I climbed out of bed in the magic moments when the world just before the sun rises. As I brewed the coffee, I glanced out the window and a coyote looked back at me. He was within 20 yards of the house. His fur looked thick and luxurious - plenty of loft to keep him warm on snowy and windy winter nights. He kept glancing at the nearby woods, and I wondered if his mate lurked there. The photo isn't clear because of the slow shutter needed in the darkness but you can see that this is a strong and healthy coyote.
K obviously smelled the coyote the instant that we headed out the door but I kept her under control. Because the wind was calmer than yesterday, K and I took the window of opportunity to climb toward the open peaks and ridges. None of our trails appear on maps or have official names so we use our own names. K and I climbed up a densely wooded trail that we call 'S's Trail' (in honor of our yellow lab) all the way to 'Hug Hill'. K and I haven't biked to this peak since late November due to snow. Although the wind was calmer than usual, K's ears flapped in the breeze as we reveled in the view.
Having climbed up to the highest point in the area, we enjoyed a well-earned free ride down to the connector trail that we investigated yesterday. My deceased lab, Cadi, adored galloping like a goofy puppy on the soft pine needles that carpet much of this connector trail. Consequently, we call this trail 'Cadi's Trail', and it makes me happy to hear other locals using the same name.
Cadi herniated a disc in her back, had major surgery to fix it, but never regained her ability to walk due to hind limb weakness and uncoordination. As a last resort, we ordered a wheelchair that supported her hind end. The wheelchair came with a full page of instructions about how to convince a dog to walk while strapped into it. Cadi didn't need *any* encouragement. Before I'd even fully strapped her into the wheelchair, she'd taken off trotting through our forest. The wheelchair gave her an extra year of happy hiking and playing. I still get a lump in my throat remembering her joy when she first trotted into the forest in her all-terrain wheelchair.
Cadi's spirit lives on in K. K galloped like a goofy puppy on Cadi's trail today.
After I dropped off K today, I pedaled toward a wild exposed ridge that I love. On my way, I saw evidence of violence that shocked me. Bullets had riddled a beautiful old Engleman Spruce. Shell casings littered the ground. I despair when I see violent acts against nature like this one. How could my fellow humans do such a thing?
Near the ridge, I spotted two mountain lion scats, both fairly fresh, close to where I found a huge lion scat the other day. Finding three scats in close proximity within days likely means that the lion cached a carcass nearby and is hanging around until he devours it. As I rode, I continually scanned the rocky and sometimes treed area for the lion. I felt nervous anticipation because I wanted to see him but then again I didn't. The elusive lion stayed hidden.
I feel like I'm on top of the world when I'm on the exposed ridge. But, the views of the 13-14,000' snowy peaks remind me that I'll climb even higher come summer. I'll never stop remembering how lucky I am to to live in these magical mountains. On my 'ordinary' mountain bike rides, I see scenery that literally makes me stop my bike and stare.
I wear a golden heart in memory of my dog, Cadi, and I often hold it tight while contemplating the mountains that she loved as much as I do.