The holidays are our busiest time in the shop. We fill orders from dawn to dusk, pouring candles, weaving brooms, folding boxes. Outside, snow piles up and time flies by. We have filled the wood stove countless times. Chopped the kindling. Shoveled the walks. We wake up New Year's Day wondering what happened.We are tired. Our shop is a mess. Our collection of cool sticks is dwindling. The grey ghost of winter we call cabin fever begins to crawl under our skin. This is surely THE best time for a Stick Trip
The temperature in our woods is between 38 Fahrenheit down to minus 20, so we stow a few things in our packs. Hot coffee, venison sausage, dried pears, gorp, and some unfrozen water. Our pup's name is Tig. She likes to go skiing, so we bring her special Milkbone & Vita Bone trail mix. Our old Alaskan Camper rides pretty low, and is heavy enough to give us traction, four-wheeling up the un-plowed back road. There is a good flat spot to stop about 3 miles in. The camper has everything inside, in case of emergency. Sleeping bags. Extra food. A furnace...
We set out on skis to hunt for elusive diamond willow sticks for our brooms. These are chubby skis, built for bushwhacking by Altai Skis - Curlew, WA. Just like snowshoes, but they glide through the woods nice and easy. It sure beats post-holing through thigh-deep powder. We have a pocket handsaw with us. Some bear spray, and a six shooter -- just in case. Every wild critter is hungry right now -- and we've heard tell of grizzlies and wildcats.
The pup is a big help, actually. At her age, she is indeed a baby sitting job -- but she can use her nose to an extraordinary high degree. We watch the hackles on her spine. When her Mohawk rises up, we know there's trouble.
Sarah and I take turns breaking trail, since it's a lot of work packing the new snow. There are a few snow flurries today. The air is fresh, but not too cold. Just a perfect day to get outside. This is the very best part of our job -- getting out here to soothe our souls in God's wilderness.
Our route leads to a steeper forested slope with Englemann Spruce, lodgepole pine, and some dead willow clumps in the understory. The sticks we cut are dry and dead, killed from the fungus that causes the diamonds. Dry or not, they are heavier than I expected. Should have brought a sled... I was a little wobbly, but I only fell twice!