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Snowy woods are lovely, quiet and deep

Snow! It is finally here, and what a relief. Mt. Ashland is open again and, as I write this, the surrounding hills are covered in a thick layer of the white stuff. Yesterday, I had the good fortune to go cross-country skiing with some friends. Being used to the groomed trails of Flagstaff, Ariz. (an experience I would also highly recommend), this was something new.

We drove up Dead Indian Memorial Road (could someone please change that name?), past Buck Prairie, and further still. One of the skiers with us, who has lived in the Rogue Valley for years and knows the area well, directed us to a remote area where the snow was quite deep. We put on our skis and off we went into the wilderness. Only two skiers had preceded us on that wintry morning and, luckily for us, they had already broken a few miles of narrow trail across the enormous expanse of virgin snow.

As we skied through fields and between enormous pines, some so laden with heavy snow that they were bent completely over from the weight, the landscape was truly like something out of Dr. Zhivago, the whooshing of our skies the only sound to be heard. I found myself stopping often just to stand and gaze at the beauty of it all, and to listen to the silence.

Silence has become something so rare nowadays. Seems there is always traffic noise, even if muffled in the distance, not to mention the constant barrage of store muzak, ringtones and loud cell phone conversations of strangers we’d rather not overhear. Even in the library, people often speak in a normal-to-loud tone of voice instead of the lowered whispers that used to be the norm.

We observed wild animal tracks and tried to guess what small creature had sought refuge under the tree where the tracks disappeared. We breathed in the crisp, clear air so full of oxygen that we never seemed to tire and, sometimes, one of us would let out a shout or a whoop just because the winter beauty called for it. Just the few of us had been in that exact same spot that day, or, maybe, even for weeks or longer.

To feel so one with nature and to let it embrace us in all its magic, gives one a sense of the kind of rapture that so inspired one of my personal heroes, John Muir, known as “The Father of National Parks” for his work in Yosemite. The middle school I attended was named after him, and I grew up with an appreciation and respect for our wildlife areas. The importance of preserving them for generations to come was part of our general education at that time. I am grateful for that.

I am also grateful that I can glide down such a snowy path and feel the freedom that it brings. At one point, I spontaneously shouted out, “I am so glad I have legs that can do this!” Maybe that sounds funny, but it’s true. Having recovered from a serious injury a few years ago which could have cost me a leg, I no longer take even walking for granted, much less skiing.

Here’s to 2016: a New Year. And may whatever paths you travel down in this coming year be rich with adventure, love, courage and beauty!

Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at www.dailytidings.com/mocha-musings. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at susannewebsite@olypen.com.