Conditions were almost perfect in the Pakenham hills today: a refrozen snowpack we could all walk on, with animal tracks showing in a light layer on top; brilliant sunshine to warm us (it was minus 18°C); ices as smooth as a skating rink running down a hill (for inveterate sliders); and a steady wind (to make the pines sing).
We saw all the usual tracks as we walked in: deer, hare, fox, coyote, squirrel, deer mouse, vole, shrew, fisher, turkey, and porcupine, plus raccoon, otter and ermine. After lunch, we came upon a dead muskrat with one leg chewed off. Coyote tracks were all around it. We saw a raven and an eagle, and heard a nuthatch.
It was such a beautiful day, and the leaders remembered such a special scene in a distant place, that we risked being late getting out and made for an “ice waterfall.” It’s a thing that can be seen only in winter, after a strong thaw, such as we’ve just had. A considerable quantity of melting snow on the hillside above drips over the lip of a small rock face, gradually building curtains and columns of icicles. (In summer, the water just wets the surface and drains away.)
And we were late.