I walked down the high ATV trail looking for sign in the crusty snow. The dog running ahead sniffing everything. No ATV traffic on this trail, but there was an adult and a child in recent days. In the protection of the trees the snow was softer under foot, but there was still a crunchy layer right down on the soil.
A half mile in and still no sign of life. No bunny trails, no pellets, no sounds. The lifeless woods.
The dog picked her head up a few times and sniffed the breeze looking up into the spruce trees. I looked up as well, searching for a small round shape holding tight to conserve its warmth. Nothing.
Came to the trickling creek with its icy rocks and crossed, headed for the close ridge. The snow covered the pieces of cottonwood bark making for some interesting footing on the steep hillside. Checked out the old tree stand and the little draw it overlooked. That is where the foot prints in the snow stopped.
The dog and I headed down hill. Still no tracks in the snow. No moose, hare, bird, martin, ermine tracks or trails anywhere. No sound in the woods either.
Half way down the hill we cut the middle trail. No ATV sign here either. Walked to the East and found a dead fall spruce that blocked the trail. It must have fallen during the last wind storm. Rotten all the way through right down to the roots. After the deadfall the dog and I were positive we would see something on the undisturbed trail. Nothing.
Walked all the way to the bluff at the East end of the lake. We cut one set of very old hare tracks on the trail near the shore. Very encouraging.
We walked along the shore of the lake back towards the truck. The springs however changed my plans. The ice is over and inch thick, but won’t hold my weight in the marsh grass. I lead the dog up slope through the alder bog and then the rose thicket to the lower trail. The alders and roses are void of all signs of life except for my brush busting trail. The roses were thick enough the dog started following me instead of finding her own way.
The lower trail has had two ATVs on it since it last snowed. Tired and soaked in sweat from busting through the alders and roses. What a work out. I decided we should head back to the truck along the trail. The dog does not care as long as she gets to run and crash through the woods as she pleases.
Once back at the truck the dog and I share a small lunch. I ask her opinion of what we just did, but all she is interested in discussing is what my plans are for the last bite of cheese?
That was the most lifeless woods I have been in after 28 years hunting small game in Alaska.
Rippey Trail, Jim Lake