Yesterday evening, the pups and I skiied out into the meadow behind our house. The light had a twilight hue, turning the snow a bluish shade. Near the start of every off-leash outing, I do some recalls. Below, R porpoised through the deep snow to arrive at my feet pronto!
A moment later, K had her chance. Notice that the older and wiser of the duo, K, takes a route under a tree, avoiding the deepest snow for part of her sprint.
Shortly later, I saw a mule deer wading through the snow up on a ridge above us. The small doe was moving slowly through snow that reached almost the top of her legs. Fortunately, the dogs didn't see or smell her so she kept plodding along at her slow pace despite our presence. The moon weakly glowed through the clouds in the sky opposite the doe.
Because we make vigorous exercise a high priority for our dogs, they rest easily in the evening. In fact, after R's recent spate of mischief, we increased his exercise, and it's made all the difference. Exercise is one of the keys to good behavior - for me and my dogs!This morning, the wind howled and the sun didn't burn through the cloud roof right away. The eastern horizon glowed weakly, assuring me that the sun had indeed risen, like it has every day for the past 4.5 billion years.
For some reason, K resurrected an old game during today's ski. Last winter, she liked to hide and then refuse to come to me unless I used a formal "K come". I think that her motivation is that that specific phrase, "K come", means that she gets a jackpot of treats when she arrives. Today, for the first time since last winter, she hid but I picked her tiny form out from among the boulders and trees.
I zoomed in. Yes, it was definitely K. Busted!
I don't like this game because it scares me. If I don't manage to pick K out of the forest, I start to panic that she really did wander off. Moreover, she chooses dangerous places to hide. Today's hiding place was exactly on the path where I've seen mountain lion tracks more than once, and large boulders loomed above her. So, today, I ignored her and departed so she'd get no positive feedback for hiding. Of course, I was making the leap of faith that no lion lurked there today... and fortunately, I was right. K followed after we disappeared around a curve.
R also resurrected an old game. As puppies, all of our dogs have bitten our ski tips and poles. R has retained this playful habit for much longer than any of our previous dogs. Here, he's about to pounce on a ski tip which barely peeked above the snow. This seals our conclusion that R is still a puppy, albeit a 2-year old one!
Because of the howling wind, the ski track that I worked so hard to lay down yesterday was mostly filled with drifted snow. However, the remaining furrow in the snow must have provided easier walking for the deer than the completely unpacked powder. Parts of the trail harbored the tracks of a slow walking deer - if you look closely in the trough of my ski tracks, you can see the tracks. Perhaps it was the same doe as I spotted last night.
After our ski, I kept my vow not to ride my indoor bicycle trainer for even one more day. I'd put my extreme studded mountain bike tires on my old bike, and headed out to ride on our snow-packed and icy roads. These studded tires work like magic on ice. In fact, if part of the road is muddy and the other part is hard ice, I choose the ice strip when I have these tires under me!
Today, the biggest problem for bike riding was the wind which relentlessly sent snow drifting into the road. These tires don't deal with powder as well as ice. Although no snow fell from the sky, snow blew horizontally almost the whole time - as shown in the photo below.
I rode along in alternately white-out and sunny conditions. During the white outs, it felt like I was in a boat on the icy sea with needle-like frozen ocean droplets pelting me in the face. At the beginning of the ride, I was miserable, wondering why I chose to endure these conditions. I decided to cut my ride very short. However, at the intersection where I planned to turn toward home, I completely unconsciously turned away from home and straight into the wind.
Amazingly, at about that instant, I relaxed into my ride and started enjoying the conditions. I enjoyed them because I knew that I was alive, truly and painfully alive. I enjoyed them because I wasn't in the sealed and warm environment of my house but was out in nature. I enjoyed churning through the snow, working my muscles and feeling blissfully tired. I honestly don't understand what caused the change in my mindset. But, I loved the rest of my ride.
I heard a cacophony of squeaks coming from above me, sweet music on a winter's day. I noticed a pine tree covered in birds, all busily foraging among its boughs. Birds are so common in the summer that I stop noticing every single one. Today, I stopped and reveled in the hardiness of these birds. These tough but beautiful birds had flocked together, survived the storm, and were having a pine cone party!
If you click on the photo, it magnifies the birds. Notice that the two top birds are red but a lower one is yellow - a clue to their identity I think. My best guess is that they are Red Crossbills, birds that appear in our forest in huge numbers in the winter but then vanish without warning.
I rode past a herd of cattle, whose keeper didn't expect such an early season storm or they would have been down in the plains before it. Fortunately, the bovines had hay to eat but they also had to endure the blowing snow. Behind them in the photo, the snow is whipping from west to east close to the ground in this vast meadow.
By the end of the ride, I felt grateful that I hadn't gone home during that moment of indecision early in the ride. Even when the wind blows snow in my face, it's better for me to be 'out there' than in the cocoon of my home.
And, the sun shined on nature's wonders for the first time in days! I was glad to be there to see it.