As I spurred the Appaloosa along the valley trail, its hooves raised a gray-black specter of ash into the chilled air with each step. Long-dead embers, rimmed with ancient frost, sheathed the rolling landscape in all directions. Scorched oak and sequoia stood frozen with meter-long icicles clinging to their barren branches. A wide glacial stream ran parallel to the trail. At one bend, submerged in the ice-dark waters, still clutching shield and sword, was the headless skeleton of a Viking warrior.