Take the long way home for added enjoyment

I recently had an opportunity to enjoy a long day of backcountry skiing, covering a route that offered a wide range of terrain and very little human traffic.

It was intended to be a leisurely trip over easy terrain, but after my friend bailed out at the last minute, I decided to take on the entire route by myself.

The mercury was still buried deep in the bulb of my thermometer as l set off down a slight hill that connects with the old railroad tracks. Fortunately, there was enough snow cover on the tracks to prevent trashing the bottom of my old skis.

The morning sky provided more ambiance than warmth, as every breath was punctuated by a small cloud of steam that hung in the cold morning air like pixie dust.

As usual, I decided to take the long way home, which required a long climb up through an old growth forest of soaring hemlock. It was great to be out again since I didn’t get much outdoor time during the hunting season.

I intended to make up for the lost time by skiing as often as possible during ski season. To my surprise, the current ski conditions are in great shape, although the lakes and ponds should still be avoided until the rumblings of ice setting up on the lakes can be heard in the far distance. I have learned to never take ice for granted.

In the meantime, l have been happy with skiing on a variety of trails, tote roads and horse trails. There are many miles of old horse trails and tote roads though the local woods, and many of them remain untracked, under-utilized and unmentioned. They are out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Over the years, I have decided to make an adventure out of an easy trail, rather than taking on the same old familiar routes. Some of these trips have been major busts, while others were delightful boons.

Notable among such unplanned adventures are the many that were left behind. It is interesting to note how easy it is to uncover such finds when the big woods are essentially wide open for a few months.

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Ice, ice baby

Similar to most locals, I learned about ice safety the hard way. Fortunately, l’m still around to talk about it.

Although l continue to venture out on the ice, l pay strict attention to current weather conditions wherever l go. I also come prepared, dressed in wool and with an inflatable PFD vest strapped around my torso. I also keep a throw rope handy, and l wear a set of ice picks around my neck.

l auger a few holes to check the thickness of the ice, and l remain cautious in and around the inlets and outlets. I also avoid traveling in or around camps, docks, boathouses and other such structures that can absorb sunlight and weaken the ice.

There are many circulators in use on the local lakes. They are intended to protect the docks from ice damage and they can weaken the ice across a wide area.

A few seasons back, l received a stark reminder of the omnipresent dangers that winter wanderings may present. Although l don’t do much ice fishing or ice climbing anymore, l am still on the ice quite often, skating, curling, ice boating or playing pond hockey.

l learned to make my own entertainment very early on in life. I suppose that is the reason the ever-growing impact of climate change has become so pronounced to me. A decade or so ago, when the term global warming was first coined, there was actually a large segment of the population that applauded the change. They are the same folks that will remain safely ensconced in the comfort of their climate-controlled homes and cars.

As disheartening as it all appears, the natural world has proven to be incredibly resilient. After all, it has managed to weather all sorts of weather, as well as some of the worst plagues, conflagrations and even an extended ice age that would make a native Saranac’er sit up and take notice (but l doubt it would make ’em wince).

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