Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Slippin' and Slidin'

Rain and haze, alternating with crisp, freezing temperatures still plague the Northeast, and make walking in the woods an adventure. A couple of days ago, I spent an hour in the driving rain hiking around the hill, up the backside, and down the new path the forester has made. I was out in that horrific weather to stomp footprints into the top layer of snow.

We had a deep freeze overnight and an inch or so of ice formed over the snow. Even on flat sections of the path, the ice was impassable because it was so slick. Even shuffling couldn’t keep my feet from slipping. The slightest four-inch rise or bump was an invitation to disaster. But my footprints—two inches deep in the ice—made for very safe walking. All I had to do was keep to them, even on the steepest parts of the hill.

Tasha is no respecter of footprints. She was fine the first half of the walk, where the path is relatively flat. As long as she trotted instead of run, she didn’t fall. But the spot where I start up the hill (which used to be a ski slope) is dreadfully steep.

Wisely, I had driven my feet straight into the snow the day before, rather than trekking on top of it. This gave me stair-like steps to follow. As I slowly climbed, I realized that Tasha had not followed me. Instead, she was about twenty feet to my right, clawing her way up the slick crust. She saw me looking at her, and stopped.

And then she started to backslide. The panicked look on her face was hilarious (especially given there was nothing dangerous behind her). She finally slid back to the level path and had to retrace her steps to follow up the footsteps I had laid down.

We reached the top of the hill, where the trail levels off. She stayed with me, even though the walking was the best of the hike. I took a right and started down the hill, following the track the forester bulldozed. My footsteps were frozen into the snow here as well, a nice two-inch hole to step into and not slide.

Tasha went her own way again. I tried to call her to me but she wasn’t sold on following in my footsteps. Her back legs went out from under her and she skidded down the hill. Her claws caught, she righted herself, and trotted over to finish the hike in my footsteps.

Yesterday it was mushy again, and I took the opportunity to stomp out a new path. This totally confused my poor dog who had obediently followed in my footsteps, only to see me veer waaaaaay off our normal path. I wanted to check out a stream that only rushes this time of year.

I’m glad Tasha trusted me to follow, even when I took her into strange territory. That cold, pure water was worth every stompin’ step.

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