This morning I cross-country skied at the Vischer Ferry Preserve in Clifton Park. It is a very friendly place to ski, with lots of long, straight trails, perfectly flat as it shoulders the Mohawk River. We had our first real snowfall of the season (in March!) so I just had to make a token effort to get out at least once. It was a beautiful winter morning.
I wandered down a dead-end trail or two.
While skiing along a main trail, a group of deer tracks crossed my path. Deciding to follow them, I wasn’t sure which direction to go. I paused and took a long look at them, noticing that I could probably head in the direction that the two toes pointed. I followed the tracks into the woods. The tracks meandered over logs and under brush, and eventually sniffed around a swampy water’s edge, seemingly searching for something.
My first thought was that they must be seeking drinking water. In fact, it looks like they were searching for a convenient place to cross over to the other side of the swamp.
After following the tracks a while longer, I came to place where the deer successfully forded a major section of swamp. Not the nicest place to ski, but screw it. I’ve skied worse. Actually, that is a lie. This is the ugliest 10 feet of skiing I have ever done.
After the mucky ford, I knew I was headed in the right direction. The approaching tracks were clean, the departing tracks were covered in mud. I am getting closer.
Before long, fleeing deer appeared on all sides of my vision’s periphery, leaving me no chance to fumble my camera into action. I made chase. It was easy to distinguish the new frantic tracks from the old moseying ones. The new tracks kicked up mud with footholes at steep angles as the deer banked left and right, leaving leaping gaps of 10 feet or more between groups of footfalls.
I followed tracks in every direction, criss-crossing back and forth over all kinds of tracks including my own.
I crossed over my own path one too many times and gave up, letting the deer enjoy their victorious escape. Amazingly, I picked a direction and headed straight, and before long magically found the spot where I had originally diverted from the main path. I returned to the car and called it a morning.