It was utterly silent, cold and black.
But we loved it.
My dog, Remy, and I were making our usual trek through Fargo's Trefoil Park. We intersect the quaint oasis, just north of 12th Ave. N in Fargo, almost five times a week on our runs, when we hit the river trails that parallel the Red.
It's such an often occurrence, that the eight-month-old German wirehaired pointer whines incessantly if he goes more than a couple days without his regular foray through downtown. I'm more than happy to oblige him, as a tired-out Remy is a much better behaved Remy.
On some nights, much like this one, the park exudes a magical quality. Pale light from the smattering of stars sends ghostly shadows across an endless expanse of white. Twisted limbs clack softy when a frigid banshee gust rattles through naked trees.
Twin, white puffs of exhalation materialize and, just as quickly, disappear as my faithful companion and I chug along, breathing hard.
When it's the offseason, these forays onto the city streets are the next-best thing for two creatures born to hunt.
Well, better than nothing, anyway.
Punctual city workers keep the trails relatively clear of snow. Even so, a crunchy layer of compacted ice covers the path. Remy tends to slip every once and awhile if we hit an exceptionally slick spot, but, for the most part, his doggy paws grip the uncertain terrain with mountain goat-like confidence.
I, on the other hand, use artificial means. A pair of wire-bound rubber grippers, called Yak Traks, encases my running shoes. They're not the most comfortable things, as their added bulk is noticeable, but a Velcro strap across the top ensures they won't fall off during a hard sprint.
Having proper clothing is just as important as having sure footing. While Remy comes equipped with thick fur to hamper dangerous cold, I'm forced to use artificial means.
Two layers on the bottom half and three on the top make for a pleasant run. The innermost layer is a light, wicking T-shirt. Then, a warmer, mid layer ensures my sweat dissipates without carrying any body heat with it. An outer shell also helps with insulation, but its wind- and water-proof qualities ensure the other layers' abilities do not go to waste.
On my hands are light, cotton gloves. Atop my head is a stocking cap, which covers my ears and part of a face mask that keeps my nose from freezing and falling off.
Other than that, a bright yellow, reflective vest makes sure I'm clearly visible to passing motorists who may not see me otherwise.
And while a few runs a week may not entirely make up for a lack of hunting, it does help keep our bodies in top-top condition. By next fall, when the ducks once again bombard decoy spreads, and pheasants await in hiding for the accurate nose of an eager dog, I know both Remy and I will be more than ready for the challenge.
Until then, we run on. Crossing under the 12th Ave. bridge and heading south toward Oak Grove High School. Eventually, we'll run into tracks left by a flock of turkeys, and Remy will be on high alert. But just as quickly, we'll be past it and moving on to the next bend.
Just two hunters, passing time until we again are unleashed on the outdoors.