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  One step to far

Hunting StoriesI was about 26 years old, when I found myself cross country skiing in Pennsylvania. The day was not a typical February winter day, gray sky about 10 degrees, slight breeze and snowing. The snow was falling with enough force to lend a very quiet day and obscure my movement. Following game trails for about 5 miles I came to a marsh. It was called Levenson’s Meadow, I don’t know who Levenson was.

The “meadow” was created by a very deep channel of slow moving water. Erosion had done it’s work over the past centuries and created the channel but also an extensive wetland. The Hummocks and grasses kept the area mostly clear of people not wanting to get wet. This cold winter had in fact frozen the marsh and channel into what seemed like a solid sheet.

The snow increased its intensity and soon visibility was only about 50 feet. I looking through the trees, down into the marsh The creek channel was clearly free of hummocks and grass. One push and I was off. Leaving the trees the snow seemed to intensify further obscuring my visibility. Crossing the hummocks was fairly simple on the skis but once I made it to the channel I was able to move with a smooth and determined gait. I spotted some movement ahead of me and stopped. For some reason I was along the edge of the channel next to the grasses when I saw the otter. It would dive under the ice swim back and repeat this seemingly endlessly, until it came up with a trout. Soon there after I discovered I was watching two otters not one. I watched the two otters long enough to decide I could get closer. Slowly moving forward the otters did not notice my presence or didn’t care. As is usual one step to many and they were off. I stood and waited for a good while longer, thinking I could out wait them.

The snow was still falling but the wind had gone still the snow was accumulating on my jacket such that I was now almost completely white. It was time to head back when I decided to go look at the hole the otters were using as I go closer I noticed that I could not see the water directly under the ice. My mental recognition of the ice condition was just a half a step behind the cracking and water rushing up my legs. I managed to grab a handful of grass as the water came up to my neck. The predicament was made difficult by the 2 meter skis I had on. What allowed me to get so close is what was holding me back now. I rolled on my side and brought one leg up at a time. Eventually getting clear of the slow moving water recovered my poles and prepared for a long walk back. I had been skiing on about ½ inch of ice almost 2 inches above the water!

Immediately my skis iced up. I discovered that heavy skis were better than breaking through the ice every step. With my skis back on I started back to the cabin. The good news it was mostly up hill travel, the bad news was the last mile was all down hill. The worse news, it was snowing harder and getting colder. The wind had started blowing again. Climbing hills with cross country skis is a fairly easy task. With the proper wax, applied you can climb just about anything. However, skis need to stay dry. As Ice forming on them covers the wax and results in a very sticky situation. With the combined weight of my wet cloths and ice and snow covered skis I was tired and cold.

I decided youth pulled me through that one easily enough. The next time I might be much older and less able. From then on I always had with me the bare essentials for winter survival. Two heavy duty trash bags, with strike anywhere matches, a piece of pine molding and a space blanket and a pocket knife.


Posted by longwalker on Friday, December 09, 2005 (23:14:14) (3575 reads) [ Administration ]
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