Logging trail miles in January and now into the first week of February has been a challenge. The extremely cold temperatures (on some days) have discouraged my efforts, the accumulated snow has impacted the safety of the path and the melting of the snow has turned the trail into swampy, muddy, sloppy trenches. This past Saturday was a good day for trail hiking in many perspectives. At sunrise the temperature in Springboro Ohio was 10 degrees with the forecast promising mid 20s. If accurate, the day would yield hard terrain, frozen streams, and the traction of a few inches of snow.
I chose Germantown MetroPark and delayed my start until 9:30 hoping for temperatures in the teens for my first steps. The sun was nice…the snow was white…and the forest was quiet (not many hikers on the trail). The snow was a bit unusual – the area experienced a recent storm front with a mixture of snow and ice – and as a result the trail was like a cake: several inches of snow covered with a crunchy layer of icing. Each step involved a rhythmic crunch followed by sinking into the snow base below the crust. This made for slow hiking although the traction eliminated any slippery ups or downs.
There were sections of the trail where I was making the initial human footprints in the snow. I felt extremely honored to trail-blaze, realizing that I was the first to step foot on the new fallen snow. I was the first hiker to touch the trail, but animal tracks were often scattered along the path. Sometimes the trail was not easy to discern. I found myself following animal tracks and missing the main trail. Without snow the trail is pretty obvious but with a few inches of snow covering the terrain, the path was not always easy to recognize. With a few minor corrections I think Davy Crocket would have been proud of my discernment.
I dressed warmly and did not have a problem with the cold except when I took a break for a Builder Bar. Removing my pack for the snack and taking a load off my feet in order to eat (no, I am not going to turn into a poet), resulted in brrrrrrs down my back, tremors in my toes, and freezing feelings in my fingers. After the short pause, I hoisted my pack onto my shoulders, started down the trail, and within ten minutes my British blue-blood began to bring comfort to the walk.
One more surprise on the trail this past Saturday – About mid-day I was brought to a halt as a striking black and white winged bird came streaking through the woods. It’s beautiful wingspan was caught in contrast to the stark brown background of the trees. I didn’t see the bird’s bright red head until he chose his target. One dive bomber was followed quickly by a second as two Pileated Woodpeckers enjoyed a head-banging date for lunch. They were too far away for any kind of photo but they reminded me of Woody and Winnie on Saturday morning cartoons in the 1950s.