I might be alone in this feeling, but I’m having a hard time getting out by myself these days. So when my daughter called with the offer to bring grandkids over for a walk along the lake, the answer was an easy “yes!” The road alongside the lake is a dead end, so traffic is minimal.
The road is plowed, but an older road, so ice is a concern. We’d recently had some rain on top of the snow, so I set out with care. Thanks to town sanders, the road was mostly clear and nearly ice-free. The sky was a stunning blue in one direction.
On our return trip the other direction, the sky warned of another incoming storm. Sunlight from the hazy sky glinted off footprints of neighbors who had ventured onto the ice in days past.
My grands brought their scooters, and zipped past us along the road, but made their regular stop at the wrecking ball perched next to the lake. It’s a “must stop” along the trip to the end of the road and back, and always brings smiles as they clamber onto the large black rubber ball.
On another day we got out snowshoeing, which was great–the snow has been deep enough that snow shoes are a real help in making our way along the trail. We also had a purpose. While I do not have the balance needed to cross country ski, my husband does. We have an old trolley line railbed in our neighborhood, which leads to open woodland, a great place to cross country ski (or snow shoe). But ski tracks seem to be a magnet for walkers, especially those without benefit of snow shoes! Our purpose in getting out (besides enjoying the sunshine and the air) was to create a different track, separate from the ski track, to invite walkers to follow where we snow shoed, rather than crush the ski tracks.
Along the way, we spotted deer tracks through the snow, coyote tracks, and squirrel tracks as well. The animals often used the ski tracks–as the snow gets deeper all these fellow residents have to work much harder to make their way. Using tracks already there makes so much sense.
Several woodland streams stood out in stark contrast to the snow. It’s been mild enough that water is flowing pretty freely, offering a clear picture of how the stream wends through the woods, ultimately finding its way to the Blackstone River south of us.
Our town is an oddity of sorts–almost exactly one half of the town resides in the Charles River Watershed, while the other half , as if a line were drawn across the middle of the town, faces south and drains into the Blackstone.
It had been a while since I was on snow shoes–winter last year did not offer snow that I was able to get out on. So I had to recall a few simple things. Most important? When changing directions, keep moving forward. I learned (the hard way!) that trying to turn by stepping backwards, or even simply attempting to step sideways to pivot does not work well on snow shoes. The snow was soft, so no real damage was done, and we were not far from home. After getting myself untangled and back upright, we headed on our way once more.
As we get through the winter, making wise choices, and paying attention to our surroundings is even more important than other times when we head outdoors.
Ice can be so unforgiving. Falls can have grave consequences. Watch your step, and happy trails.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.