I came home from a late lunch with my sister and grabbed the dog, put on my hiking boots and headed to the park. The smell of skunk hit me before I had even parked my car, Skunkalicious I cried out as the dog sneezed and snorted. His first and so far only encounter with a skunk was a direct hit to that sensitive snout. Also the first time I realized that smells are a gas. DUH. And can permeate under closet doors. My whole house stank like skunk for a month. We head off across the hard packed snow. He flies past me like a snowboarder passing a lazy skier, spraying snow on me as he slides up behind me and then veers around. It seems like it will be slippery, me in just hiking boots, not really designed for hard pack snow, but I am careful and do not fall. I find myself feeling leery on the cliff edge and bark at the dog to come as he edges out to sniff some random flotsam. Then it is his turn to hesitate as we head out over what is normally cracked limestone; the big cracks are mostly covered with the snow, and only a few people have ventured onto this trail. I guess he remembers his fall into one last summer. He follows closely on my heels now. And as soon as we pass that area of fallen rocks that signals the return to root strewn woodland trail, he skids past me and runs ahead. The path I have chosen or more accurately we choose jointly, since he is the one that led me off the path I had intended to the Cliff Trail in the first place, has a lot of uphill climbs with flat areas, with only a long down slope at the end. It is a strenuous walk in the snow. Normally I am full speed ahead on these trails, wanting to burn as much energy as I can. I am walking slowly though today, savoring the fresh air,the brilliant sunshine, the long shadows of the trees and the sounds that are so specific to hardwood forests, birds, squirrels, snow dripping and plopping, creaking wood and the crunch of my feet on the path. I come back again and again to this idea that working out in a gym is not for me. I find myself now thinking that I really don’t care as long as I am healthy and free enough to just do this. How easy the cold air and snow seems, when it is experienced with such abiding pleasure.