Home woods

One of my favorite places to go when I have little time or ambition is just across the street. Between River Road and Route 10, between Hewes Brook and Grant Brook, is a sizeable block of roadless forest, with rolling hills, steep ravines, and a variety of forest regions ranging from firs to pines to maples and oaks. Most of it is managed for timber, so there is ample room to meander under the mature trees and there are skidder trails here and there that provide walkable paths – some even skiable. The hill rises steeply across from our house, giving one an immediate workout, but once up on the ridge, or down in the valley on the other side, it’s a magical place.

A hardwood forest – seen in black & white.

I mostly visit here in winter, on snowshoes or skis, traversing above the litter of the forest floor and pondering the many tracks animals leave behind. Deer tracks are never out of sight; mouse and squirrel tracks are common; bear and fox are an occasional treat. There were plenty of deer tracks criss-crossing my path today, as my snowshoes waded through the fresh powder laid down by that storm two days ago. I happened to look up at the right moment to see a huge owl gliding through the treetops ahead of me, totally soundless in this quiet snowscape. Someday I hope to have a chance to photograph these elusive neighbors.

Snowshoeing through an area dominated by firs and pines.

When I head into these woods I rarely have a plan or a particular goal; I follow my whims, noting landmarks familiar from two decades of wandering or exploring new directions to see what I might discover. Today I went further north than ever before, eventually popping out on the Lyme Hill – Grant Brook trail, as expected, giving me an easy exit down to River Road for the walk back home.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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