After spending three days staring out the window at the beautiful sunny weather I decided to kick my butt into gear and get outside. I am lucky enough to have what seems like endless woodland bordering my parents property. I have wandered these woods my entire life. Certain locations bring back fun memories while in others I am creating new memories.
As a kid you wandered with little purpose other than to be away from the house and out in the sunshine. My desire to wander these days is more a way to clear my head, bring myself back to what I really enjoy, seeing nature in its most basic setting, and reliving my park naturalist side.
Being located where I am in Ontario we are
cursed fortunate enough to have a good coating of snow on the ground. So this morning I put on my boots, old coat, hat and mitts and ventured out into the yard.
As I started to walk I was immediately flooded with memories and certain places I wanted to cover while out for my walk. Should I go see if by some chance there is ice in the quarry? Take a walk by the stone where my most precious childhood pet is buried? Check out the old mill silo that we were certain as kids was part of a rocket ship? Or, as I did today, just meander around searching for signs of life in the winter wonderland that is ‘our’ back yard.
I made sure to take my phone with me, for two reasons: emergency purposes (certain people in my life worry that I will get eaten by coyotes or fall in the swamp), and also my iPhone has a wonderfully handy camera to take pictures of the dorky things I love about the outdoors.
The ground was scattered with what I believe to be coyote tracks, rabbit tracks and grouse tracks as well as many yellowed snow patches (we all have to go sometime, somewhere – I hold no judgement!). My curiosity would get the better of me and as I noticed animal tracks headed under a juniper bush I would peer underneath hoping to find a cosy, snoozing creature – not this time!
Beyond the cedar trees there is a wonderful marshland that is always exciting to explore in the wintertime. The past couple winters we have been able to head out onto the ice to explore beaver lodges up close and personal as well taking a look back at the shoreline from a new perspective. Today, because it has been so mild and I was alone on my journey I did not head out onto the ice. I love a nature adventure as much as the next guy, but not willing to be knee-deep in freezing cold water with no hope of being found.
I headed to my favourite spot along the shoreline where a natural spring enters the marsh. The water is almost always free of ice in this spot and it creates a hub of activity for the busy beavers that live nearby.
I didn’t see any beavers milling around but lots of evidence that they have been working on some major construction projects.
Lots of trees large and small had been trimmed in the area. I found myself standing under a precariously hanging tree swinging in the breeze. I took a few steps away. It was fascinating to me to see two main transportation routes established up the bank. The paths were icy and could imagine just a few damp webbed feet had helped to establish these routes up and down the bank.
After exploring along the shoreline for a little while I decided to visit one more place before trekking back to the house. Growing up with two older brothers there were many adventures and projects that occurred in this forest. My brothers and a few co-conspirators decided to make an elaborate tree fort as teens. They somehow managed to make the trek with the family lawnmower and trailer back into the bush with wood scraps, a generator and power tools to start this adventure. I did had very little to do with this project but was on occasion present (invited or otherwise) to see how work was coming along. It was excellent place to spend summer days as the tree fort was definitely a summer project. The fort consisted of two platforms that connected two separate trees as well as a zip line from one tree to yet another tree. As with many projects the fun wears off just as quickly as the plan came together. The fort was never formally removed but nature has done its’ part to restore the natural setting with some minor remnants left behind.
It was now time for me to head back to the house. The snow seemed to get twice as deep and difficult to trudge through on my walk home but I realized the heaviness in my feet was a result of the adventure being over… but luckily, only for today!