Four days ago I happened upon a set of fresh coyote tracks, which didn’t surprise me for I’d seen so many of the same in that particular area all winter. But it was the color of scat left beside one print that stymied me.
I wanted to know what had been on the menu for breakfast. Noting hair as a component, I wondered: red squirrel? Didn’t think so. Red fox? Maybe. White-tailed deer? A possibility.
What to do? Backtrack the track, of course. Which worked well for a bit, until I realized it was going to lead me up a hill and across the street and snow was falling and I needed to head home. But . . . despite the fact that the prints would get filled in by the flakes, I promised myself a return venture in search of the main course. And I was pretty sure I could convince my guy to make the journey with me.
The moment we stepped onto the trail, I chuckled for even if I hadn’t known that some friends who had seen the photo I’d posted of the scat and prints had gone in search of the same meal over the weekend, I would have known by their tracks left behind where they had traveled. Well, especially his. Pretty cool when you can look at snowshoe tracks and identify the gender, don’t you think? But I know the pattern of Tom’s wooden snowshoes and can spot them in an instant. Paula’s are more generic, but he followed her wherever they went except for a few times when they split up like a fox or coyote would do when trying to surround prey (or figure out the maker of the prints as Tom and Paula had done), the imprint of his shoes covering hers both on and off trail.
Their journey and ours followed a certain brook where noon sunshine gleamed upon the snow and ice as the water flowed forth.
In a spot where two weeks prior I’d noted bobcat tracks crossing the brook via a log, there were fresher tracks today, though not so fresh to determine feline or canine.
Eventually, because we were close to the spot where I’d first made my discovery, and it was time for a meal of our own, my guy and I climbed up the stairs to a treehouse and sat down to dine.
We unwrapped our sandwiches while taking in the view of a bog beyond. Maybe as we ate we’d spy some action in the bog beyond. Maybe we wouldn’t. We didn’t.
Finally, we were ready to pick up where I’d left off on backtracking the coyote four days ago. Because of snow over the weekend, the prints were filled in, but still the pattern was visible, making them easy to follow. We could see that in the more recent past, a fisher had crossed over the track in search of a meal of its own.
The coyote tracks took us uphill, and eventually forced us to cross the road upon which we’d parked.
Crossing over, we followed them until they led to an area near a stream and again fisher prints entered the mix and we suspected something of importance had happened here, but couldn’t be sure what, and beyond this point the fisher went one way and the coyote crossed onto a private property and we decided we needed to give up the hunt. Drats.
In the midst of it all, however, deer tracks led the way. And so we followed those to see where they might lead.
And bingo. A feeding area where the disturbed snow indicated the deer had been seeking acorns.
Not only was it a feeding area, but also where the ungulates had bedded down, such as this youngster. Can you see its head, rounded back and legs tucked beneath?
We found at least seven beds in this spot and actually another bunch in a second spot later in our journey and gave thanks to know that the land through which we ventured is a deer yard.
A deer yard frequented by predators including the coyote we’d tracked earlier and this fisher.
Eventually, we made tracks upon a different trail for though I was there in search of someone’s meal source, my guy had a destination in mind.
Upward we climbed upon rock ledges hidden beneath snow.
A look back revealed the mountains beyond and horseshoe-shaped pond below.
It was there that white and red pines showed off their bonsai form among brothers and sisters who grew straight and tall.
Cones galore presented themselves as we reached the summit, such as these upon a red pine.
High upon the White Pines the same.
And the spruce trees didn’t want to be left out of the offerings.
We could hear the sweet chirps of birds and finally focused in on our feathered friends, puffed up as this chickadee was in response to the chilly wind. Four or five layers kept us warm, while the birds depended upon air they could trap within their feathers to feel the same way.
At last we reached an old mine and peeked within, thinking perhaps a critter or two had taken advantage of a cave to take refuge. If that was the case, we weren’t cognizant of it.
But we did enjoy the layers and reflections and colors of the mica, quartz, and feldspar for which this spot is known.
Eventually it was bear trees that captured our attention. Imagine this–your right paws grasping the beech as you climb in search of its nutritious nuts.
Simultaneously, of course, your left paws did the same as you shimmied up the trunk of the tree.
Some bears chose to leave their signatures with claw marks, while others preferred to leave their initials behind.
Either way, the bears had visited. As had fishers, deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mice, squirrels, birds, and who knows how many others. Oh, and Tom and Paula–whose tracks twisted and turned like the mammals they followed.
The tree spirit knows as we learned on this Mondate. And he shows it in his heart which is filled with hope within colored green for all that has passed this way and all that is yet to come. The fact that we didn’t discover what the coyote ate didn’t matter. What mattered more is that this is a place for all to be and become.