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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Walking a tightrope

K and I headed out to ride the snow-packed trails this morning. Clouds hung low, giving the forest a muted atmosphere. The snow-cloaked mountains melded with the sky.
We rolled along silently with the sounds of crunching snow and exercising lungs as our only accompaniment. Then, to my surprise, I heard birds chirping. As I scanned nearby trees, I spotted a mixed flock of chickadees and pygmy nuthatches. Those hardy birds live in our forests all year long, enduring the wickedly fierce winter storms and wind. Then, as my eyes scanned further, I spotted a Robin. I've been seeing robins, every now and then, all winter long. This feathered beauty perched silently, all alone, among the aspen tree twigs.
While I photographed the Robin, K sat patiently behind me, covering my back. I always feel most vulnerable to our mountain lions when my eye is on the camera viewfinder so I truly appreciate my guardian!
After restarting, we almost immediately encountered the boys of our pack, out for a run. K and R took advantage of a minute together to raucously play.
After parting ways with the boys, K and I rolled deeper into the pine forest, and I caught a photo of K sprinting back to me. When she gallops, she bursts with strength and power although she lacks the gracefulness of a greyhound or field lab. Interestingly, after a year of always deferring to R and allowing him to win 'races' during recalls or stick play, K recently turned on the afterburners when sprinting next to R. Believe me, she can sprint like a rocket. The only reason why R outruns her in 'races' is her naturally reticent nature.
Before taking K home to let her snooze, we stopped at a favorite viewpoint. K glowed more brightly than the sky or mountains early this morning.
Soon after I headed out on my Fatback solo, I ran across cat tracks. They were small and definitely left by a bobcat rather than a lion.
I abandoned my bike and started following the trackway. First, the bobcat marched straight up a slope, using a direct-registering walk, where the hind paw lands exactly in the imprint from the front paw. This style of walking probably saves energy in the snow because only the front paws have to 'break trail'.
After attaining the top of the slight ridge, the bobcat began checking under pine trees, perhaps checking for prey scent.
Then, he headed down the other side of the ridge and crossed the paths of several deer, barely veering from his path that headed directly for the base of a pine tree. In the photo below, the bobcat's tracks travel from the bottom to the top while the deer tracks travel from left to right.I stopped tracking him at this point. But, I realized that I would love to spend time following around the tracks of our carnivores and recording them on GPS. Then, I might start to see patterns as to where various species like to travel. I'll be able to snowshoe soon after my cervical fusion surgery, assuming the snow isn't too deep, and I think that I'll start this project then.

I'm developing a long list of projects for my recovery time. Because I'm having 5 of the 8 total cervical vertebrae fused, I'll have an extended period of no car travel (not even as a passenger) or much of anything besides walking or riding a recumbent stationary bike. So, I'm scheming about projects that I'll enjoy undertaking.

Today, after tracking the bobcat, I hopped back on my bike and did an almost entirely trail ride. I floundered, had my wheels wash out, and then pushed through deep snow. In snow biking, I frequently accidentally veer off the packed path into deep powder and become paralyzed as I try to avoid falling while I attempt to steer back onto the packed path. For a few seconds, I enter a state of suspended animation, barely moving forward. I gently pedal and steer a tightrope toward the packed path, trying not to pedal too vigorously or over-correct, both of which will lead to a bail-out. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't.

Today, as I teetered on this fine line, I thought about how navigating life sometimes feels like snowbiking. It's easy to get paralyzed when the 'right' path isn't glaringly obvious - and when I find it difficult to obey an expert's recommendations without understanding the nuances. I need to understand all the pros and cons myself rather than relying on someone else's judgment when it's my life that's on the line. Navigating the spine surgery decision-making tree makes me feel like I'm walking a tightrope that's stretched between the two walls of the Grand Canyon. Which, believe it or not, bears remarkable resemblance to snow biking on sinuous trails.

Despite how hard the riding was today, I'll take the trails over the roads any day, especially if they have views like the one below.
We ended our day with a view of the faint glow of the sun dipping below the Divide.
And, over our shoulders, we saw the moon rising high into the sky.
Regardless of the details of my surgery, the sun and moon will rise and set every day, and I'm sure that I'll have the chance to gaze at them again. I need to remember that the simple joys of life will remain.


  1. Thank you for reminding us (and yourself) of that!

    I've got my own gang of Rogue Robins this year!

    More great pictures: THANKS!

  2. Holy Fat Tire Bike Ride, KB!!! Your metaphors are absolutely gorgeous - it's clear that you've done some big thinking. Best of all, I love that you've figured out some of the things you'll do during your recovery and I can't wait to hear about GPSing the paw tracks - wow - so much in this post! As always, your pix are spectacular. Thanks for sharing your ride today.
    Hugs xo Sammie and mom

  3. Oh, how I wish I could go with you just once - just one day - to see the tracks that you do and to take molds of them, if possible. What a remarkable time you must have every time you set out with your beautiful dogs...

  4. Your determination is inspiring!
    Hugs and belly rubs to K and R!

  5. I'd be thinking about doing things in the house, ways to catch up on reading all the books I want to and such and you're plotting bobcat stalking! You'll be fine! I hope it all goes smoothly for you.

    I think if I ever met K, I'd be tempted to steal her away! She's such a sweetheart!

  6. Is R field bred? You mention that K isn't, and the two of them do look pretty different from each other. K is pretty unique looking for a lab - a very pretty girl, though!

    The field bred labs are something to see. I had the pleasure of watching the #1 obedience dog in the nation, a field bred Black Lab named Tyler, at an obedience match a couple of months ago. Such amazing work ethic and willingness to please!

  7. That snowshoeing idea with the GPS sounds good.

  8. HI KB, Your photos are awesome in this post - some really excellent ones of K and those gorgeous eyes. I can almost read her mind!

    You are right to assure yourself that all the facts "line-up" before your surgery. Only then, will you have a calm confidence to move forward. I can imagine the teetering you feel - just keep your balance if you can.

  9. Sam: You're right that R is a field Lab, through and through. His long legs and skinny body give him away. Even more than that, his 10,000 volt spirit makes it obvious. K is a mixture of field and show lines, in an attempt to produce an extremely healthy and calm dog. She's neither but I love her anyway!

  10. Wonderfully written! Our circumstances are different but I was struck by the similarity in where we are headed with our metaphors. We are both trying to figure things out as some things in our life change and we try to adapt. I smiled as I pictured you snowshoeing and following bobcat tracks. You are one determined lady!


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