April 3, 2008:
Stayed at my hunting shack last night. It’s a safe haven for me, for sure. A 16-foot by 16-foot structure with a good roof and plenty windows on all sides — to view the ample stack of firewood just outside the door, see what’s coming up from the back and hopefully see the lilacs I planted last fall bloom. I have a stack of hunting magazines (mainly centered around the rut and how to get deer close enough to lob an arrow through one) and the thick book Grey Owl, which I found on a discount table in Montreal a few years ago. That’s one I save for reading only out here in the woods.
No electricity (except for what the DC-to-AC converter in my Jeep generates via extension cord to my laptop), no plumbing and only gas lantern for light when I choose to light it.
I have a story started about my hunting shack, so I won’t go into anything too deep here. Someday I’ll get it done.
I went out to a four-miles-square of woods that we hunt on. There are a number of old logging roads that wind through this patch of trees, swamp and slashing. They are mainly used for ATV’ing and snowmobiling when conditions are right for them and the needs of the folks who use them are justified.
This day it was obvious they hadn’t been used for weeks. The roads were covered with a thick mattress of snow that had melted and frozen over to create a surface just right for crust skiing.
I started out by taking the main route north out to the far end of the now desolate area. Skiing was fast. The temps were in the high 20s and the sun had been up for a couple hours. The only sound was the peaceful cadence of my skis gliding over the sandpapery, yet very low friction, surface of the fresh crust. The skis broke small particles off the top to create a ball bearing like glide.
Upon reaching the end of the main line after 20 minutes of steady skating — stopping only once to watch a pair of whooping cranes rise out of the still frozen beaver pond and glide between me and still rising sun — I turned to the east. This would lead me back to the start via a border road that connected a series of now empty deer hunting stands.
I encountered a single wolf track a few days old. The wolf had been running, as they always seem to be. I stopped to take a few pictures. A few yards later I came across a patch of deer hide, partially frozen in the snow. I pulled it out to take a closer look and scoured the surrounding area for signs of disruption in the tall swamp grasses and brush that would tip me off to where the wolves had devoured their catch. I couldn’t see anything, so I took off after taking a few pictures of the tracks and hide.
Continuing on the road, I eventually joined back with the main line where I had started. The crust was starting to softed as the temp was rising fast. Where once before I passed without a trace of a ski on the surface, I saw the familiar V’s of my previous passing.
An adult bobcat had walked across my tracks. Along side those prints were smaller ones, probably left by a juvenile. Mom and the kid out searching for breakfast, I assumed.
I took a different route back to my Jeep by bushwhacking through a narrow ribbon of trees about 75 yards between the logging road and a farmer’s field. I know the farmer well. As I came gliding across the field, he jumped off his tractor he was using to move hay bales. We met near his barn and caught up on old times.