys. Spotting me they scurried ahead, single file and soon disappeared into the underbrush.

If you squinted they looked just like tiny velociraptors from “Jurassic Park.”

The wind picked up, I pulled up the hood on my parka and headed back to the house.

Soon I would be perched next to the wood stove with a cup of tea and a book.

The turkeys, deer, squirrels and other creatures would still be out in the tundra, scrounging for nuts and seeds.

All in all, I’m not complaining.

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

An Explorer’s Guide To The Great Indoors: Hotels Designed For ‘Adventurers’

During decades of traipsing through the wilderness I’ve slept, or attempted to sleep, in every conceivable indoor and outdoor quarters: in freshly dug snow caves; alongside bug-infested swamps; during thunderstorms with no tent; in the...

Alligators, Gorillas, Bears, Snakes, Even Cows: Danger Lurks Where You Least Expect It

The awful story this week about a 2-year-old boy who witnesses said was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel in Orlando, Florida and later found dead serves as a reminder that danger lurks even in "The...

This Bud’s For You: The Unofficial King Of Beer Litter

While kayaking the other morning I spotted a small, dark object poking above the lake surface 100 yards or so ahead, and I was pretty sure it was the head of a turtle until I drew closer and realized the sad truth: just another beer...

Chaotic Fun At The Essex River Race

Shortly before the start of the late-great Rose Arts Road Race several years ago, a 10.47-mile running competition over the hills of Norwich considered one of New England’s toughest courses, my friend Bob and I decided to jog a couple miles...

Tom And Steve’s Excellent Adventures In The Northwest Part III: Kayaking Off The Oregon Coast And Columbia River Gorge; Hiking On Mount Saint Helens

Propelled by the sound of crashing surf, my son Tom and I scrambled over a low dune and then gazed in awe.

A Connecticut Yankee In The Northwest Part II: A Cross-Country Ski Adventure, Of Sorts, At Oregon's Crater Lake

Lugging back-country skis and poles on our shoulders, my son Tom and I trudged along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway at Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, searching for a section of road that had not been plowed.

A Connecticut Yankee In The Northwest: Stunning Views, Adventures On Land And Water (Part I)

As I clambered toward the crest of the Mist Trail in California’s Yosemite National Park a couple weeks ago, spray from the thunderous Nevada Fall washed over me, but I was already soaked, with sweat, after gaining nearly 2,000 feet of...

Vacations From Hell: At Least They’re Memorable

Just between us, don’t you hate it when friends or coworkers post photos on Facebook of awesome journeys to exotic destinations – or if they’re really old-school, send postcards depicting glorious sunsets, sparkling lakes,...

In Stride With Women Runners: Amby Burfoot Celebrates Their History In A New Book

Back in the Dark Ages when I was growing up, one of the worst insults an adolescent male could hurl at one of his buddies was, "You run like a girl!"

Danger, Swan Attack! Quick, Wring Its Neck!

It’s difficult to imagine a more outrageous example of idiotic government overreaction than this week’s incident involving a mute swan on Five Mile Pond in Danielson, which would almost be laughable if the outcome weren’t so...

The Parable Of The Rope: An Icy Mountain Drama In New Hampshire's Carter Notch

With a blustery breeze making the 8-degree temperature feel as if were a few notches below zero, our group didn’t intend to dawdle while scrambling back to civilization. The mountain hut where we spent the night had been so frigid my boots...

Over The Falls! A Salmon River Adventure

You know that feeling when you’re about to attempt something adventurous that at first seemed it would be fun, but then doubts about your safety and sanity crept in? Oh no! Too late!