April 27th is the earliest I’ve ever been on the Johnson Medra trail. I was able to get there because the Teanaway Road was plowed for winter logging. Usually this road is still under three feet of snow in late April. Today I was able to drive to the trailhead (high clearance vehicles recommended due to washouts). There is still snow on the bridge across the river, but I was able to slip over it.
Snow is melting under the trees, revealing a few bare patches. It’s early though and the trail is mostly snow-covered. I had snowshoes strapped to my pack, but didn’t use them. The snow is firm enough that I was able to walk easily, one foot sinking down a few times. The woods are filled with the sound of running water. Johnson Creek is flowing steadily. Otherwise it was quiet–the birds moving through the valley here are not up in the snowy forest.
As I slipped though the lodgepole pines, I wondered who scattered the green twigs. Picked one up and saw that it had been neatly clipped by rodent teeth. There were also freshly peeled sticks left on the snow. I imagined a porcupine lumbering up into the trees to inch out on the branches. Chewing twigs and letting them plop down on the firm snow. Then back down the tree to check out the pickings. Porcupines eat the cambium, the inner bark that carries food and water up and down the tree. It must be tasting pretty sweet now.
Further up the trail, I rested with my back against a fir tree. Hunkered there listening to the water and watching the fir boughs across the slope moving gently in the air. The sky was an even gray, the atmosphere moist with rain coming. When my sweat cooled, it was time to hike out to stay warm.
I haven’t seen a porcupine in a long time, but I’m glad to know they’re out there.