There is a narrow strip of land between the road and the ski trail. In some places it is only 20 meters, in others it’s perhaps 200 meters wide.
Surprisingly, it is a wild and natural space. Cars stay on the road and people tend to stay on the trail. In-between, one could imagine they were in the middle of nowhere.
Late last summer, I ventured to this space while looking for mushrooms. Silence descended within the first minute. No pathway underfoot, I had to step over logs, snap the little branches at eye level and wind my way around miniature wetlands.
An hour later, I emerged with a basketful of black chanterelles, matsutakes and a few boletus.
In a different place, I stepped off the road in early October to find a soft carpet of white pine needles. As I wandered around and about, yellow birch leaves rustled at my feet. I followed a tiny creek through to the ski trail.
For the past few weeks, I’ve ventured into the wilds at my back door nearly every day. There is so much to see. We rarely follow the same route twice.
As the snow deepens, I like to go with Allan more often than not. He wears bigger snowshoes than mine and leads the way.
We’ve been out for hours at a time, even on the coldest days of January.
Today, I went out on my own. Strapped the snowshoes on and stepped over the snowbank. The snow was cold and light, and I sank nearly half a meter with each step.
With the very cold temperatures this winter, the trees must be frozen through. A frosty glow gleams on the bark of the white pines. The bare branches of oaks and birches contrast with the pillowy whiteness decorating the balsam and spruce.
I take a taste of snow from a branch.
It is a little easier to step over the big fallen logs than it was in autumn — the snow buries most of them. I still break off the little branches at eye level.
The spruce and balsam have lots of these and if I am not careful, snow from above comes showering down. It’s not so bad if I put up my hood.
Today’s exploration took me up a little valley. The land dipped softly to the left, then rose gently. Two hundred meters from road to ski trail seems a lot farther now, and not just because of the deep snow.
Soon enough, I could see the ancient white pines where the ski trail winds through the forest.
I walked along the side of the trail, so as not to wreck the tracks. Then turned left again to wander through another small valley and homeward again.
Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.