Episode 3 from my Writer’s Studio in the Woods series.
K and I went for a sleigh ride today. Up at 7 for first breakfast — tea and cold cereal. Then we walked a mile to get to the lodge for second breakfast: a plateload of food featuring the chef’s fresh home made bread and his pepper-cured bacon.
It reminded me of Almanzo Wilder’s breakfasts in Farmer Boy, on those winter days in upstate New York that started at 5:00 am and seemed to go on forever.
A group of over 30 people from Seattle, including nearly a dozen toddlers, joined us after breakfast, and we had enough passengers to fill two sleighs. Jack and Tiny were our horses, each weighing a bit over 2000 pounds (that’s a bit over a ton each). The horses do this route a few times every day through the winter, and they seem to know every downhill and climb along the way. We traveled through woods, on trails often shared with snowmobilers. The driver said the loud engines of trucks and snowmobiles don’t bother the horses, but a chipmunk in a tree can spook them. They’re wired to run from predators, who tend to be silent rather than noisy.
K and I were at the front and learned from the driver that his great-great grandfather had settled in this area in the late 1890s, the nearest supply town a day’s ride by horse and wagon. But now the area is busy with tourists — winter and summer. In fact, as we drove by some hay bales stacked in a yard, the driver said those would be used the next day for an outdoor wedding: the guests would sit on them (although whether during the ceremony or during the celebration afterwards wasn’t clear). The ride took us through woods — pines looming on either side, hills deep in snow in the distance. Once we entered the woods, there was not a building in sight.
The temperature was below 20º F (-7º C), so we were all grateful for a hot cider stop near the end of the ride, where we warmed our hands over a flaming cauldron. Nearby, wild turkeys feasted on grains tossed them by the drivers. The whole experience made me feel I was living in Breughel’s Hunters in the Snow.
I’m glad to be back at the Guild now, in front of the fire, about to head to my dorm and a good book before falling asleep.