Winter footing–staying close to home

Out with a daughter and grands at Silver Lake

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.

A winter blue sky at Silver Lake

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.

Late afternoon sun fights its way through the clouds, lighting up footprints on the ice

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.

The obligatory pose atop the rubber wrecking ball next to the lake

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.

Ski tracks to the left, snow shoe tracks to the right, encouraging travelers to follow our wider snow shoe tracks

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.

Deer make their way through the brush

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.

Woodland stream wends its way south

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.

The Charles River, just a few miles north of where I live, a completely different watershed (seen from High Street Trail, Bellingham)

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.

Still smiling, even after a tumble in the snow

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.

Nuthatch and bluebird, finding something to eat at our feeders

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.

When the snow gets high enough, turkeys help themselves to the birdseed!

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 editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy 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: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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