Gaiters

Winter is coming….no, this isn’t about Game of Thrones, but the fact that snow season is coming up fast. Previous years have taught me that trudging through a thick blanket of accumulation, even with snowshoes, gives me damp, cold calves from kicked-up snow. I need something to protect that area. Gaiters, or leggings, are the solution, though they can be fairly expensive.

Well, I had an old Swiss Army poncho lying around, never used it because it was too heavy and bulky to justify its value in my rucksack. Rather than going out and buy a set of gaiters, I decided I would recycle the poncho and make a pair myself. The design I planned is very basic, just a “slip-on” knee-high type, so no velcro, elastic, zippers, or any of that fancy stuff. The gaiters will be tied at the top and have a toggle system at the bottom to keep things closed-off and snug.

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Here’s my progress on the first one. The fly line backing was just something I had on-hand and makes for a strong thread.

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And they’re done! Not bad for 4.5 hours work :). Those are my winter boots in the background, vintage Sorel Champions (about 50 years old, made in Canada) which were handed down to me by my brother’s godfather, an avid skier and former Boy Scout. Now to try on the gaiters…

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A perfect fit :). Two days later, and Nature kindly gave me the chance for a proper test, the first snowstorm of the season.

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I took them for a 5 mile hike in the snow. It wasn’t deep at 12 cm (about 5 inches) accumulation, but the gaiters worked brilliantly…no more clammy, frozen calves for me :). Probably saved about $30, and I have a lot of left-over material from the poncho to work with for future projects.

A Shortcut to Black Walnuts

I was out for a short wander the other day, and decided to take a quick shortcut by following a frequented deer path. I made my turn and noticed the scratch markings shown below on a Norway Maple sapling. Apparently, a buck came through to scrape the velvet off his antlers.

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And about 8 yards further, I saw another scuff mark. There were also some fresh droppings in the area, as well.

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I must admit that curiosity got the better of me, so I continued on, hoping to see this magnificent animal in the undergrowth. However, off to my right I caught glimpse of squirrels moving excitedly about forest floor beneath a stand of Eastern White Pine and Norway Spruce.

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Now I see what they were rummaging around for – walnuts. This scattered pile was right beneath a Black walnut tree at the edge of the conifer cluster. I think I’ll take a few and have a snack :).

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Man, there is nothing quite like the smell and taste of Black Walnuts…delicious :). As you can see, I cracked these open with a heavy rock, since the shells are very thick. I only took a few to nibble on – the squirrels can have the rest.

After my brief munch, I moved back on the deer trail, meandering stealthily through the bushes and making as little noise as possible so that I could hopefully approach the animals without scaring them off. My careful treading paid off, and up ahead a buck charged out of the undergrowth, apparently thinking that I was also a buck. But once he had a better view of me, he quickly turned around and disappeared the way he came. A few seconds later, I saw him and his girlfriend trotting away. Too bad I didn’t have my camera out in time. Still, those Black Walnuts made the detour well worth it ;).

First Snow of the Season

I woke up this morning to a beautiful, frosty landscape. We had a light dusting of snow, no more than 2 cm (just under an inch) accumulation, but it sure made me excited :).

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Norway Spruces (left) and Black Oak Ridge.

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I met a curious deer along the way. 🙂

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Nearing the summit of Black Oak Ridge.

I could never understand why so many local residents these days scorn our winters and the “horrid cold”. I guess it’s because most of them are new to the region and they haven’t yet become used to it. Oh well…I’ll leave them to gripe and grumble about the weather until May.

Second to autumn, winter is my favourite time of year. The frosty air, the hidden, sleeping essence in the forest, and snow make it an enjoyable season. Some would look at the landscape and call it “desolate”, but there is still life to be seen and heard – white-tailed deer, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, and a variety of winter birds, to name a few. The fact that the woodlands and fields are no longer lush green and covered in a crystalline, snowy quilt doesn’t give a bleak appearance to my eye – I find it beautiful, full of scenic wonders waiting for the outdoorsman/woman to discover :).