Nature Notes

Vol. IV January 1, 1927 No. 15


Early on the morning after the snow had ceased to fall the Naturalist made his way around the Trail of the Shadows. In the dense forest thru which the trail passes for much of its length, the going was not extremely hard as the great trees with their interlacing crowns were holding much of the snow hundred feet above, but in the occasional opening the snow lay like powder upon the earth and one floundered knee-deep even with snowshoes. The sun was just coming over the eastern hills that support the rugged Tatoosh Range, and shone brightly upon the open meadow about Longmire Springs while hardly a single ray reached the trail but a few yards beyond the edge of the clearing.

animal tracks

But to walk along the forest bound trail and look out upon the sun flooded meadow there was beauty indeed. Every shrub was weighted down with fleecy whiteness and every twig was encased in snow and rimmed with flaming gold from the low hung sun beyond while the dark boles of the forest giants standing in the somber shadows framed the ever-changing panorama of light and snow and gave contrast necessary for a full appreciation of the beauty within and the glory without. If mere words can describe such a scene those first lines of the nineteenth Psalm only can do it justice.

Silent as was that Trail which in the early morning light justified its name, life was there also - and, as the story has ever run thru countless ages, where life is, there stalks tragedy for life is a passing thing and joyous as it is the grim spectre of death is never afar off.

They had left their tracks that morning in the virgin whiteness of the snow. Countless footprints of snowshoe rabbits running hither and yon, frolicking in the new fallen snow, for there was no necessity of going so far afield to secure the food that grew beside their door, and adding to the labyrinth of rabbit trails to make perfect maze of tracks, were those of many forest mice - lacy trails running here and there, turning, circling, going nowhere in particular, merely an expression of the exuberance of life released after days of storm and encouraged by the clear white rays of an early morning moon. Then came death and the tracks left by his messengers, the coyotes, the martens, and the weasels, showed that he was on sterner business bent. There was no running here and there, no frolicking in the light, but a straight hard trail that kept to the shadows at the edge of the clearing and only turned aside for an instant here when a sudden pounce cut short the play of some unsuspecting hare or heedless mouse.

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