The animals followed their spring rituals during yesterday evening's hike, even though the cold winter air had returned. A flock of Canada Geese flew north at dusk, honking as they stayed in their aerodynamic V-formation.
This morning, I rolled out on my mountain bike with the duo of younger dogs. We climbed up high to check out the Divide and the turbulent sky above the mountains gave mixed messages. A new coating of snow covered the craggy peaks.
Dark clouds hung over the mountaintops but blue skies topped off the picture, along all of the Divide that I could see.
During the ride, K resurrected her 'please recall me' game that she hasn't initiated in a couple of months. This game involves K 'hiding' and not revealing herself unless I use the magic words 'K come'. She loves to hear those words because of the celebration of treats and playing that she gets as a reward for coming when called.
Today, the spirit moved her to hide but her brother, R, showed me her hiding place. I noticed that K was missing but also noticed that R was staring pointedly into the woods. The direction of R's fixed gaze told me where K was hiding. The first photo is my initial view. K is visible in the far right of the photo only if you look very carefully. In the next photo, neither K nor I have moved - I've just zoomed the camera. The final photo is super-zoomed.
I wanted to avoid encouraging K to play this game because otherwise she spends too much time lurking in the woods hiding from me - so I didn't want to recall her. The strategy that I came up with on the spot was to make her jealous of R.
I called R to me by using just his name, and then gave him a bunch of treats. Jealousy brought K out of hiding. Ironically, I think that jealousy also drove K into hiding. She hasn't played this manipulative game since R stopped biking with us regularly. I think that K especially craves the special attention that she gets after a recall when R is distracting me.
After my 'dog ride', I headed out for a faster ride by myself. At the start, it looked like a benign weather day with mostly blue skies and some clouds blowing through. I was in for a surprise.
I rode along a sandy and rocky connector trail, and three elk thundered down the slope from my left (see photo), crossed the trail with a quick glance at me, and continued their downward gallop with barely a hitch. I've never seen elk looking quite so panicked. They usually saunter past me as if I'm no threat, and they're usually in much bigger groups. To add to the ambience, ravens were cawing up the hill where the elk had come from. I stayed stationary thinking that a predatory animal might barrel through after the elk but nothing happened. I'm not sure why the elk freaked out but the situation seemed odd. The sound of the ravens made me wonder if an injured or dead animal lay uphill where the others had come from. I decided it would be inviting a possibly dangerous animal encounter to investigate so I rode on.
I visually checked out the Divide because the weather there is usually a harbinger of what's to come for us. It looked a little bit ominous but not alarming.
I pedaled for about a half hour up to the first viewpoint on a ridge, where I saw that clouds now completely obscured the Divide. There was no sign that a mountain range sat to the west. A check over my shoulder showed that the storm had snuck up behind me and now surrounded me. Before long, the snowflakes started to fly.
Unfortunately, at about the same time that the snowflakes started stinging my face and obscuring my vision, someone nearby decided to target shoot with his automatic weapon. The combination of the snow rapidly hiding the ice patches and the incessant booms of the gun freaked me out. I don't do well near guns due to a past horrific experience.
I was relieved when I finally made it to the trail that descends from the ridge down to a gulch, muffling the booms of the gun. I rapidly started the descent, fleeing the wind-driven snow and the booms, and promptly crashed on snow-covered ice. I hit hard on my left side but was lucky not to be hurt. Unfortunately, I was near the area where I recently saw a lion. So, I resisted the urge to take a break to pull myself together and kept moving.
By the end of the ride, I was happy to escape the snow whipping in my face. For the first time in a week, we built a fire and relaxed while watching the winter weather outside. It's not spring yet.