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By Dan Beard

Foot Tracks in the Snow

To those of us grown-ups who are honest and own up to being more or less sentimental, there are few things more interesting than tracks in the snow. To thread the tortuous course of a set of tracks, taking due care not once to leave the trail, is among those simple, natural and spontaneous delights often looked upon as such a matter of course that we fail to recognize the fact that our zest and pleasure in tracking, results from the hunting instinct that has come down to us from the childhood of the human race.

Even the beaten paths in the snow possess a joy all of their own, which to our mind excels that of the enchantment of the open road, that has been sung by many writers before this was penned and long before Stevenson wrote of it with such compelling charm.  

To a barefooted boy swinging on the front gate of the white picket fence, the road is both a challenge and an invitation, as he gazes wistfully down the dusty reaches and long perspectives where the fences on each side seem to converge until they meet in the unexplored distance, or where the road climbs up the hills and dips into the swales to loose itself at last in the mystic camouflage shadows of overhanging branches. 

That carefree joy in the open road, that yearning to fare forth and solve the mystery of what lies beyond comes with almost irresistible force to all of us.

But the mystery of the open highway pales into insignificance when confronted with the wonder and the enchantment of a brand new world created overnight!  A fairy world of crystal white with a sparkling cover which conceals all the rough edges of the fields, rounds off all the sharp angles of the banks, and everywhere smoothes out the irregularities of the earth's surface. 

Think of the joy of donning boots and leggins or moccasins, fastening on skis, or snowshoes, and making paths in the snow where no foot of man or beast before has left a track, to be the very first to step into the land of enchantment!  Even we grown-ups still feel a hint of these vivid pleasures which have drifted down to us from glorious boyhood like a faint incense, transporting our spirit back to the radiant days of yesterday!

It is difficult to tell whether the lure of the trackless snow or the white expanse dotted with Indian pictographs made by the feet of birds and beasts, is more attractive.  One feels the delight of an explorer in a new land of virgin snow, but one also feels the nerve tingling excitement of the cave man at the sight of game, when one follows the tracks in the snow made by the wild creatures of the woods and fields.

A road or even a trail, be it ever so wanton and casual, must be bound by certain limitations in order that we may properly call it a road, trail, path or trace.  It cannot go where it pleases; it must wind its way around obstructions, it must follow the natural grades or valleys, as did the ancient Indian "traces" [the name formerly used for Indian trails] upon which practically all our highways, yes, and railroads too, are built. 

But, not so with the tracks in the snow, they on the contrary, are delightfully random, aimless and irresponsible and go where they list, under the fallen logs, or leap over them, sometimes running on top of one to its full extent, or they may recklessly cross the traveled road at right angles, go over a stone wall or up a hill or down; apparently they are incorrigible, simply happening or coming to pass and governed by no rules or purpose. 

They either have no destination or they have their own idea of where they are going, and their own manner of getting there; they fascinate both man and boy, for each of us is curious to know to what unexpected adventure these tracks may lead.

BB

 

 

 

   

 

 


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Eskimo Snow ] Winter Camping ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.