A Snow Gnome’s Brave Leap

This winter at the Field School we were bestowed the gift of snow in our last weeks before break. In moments like this, preferred modes of transport change for Crow’s Path-ers; for a short period of time, no longer are the days of side-stepping down ravines or running down a steep footpath. Instead, we take to the shed, grab a sap bucket lid, and head out to the land to explore the secret sledding spots hidden throughout the snowscape. Where are these spots you may ask? We invite you to go explore and find your very own! Each forested sled run is riddled with its own obstacles; bends and twists in the trail, trees in the way, a natural jump formed from the pile of snow accumulating on a decaying log. And, as any good Crow’s Path-er knows, it is important to be mindful about where we are sledding and the impact that might have on a given area, like erosion or soil compaction.

The Field School kiddos aren’t the only ones changing the way they move through the landscape when the sky lays down its white blanket; mice, voles, and shrews take to their bunkers beneath the snow in the Subnivean Zone. The creation of this zone starts with the first snowfall that sticks around and continues to build up as the snow on the ground sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas without melting) and more snow accumulates on top. With a solid six inches over their heads, these critters create a network of tunnels and rooms for dining, storing tasty food, snoozing, and relieving their bowels. Once they get eight inches of snow held above their heads, this insulated layer will hover around 32 degrees fahrenheit, regardless of the outside temperatures, thanks to the unique alchemy of water.

So as you’re walking about, keep your eyes out for signs of these hidden tunnels and marvel at the mystery and magic of this ephemeral habitat!  And keep your ears open, too, for the hooting and hollering of a kiddo whizzing about the snow on a hardy metal sled.

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