An early-morning glimpse out my window brings me joy. The promised forecast has been delivered. The cool white landscape outside is enticing me to pull on my boots. There is something magical about the first snowfall of the season. Some believe that if you make a wish on the first snow day, it will come true. All I know for sure is that the brown aftermath that follows the most colourful season of the year has been replaced with cotton ball fluff, and that for me, brings the promise of good things to come. Even the sun is happy today, cheerfully illuminating the frosty crystals for our benefit. This is especially significant as we have planned a forest walk today.
We meet at the entrance to Summerstown Forest, five adults, and an Australian Shepherd named Beasley. Our four-legged friend is full of energy, barking, and getting his legs tangled in his leash in his excitement to get going. Beasley’s joyful impatience makes us laugh, and after choosing our route, we indulge him. Truth be told, we are just as anxious as he is to walk the trails, but it would not do to express ourselves in a similar fashion.
Mesmerized by the beauty around me, I capture a half dozen photos before we even reach the trailhead. I enjoy the freshness of newly fallen snow still clinging to bushes and branches, and I take a few still shots before hurrying to catch up with the group. It is not unusual for me to stray from the others because something draws my interest elsewhere. The photographer in me is forever alert. I am happy to be a follower today rather than a leader as I am paying no attention to our route, fully confident that I am being led in the right direction. I am sure that Beasley senses my wandering episodes because occasionally, I catch him stopping to glance back, as if to make sure I am still within sight. He needs not be concerned as I am always within earshot of the lively chats ahead.
The sunshine slanting through the fragrant evergreens casts elongated shadows across the forest, highlighting the discarded pine needles on the forest floor and the tiny crisscrossed tracks of foraging critters. As we approach lower ground, we encounter a few partially frozen water hazards. The ice is thin and not to be trusted. When we cannot easily circumvent these areas, our balance is put to the test by walking carefully across logs to get across to firmer ground. Success! We all get through without incident.
I enjoy meandering trails such as these, not only because they maximize the space, or because they make the experience feel more like a journey than a destination, but because from my position at the rear, I can often catch glimpses of those ahead as they travel towards me on a section of the same trail running parallel to me. The longer the procession, the more comical it seems.
Beasley shows no sign of fatigue and remains very attentive to his surroundings, detecting scents by the side of the trail, his ears pricking at the occasional sound. Perhaps there is a deer camouflaged in the brush a distance away that only he can sense. I am sure he is as disappointed as I am to reach the end of our hike. The time has gone by far too quickly, but there will be other outings to look forward to this winter.
My wish on this first snow day is that several billion more flakes will unite to create a thick ground cover so that other outdoor enthusiasts such as I, can choose to glide through the woods on cross-country skis next time. My fingers are crossed in the hope that this wish will not be jinxed by publicly sharing these written words. Only time will tell.
(In memory of Jean Bush and Gordon Heward, both cherished members, who passed away in 2021.)
For more information about the Cornwall Outdoor Club, visit our website at www.cornwalloudoorclub.ca or like us on Facebook.
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