It’s the cusp of winter and this spruce forest is at its ugliest. Aki doesn’t care. She dashes ahead as I ski past old growth trees heavy with moss and lichen. But I can’t ignore how the detritus of winter—dead limbs and thwigs, cones stripped of seeds by red squirrels, and dried spruce needles—discolor the snow. There are no leaves or ferns to soften the lines of the bare blueberry brush or devil’s club stocks. It must be like surprising a beautiful woman just as she stirs from a fitful sleep. At first all you notice is the tussled hair, naked imperfections in the skin, and reddened eyes. You wonder how you could have ever believed her special.
But the beauty here is found above the forest floor in the old growth spruce trees spaced along the trail like soldiers. Without winter snow or summer growth, the beauty of their strong bones has no competition.