Snow will be gone soon and then I will miss all the stories written on it that will melt away with it. For the last couple of weeks the surface of the snow has been hard due to subzero temperatures at night and it has been easy to walk around in the forest even without snowshoes. There hasn’t been much snowfall either so now all kinds of prints go zigzag among the trees and between the bushes. I particularly enjoy watching pheasants run around the forest, they remind me of Road Runners in Looney Tunes especially at this time of the year when they go totally coocoo and seeing their prints on the snow is quite enough to remind me of that funny sight. One of the local pheasants has recently discovered the sun flower seeds that have fallen down from the birdfeeder in our yard and as a result he has decided to proclaim himself as the sole ruler of the grounds. With all that eating he won’t be the fastest Road Runner in this forest though.
It wasn’t just pheasant prints that I saw today, there were also deer prints, elk prints, fox prints and the usual hare prints. Then I also saw some shoe prints, much smaller than mine, two pairs side by side heading straight and determined like they had known exactly where they were going. I decided to follow. The tracks just seemed to continue forever, without hesitations or detours. Finally they led me to a place where a huge spruce had fallen down on a ridge and with its branches it formed a roof over a sheltered dent in the stone wall. There were spruce branches on the ground and it looked like the two had stayed in that place for a while, looking down the slope to a clearing, still staying covered behind the trees. Then I saw the prints going up again to another direction and by that time my curiosity had become too much to ignore, so I absolutely had to see what was coming up. After walking another two or three kilometers I came across another hut built by the two young forest dwellers. There are quite a few fallen trees in the forest and again this hut was built on a fallen tree. This time however there was no ridge, but instead the fallen tree lay on even ground and there were branches leaning on it forming a teepee type of a structure. Again there were lots of shoe prints around the hut and it seemed like they had stayed there for some time. When I headed back home still following the prints, my heart filled with joy just to think that even in this era of computer games and 3D animations there are still children who like to spend their day in the forest and know how to find their way and have the endurance to walk long distances in challenging terrain.
Earlier this week I saw a documentary about some indigenous tribes in Brazilian rainforest. There was a government official who explained that he has to fly above the rainforests and take photos of the tribes that live in the forest to make people see that there really are people living in there so that forestry companies won’t cut down all the trees and destroy their homes. He said that those people who live in the forest (and don’t know anything about living anywhere else) are the only free people in this world. He said that it’s important that we have people like that in the world to remind us of how important it is to respect nature. Here in Finland we have plenty of forests, and it seems that even in the most densely populated areas it is possible for anyone to go into wilderness and build huts if they want to. To look at prints zigzagging here and there and wonder Where was that fox going? What was in his mind? Was he tired with such a slow pace? Or maybe he was just being careful in this open field. Or maybe this is the path he always takes, every night when he goes back to his home after a long day roaming around in the woods.