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Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Snowshoeing Day of the Season


The newspaper says we’ve gotten more than 32” of snow so far this brief winter. Didn’t seem that much until I got to the second switchback of our half-mile-long driveway, and the drifts proved too much for my ATV-mounted snowplow. The driveway goes up to the site where we hope to build a home someday. We’re now living in Karen’s childhood home, not far from the county road, and plowing that section of the driveway was quick and easy. Getting half of the long driveway plowed made it easier for the first day of snowshoeing in two years. Last winter was so mild, we didn’t strap on the shoes once. But, we did on Tuesday. Snowshoes, check. Gaiters, check. Poles, no (until I got some this morning at Cabela’s). Then it was up the driveway, still with about an inch over the hard-packed gravel and dirt.

The lower meadow was covered with the tracks of wild turkeys. We stopped by a large apple tree at the start of the first switchback to drop pieces of stale bread for the birds. Next, I guess, will be a big box of Honey Nut Cheerios I can’t eat now that I’m diabetic. Past the switchback, the snow alongside the driveway is pockmarked with the hoof prints of the deer that come down to graze near our house in the early mornings and evenings. At the second switchback, we keep going straight, past the ruin of Mr. Cable’s log barn. Years ago, the roof caved in, and the interior is now home to an enormous elderberry bush, which in the summer produces great bunches of purple berries, food for the magpies and shelter for the hummingbirds. We make our way down to the lower meadow, ringed on the south and east by more apple trees, and then along the now-frozen spring, which had provided water to the Cables. On past our small aspen grove, then the hundred-yard site of summer’s red peonies, to the slope leading up the backside of the home site hill. Two autumns ago, I’d transplanted a small fir tree from dead-center on the trail we’d just traveled, to a clearing just east of the trail. Every day, when we’d walk the trail, I’d look over to the little fir, and say “hello” to it. But not on this trip. The deer had nibbled away half of each branch. It looked pathetic. Still, I knew that, since the deer had not eaten the top, it would continue to grow. Sometimes I think of the deer as little more than big-eyed vermin.

We slogged up the long drag of a hill, pausing once to rest for a few seconds, wishing we’d had snowshoeing poles. Up through our putative building site overlooking the slope down to the old house. Back on the unplowed section of driveway, we could soon see Mount Spokane to the north, heavy with snow. Shortly after we moved here, we put a bench near the house site from which we could see Mount Spokane, changing with the seasons and conditions of light. From there, we can see most of the valley west of the county road, the red barns and white fences, and cattle grazing spring through fall. Sound echoes up the hillside, and we can hear our neighbors plowing fields or plowing snow, each in its own season. Logging trucks chugging up the county road; chainsaws working overtime; children playing in their yards; stock cars at distant Stateline Speedway; the train moving down the tracks at Otis Orchards.

Then, all downhill, past more transplanted firs – these unmolested by the deer. The breadcrumbs at the first switchback is gone, the turkeys scattered. Pete, our long-haired black cat comes to greet us. Here comes Tigger, the small middle-aged tabby wearing his perpetual sneer, the result of losing an upper fang to a carelessly swung door in his youth. They escort us back to the house. The first day of the snowshoeing season is done.

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