A Close Call in the Forest

By , January 23, 2010

Yesterday we hiked up into the forest on a couple of errands. Michelle and Aly planned a hike around the back loop trail to visit a few homes where the owners are out of town, to make sure no trees have fallen on them. I wanted to go to the blow down to cut some firewood. We parted ways at the junction of our trail and the “vague trail,” which cuts past the muskeg swamp and joins the back loop.

I cut several rounds, enough to fill my pack board, then headed home. When I got to the junction, I pulled up short. Things had changed since I’d passed there earlier—it appeared a tree had fallen across the trail.

I had to think for a minute, to verify this. Sometimes we have difficulty keeping track of what’s going on in the forest. We pass a root wad, or tree or rock every time we go to town, but then something will change—more or less moisture will change the colors, or a slight change in the angle of light will make something familiar seem new. We commonly ask each other really stupid questions, like, “Has this tree always been right here?” We can’t help it.

But no, there was no mistake this time. A rotten tree, over 50 feet tall, had fallen across the trail. It shattered on impact, and the part that hit the trail appeared to have been dragged out of the way. I looked closer, and saw fresh snowshoe tracks around the fragments that had clearly been pulled off the trail.

We’re the only people using our trail right now. The evidence showed that the tree had fallen just after I passed the spot. The snowshoe tracks continued down the vague trail; Michelle and Aly had not been harmed. I headed home with my load.

When Michelle and Aly arrived later, I heard the story. The tree had fallen just after they finished putting on their snowshoes. I had left so recently that they called after me to tell me they were okay, but I hadn’t heard the tree fall, or their call.

When we’d parted, I’d almost asked for kisses, but hurried away instead. Had I lingered, we would have exchanged kisses right where the tree had fallen. Likely, they would have stood there while they secured their snowshoes. One or both of them might have been injured, or worse.

We refer to our life here as being on the edge. Yesterday, we stepped a bit too close to that edge for my comfort.

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