Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: A winter walk can do a body wondersJanuary 20. 2018 6:18PM
Sometimes in the winter after being immersed in one too many ice fishing days, we'll just take the time to do a drive around some of the semi-back-roads of our region and check out the activity levels of whatever critters the cover and existence of human activity will put up with.
Sometimes it seems unreal that you'll find evidence that wild animals will take refuge in old (and sometimes still in use) chicken houses or other abandoned shacks or unused garages. One time we found evidence that a black bear had taken up winter residence under the floor of a pretty often used garage. Other times we've seen both fox and what we believe were coyote tracks heading to and from the unused cellar of a once used dairy farm.
It's well known that raccoons will often sleep during the cold and snowy days of mid-winter but they will still wake up and wander around, probably looking for a free snack during a winter warm-up period. We've also seen signs of skunks and tracks that we couldn't identified that would come out and take a walk in fresh snow.
On a few occasions, when the snow levels permitted easy walking, we'd follow a fresh track in the snow but on very few occasions did we find or see the critter that was making these tracks. In fact, we can't remember a time when we actually saw any of these animals but snow dropping from a spruce or hemlock tree would verify that the critter making these tracks had figured out that someone was following and would burst through cover, with snow flying in its path, to flee from us.
Another treat for us in the winter was ice walking! Especially here on Great Bay where we live on the shoreline. Often there's a rim of ice between the shoreline and the safe ice so we'll usually find a kind of bridge from a fallen tree or rocks sticking out of the ice to navigate getting on and off the ice pack.
One of the best tools of Jane's and my winter walking was to make good use of our ski poles. This tool enables us to (almost always) stay upright over broken or slippery ice, or when we'd punch through the crust at unseen weak spots, which would otherwise find us struggling to get back up on our feet!
It's a lot of fun when you can plan an ice-walk to a friend or neighbor's home but it's best to call first to ensure that there will be someone home when we get there. And it's not beyond us, depending on how much of our stored energy we used getting there, to accept a ride back.
We'll also get plenty of vehicles to stop and offer us a ride when walking roads with high snow banks, as it probably seemed incredible that we were out there for just a "walk with Mother Nature," considering the conditions.
Favorite paths taken were to friends' or relatives' homes that we could be assured of either a "hot toddy" or a lunch or breakfast. We considered it wasn't polite of us to turn down the toddy but we did find that it had quite an effect on our stamina if we chose to walk back home. In those instances we'd quickly accept an offer to drive us.
In the neighborhood we now live in, we have many choices of short walks to take and it's never a question about our stamina getting us home. We're just too old and too smart to walk beyond those limits.
Although Jane and the Dickster love to do a "walkabout" throughout the year, it's the winter ones, when fresh snow covers the ugly impact that humans have on the environment, that we enjoy the most. "Winter Wonderland" is not just a saying! Mother Nature just covers up the ugly that we create and brings us to a true wonderland of ice and snow that is often breathtaking.
"Bring it on!" is what these to old-timers say when it comes to winter treks, although we're smart enough to acknowledge when such a walk would be "a little over our head."
And in the past, we've not been averse to accepting a ride back to our home when we've taken on a jaunt that was doable but finishing it would not be enjoyable!
Drop us an email to DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some good, healthy recreation. Don't tell the ambulance driver who it was that motivated you to do it.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.