The crunching of my Tubbs snowshoes broke the silence as Nora the Schnauzer led our trek to Andies Ridge two Fridays ago.
A recent rain hardened by a freeze had left the snow in perfect condition for her. She cavorted on the crust without sinking even a toenail below the surface.
The icy crust also made strolling along quite easy for me, despite a 28-degree curtain of fog.
And with the solitude, the winter scenery and the happy Schnauzer, zing went the strings of my heart.
We arrived at Andies Prairie Sno-Park in the late morning and parked beside the only other vehicle there, one with an empty snowmobile trailer.
Nora waited for me to push her sweater over her head. A southpaw, she lifted her left foot, and I pulled her leg through the hole. Then she lifted her right foot.
Dressed in red, she added color to the scene as she raced to a snow bank, climbed it and dashed from tree to tree with her nose to the ground.
I draped a towel over the wagon's rear bumper and sat on it to put on gaiters and snowshoes.
I wore long johns and a wool shirt. I added a down vest and my Capuche (a fleece hood, see website capucheheadgear.com).
My daypack contained water, snacks, a sweater, rain gear, first aid kit and emergency kit (with plastic tarp, matches, fire-starter gel, etc).
I fastened Nora's leash to my belt, just in case, and donned the pack and the camera bag.
I picked up the ski poles and closed the wagon's rear door as a man and woman arrived on snowmobiles.
"You must be Bob," the man said. "I recognized Nora."
I said "yes."
We shook hands before Nora and I headed up the hill.
After 200 easy yards or so, I paused to take photos and dropped the ski poles. I leaned them against a tree. I would pick them up on the way back.
At Junction No. 7, I turned east and south toward Gordon Creek. After a level stretch, the trail leaned gently down hill and eventually reached Junction No. 8.
We continued down on Andies Ridge, which runs parallel to Oregon State Route 204 toward Elgin.
On a sunny day, a person may ponder distant valley views from the ridge. On that foggy day, I pondered frosted trees for about 200 yards along the trail.
Meanwhile, Nora raced from side to side on the trail and in and out of the woods.
We continued down the ridge for a while and turned back. Near the hilltop, a group of riders on humming snowmobiles cruised by.
The riders slowed and waved.
Nora, to my relief, silently watched them pass.
As we reached the top of the hill, the fog swirled and patches of blue sky appeared. On the slant to the parking area, I looked for the ski poles against the tree.
For a while I suspected someone had taken them or I had made a wrong turn. I found them much closer to the parking area than I thought.
So, with the sun breaking through and the temperature in the low 30s, I put away the gear and we headed home.
Soon we looked down into the valley beneath a clear sky, and Nora lay in a curl on the passenger seat and snoozed.
Contact Don Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. More of Don's photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com