The morning dawned frigid and wet, with 'snail' (hail-snow mix) belting out of the sky. I slowly readied myself for my ride with the forlorn hope that the aerial bombardment would end before I was ready to go.
For once, procrastination worked! K and I rolled out into a wet and misty world but the skies had stopped dropping snow and hail. We arrived at our local peak to find no view whatsoever. We gazed at a panorama of mist. I took one photo of the place where the Divide usually sits.Then, I turned to K and photographed her since the mountains weren't cooperating.
When I looked up from K, to my utter astonishment, the snowy peaks had begun to glow through the clouds, looking like magical mirages.
Within another blink of the eye, the peaks began to take shape behind the clouds.
I zeroed in on a peak that K and I climbed late this summer. Snow striped the brown pyramid-like form. The underlying brown rock made its pointy peak stand out among the puffy clouds.
When I zoomed out to absorb the overall picture, the low-lying gray mist in the valley below the mountains gave me the impression that an ocean lay between me and the Divide. The mountains lurk behind the cloud bank on the horizon in this photo.
Widening my view also made me notice many birds flitting and perching near the summit. A Clark's Nutcracker landed on a Limber Pine Tree with 10' of us, cawed while looking me straight in the eye, and departed in a blur. These birds have beaks that are amazingly adept at opening pine cones and extracting seeds, which they often hide to eat later. They find limber pine seeds to be particularly delectable. I bet the Nutcracker cawed to tell me to stand back from *his* tree! I see these birds at our elevation *only* in the winter - so this sighting was another sign that winter is almost here. The photo below is from Wikipedia because the vociferously vocal individual who I saw this morning didn't pause long enough for a portrait.
A flock of Western Bluebirds foraged around the edges of the summit clearing. Based on my reading, I'm guessing that they were passing through, in the midst of migration to warmer climates. They migrate in flowing flocks high above the ground during the day. I'm betting that the group I observed this morning spent the night roosting on the leeward side of our little peak.Since our world was brightening, K and I traveled a forested trail toward a meadow view point. We passed through dense forest with a few candle-like immense aspens mixed in with the pine trees.
When we briefly emerged from the forest, I saw that the mist had crept up the valley and looked ready to engulf our forest.
At the next glimpse, through a gnarled frame of tree branches, showed the clouds swirling with a gray plume erupting like smoke from a forest fire in one spot.
When K and I finally arrived at a hillside meadow, our turnaround point, she sat transfixed, staring at the mountains. I had to repeat her name several times to evoke this head turn.
Perhaps she actually was transfixed by the view. Clouds drifted between us and the mountains while a few shafts of sun hit one peak.
Alas, the break in the aerial bombardment ended while we paused in the meadow. A hail-rain mix began pelting us, and we hurried home.
Upon arriving home, I thought about K's burgeoning health and confidence. During today's ride, we saw a friend who regularly runs with a veritable pack of 7-8 dogs, and K often acts afraid of the pack. My friend is an astute observer of dog interactions and pointed out that K was acting more confident today than at any recent time. She was right! I think that K is feeling stronger and stronger.
Then, I checked our wildlife camera near the house, and the impression that K's confidence is growing was further bolstered. Recently, we've had workers in yard during the day, with their dogs by their sides. This arrangement works fine except that the visiting dogs have started to think of the yard as their territory and our dogs as the invaders. The other morning, as K and I departed for a mountain bike ride, she had a confrontation with one of the dogs and stood her ground as shown in the photo taken by the wildlife camera.
In the photo, both dogs have piloerected fur on their shoulders and butts. Both dogs have stiff tails. And, they face each other head on. All of these signs indicate that extreme tension permeated this meeting. Usually, by this point in an interaction, one dog defers to the other by turning his/her body and head to the side. On the trails, K is almost always the first to defer but it would be understandable if she refused to defer in her own territory. Since I didn't see this interaction in person, I don't know how they resolved it - but I know that they didn't fight. One of my favorite traits of Labs is that they're rarely physically aggressive.
In any case, I'm ecstatic to see my K feeling confident and healthy enough to stand up to the larger yellow lab and to act with confidence around the large pack that we met on the trails. She's exhibiting the strong spirit that I know lives inside her!