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Across the Field and Into the Woods

As soon as I was down, we crossed the road and walked downhill in the ditch, westward, to Rocky. He was chewing on some kind of bone that appeared to have been in plastic, which he’d pulled out. We tried calling for him again but received no acknowledgement. As we approached we could see he was chewing on a set of ribs and that there was a carcass of some sort wrapped in plastic. Jesse was a little nervous about looking at the carcass, being wrapped in plastic and thrown in a ditch was very suspicious. It turns out it was just a deer carcass. But why was it wrapped in plastic? Jesse pulled Rocky away from it. Rocky took a piece with him. We walked across the road again trying to keep Rocky near. We then walked in the ditch along the road, uphill and eastward again. For whatever reason, Rocky wanted to walk on the road instead of in the ditch. We scolded him and called him and finally got him to explore the ditch. We passed the spot we came down the hill. The bluff became even steeper as we walked along side it. I said, “It’s a good thing we came down where we did; we wouldn’t have been able to climb down that.” The rounded bluff gave way to a rocky flat ledge. “There’s the old road bed.” Trees and a ravine separated us from the stone structure. Jesse led us further up to where there was a trail going into the trees at the head of the structure. We were both quite warm at this point, so Jesse took his hat and gloves off and put them on an old fencepost. I carefully set the antler on top of them. Jesse climbed down in to the ravine. I followed after him. Toward the bottom I had to slide down the rest of the way. There was a stone culvert in the stone bridge/structure. Jesse and I had gone inside it a few years ago and were amazed at how quiet it was inside. This time the remains of a dead animal lay at the mouth of the culvert. Jesse wasn’t so sure about going in without a flashlight not knowing what might be living inside. So Jesse explored the rest of the short ravine. Rocky explored above us. I was curious about the dead animal so I got closer to it and bent down. It was either a young coyote or a gray fox. How did it die? And how long had it been dead? Jesse came back to look at it more closely too. Apparently this part of the ditch was a dump site, old rusty pails, something that looked to be a rug (hard to tell with the snow on top), a chair and other items. It made me angry that people dumped stuff here instead of disposing of it properly. We climbed out of the ravine, Jesse first. Sliding in the snow and almost falling we made our way back up. Jesse said, “I don’t remember it being this bad going down.”

I replied, “Because this isn’t where we came down.”

We followed the trail along the old road bed. Jesse wondered why pine trees only grew in this spot. Again I didn’t have an answer. If we had continued on this trail we would have stepped out on to the rock pile we were looking for. Instead, we didn’t go very far on it before turning northward, stepping over an old rusty barbed wire fence. Jesse led us up the bluff, this part wasn’t steep and the trees weren’t as close together nor was there much underbrush to grab hold of our feet to trip us up. Our feet crunched in the snow. We saw more raccoon and deer tracks. Rocky came toward our general direction but wasn’t close to us and made his own paths, following his nose. We walked up the hill to the edge of the woods, a rolling field opened up before us. Jesse told me they owned half of it and rented the other half. Then we turned around and headed back down the hill. Before going down the drop to the road bed, we halted. Jesse sat down and then reclined in the snow, feet stretched out before him, leaning on his elbows. I sat down too, a little above him. Rocky continued to wander around. We listened to the birds. A woodpecker drilled on a tree some distance away across a ravine that came to the culvert on the other side. A few birds were chanting in the trees all around us. Jesse asked what they were but I wasn’t sure. Then Jesse saw a bird fly out of the tree and landed on a branch of another, making that noise. He asked if I saw the bird. It took a few moments before I saw it. It was a good sized woodpecker. I told Jesse, “I think it’s a red bellied woodpecker.”

He replied, “But it doesn’t have red belly but a red head.”

“Yeah, it’s confusing; it means it has a red head and a big belly.”

Jesse thought it should have been named a little differently. We watched the bird hop along the tree branch for a few moments before it flew away. Mindful that it had taken us over an hour to get this far and it was approaching three o’clock, I reluctantly told Jesse we should probably start heading back. Though we really didn’t want to, we decided it would be best to get up anyway since our backsides were soaked through. We headed back down the bluff to the road bed, the way we’d come, then followed the trail back to where we’d left the hat, gloves and antler. While we picked those up, Rocky explored the bottom of the ravine. We called for him; he took a few moments to come back up to us. Jesse decide it would be needless back tracking and put us much lower on the bluff if we went back down along the road and up the former snowmobile trail. Instead we crossed the road, hiked up in the ditch a little bit to get beyond the gaping ravine between the road behind us and the bluff. We climbed up and up, over fallen branches, through the trees and the brambles; angling southwest as we went. We stepped over an old fence. I was hot and sweaty, out of breath and stumbling now and then. Jesse teased me asking what’s wrong. I told him it had been awhile since I’d walked longer than an hour. He told me I should work on that. Soon we were to the top of the bluff, on the edge between the woods and the pasture. Rocky crawled under the fence and wandered around in the pasture. Jesse and I walked westward along the fence to find the best place to crawl under the fence. Jesse scooted under the wire first. I followed behind, still holding on to the antler. We walked along the fence in the pasture for a ways. We saw turkey tracks in the snow. The pasture turned southwest and then south. Up ahead was the pond. We were walking where Rocky had been on our way out. We walked down along the dike a little on the pond, this time we were on the east side of it. We turned eastward, hiking up the slope, and arrived back at the first gate. Out of the pasture and up the slope even further until we were on top of the hill. We were further to the east then what we’d been going out. Jesse was surprised we couldn’t see our tracks. The sun still glared on the snow. I was growing quite weary. Rocky had left us and was far out in the field southwest of us. We crested the hill and started to go downward again, now we could see our footprints and joined up with them. We stepped over the fence again. Jesse remarked how we didn’t walk in a straight line, even for a short distance our steps were zig-zagged. Down the ditch and back up it, across the gavel road and backyard, we’d come full circle.

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