The last few days we’ve received light dustings of snow, and almost an inch on Jan. 25, 2013. While it’s not enough for snowshoeing and doesn’t improve the cross-country skiing trails much, it creates an engaging canvas for winter hiking. If you haven’t trekked through the woods or prairies in winter, you’re missing a treat. We encourage you to visit soon and discover the beauty, quiet and entertainment a winter’s hike through the Baraboo Bluffs offers.
The forest is enveloped in a blanket of peacefulness like in no other season. Much of the natural world is sleeping, waiting for warmer temperatures. Opossums, raccoons, foxes and the bear are snug in their dens, but smaller mammals and winter birds are on the move.
The fresh snow reveals the flurry of activity in our natural landscapes that we often don’t notice. A keen tracker you needn’t be to get lost in your thoughts as you ponder what the critters were thinking as they scurried ahead of you.
Squirrel prints abound as they attempted to find their fall stashes of nuts, by smell or memory, or both? They left a dusting of brown atop the snow from digging through the frozen soil to unearth their buried treasure. Occasionally a rabbit emerged from its hollow log or pile of brush and brambles to hunt for some seeds, nuts or blades of grass, desperate for fuel to keep warm without the blanket of snow to insulate its nest. On its heels the coyote sniffed for a winter feast, if he’s lucky, showing his dexterity as he scampered over fallen logs and slippery quartzite sprinkled with snow.
Diminutive, meandering mounds through the snow mark a field mouse’s journey, painting the canvas with a miniature maze. How cold its nose must be pushing these tunnels in search of food, hoping the hawks don’t notice.
You find the fawn’s tracks beside the adult deer, then a persistent and loud peeping pulls your eyes skyward. After combing the bare, twisting branches you find the source, a female hairy woodpecker. Is she unhappy you’ve disturbed her or greeting you?
A bewilderingly huge pile of shavings at the base of a dying oak first makes you wonder who was out here with a chisel or axe, then draws your eye up to marvel at the precisely hewn cavity where insects no longer slumber, but owls, wood ducks and bats may move in. Then the unmistakable hammering echo of a pileated woodpecker reminds you whose handiwork you’re admiring.
As you amble, the pitch of the pileated’s drumming changes, signaling its move to a different tree. If you linger toward dusk, the great horned owls’ soothing hoots and coyotes’ eerie barking further interrupt the hush, highlighting an irony of winter’s tranquility.
Eventually you realize you’ve lost track of time, left the commotion of your daily grind far behind, and your stresses slipped away while you marveled at the wild harmony. The crisp air cleansed your lungs and rejuvenated your step. A relaxing calm now enveloping you nourishes your soul.
If you’re lucky, it will start snowing, big, fluffy flakes slowly drifting, just right to catch on your tongue.
What are you waiting for? Book a room, pack warm clothes and boots, and hit the road for quick but restorative getaway at the Inn at Wawanisse Point. We’ll take care of the rest. Call us at 608-355-9899.