Yesterday was Thursday. Some people call it simply that;Thursday. What’s in a name? It has the cool sound of “th” that is so hard to learn as a child. It ends with “day”, but so does every other day of the week. So, what was so special about yesterday’s version of Thursday, you might ask? Well, yesterday was a magical day; during which my kids were both in school and my husband and I both had the day off of our paying jobs. It was our magical, mystery, Thursday, date day.
How do you think we decided what to do? Did we discuss our options? Did we draw straws? My husband is a big proponent of skate skiing or alpine skiing or nordic skiing. Anything that keeps propelling him forward through his own volition he is up for; unless it is on roller skates. Roller skates, forget it. He’d just as soon have wings for arms. I know, I know, I’d love to have wings for arms. But you haven’t met my husband.
Anyways, I digress. I digress so far sometimes that it’s almost like you woke up drunk with a new tattoo and are wondering, “How the hell did I get here?” and singing Jimmy Buffet tunes. But back to my magical Thursday winter morning.
The way we decide how to spend this fantastic day is by me saying, “I am going to go hunt snowshoe hares today. What are you going to do?” And that was that. The magic was cast. Now, we only had to find snowshoes.
Luckily, I had ordered mine a few days before from MSR. I was coveting these snowshoes. I was dreaming of them the way some girls dream of Botox and designer shoes. I was checking daily to find out when they had made it into our UPS distribution center. The magic of the day truly began to happen when I saw that the coveted snowshoes were here and in the warehouse. I knew that if I did not act fast, it was now 8 am, they would end up on some overpaid and overworked UPS delivery driver’s rig. I knew with it being winter I wouldn’t even have the pleasure of seeing his awesome tan and toned legs beneath those brown shorts as he delivered my package. I knew that if I let them get loaded for the day’s deliveries that I would wait until almost dark and have them dumped on my porch with nary a glance at those golden haired legs. I had a plan. It was a magical plan.
My plan, awesome in it’s conception and it’s fruition, was to intercept the package at the facility and get those snowshoes on my own two feet for a magical day of snowshoe hare hunting. I dropped my short kid at daycare at 8:45. Then, I headed to the distribution center. I will interject here that my husband was a bit of naysayer when it came to this part of the plan. He did not believe. He did not think I could talk my way into the warehouse, pre-opening hours, and talk my snowshoes off the truck. But hear me, this is the man I love and the man I married. I know this man. Just remember this, he would not want wings for arms. Don’t begrudge him his lack of imagination.
So, I pulled into the parking lot one hour before the UPS distribution center opened to the public. Did the half awake bay door sway me? Did the sound of all of the coffee fueled voices and boxes being slid here to there keep me from ducking in? No, it did not. If anything, I am persistent.
I enter the annals of the UPS distribution center and this surly looking, yet not unattractive, woman walks right up to me as if to say, “What the hell…” I smile and say, “I’m early, I know.” “Yes, you are.” is all she manages. “But, the thing is I am going snowshoe hare hunting today and I really need my snowshoes that are about to be quarantined into one of your trucks”, I say. I plant my feet a bit further apart and prepare for a counter attack. Her surly face curls into a half smile as if to say, “Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?” and she walks off. Picture here that I, much to my husband’s amusement, was already fully geared up in camo, gaiters, hunting boots, etc. He might have laughed (he did laugh) as I headed out the door to take our short kid to daycare but it paid off to look the part when I went to abscond with my snowshoes into the early morning. And, guess what; I did leave with those snowshoes! I arrived home carrying the large box of snowshoes into the kitchen. I did not gloat or say a word. Okay, I gloated with my eyes. Either way, we were geared up for our magical day in the woods.
We set off to an area south of our house where two days before I had seen quite a few tracks. We parked right near the elk feed grounds and exited the car to the soundtrack of cows and calves mewing. It was spectacular. I pulled my new snowshoes out of the truck and strapped them onto my feet, probably tighter than I needed to but I didn’t want to leave one behind like I had done a few days before. We set off to find the trail up a canyon that I had already scoped out.
Not one foot off the hard snowmobile packed road, I stepped down towards a small creek and plant my new snowshoe in the crusty and semi-melted snow pack. Let me say here, in my defense, that the snowshoes I had borrowed the past few hunts had a bit of glide to them on inclines. I was prepared for that glide. My forward momentum was prepared for that glide and therefore I had only prepared for the “California stop”. When I planted that first step downhill in my new snowshoe, it grabbed hold like a goat head to a naked heel. It stuck to the snow like a cat’s claws to a couch. The snowshoe stayed, so did my foot that was attached to it, but my body kept going forward. I did an “end-o” into the snow up to my armpits. I am laying there and laughing as my husband stands above me fooling with his skis and not even cracking a smile. His whole demeanor seemed to say, “Really, where’d she come from?” At this point I might have mentioned how much I prefer to hunt alone or with other women because at least I or “we” would laugh at my follies. No laughter coming from the hubs, not even the crack of a grin. Great start to our magical day.
Then, I proudly lead the way to where all the tracks had been two days before. But, there was none to be found. After two days of 40 degrees and no new snow. There were no tracks. I tried to show him the remainder of one and he looked at me as if I had said I still believe in Santa Clause. Onward we went, though, in search of those tracks. Up, up, up we went. I took a meandering path through the canyon until I reached a rolling bench. At some point in my meandering I lost the hubs. I had fallen down the “rabbit hole” and lost all sense of space and time. It was at this point, some 15 minutes since I had seen or heard the man crazy enough to marry me, that I decided to yell, “Where are you?” He responds, “That’s exactly what I’ve been asking you the past 10 minutes! What are you doing? You have been standing in the same spot for 10 minutes!” Let me just say here, I love to hunt with my husband; separately, on different days, in different timbers, in different latitudes. We have a very different way of hunting. So, on the rare occasion that we do hunt together; we divide and conquer (or avoid killing each other). What he sees as me standing in one spot for 10 minutes is me hunting. It is me being hyper alert, uber aware, super sensitive in all six of my senses (yes, six!). To him, I have simply stopped my forward momentum and that seems strange to him. Remember, the guy would not want to have wings for arms!
Needless to say, even after my awesome reconnaissance mission a few days before we did not cross a single hare track in that canyon. We settled for emptying a few magazines into a few unsuspecting aspen trees. We even crossed paths with a very pretty photographer and her two dogs. She laughed at my joke, “We’re taking a few shots too, today.” Then, we headed for the car. Game over.
I settled myself into the passenger seat of my husband’s truck. I was glancing out the side window while snacking on a power bar when I saw something in the glinting snow. The sun was so bright that it was a perfect time for seeing tracks. “Stop!”, I said. “Reverse!” My husband backed the truck up to humor me (trust me…he did not believe I had seen anything). Looking out the window, I could see a perfect set of hare tracks. The hubs still didn’t believe me. I jumped out, opened the back of the truck and started gearing up. Game on!
We look at those tracks and he begrudgingly admits they are snowshoes but both of us have never seen them with the toes splayed out so wide. They were enormous and beautiful! I started following them. I followed them to the first willow death trap. It was like a natural beaver dam. I could see the runs going through it. I could see the urine and the droppings. I could see where they went in and out. I crouched at ground level from every angle I could as I circled around it. I could not find a hare. I went deeper and deeper into the bramble (rabbit hole syndrome). I ditched my ski poles because it was logistically impossible to keep them as I worked my way through the death grip of the willows. I crossed track after track after track. I followed all of them. I looked as deeply into the brambles as I could. My lab tried to squeeze her body in but to no avail. We were surrounded by sign but lacked the eyes or the dogs to scare up or find the game. After about an hour I find my husband laying down in the sunshine with a willow bush as a recliner (this, I wish I had taken a picture of!). I realize that I should stop thinking of myself and think of what he might like to do on this magical day. We decide to leave.
As we discussed our day (me talking and him listening); our perspectives on the hunt were quite different. I kept saying over and over how excited I was, “They were here!” “It’s amazing, I know they were here!”. He was like, “Yeah, but we didn’t find them so….big deal”. And I was like, “Yeah, but now I am going to go home and research them and learn their habits and when they are most active and how to hunt them without beagles….” I am trying to explain to him that if I would have found them that day it would have shortened my journey. It would have lessened my experience. I try to explain that now my hunt has been prolonged. It is a continuing saga because I will be back. I will find them. It might not be the next time or the next but I will find them. I cannot wait to try! He just sits there, driving (me crazy) without saying much of anything while I look out the window and formulate my next plan.
To be continued…..