Deep in the 700-acre wood…

At the edge of the Aylmer Sector of Gatineau lies a priceless gem of nature: 700 acres of undeveloped forest. While developers would dearly love to get their hands on this tract of land, a group of citizens has formed that is determined to protect the area — and with good reason. Home to more than 400 plant and animal species, the Boucher Forest is a last bastion of wildlife, an incredible educational opportunity, and an unparalleled place for communing with nature on the city’s very doorstep.

And like most forests, it’s filled with a special kind of magic for those who are willing to look a little deeper into the trees…

Snow-laden branches

Snow-laden branches

Looking way up

Looking way up

The silent fallen

The silent fallen

fresh snowfall

fresh snowfall

My almost-faun

My almost-faun

Edge of the meadow

Edge of the meadow

Gateway to Narnia

Gateway to Narnia

Snowy sentinels

Snowy sentinels

Barred owl keeping watch

Barred owl keeping watch

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The Many Facets of Ice

Winter trail-walking can be hazardous if you’re not watching where you put your feet. Unexpected clumps of ice, hidden branches, new snow masking really big, really deep holes…it’s an adventure, all right. 😉

But there’s a benefit to having to keep an eye on the ground. Turns out there’s all sorts of little stuff down there that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Stuff such as ice — from the solid, polished surface of the marsh, to the ridge of broken chunks driven up along the edge of the river by the wind after a thaw, to the most amazingly gorgeous, delicate, crystalline forms.

Today’s snow will have covered up most of what I found, but it’s kind of awesome knowing that it was there, however briefly…and that I took the time to see it. 🙂

Ice from a thaw plowed up onto the river's edge by the wind.

Bank of ice from a thaw, plowed up onto the river’s edge by the wind.

ice6Ice on a tree trunk

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Crystals on a frozen marsh

Crystals on a frozen marsh

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ice1


Making Tracks

One of my favourite things about snowshoeing is being able to get off the beaten track and forge my own trails. Yesterday Charlie and I trekked right across the middle of the marsh (he had a good sniff around the beaver lodge!), through drifts that all but buried him, and right through undergrowth dense enough to have us clambering over deadfalls and squeezing between saplings.

This is the first year I’ve used poles for snowshoeing, and now I can’t imagine why I didn’t think to do so before. They’re invaluable for keeping my balance, holding aside branches, and fending off Charlie when he steps on my snowshoes while walking too close behind me. That latter bit doesn’t happen very often, though, because he’s tall enough to do much of the trail-forging all by himself. 😉

making tracks

making tracks2

making tracks3

making tracks4

 


‘Tis The Season For Snowshoeing

We already have enough (more than enough!) snow on the ground here for some decent snowshoeing and I am thrilled. As a bonus, this is the earliest I’ve ever been able to get out on the trails and it looks as though the white stuff is here to stay for a goodly length of time.

I’ve actually been out a couple of times since my last post, but the weather has been a little on the chilly side (read: too cold to take off my mittens long enough to snap a photo). Today was positively balmy by comparison, with the temperature hovering just below the freezing mark. It was perfect for getting out for more than an hour, and for these. 🙂

snowshoeing2

The underside of pine branches

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Winter willow

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Gnarled branches

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Solid beauty of a maple trunk

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Staghorn sumacs

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Breaking trails

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Tired but happy


Snow, Glorious Snow!

If you follow me on either Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that we’ve had a very white Christmas this year. Two major winter storms have passed through within a week, and someone I met along the trail today says that a third is on its way. A lot of folks in the area are crying “uncle!” and claiming that we have more than enough of the white stuff…I, on the other hand, am having a total blast with it.

Yes, it’s true, I did whine about the onset of winter, but the truth is that once it settled in (and I got used to the idea!), I remembered how much I love it. Especially days like today. Clear skies, a good eight inches of fresh powder, brilliant sunshine, cold but not disgustingly so, and my first time out this year on snowshoes.

It was glorious. 

The snowshoe trail less travelled...

The snowshoe trail less travelled…

River's edge

River’s edge

Well insulated beaver lodge

Well insulated beaver lodge

Dressed in white

Dressed in white

Waiting

Waiting

Little critter tracks

Little critter tracks

Edge of the marsh

Edge of the marsh

Snow dog

Snow dog

Picture-postcard perfect

Picture-postcard perfect


The Changing Landscape

After two days of freezing rain and just plain crappy weather, Charlie and I managed to get down to the river again at last. The weather still wasn’t great (an insulated duck suit would have been the ideal attire), but there was no holding this boy back any longer…at least, not if I wanted my sanity to survive. 😉

Even in the short time that we’d been cooped up in the house, the landscape had changed dramatically. More of the river’s edge was frozen, and the snow had rendered the ice opaque. More trails had come into view with the fresh snow as well, and we meandered into corners of the woods we’ve never before explored. At one point, we found ourselves following in the footsteps of other intrepid souls — a man, judging by the size of the boot print, and his dog. Their trail led to the edge of the marsh we’d visited last week, but on the opposite side. There were no returning tracks, so we gathered our courage (okay, I did…Charlie just thought the entire adventure was grand!) and struck out across the frozen beaver dam.

The mostly frozen beaver dam.

Despite a couple of close calls with open water — and the discovery that my new winter boots aren’t entirely waterproof above the four-inch mark 😉 — we managed to traverse the entire pond by way of a remarkably sturdy work of animal engineering, emerging at the very vantage point from which I’d viewed things before. Pretty awesome.

And, as always, I found lots of photo opportunities. 🙂

changing

changing3

changing4

changing2

changing5

changing6


The River Ice Cometh

Just back from a walk along the river and oh, yeah, it’s winter out there, all right! With the wind chill today, our temperature is hovering at about -13 Celsius (8.5F). Still, despite the chill, we actually covered a fair distance — I’ve discovered one of the perks to walking in cold weather is that I move much faster, lol! Of course, it’s going to get a lot colder out there before spring returns, and if I want to keep my sanity, I’ll be out there walking in all temperatures.

That sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but believe me, it’s saner to walk in the most frigid of temperatures than it is to have a 127-lb dog cooped up in the house for more than two consecutive days without exercise. 😉

Anyway, winter might be here, but nature still has plenty of little moments she’s willing to share with those who are looking for them (and who are in turn willing to take off their gloves to snap a photo!). Today it was a view through the trees toward the river:

cold day

And ice forming on the river:

river ice