Purity of air brings many benefits — crisp views of mountain peaks, ease of breathing, confidence that the fresh snow decorating this spruce branch will melt safely in my mouth. It carries the pitchy flavor of spruce and the freshness of mountain water. I worked up a thirst skiing with Aki on a large meadow broken up by islands of spruce trees.
One section of the meadow, drained by a small stream, houses a gang of river otters. Aki found their slide first, charging down the deep “U” shaped trail, stopping just before gravity would have thrown her into the tannic stained water of the stream bed. The little dog ignores all the otter tracks leading from the slide into some small tree woods Agreeing to leave them at peace I follow Aki up stream to the beavers’ dam and their house now covered with snow except for a small shaft apparently providing air to the resting inhabitants below.
We find many small animal tracks while transiting the meadow—weasel, snowshoe hare, troops of mice, those of a struggling deer. Last week the temperature climbed well above freezing while heavy rain softened the meadow snow. Only yesterday did snow replace rain and heavy frost firmed up the snow enough for us to move freely over it. Before that a large deer wound his way across the meadow, hooves sometimes plunging 2 feet into the soft, wet snow. I look for fresher tracks of deer, made after the temperature drop facilitated travel, relieved to find them in a small thicket of trees and brush at the meadow’s edge.