Yesterday, the dogs and I headed out for our afternoon hike at the usual time - but it wasn't sunset yet! The one and only thing that I like about the shorter winter days is that I'm often on the trails for sunrise and sunset. Yesterday afternoon, although it wasn't quite sunset, the low angle sunlight illuminated only the top branches of a towering aspen grove, with the almost full moon rising in the background.
We cut through this grove to the meadow where I immediately noticed the more than 100-strong elk herd amassed on the eastern edge. The dogs frolicked, completely unaware of the herd because they stood 75 yards downwind of us. This oddity emphasized to me how much human perception which relies mainly on vision differs from dog perception which relies mainly on scent. The presence of the elk herd fits with the fact that my neighbors have noticed that lion signs and sightings are most likely when the herd grazes in our vicinity.
Today, K and I had an unplanned special morning out on the trails. When we reached our usual turnaround point, K trotted on ahead and gave me a play bow and a look that said "Let's go have more fun!". I followed her spirit and we spent the morning exploring, running, riding, and hugging. She's such a wonderful friend - I truly dread the day that when our biking adventures together are impossible due to the inevitable march of age. But, today, I seized the day without worrying about the future, and had a blast with my dog friend whom I love so much.
We rode some trails that almost no one has used since the snow started accumulating in December, and we found some signs of the travails of wild animals. Kyna found a fairly old spine, pelvis, and hindlimb of a deer, and then seemed outraged that I was allowed to examine them but she wasn't allowed to gnaw on them (left photo below)!
Then, as we passed a beautiful view (above right), we found what was left of an elk cow carcass that the raucous calling of ravens led us to late last November (I'll spare you the photos). I think that our initial discovery was within a day of death. Meat-eating animals lurked all around the carcass - so I leashed K as we retreated to avoid an animal confrontation. We haven't gone near that spot until today. The ravens, lions, bobcats, and coyotes have eaten every last calorie from the skeleton. By examining the skeleton, I could tell that the animal wasn't old - it held no tell-tale signs of arthritis or old injuries. I suspect that it died a sudden death. This death of a young and probably healthy elk provides a cruel demonstration of the circle of life because its meat doubtless helped many carnivores through the winter.
For most of the morning, K enthusiastically galloped ahead of me. We came to a local trail that has just started appearing on some maps. Although it was deserted today, the ubiquitous plastic bag was sitting next to the trail - a practice that just started last fall when the new map came out. No one was parked at the trailhead so a previous hiker must have assumed that the trash collector services this trail. No wonder we dog guardians are so reviled by some trail users.
When I put the plastic bag out of my mind, the view was breath-taking. In the summer, we love hiking high in the craggy peaks shown in the photo, and I'm already looking forward to it!When we arrived home, K ate a big meal and then found a spot to snooze next to me in the warm sunlight. Dogs know how to live - run hard and sleep deeply.