Let it Snow

Oh, the weather outside is delightful :). 3 inches/7.5 cm of new snow on the ground with more to come, and the woodland was still and silent, no other biped but me. This winter has turned out to be a good one, we’ve now just topped our seasonal average for snowfall accumulation, reaching 40 inches/102 cm.

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There’s nothing quite like the feel of fresh powder beneath your snowshoes ;). Just out for a short day hike to enjoy the snow, but I also took my newly refurbished full-sized axe with me.

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This plastic bag kept the snow off.

Winter is prime-time to hone your tracking skills, if there’s snow on the ground, that is. Not only is it good to read the landscape and see how the wildlife are living day-to-day, but it can be very useful for pointing-out abnormalities. Just the other day at work, one of the park rangers showed me the footprints from a rather grisly encounter. Closer inspection revealed a fight between two dogs, or perhaps a dog and a coyote. There was a trail of blood and canine prints leading away from the spot where the fight had occurred, but it was impossible to tell much else because the snow had been cleared along the adjacent path where the prints originated. The ranger and I found two canine hairs, but we are both unsure if they belong to a domestic dog or a coyote.

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These are the prints of a Grey Squirrel coming from either of those two trees.

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One of many deer trails in the area, these tracks are relatively fresh. And nearby I spotted an antler rub on a young Black Oak.

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This is a dead giveaway that there’s at least one buck in the area. The stags do this to scrape off the velvet from their antlers.

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Holy smokes!! Bigfoot tracks!! Oh wait, they’re mine, hahaha :p.

Normally I wouldn’t advise bringing along a full-sized axe for general outings, but for trail maintenance, the extra weight in the head and longer helve give it an advantage when cutting large timber. There weren’t any downed trees blocking the paths, so I chose a fallen oak log about 8 inches/20 cm diameter off trail to test the axe’s performance.

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The wood was well seasoned and frozen, which made it quite hard and a bit difficult to chop. I got through it, but I can tell that swinging an axe this size will take some getting used to. It is important to flex your knees when you bring the axe down to chop so that you change the circular swinging motion into a straight, parallel one – this minimises injury and allows you get more momentum with each chop. Don’t force the axe down onto the wood, let the weight of the head do the work. Nevertheless, my arms were tired afterwards :p. But the edge stayed perfectly intact, no rolling, chips, or blunt spots to be seen, still hair-popping sharp – I am quite happy with that :).

And to end my wander…

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…here’s some frosty epic beard-ness :D.

Beards and moustaches provide a natural means for preventing frostnip and even frostbite on the lower face (and neck, if your beard is long enough) by shielding the skin from wind and snow. Inuit men grow moustaches for exactly this reason.

 

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