Deer Tracks Across Frozen Creek

Deer Tracks

Deer Tracks Across Frozen Creek

When I went for a hike this weekend, following deer tracks through snow in the woods and along Coffee Creek, I was surprised by the animals’ ability to step across the wintry crust of the water’s surface, especially since the ice layer wasn’t very thick. Indeed, as seen in the above photo, at many places along the waterway a quick flow of current could be seen and heard from numerous openings, and elsewhere the covering was so thin that the darker water beneath could yet be detected.

Nevertheless, when I came across a herd of a half dozen deer, a couple were standing on an ice shelf and apparently dipping their heads into a gap in the ice for a drink. I admired their agility and light steps, as they would cross from one side of the creek to another, something I certainly wasn’t about to attempt in my efforts to trail them. I wondered about their ability to traverse the ice so easily.

Still, as I trudged through the underbrush, taking paths worn by the deer ahead of me, I thought of a passage I remembered from an Aldo Leopold text I used to teach in my Environmental Literature course. Leopold wrote of how he enjoyed following the tracks of various animals during winter, learning their habits by the spots where they regularly stopped to browse, feeding on pine leaves, twigs, or shoots.

Leopold recorded: “January observation can be almost as simple and peaceful as snow, and almost as continuous as cold. There is time not only to see who has done what, but to speculate why.” I would add that there is also time to marvel at how.

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