Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Game Warden Files--Some Leftover Thoughts of Winter

Those who know me will know that I actually love the winter--not a fan of high winds and bitter cold; but 20 degrees with some snow on the ground and a clear sky is one of my favorite set of conditions to be in the woods. This morning, in preparation for some weekend plans I dug out the cross-country skis which provoked some conversation, and with that came some memories.
It was my first winter after moving back upstate that I learned to love snow shoes. I had some issues with a badly matched shoe and binding which cost me about a month of recovery time--probably too long on account of an over-protective doctor; but I got back on them before the end of winter and really learned to like them. The traditional shoes took me many miles into many of the environments in the lower Adirondacks and I loved the quiet "swish, swish, swish" made when walking in good rhythm under good conditions.  Over the years, I'd become quite friendly with the Havlick family which made some hi-tech shoes and several times over the years Dick Havlick  handed me a set of a newly designed shoes and told me to go out and try to break them. I never did break a pair; but since I could put more abuse on a pair of shoes in a week than many recreational users could do in a lifetime, I did give them a workout. His shoes still serve me well today.
One of my favorite, though a bit self-deprecating, memories was the evening I was coming out of Whitehouse--a well-known place west of the hamlet of Wells, along side the west branch of the Sacandaga River. The track was a seldom used snowmobile trail that offered almost perfect conditions for the shoes. It was late winter and the temperature was just about perfect for a brisk walk on shoes. The sun was going down, the sky was clear and it was just a remarkable time. Going along, my mind was wandering to the point where the walking was thought free--you could say I was "in the zone," just putting one foot in front of the other. I don't know what happened; but suddenly I found myself face first in the soft snow along the trail... and still have no idea how it happened. There were many more falls on shoes over the years; but that's one time I'll admit to having been asleep on foot--it was quite a wake up!
One year, neighboring officer, Bob Gosson made it his mission to teach me how to cross-country ski. He wasn't talking about skiing on groomed trails, he was talking back country. My wife always found it humorous that he started my lessons on a road called Cemetery Hill. His efforts paid off and within a couple years my skis were taking me many places my shoes had formerly carried me--and the trips were faster. One of my favorite days was surprising a group of snowmobilers about 4 miles back in the woods.  They were pretty shocked at seeing me that deep in without a snowmobile and the one violation among them was so minor that the look on the operator's face was better than writing a ticket.
Another great day on skis was the opening day of trout season on Fawn Lake. Fawn lake is a small lake in Hamilton county with a heritage strain of trout and some special regulations to protect it. When trout season opens, the lake is still covered with ice and there's most often still snow on the snowmobile trails. Historically, it was tough to get in and check more than one group of fishermen before word spread. The fishermen all knew what our snowmobiles looked like, and they'd hear any machine coming down the trail long before it hit the ice and would be looking closely...but they never heard the skis. We got in and checked many groups of fishermen before anyone got the word out and evidence of violations disappeared.  It made for a productive day.            
Since I've retired, I haven't been on the skis even once. We've had the snowshoes out a few times, but the winters haven't been conducive to using either lately. Hoping that this winter will be a bit better this year.

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