Snowstorm after snowstorm fell across our region of the Southern Tier all winter long, turning Round Top Park into a winter wonderland. I rode with Karen and Marilyn through fresh snow, deep snow, falling snow. Throughout the year, the trails were used by horseback riders, hikers, four-wheelers, bikers and people walking their dogs, but in winter the park became empty, a place of profound quiet and tranquility.
Before the snow came leaves blanketed the muddy earth, and then the mud froze making the trails hard to traverse. When our horses tried to walk over the uneven, icy ground their hooves sank, slipped and slide.
At the beginning of the winter some trails were better than others. A beautiful trail which wandered through a pine forest along the side of a steep ravine and led to a small creek was passable. However, the pond overflowed and the water froze across a wide grassy expanse making that part of the trail extremely dangerous to cross. Ice hidden under snow was an ever present hazard, as well as rocks and other objects buried by a snowstorm.
The winter season brought a tremendous amount of snow. The three of us rode on the main road which cuts through the park, and stayed off the trails. The road wasn’t plowed; however, the hard packed roadbed gave an even surface and good traction for the horse’s hooves. The freshly fallen snow provided a delightful and thrilling experience when the horses broke into a trot or canter.
Crisp, cold mountain air mingled with falling snow throughout the quiet woods. Animal tracks showed us that there was abundant wildlife throughout the park. Once we saw a small possum run across an open field barely visible in the deep snow, another time a flock of turkeys rushed onto the road and into the forest. Of course, everywhere we looked deer leapt and wandered all over the countryside.
All good things come to an end. The snow stopped falling sometime in March and turned to rain. The change brought new adventures, the pleasures of spring, renewal and the promise of summer.