This morning the wind was blowing like fury and the temperature was 16 degrees but I needed to go outside. After spending a day at my desk yesterday I was ready for some fresh air. I'm spoiled and have my pick of the entire Champlain Valley and Eastern Adirondacks right out the door but today I headed for a favorite overlook with an easy retreat if the wind proved too hostile.
I bundled up and donned my blaze orange head band (it's still deer hunting season) and headed for Brookfield Road and the trailhead of the Wildway Overlook (Trail #10 on the Champlain Area Trails map.) I choose this trail at least once in every season because it gets up high and has a great view. It winds through a forest that was cut to the quick about 15 years ago so most of the trees are still pole size but there's lots of diversity and it's great to see how quickly a forest jumps back after a big cut.
The trail starts with a quick, short rise but then coasts up easy grade. Once you get up high you enter the glades of oak, hornbeam and hickory. Today the ground was covered with the first snow that has stayed on the ground. As light a layer as it is, it is beautiful against the forest floor and the big granite rocks at the lookouts. It's easy to pick out game trails and other landmarks that are hidden in summer.
The wind and cold has kept the wildlife in retreat this weekend but I found a few signs of animal life--tiny, hasty mouse tracks and slightly larger, hopping tracks of a gray squirrel on snowy, horizontal branches that have fallen and formed nice bridges. There was also a littering of furry sumac seeds, showing bright red where birds have pulled or thrown them down to the ground to eat.
The view from the overlook is spectacular in any season but today the wind made me turn my back. The twigs and branches of the trees along the edge looked like a veil between the trail and the valley beyond, offering at least some break from the big gusts.
The descent was easy with a few stops to check out small curiosities. One white birch just at the edge of the trail is coming of age and shedding its dark outer layer to show the smoothest-of-smooth new white bark inside. I wish I could wrap it back up to keep the young tree warm for a few more months but Nature has already had her say on that decision.
I reached the car with fingers frozen from using the camera and cheeks as red as the sumac seeds from the wind. Short trip, great reward on a blustery Sunday morning.