Exploring trails at private mountain retreat in the snow
This recent snow from the "bomb cyclone" or whatever cute name we're supposed to call it calls to mind the trip McCrae and I made to Bullhead Mountain a few weeks ago. It had snowed a few days before we drove up to a small town outside Boone to stay at a mountain cabin owned by McCrae's uncle and aunt, and in the morning when we pulled on our warmest hats and coats the drifts lay deep in the mountain shadows.
We hiked up Bullhead Mountain, up the steep gravel road that was more a worn path than private road. Our calves burned and we unzipped and zipped our coats as we wandered in and out of warm patches of sun. Ryder was ecstatic about the hike. "Finally!" he seemed to exclaim as he rolled happily in the snow, "This is my kind of hike!" and once we reached the false summit of the saddle mountain he raced McCrae down the descent, bounding through snowdrifts and over downed trees.
We passed in and out of private lands and park lands - a hidden trail not marked on any state park maps - and Ryder chased mice by a patch of boulders. We plunged through snowdrifts and added our footprints to those of deer and wild turkey. In sunnier patches the wild turkey prints had expanded in size by snowmelt and looked like some extant dinosaur had ranged along the mountain - some forgotten therapod, raptor-like and ancient.
We paused at a boulder where a bonsai-sized fir tree rose from the rock. McCrae had just joined my membership at the climbing gym and we laughingly picked out problems for each other to try until the brittle rock gave way in our hands and we tumbled into drifts and branches, emerging with a few commemorative scrapes.
We crested the true summit and Ryder scampered from rock to rock smelling old rubber soles that had come and gone mixed with the scent of turkeys and the brown pebbly droppings of deer. I would have kept going, could have kept going, because the trail twisted into the woods and descended into who knows where, but McCrae called me back.
"What? Are you going to hike to the next neighbor's house?"
"Sure, I guess."
He laughed, and together McCrae and Ryder turned around and went back.
When finally we returned to the mountain cabin we had ventured about three miles up and down the mountain through snow and with detours to scramble along some rocks under cold grey skies. McCrae and I slipped into some bathing suits, bundled up in oversized bathrobes, and raced out to the cabin's hot tub where we soaked contentedly, letting fingers and toes dip in and out of the roiling surface as steam rose around us. There were still several inches of snow on the deck steps and around our little square oasis and occasionally McCrae would reach down for a handful of snow and flick ice at me or into the pool or put the entire handful on his head and sigh.