Thursday, February 5, 2009

Approaching Zero, Rising Moon, and a New World

Its 6:30pm on a Thursday evening. Current temperature is 9 degrees and falling with a 5-10 mile an hour 'breeze'. I leave the nice comfortable cocoon of my car and strap on my snowshoes to make a test run of our upcoming full moon snowshoe hike. First thing, suddenly its not cold! It's amazing that with a little layering of polypropylene and polar fleece, you are never cold snowshoeing!

I then turn on my headlamp at first to see if it works; it does. The moon is 4 days from full and is high in the sky and about to the 3/4 stage. Venus shines very brightly to the south and as I look overhead I can see the milky way in crystalline condition. I alternate snowshoeing with my light on and off and decide to keep it on only to make sure I don't walk into a dead branch at eye level. In the distance though you see the ghostly glow of pure white snow against the moonlight.

Every 15 minutes or so I stop and listen. The woods seem almost dead quiet except for the whispering of the pines in the arctic breeze. I see tracks everywhere but no eyes peering back. Its funny for the first half hour or so, you feel a little on edge being alone in the dark. I look at the large shadows cast by the 100 year old pines and initially it seems a bit spoky to me. Then I feel comforted by their shadows.

I think about the history of this place, 250 years of wood lots, farms, saw mills, a quarry, pastures, and even Indian Wars. Yet here it sits on a cold winter night much the same as it always has, waiting for someone else to discover it. Despite the fact I've been on this hill several hundred times in the past 10 years, when I come here this night, it looks oh so alien to me. So some night, maybe soon, maybe 100 years from now, when someone else takes this trek they'll get to experience the glory of a cold winter night just like all those who have gone before these last few hundred years!

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