Skiing high on the mountain in the early morning, I deviate from my planned route to follow the tracks of a moose, probably from the evening before. Snow falls in waves of varying intensity. The tracks zig and zag, plotting a course that’s steadily uphill, through a hardwood forest that opens as I climb, until I reach the narrow shelf of a ridge that ends in an abrupt plunge down the eastward-facing side. The trees are mostly maple. The tracks of the moose I followed merge with the tracks of more moose, or at least one other moose; it’s hard to tell for certain, the way they come together and apart, together and apart. The animals – or one of them, anyway – must be close, because these tracks are fresher, still sharp around their edges despite the falling snow. I watch for them as I ski, it’s always so startling to see a moose, the horse-like mass of them, the legs almost comically long and too thin for what they support, but all I see is snow and tree and sky. All I hear is wind and my own steady breath, and even as I turn to retrace my tracks, the day and its long list calling me back to where I left my truck at a wide spot in the road, I know I’ll return.
Far back down the trail, I stop and listen again. Now I can hear, faintly, the distant thrum of an engine as a driver revs to make the grade of the Mountain Road. The snow has stopped except for the occasional lazy flake. The wind is gentler, too, but it no longer feels like we’re on the cusp of anything. It just feels like winter, cold and white and quiet, the sky that same stubborn grey it’s been for weeks.
I think about the remnants of coffee in the cracked mug I left in the cupholder of the truck. It won’t be hot anymore, that’s for sure. It won’t even be warm. But I’m going to drink it anyway.