Twenty-five degrees one day. Thirty degrees yesterday. Thirty-five
degrees today. It is hot. I am dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and still I
am warm, as I travel in and out of the cabin working on projects. I let the
fire go out sometime in the night. Craziness.
The heat has me restless. It isn’t a good day for chores. I throw some
things into the pack, sling it over my shoulder, and race for the trail.
I have been walking thirty minutes when I hear a snowmachine off in
the distance. It is coming in my direction. A moose has crossed the trail in
the past few days, so I leave the trail and follow the moose tracks into the
trees. A few moments later the machine passes where I had been
standing. I am too deep in the forest to see it, but the stench of the
exhaust sneaks up on me; it floats across the land like a fog. I travel
I follow the tracks in the soft snow until they lead me to a major moose
trail. A moose highway. There is no scent of exhaust. The route is heavily
traveled. Hooves have pounded their way through the moss down into the
soil, leaving a long, thin trough in the earth. The moss on either side of me
is above my calves. My boots start to follow hooves. This moose trail is
almost perfectly straight; it cuts diagonally across the valley wall to the
floor below. I have a route like this below my cabin, but this one is new to
A raven flies up from behind me; I turn, but can hear the wingbeats
long before I can see the bird. I can feel the wingbeats as the bird flies
closer. The pulse flows through me with every downward thrust of the
wings. When the raven flies overhead, the sound is like I can hear the air as it
passes by each individual feather. Above me, the raven croaks its
acknowledgment. They are polite, if mischievous birds.
I continue to follow the hooves.
Down at the valley floor, the moose highway spreads out into a delta of
tracks. Thousands of prints now head helter-skelter towards the willows. I
spot a set of huge moose tracks, and follow them into the thickets.
In the willows I hear the sound of running water. The creek is flowing.
I move towards the sound, and soon find myself in slush. Overflow. I am
surrounded by overflow. I retrace my steps over what proves to be a
peninsula of dry land. Much of the valley is flooded, so I loop around and
venture downstream to investigate.
With the overflow behind me, I travel back into the willows. I am
drawn to a set of tracks that parallel my own route. Something about
them seems out of place. Upon reaching the tracks, I hover over them in
surprise and awe. They are bear tracks. They are grizzly tracks. I kneel
down to get a close-up view, and run my fingertips over the rough form in
An awake grizzly.
I count back, and figure that this bear has been out and about
sometime in the past five days, which was the last time we had a snowfall.
“Why are you awake?” I ask the tracks. There is a particularly good print
that catches my eye. The pad imprints are crystal clear, and my heart
pounds at the gap in the snow between them and the marks of the claws.
The gap is rather large.
I venture off and stop following any tracks; I am content now to simply
leave my own in the unmarked snow.