Charlie and I spent an entire afternoon hiking the trails at Dells of the Eau Claire Park yesterday. Miraculously we had the place all to ourselves!
This winter has definitely impeded our ability to get out and hike so we took full advantage of the warmer temps and stayed in the woods for most of the afternoon. The picnic tables near the parking area were topped with comically-large domes of snow. Picnic anyone?
Most of the trail was packed down from snowshoe traffic but the recent 1" of new snow on the trail was marred only by deer tracks. Layers of snow and ice still blanket the river, but if I held real still and listened hard I could hear the faint babbling of water here and there. Animal tracks criss-crossed the frozen river everywhere making the place seem almost alive with wildlife even in the absence of their physical presence.
We veered off onto lesser used trails away from the river where the path narrowed from lack of human use but the quantity of deer tracks increased to the point where I had to wonder if we were actually on a deer trail! But since I know this area well, I recognized several landmarks and knew we were on the right path. Charlie was insistent on exploring the multitude of deer paths that intersected the foot trail and quickly tired herself out from plowing through deep snow, sometimes covering her completely in its depths!
Away from the river, the only sound to be heard was the wind blowing through the pines, tree limbs rubbing against each other eerily and the occasional tweet of a bird. We stopped and took a break at the "Enchanted Forest Shelter" where I rehydrated and filled Charlie's travel bowl with water. I could tell by the amount of snow she was eating that it was time to get a drink. We had a light snack and warmed up in the sunlight before continuing on.
I've become so tired of bundling up in bulky layers this winter so I took a chance and wore jeans instead of my usual insulated hiking pants. The wind made my legs cold, but the sun warmed me up and kept me comfortable enough. Having a thinner layer on made me feel lighter and more energetic, encouraging me to hike longer than usual. I was so grateful to have more range of motion with the reduced layers! Optimism toward the change of season lit me up and I caught myself smiling more than once. Charlie's enthusiasm for being outside combined with the fresh air and sunshine made me pick up my pace and run up and down the hills at times.
I had the sunroof open on the car ride home while Charlie slept in the backseat, peacefully kicking her feet while presumably dreaming of all the deer trails she explored today. It's been a long winter with record snowfall and sub-zero temperatures but amazingly we made it through and the end is near; we survived!