We are lost again. I blame the deer, two or three that left this easy to follow trail through this morning’s snow. We came on it while following a poorly marked path through thick woods. Aki scented the deer early on, racing ahead in the deep fresh snow then skidding to a stop to stare with weak eyes into the trail side woods. To her credit she allowed them to work deeper into the woods rather than breaking after them like she would after a bear.
This is a quiet gray place livened up by the dime sized snow flakes floating down through the canopy. It’s the stuff of Christmas magic but it doesn’t change the facts. We are lost. I know we are on the lower edge of the Last Chance Basin and within blocks of Chicken Ridge but without sunlight or noise to guide us we have no choice but to follow the deer trail until it brings us to a place where we can take our bearings. In minutes I hear Gold Creek. A minute more and we stand on its banks, spot where the deer crossed over to the other side then turn right and continue in the direction of the creek’s current.
The snow started falling last night. Now five inches of it rests on the forest floor with more covering each small boulder rising above the creek’s surface. With snow this deep Aki must leap rabbit like to make forward progress even while hindered by large snow balls that cling to her thin poodle hair. I stop often to pull them off.
This is new country to us but with the creek providing guidance I head toward what I hope to be the proper trail. We find an unexpected gift near the creek — three birch trees growing as if one plant —a rare find in the rain forest. Stressed by living on the edge of their natural range, they lack the sheer beauty of the Northern Paper Birch but I take pleasure in the find.
After the birch we luck onto a shallow swale providing an unobstructed path paralleling the creek that leads us onto to the main trail to home.
I chose this hike to avoid using the car, planning to settle for the expected beauty of our neighborhood backyard. Thanks to the deer we met the brave birch on a previously unseen path.