It’s been a somewhat sad and interesting week in the woods.
The snow is slushy and rotten, but still deep, which makes snowshoeing difficult.
The boy and I tried to snowshoe up a draw a few days ago, only to turn back after we ended up in snow up to our hips with snowshoes on — an absolutely miserable experience.
So on Friday we just decided to do a short walk on the road along Lake McDonald. Just as we came to the Village Inn a meadowlark flushed along the lake and flew off, crashing into a window of the Cedar Tree Gift Shop. It landed on the deck, a spot of blood beneath its gorgeous head, dead. A sad event, for sure. I left it there. It would soon be a meal for a scavenger of some sort — a pine marten, a weasel or a raven would certainly make its golden body supper.
The next day we skied down the lake to Fish Creek. A friend had said the day before there were hundred of ducks and geese out on the open water of lake, which is still pretty much frozen over.
The geese were gone and so were most of the ducks. A lone trumpeter swan splashed down and then the ducks got very nervous as a bald eagle hovered overhead like a massive hummingbird, beating its huge wings against a stiff wind right over the ducks.
It plunged down into the flock and they flew away.
The eagle lifted off the water and plunged down again and stayed there for several minutes.
With several great wingbeats it lifted off again, a duck clutched in its talons. It barely flew above the ice as it carried the duck off to it nest.
The swan, perhaps worried that it might be next, took off as well, presumably looking for safer waters to the north.
All of this drama was too far way for a good photograph, but interesting to watch nonetheless.
The next day we went up the North Fork, we saw a mink on our hike as well as too many whitetails to bother counting.
Despite the snowy winter, the deer seemed to have come out OK.
On the drive home, a skunk ambled along the road sniffing around the open patches in a snowbank. I got out and took a few pictures. The skunk tolerated me for just a few minutes before it hiked its tail in the air and stamped its wee little feet.
I laughed out loud and jumped back into the truck before it had a chance to send me to a series of showers and a night spent sleeping on the porch.
Like the meadowlark and the duck, we don’t get to chose how we die, but like the skunk, we often get to chose how we live.
Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.