I should have known it would come to this as nothing lasts forever. My guy and I had driven to Lake Environmental Association’s Highland Research Forest and the sight at our feet when we stepped out of the truck might have been the first clue.
It was a vole tunnel–covered only by a thin layer of snow and it showed the different directions the little rodent had taken as it searched for food in the subnivean zone, that rather warm (think 32˚) space between the ground and snow where one might be protected from the harsh realities of winter. It looked like first the vole wanted to go this way and then that and there were even holes where he’d come to the surface. But what about her? Had she followed him? Or taken her own route?
Maybe it was because I’d said before we’d started that we’d check out the trails LEA had designed, but within minutes I thought it was better that we bushwhack instead for I’m forever curious about wetlands.
Or was it the fact that I said, let’s go out on the ice just after I said we need to be careful? But if we hadn’t done so, we might not have seen the small beaver lodge that we spied through the tree carcass.
Could it have been that he really wanted to get back on the trail while I wanted to look for the heron nest?
I will say he didn’t seem to mind that we saw the larger beaver lodge, though we didn’t cross too close to it.
He did seem excited about the rather fresh beaver works we discovered when I finally did what he wanted and climbed up the hill away from the ice.
But he certainly wasn’t as excited as I was about the lungwort that grew all the way up the trunk of the old sugar maple the beaver was in the process of chopping down and made me realize that the tree had survived the past history of this land . . . until now.
Below the tree was the beaver dam and I thought for sure he’d want to go down and take a look, but he didn’t have that desire.
Instead, he wanted to try to relocate the blue-flagged trail and so he followed deer tracks and headed inland.
But, my heart was drawn to the water and I really wanted to follow the brook.
For I had a feeling it would feature some cool finds. And it did.
His heart wasnt filled with joy at the sight of those five tear-drop shaped toes or the diagonal orientation of the fisher prints.
What did excite him? The discovery of blue flagging.
He did seem a wee bit enthused by another set of prints–that of a bobcat.
A burl covered in violet-toothed fungi, however, was not a view he needed to pause under.
Instead, he moved on quickly and discovered water we might need to ford.
I, on the other hand, took a few moments to get my fill of ice sculptures dangling over the rushing water.
Ice. It’s so fleeting, like a summer flower. And like a flower, every day it opens up a little more and changes and then . . . whoosh. A day too warm and it dries up.
As he looked for a place to cross the brook and then realized we should just follow it, barbed wire growing through a tree drew his attention for he’d been wondering if anyone had wandered this way a hundred years ago.
As it went today, we followed the trail and one another sometimes and bushwhacked across the landscape in other moments.
We didn’t exactly stay within the forest, for eventually we found ourselves sitting on a privately owned association beach overlooking Highland Lake.
We actually sat on lunch rock together as we topped off our PB&J sandwiches with a shared Guinness in honor of this being the birthday of Arthur Guinness’ St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. Oh, and piece of shortbread from the Shortbread House in Scotland added a sweet touch to this: Our Final Mondate . . .
of 2018. And then I followed my guy back into the forest.