The weather has changed. Your face no longer hurts when you step outside. You can expose your flesh without fear. It is the January thaw! Normally we get a few days, just to remind us that life will get better. This year we are getting the bonus edition! Days and days! Going out is a pleasure, but the green is still a long way away.
What this weather is good for is crunching through areas that you cannot normally traverse. Swamps and wetland, bogs and creek beds. Going through a landscape at a different angle can really change your perspective of it. Deer trails make easier travel, but even they don't stick to their regular routes. They take advantage of the lack of deep snow and frozen ground to wander.
I did some wandering of my own the other day. As I walked in the woods I saw the most peculiar tracks. It looked for all the world like a snowboarder had slid through the woods, up and down hills, through the brush, without any means of locomotion. An occasional track in the path showed the culprit to be an otter! There appeared to be two, traveling together, wandering from the flowing waters on the east side of the village, through the woods and hills, over the fields and off into the marl ponds. They slid on their bellies until the prickly grass in the fields made them push themselves up on their legs. I didn't follow them all the way, but took another detour through the swampy lands south of the woodshed.
Other creatures revealed themselves in tracks also. Raccoon, weasel, rabbit and squirrel. Fox tracks made a single line across the woods, and other larger canine tracks could have been coyote or dogs. Small tracks of mice and voles started and ended abruptly in clumps of grass. Grouse left tracks under the tamaracks.
It is easy to think that nothing is going on out there in the cold, snowy winter, but there are signs, if you take the time to look.
For those of you who can't wait for spring, I have two offerings that may make the time go by faster. On Feb 10th there will be an event called the Avon Hills Conference at St. John's University. You can read about it on the SJU website under their Outdoor University posts. It will be a day long opportunity to learn about lots of things. An incomplete list of sessions would include, 10 plants that changed MN, Mushrooms, Invasive Species control, Dakota Values, Native Plants, Poetry, MN's Underwater Forests, Oak Savannahs, Glacial history, Pond Scum, and Home Taxidermy. Something for everyone!
And for those that like to stay at home, I will be getting together some of the photos I took this summer and presenting a talk/slideshow of them to anyone who wants to see them, sometime in the second half of Feb. Before you know it, winter will be a memory and green will be popping out everywhere!