Snowshoeing in the Chequamegon National Forest

Because snowshoeing is not technically difficult, we have the luxury of allowing the terrain and the habitat to do most of the teaching for us. We are free, then, to do other things, such as dabbling in winter natural history interpretation and track analysis. Featured on this page are some photos from a good day in the woods.

It began when we drove down an access road on a inch of new snow. It quickly became evident that we were only the second party to travel the road that day: the first, being a pack of Timber Wolves. We parked, walked back, and examined ‘the sign.’ There seemed to be at least four of them, and they were in no hurry: pausing to mill around, mark numerous scent-posts, take a snow-bath, and conduct other wolf-business. Their mood eventually changed when something alarmed them, at which point they abruptly applied the brakes, and quite literally made-tracks out of there.

The day also featured a tour of a Beaver impoundment, a trip down an early logging-era railroad grade, and a surprise encounter with a Ruffed Grouse.

During the winter months, Ruffed Grouse—lacking a downy base-layer—must burrow-roost in order to sleep warmly. They generally do this by flying into the snow, tunneling a short distance, spending the night, and then either walking, or flying out. Upon finding, what appeared to be, an example of the walk-out variation, we moved closer to investigate. As it turned out, what we had really found was an example of the walk-in variation, and the bird in question was still very much—in-residence. This led to a surprise for everyone–the grouse, included—when it burst out of the snow and flew away, under the eyes of the amazed onlookers. One never knows what to expect.

Photo credits: Melanie Muske

One Timber Wolf track: Ironically one student brought a ruler, and another a camera, in the hope of finding some tracks. Little did they know . . .
One Timber Wolf track: Ironically one student brought a ruler, and another a camera, in the hope of finding some tracks. Little did they know . . .

Here are two intersecting track-sets, one traveling across the center of the image, and the other cutting a diagonal path across the lower right corner.
Here are two intersecting track-sets, one traveling across the center of the image, and the other cutting a diagonal path across the lower right corner.

This seems to be a photo of a snow-bath, with the animal clearly rolling around in the snow. (Perhaps you had to be there)
This seems to be a photo of a wolf snow-bath, with the animal clearly rolling around in the snow. (Perhaps you had to be there)

This is the wing-tip print of a large bird that flew very low over a wolf track.
This is the wing-tip print of a large bird that flew very low over a wolf track-set, visible in the form of the drag mark in the lower left corner. While the identity of the bird is a mystery, it would not be reckless to guess Crow or Raven, in this season and setting.

Students cross an early logging-era grade: probably for a narrow gauge railroad.
Students cross an early logging-era grade: probably for a narrow gauge railroad.

There are many pathways through life--and most of them led over the top of this log. Call it, Interpretive Snowshoeing.
There are many pathways through life, and most of them led over the top of this log. Call it, Interpretive Snowshoeing.

This was a beautiful day, spent in a maturing, northern hardwood forest.
This was a beautiful day, spent in a maturing, northern hardwood forest.

Here, a student snowshoes across a Beaver dam, with the impoundment in the background. The local accommodations included a large lodge that was very much in evidence, above the ice.
Here, a student snowshoes across a Beaver dam, with the impoundment in the background. The local accommodations included a large lodge that was very much in evidence, above the ice.