Snow Prints

Yesterday it warmed up to a balmy 20 degrees F and I decided to take advantage of the weather by going out for a run. My exercise opportunities have been slim lately–frost bite is very real here in Minnesota–so the chance to get out was highly exciting. I donned my Underarmor base layer, pulled on a fleece and second layer of pants, and trotted out into the great white outdoors.

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Chara, checking out some tracks

It was overcast and a fresh layer of snow had coated everything–from tree branches to car tops. Here in our tiny town, it isn’t hard to be the first one out (or even the only one out), and it seems as though the municipality doesn’t believe in plowing, because all of the roads have an equal layer of snow lacquered onto them. We live next to a large public park and golf course, and in the entire time that we’ve lived here, I’ve only seen one other person using it. Yesterday was no exception–the snow was free of human prints. But despite the lack of humans, it was clear that I wasn’t alone.

As I jogged I began to notice a set of tracks that marched alongside my own. They moved with a directness that you don’t see in dogs or cats, speeding along the snow in almost a straight line. This was a critter on a mission. A fox.

The tracks followed the road all the way through the park, and then veered off suddenly into the woods. I missed the presence of them, the subtle reminder that I wasn’t the only one who had gone for a spin on this pleasant day. But I soon found other tracks–the double lined squirrel prints that stretched from tree to tree, and the feathered scrape of a bird–likely a crow–taking off from the ground. I stopped to investigate each, noting the long fingered indents that the squirrel’s front paws had left, tracing its path to where it probably now rested up in a tree top.

Later, when I took Chara out for her walk, she followed the fox’s tracks with her nose. One of the most amazing things about snow to me is the fact that it shows visible proof of another being’s passage. It reminds me that Chara has that ability all of the time–she knows who has walked down the trail alongside us without needing to see the prints. Not only that, but her nose unlocks whole worlds of knowledge about that creature–its gender, age, health, how long ago it passed. It makes me wish that I could see the world the way that she smells it!

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