Tuesday, March 5

Winter Beaver Field

One of the many things I love about snowshoeing is its ability to take me places in winter I can't get to at any other time of year.

There are swaths in the forest littered with fallen tree trunks, up-ended root plates and dense new growth. Picture a giant's game of 'pick up sticks'. In the summer, it's impossible to traverse over or through these tangled woods. In the winter, though, it's a different story. Snow levels it all out. It fills in the deep spaces, drifts around and over obstacles, smoothes the ragged jangle into graceful rolls and mounds. With snowshoes on to disperse your weight, you can walk right over top of fallen timber and small trees.

The other benefit of winter has to do with water obstacles, not wood ones. When lakes, ponds and marshes freeze over, we can, in a sense, walk on water and explore areas otherwise inaccessible. And that's exactly what we did this week.

If you've read my post about the beaver activity in our forest, you know those hard-working rodents have created exactly the kind of environment I've just described: layers of debris from felled trees plus a murky pond of unknown depth. Impassable -- but only until the snow accumulates. That's when we strap on the snowshoes, grab the camera, and head out to explore. This week we tromped over to the beaver pond and discovered it was now a beaver field.

As we were snowshoeing along a slight ridge in a fairly open area, we realized we were actually walking on a beaver damn. Our suspicions were confirmed when we came across an air or access hole in the damn. As we wound our way over the field/pond, we also found the beaver lodge, a mound the size of a pup tent, and again with an air or access hole in the top.

We saw other signs of beaver activity in the area, including a small felled tree with some of the bark chewed off and a number of other recently-gnawed trees.

The ridge is a beaver dam.
Air or access hole on the beaver dam.
A peek down the hole.
Beaver lodge.
Gnawed tree.
Lunch time!

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