Snow blanketed roads, rooftops, the mountains and even the sky. Despite a bitterly cold evening, the morning was quite pleasant once the sun's warmth reached the valley floor. The scene was set for a a great day in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.
Snowshoes and poles in hand, I reached the deserted trail head. The layer of snow thickened as the trail rapidly became steep, and no sign of human activity was evident in the white powder. Eager to explore this new landscape, I attached my snowshoes and began an arduous yet enthralling journey into the apparent emptiness.
Simply following a trail in winter requires concentration. Familiar grooves are filled in by drifting snow, and sometimes subtle clues (with a good sense of direction) must be used. Soon the trail opens up and an avenue of trees makes navigation far easier.
As I stop from time to time, I try to regulate my labored breathing while listening to the sounds of the forest. I know this trail, and I've often seen birds, deer, elk and many more inhabitants. I've also seen evidence of more elusive Rocky Mountain wildlife, and they should be easier to spot in heavy snow. This time I can only see the tracks of rabbits and deer. Since the aspens have shed their leaves, even the wind makes little sound.
Eventually I deviate from the main trail and head deeper into the forest. I hope to catch a glimpse of wildlife, and at the same time find a sheltered spot for a lunch break. From the snow-covered forest floor I can rest and take in the beauty of the wilderness and enjoy the peace that solitude brings.
As a new storm approaches and daylight begins to fade, I begin to descend the mountainside (traveling downhill on snowshoes is fun!). I pass long shadows in the forest, and the continual but light snow has already partially filled my tracks.
For more winter images, go here.