When the Path of Life leads to Winter


            The first seconds after awaking leave me in wonder; the papery embers still glowing as I emerge from the cocoon of my sleeping bag, the winter wind sweeping over the skin of the tipi.  A sort of inner grin welcomes my enclosure. I realize it’s January; it’s been snowing all of the last week. We’re both awake not long after I begin to crunch on granola from my pack, while the fire crunches on some fresh wood. My watch, which I have been reluctant to look at, says 8:36 am. Smiles take the place of surplus words. Before long, zippers and snowshoes cling to us both. Ties are undone; orange hue gives way to a brilliant white.

            Thin wisps of cotton strands cling to the bluer than blue sky, seeming to drop little pieces down every so often. Our trek to the river is drawn out by little prints in the fresh snow. Little investigation yields our culprits: Blue Jay families form puddles moving from branch to branch, contending only with the occasional cardinal for our admiration. The feeling of existing as a walking hearth arrives with a vast, treeless expanse, twisting and turning off into the distance. Under the field of snow, the river resides. Thoughts meander to fish, swimming and scrounging in the darkness to keep warm.

            From behind, the pants of bodies and slicing of powder approaches. Bounding around the corner, down the hill, as if out of a dream, come two lines of four legged creatures, each offering breath whiter than the snow under their paws. The musher slides close and offers up a smile and thermos. The steaming distillation of warmth and sweetness of last years apples feels made just for us this day. The thought lingers as we climb onto the sled.

            A flurry of paws begins to usher us forward. From behind, the flapping of tongues seems to indicate the dog’s euphoric presence on the trail. A sense of purpose emanates from the pack as we pass the 25 foot tall musicians made of driftwood. I don’t realize just how big the smile is on my face until I pull the fleece mask up to my nose. Further on, past evergreens and snow covered stones, into fields and woods, the sled takes corners that lead to more. Views of the river carved plain dodge between trees as we round the other side of the trail. After a time, we arrive at the barn in which we partake in our morning coffee.

            The only real challenge of the day is deciding what we are to do next; ascend Mt. Ascutney? Continue our trek amongst snowy sculptures in the Path of Life Garden? Watch artisans blow glass at Simon Pearce? Rent some cross country skis from the shop across the way? Thankfully, this challenge is alleviated a bit, with the assistance of a warm cider from the Harpoon Brewery. I’m sure we can narrow it down to a couple.

               Written by John Bayles