Before I start my post, I'd like to ask that you send good thoughts to my friend, Miss Snapdragon, over at my neighbor's ranch, DVR. She's a young mustang filly who captured my heart when I first met her as an itty-bitty very cute foal. She's sick with colic and currently at the hospital. She's sweet, mischievous, and bursting with life. I refuse to believe that she won't prevail over this illness - she's too strong and too sweet. Please send her your good thoughts!
Sunset hike, coyote visitors, and mountain bike ride
Last night, the sun dipped below the western mountains, leaving a streaked palette of oranges.
Shortly after we returned from our sunset hike, a trio of coyotes meandered into our clearing. Our wildlife camera captured 72 photos of coyotes last night. Believe it or not, without the camera, we wouldn't have known that they'd visited!
According to the time stamps on the photos, at least one coyote stayed for most of the night, finally departing as our house sprung to life around 6 AM. He also vanished for an hour at 2 AM after something up high scared him. This photo showed his body language just before he vanished for that hour.I'm starting to think that the coyote who used to lead the 'luring' operation has moved on or died. Over the past couple of years, he'd stand in full sight of my dogs, yipping and making play gestures, and then trying to lead them toward his pack hiding in the forest. This luring operation led to a number of dog injuries and deaths in my neighborhood. Based on these photos, we know that coyotes lurked near our house during our evening hike yesterday but they didn't try to trick our dogs. Whew.
I finally ordered an additional wildlife camera to place out on trails that I know from tracks are used by cats, including mountain lions. I decided, after much thought, to buy one with an infrared flash (produces a faint red glow) rather than the incandescent flash that our current wildlife camera has. The reason is that I don't want to scare the cats away from their habitual trails by using a bright flash, thereby disrupting their hunting patterns and having more impact on our ecosystem than I should. An IR flash recovers very quickly so I'll be able to get frequent (every few seconds) photos at night but they'll be black and white. I'm excited to use the new camera to learn more about where bobcats and mountain lions travel in our area.
This morning, I had two crazy Labs, both with orange vests, accompany me for my initial mountain bike ride. I tried to photograph them but they focused on the scents in the wind blowing from behind them rather than on me.
Then, R decided that it was time for action rather than stationary photos so I took one of the remaining dog, K.
R was bursting with enthusiasm for the entire ride. He doesn't do anything at normal speed. Watching him criss-cross the trail in front of me is like watching a video in fast forward mode. And, he moves with easy grace, leaping logs and winding through obstacles without a thought. R is doubtless at his physical peak, and it's astounding to roam the forest with him.
The most unbelievable part is how R has learned, through lots of training, to harness his energy. Based on tracks in the snow, I know that myriad animals had wandered our forest recently but R responded immediately, and with his trademark enthusiasm, to my recalls. Up until a few months ago, he'd always watch K for the cue to start his sprint to me. If K had chosen to ignore me, I think that R would have decided that I was irrelevant. But now he initiates his recall on his own. What a good dog!
After I dropped the pups off at home with frozen stuffed kongs to amuse them, I rode solo in the rapidly accelerating wind (gusts up to 60 mph according to the Weather Underground). A wall of clouds obscured the Divide promulgating bike-stopping winds that carried ice pellets. Several times, as I rode on an exposed ridge with the wind pushing me forward like a giant hand on my back, I had to brake suddenly and put down a foot to avoid swerving and crashing under the influence of the wind.
Only one mountain shined through the storm front but just barely.
To my surprise, the view to the southeast gave no clue about the turbulence in the air.
Despite the chaotic wind, I fell into that sweet meditative state of mind that I love so much. I pedaled, scanned the forest for animals, and thought about nothing but the next hill or obstacle. Although enduring the wind sometimes saps my energy, it didn't today. I arrived home feeling like I'd taken a long journey through the wildness in our backyard. Perfect.