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Monday, June 1, 2009

Human intruder and animal visitors

We're facing many 'firsts'. We gathered our gumption and took our first pack hike without S yesterday evening. Near the end of his life, we shortened our hikes so that the whole pack could enjoy being together. Yesterday evening, our foursome hiked, albeit sadly, through the verdant meadow and up to our sunset lookout point. The view seemed appropriately veiled and gloomy for the occasion. But, the mountains remained gorgeous.
As I lost myself in the view, I remembered the last time that S hiked to the lookout with us. I didn't know that it was a special or sad occasion.

Last night, we needed to rest and relax at home after a tumultuous few days. Alas, we didn't get what we needed. Just after 10PM, our dogs exploded in furious barking, sprinting from one window to the next, barking and snarling. Since it's spring in the mountains, we thought that a bear was ambling through our area. We found flashlights to look out the windows, hoping to glimpse the bear.

To our shock, a person lurked on the front porch but did not knock. My intuition screamed 'Danger'. My husband talked to the stranger from a window while I double-checked the locks on every door and window. The intruder claimed that he had picked up a hitchhiker who attacked him and stole his car. He said that he was hurt and needed help. So, from the window, my husband said that he'd call the police to get help. When police dispatch requested a description of the stolen vehicle, my husband went back to the window to ask our 'visitor' for one, and the guy had vanished.

At this point, the police decided that this 'incident' was actually a crime in progress against us and sped to our house. They later labeled it an 'attempted home invasion'. We live in a somewhat remote location but multiple police units arrived within 15 minutes. They searched our property, vehicles, a nearby vacant house, and the woods around our property but the intruder had disappeared. It was midnight before our house was quiet again, and my adrenaline levels precluded sleep for quite a while.

This morning, K intently followed a ground scent around the edge of our house. I previously did Search and Rescue work with my deceased Lab, C, and I know how to read a dog's body language around scents. No doubt, the intruder had lurked around our house last night, perhaps looking in windows before we discovered him on our porch.

We have a motion-sensitive wildlife camera on our property - and I hoped that the intruder had bumbled in front of it - but no such luck. However, a pair of coyotes visited later in the night. Since getting the camera, we've learned that coyotes visit about four nights a week but usually solo. Perhaps this pair was out hunting to help their pack raise its pups.
This morning, K and I rolled out on a mountain bike ride into a gray and chilly world, on too little sleep and a heavy burden of sadness. Physically, it might have been my worst ride ever. I felt like I had lead weights tied to me and my leg muscles had the strength of jello. In dramatic contrast, K had manic energy levels. Perhaps that's how her body has responded to our loss. When her eldest brother died 5 years ago, paranoia possessed her as she skulked around our house afraid of many inconsequential things. Manic energy seems like an improvement compared to that episode. Here, she sprinted up an extremely steep hill when I called her.
K and I discovered that spring is flying forward, like an unstoppable runaway truck. A plethora of flowers chose today to bloom, including one of my favorites, the high altitude version of the Skullcap (Scutellaria brittonii). It's a tiny purple flower, about an inch across, whose simplicity is its beauty.Together with bright yellow wildflowers, the Skullcap paints a brilliant picture.
K watched over me while I examined flowers, which I especially appreciated when I discovered some scary animal signs a bit later.Later, as I rode through a mixture of pines and aspens, with boulder outcroppings punctuating the forest, I noticed deep dragging marks crossing the narrow and rarely used trail. I immediately thought of a mountain lion dragging its prey to a hiding place based on the size of the furrows in the dirt. The drag marks had to be very fresh because a rain downpour erased all tracks last night. In the photo, the trail runs top to bottom, and the drag marks, more prominent than the trail, cross it.
I followed them, but only an extremely short distance, because I saw that they led to a classic lion lair, an imposing and steep boulder outcropping. I walked slowly away, and only remounted my bike once I'd put some distance between me and the potential lair. Sometimes my curiosity leads me to do stupid things but my good sense won the battle today.A very short time later, I spotted a deer spying on me. I silently wished her good luck evading our top predator, and pedaled uphill toward home.
As I pedaled weakly toward home, I caught a glimpse of a mountain that reflected how I felt. The beauty of the mountain glowed as clearly as the beauty of life. But, dark clouds hovered over it, shadowing some of its glory.


  1. That must have been a very frightening experience indeed. Hopefully the guy felt your intelligence, the reaction of your dogs, and saw the quick police response and won't come there again. But I'm sure it made for an uneasy night.

    Beautiful photographs, especially the last one with your poignant reflection.

  2. wow, so beautifully said.....
    how frickin scary about the safe!
    (too bad he didn't get caught on the motion sensitive camera)

  3. Very scary about the intruder. We live fairly remote as well. While our Sheriff Department is very good, response time can often be 15 minutes or more because of the distance they have to cover.

    Curious if you can tell more about your motion sensitive camera. What a great idea for capturing wildlife pictures that I had not tried before.

  4. Hello KB,
    Glad that you were able to be outside today with K, even though your heart is heavy. Luckily for you, your dogs seem alert to an intruder - animal or human! It hailed then snowed today at my house in Breckenridge - raining now.

  5. That intruder thing is so scary. I'm glad you are safe.

    Watching Ginko grieve when our dal died (5 years ago this week) was one of the harder parts of the loss for me.

    Sending all of you an abundance of comfort (and calm times).

  6. Oh geez! The hair stood up on the back of my neck reading about the guy on your porch - how totally creepy! I'm glad the dogs were there - I bet they made him think twice! I don't know how you slept at all last night!

  7. Wow, that is really scary. Thank goodness for your dogs alerting you to this creep.

  8. Thanks to all of you. The intruder incident has definitely shaken our sense of security. Moreover, we just heard that someone believes that they saw the same guy in the area yesterday - not good news.

    I'll post more about our wildlife camera later. But, for the moment, here's a link to a description of the camera that we're using:

    I must say that we're new to it so I can't yet assess how great it is. But, it has captured a number of coyotes who visited our land, with nice photos despite the dark of night.


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