The sunny days and perfect snow conditions for cross country skiing around here have inspired me to get out as much as I can lately. The dry and squeaky powder is a type of snow that I have not seen in many years in Maine, so it has been quite the treat to walk around amidst the stunning fronds of surface hoar atop the couple feet of snow and the squeaky sound of packed snow beneath my feet—much like the sound of pinching tapioca flour or cornstarch between your fingers. Every snow-touched surface sparkles like I have never seen before.

Surface Hoar, like miniature frozen fern fronds
Surface Hoar, like miniature frozen fern fronds

Some highlights of recent cross country ski adventures in my backyard include seeing highways of elk and moose tracks and evidence of their occasional bedding sites.

Two elk beds
Two elk beds

The snow shows evidence not only of large ungulates in the area, but also a variety of smaller animals. While in Maine seeing snowshoe hare tracks in my backyard was as common in winter as having to shovel, snowshoe hares in Jackson Hole are not quite so easy to come by; I happened upon the most remarkable example of a snowshoe hare track I have ever seen—obvious individual toes and all!

Snowshoe hare tracks next to my mitten
Snowshoe hare tracks next to my mitten
Raven prints near a carcass
Raven prints near a carcass

In recent cross country skiing forays, I have seen ermines making tracks, fox tracks, grouse tracks, raven tracks, and pine marten tracks. Who needs ski resorts with large scarring human-created tracks of different kinds across mountains and over the snow surface when you can enjoy the muted wonder of being part of an area home to so many creatures beyond humans?

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