White Mountain National Forest, Pinkham Notch, NH
When you pay attention to the ground in winter, and if you are being guided by someone who can read a winter ground as easily as a book, these questions emerge: Is that track from a walker, hopper, bounder, or waddler? Are those teeth marks on the trees? On the day I join the Curious Naturalists animal tracking and snowshoe workshop with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), we have perfect conditions for tracking — a fresh thin layer of snow over a hard-packed surface.
Over nearly five hours, we follow numerous animal prints and see every track pattern but the waddlers. Squirrel, fox, deer, fisher, marten, ermine, shrew, and mouse tracks are abundant. We track a moose, finding its scat and some hairs left behind in its tracks, as well as a snowshoe hare. Once we flush out a grouse. Finally, the sun sinks down in the sky and the temperatures drop. It is time to head back to where we started, the AMC’s visitors’ center.
Afterward, we make our own tracks to the luxury of The White Mountain Hotel and Resort in North Conway, where we will spend the night. We treat ourselves to dinner in The Ledges Dining Room and to a soak in the outdoor hot tub. Weary after a long day in the woods, we fall asleep with full bellies and thoughts of the creatures making their way through the woods, leaving their stories for others to find tomorrow. — Kathryn LoConte
Appalachian Mountain Club, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Rte. 16, Pinkham’s Grant, NH. Rates: one- to two-day workshops free and fee-based; call or visit Web site for more information. 603-466-2727. outdoors.org