Hares and Light and Cold

Today’s ski outing was up the Howson Creek Road. It was around 18 degrees, and the last of the day’s sunlight was headed toward the mountaintops; first golden, then pink. It was too cold to not be moving, so I broke trail. There were so many snowshoe hare tracks! I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one small area. It was a hare highway, weaving in and out of tree wells, back and forth across the road, through the brush. I watched for signs of their browsing, but didn’t see any nibble marks. How the animals move is evident in their trails. Launch off the strong hind legs, small front paws touch down, then the big hind paws, and do it again. It looked as if there may have been some exuberant leaping too. (Interesting to me how the camera insists on seeing snow as so blue…)

I have only seen hares in winter a few times. In the summer they are brown, and can be seen dashing across roads. But in winter, they stay white and hidden, where they can conserve heat and energy. Once while snowshoeing, I stepped over a log and saw a perfectly still hare snugged up against the side of the dead tree. Its eyes and the tips of its ears were dark, and it did not move. I know it saw me, so I kept going.

Today I saw no hares, only tracks. When my fingers were so cold I didn’t think they would ever warm up, I turned back. As I watched, the last bit of pink light faded gently to lavender and the earth turns away from the sun till tomorrow.

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