First the snow falls fluffy on the trail. Then with the help of frequent feet packing it down, and a little bit of chemistry, the flakes melt together and refreeze as a sheen of ice. Under these conditions my dogs Bambi their way along the trail slipping askew with every other step. And we bipeds, if not equipped with micro-spikes strapped to our boots, wrestle with the trail attempting to resist the mean collision made likely by the joint efforts of ice and gravity. That’s January and February on the wooded trails in Portland.
Well into March, micro-spike season is coming to a close. In places the trail is getting soft with mud that sucks at my boots and splatters at my ankles. At the end of the trail, just before the parking lot, there’s a brook that runs clear beneath the rough bridge that connects one bank of the footpath to the other. This would be the optimal spot to rinse the soles of my boots before climbing back into civilization. But the gravel lot at the trailhead is muddy too. My boots get caked again between the brook and my car. So I rinse them in a mud puddle and call that good enough.
Every once in a while I rinse my soul in pristine wildness. But it’s good to remember that most days a mud puddle will do. Besides, I like to carry some of the grit with me as I go.