31 March 2008

The Moulton Journal: The Snow Goes on Forever (and the skiing never ends)

A few weeks ago, I built a new rack to facilitate storing my skis between the floor joists in the basement. The weather was warming, snow had receded from our front yard and the fields around the house, and it looked as if trail skiing at The Moulton was about finished: Wrong: since that time, we've barely had a day over 30 deg F, and we've gotten a little fresh snow every few days. Skiing has been fantastic--thanks in part to Cam Carstarphen filling in for Paul Sawyer and grooming the trails last week. Thanks Cam!

Morning temps have been running from about 8 to 20 deg F. A couple of mornings the Extra Blue Swix was a little slow, especially for combi-skiing (there's nothing like going into a skate and having your ski jolt to a halt), but I haven't messed with it. And, despite the frequent snow, we've had typical Butte sunshine most days. This time of year, even with sub-freezing air temperatures, the sun makes you feel about 20 deg warmer. The pole-line and meadows are all good skiing, no need to feel confined to trails.

Despite the prolonged winter, the critters have no delusions about it being spring. The "bull" mice are out and about a lot at night, making long (200 yards or more) treks across the crusted snow in search of mates. This one must have caught a whiff of something good -- perhaps a berry or seed in the snow -- and made a quick detour:

And where there be active mice, there be foxes hunting mice. This one paused at the edge of a clearing, perhaps to scent the air for mice or assess the area for other predators:

Before continuing on his way, cruising over the crusted snow, toes spread apart to act like snowshoes, covering lots of ground in search of a few mice:

Back in Pennsylvania, about this time of year, in the dead of night, we would sometimes hear long, caterwauling wails. They'd damned straight make your hair stand on end. Legend was, among those who didn't know better, that there were bobcats or even catamounts still roaming the tamed Allegheny ridges. So what fierce jabberwocky made these horrible, screeching cries?

Breeding porcupines. Like many other critters, they roam in search of a mate and want to get busy. I'm not sure why all the screaming, though: either porky sex is totally fawesome, or there's those sharp quills in sensitive places! You can recognize porky tracks by their waddling and meandering gait:

By the way, friends don't let friends kill porcupines. Though they can cause the occasional stressful moment (and sore nose) for a dog or horse, what does it say about the human ability to get along with and tolerate the natural world, if we go about killing these most gentle of creatures?

On the way home, it was good to catch a glimpse of the calf moose, browsing in the aspens. When looking into brush or dense woods, focus beyond the screen of dense growth nearest you. By looking "through" instead of "at," you learn to see beyond the screen. Lots of times, you will see isolated parts of an animal -- perhaps a nibbling nose or twitching ear or moving leg -- before the Gestalt comes together and you see the whole:

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