I never know what to expect on a winter hike, even one taken on an old friend like this moraine trail. We dressed for cold, Aki and I, but I still feel it numbing hands and feet. Aki shows no pain but seems ready at each trail junction to take the fork offering the quickest passage to the car.
Wishing to take advantage of several days of near zero degree weather we head toward the beaver stronghold, no longer protected by flooding waters. Passing over newly frozen translucent ice we find a scattering of pure white frost flowers. each 2 or 3 inches as if they had been tossed before a processing bride. The flowered path leads to a large square of ice recently trod upon by a congregation of beavers. It would be a lovely spot for a wedding being on the shore of this small lake, which creates enough open space for views of the Mt. McGinnis and its snow covered buddies now just catching the first morning light.
Aki draws me to the clear ice formed between the beaver’s dams. Here the very recently laid tracks of a scurrying beaver mark the lightly frosted surface. The beavers have dropped several large cottonwood trees since our last visit and severely wounded one that now leans toward the ground. It will fall in the next strong wind.
Wanting to use these new ice highways to explore other areas of the moraine we move west to where older beaver activity destroyed a once flourishing copse of woods. Now dead, the tree’s shells still stand at sharp angles to their flooded ground against a backdrop of glacier cut mountains
Aki and I are both cold now so when given the chance to walk on a sunny lake rather than a dark forest trail we take it. White frost covers the lake ice except for isolated places in lake center where tracks suddenly start then stop—the work of ravens. Walking off the lake and out of the sun we circle back to the car through Troll Woods. Green still dominates this dark mossy place but patches of sun light manage to each random spots of forest floor. One illuminates a tiny Hobbit hole mantle of sticks and moss. Tiny frost feathers formed by the breathe of its inhabitants decorate the doorway. We have seen these frosty den doors many times before but this is the first time one has sparkled for us in a single shaft of light. Eight minutes ago, as the earth rolled toward its source, sunlight began its 93 million mile journey through space. It passed over the Douglas Island Mountains then squeezed through an opening in the Troll Woods canopy. All this to give life to tiny white frost feathers trimming a rodent’s home.