It was late in the afternoon by the time we'd completed the scenic drive through Yosemite National Park. We'd been distracted by the looming face of Half Dome, panoramic views, lunch by a sparkling stream, neon green wolf lichens and the sweet, butterscotch scent of sun-warmed ponderosa pine bark. My cousin Heather and I had already visited Yosemite on previous trips (separately), though, so we pushed eastward toward a new destination.
The last bit of rare solstice sunlight glimmered through barren trunks and across unmarked snow drifts as I clipped into my skis. A few puffs of clouds caught the rays and turned pink against a gold and lavender sky. The highest boughs of a white pine grove glowed warmly despite the chill, and I glowed warmly, too, as I kicked up the first steep hill. As the sinuous trail swooped through glacial hills and mature forest, my stride became a joyful rhythm.
Can you spot a bear, a wolf, a porcupine, and a bobcat all on the same short walk through the woods? If you hike the Mammal Tour on the Ridge Trail you can. The Cable Natural History Museum and the North End Ski Club have partnered to install 25 life-size metal mammals along a short, scenic snowshoe trail at the North End Trailhead just south of Cable. Artist Mark Blaskey of Altoona, Wis., fabricated the mammal cutouts from steel and local volunteers installed them.