Skiing on Dirty Rice

Global warming and a bumper spruce cone crop have made a mess of this trail. Blame global warming for the dead spruce needles that darken the snow until it looks like cold cajun dirty rice. Recent warm winters encourage spruce bud worm survival and this is the result. Squirrels and cross bills then decorated this giant’s cajun side dish with short spruce branches, each with several empty cones attached.  I look up expecting to see squirrels picnicking in the high branches, mother squirrels handing short cone laden branches to their children while warning them not to waste a bite. With the thoughtlessness of youth they toss the empties to the forest below.  Wind scattered clumps of tree moss add the final garnish. Chow down Monsieur Giant, the snow’s not much use for skiing.

Heavy traffic has packed the trail, leaving a well scented highway for Aki to explore. She doesn’t notice when my skis stick on spruce pitch or moss.

Leaving the forest in hopes of better snow we find the meadows covered with fine spruce seed chaff as if thousands of cross bill birds had shucked millions of spruce seeds along the meadow’s edge.

We cross the road and find a track set trail to carry us back to the car. It winds past the partially frozen river and then through woods that must have been thick with animal action last night. Aki reads the history of their passing in tracks that cross our trails every few feet. Blue skis break through the flat gray ski overcast allowing shafts of sun to reach the forest floor. Full sun illuminates the surrounding mountains by the time we head for home.

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