It felt as if I'd truly climbed onto a roller-coaster yesterday. By the time I posted, my mind was swirling. The good news is that although R seems subdued, he also seems to be mending. He's eating, albeit with less enthusiasm than normal, but I imagine that a deer hoof in your stomach can wreak havoc! Thank goodness that his purple octopus always stays by his side.
Yesterday, my friend Stella posted two beautiful icons, available for people to copy to their blogs, to represent the Year of the Bobcat. I felt honored and thrilled that others saw meaning in my notion of trying to emulate a bobcat's resilience and flexibility in the coming year. One appears in the upper right corner of my blog.
To my surprise, in the past few days, I had the honor of capturing images of yet another bobcat. He visited the boulder where I have a camera set up to record video, using infrared lighting, at night.
This morning, inspired by our new bobcat video, K and I started our hike by searching the boulder outcroppings surrounding our huge meadow for more bobcat tracks or scent posts. I'm learning that these cats like to patrol the edges of meadows and prefer the bases of overhanging boulders as their scent posts. A scent post consists of a scraping of dirt or leaves into a small pile using the hind feet and then a scat left atop the pile.
We crossed the meadow in the tracks of a lone mule deer. Deer drag their hooves, even in shallow snow, leaving tracks that look almost like cross-country ski tracks.
K led the way up a jumble of boulders and stopped to look down at me, barely visible against the snow-covered boulders.
Then, she spontaneously decided to sprint to me, sending snow crystals flying into the air.
She's not really supposed to be sprinting through deep snow yet. After all, she has a 12" incision on her belly that's healing. So, I put her on leash for a while after that wild outburst. I'm glad that she feels so good!
In our wanderings, we found a new bobcat scent post at the base of a tall rock wall. A small area of dirt remained protected from heavy snow by the overhanging wall. And, I found bobcat scat and a scraping in that prime dirt spot. I'm going to keep an eye on it to see if it's active before deciding whether to move a camera there.
Someone recently asked if I'd move a camera to the spot where K spooked the other day to try to get a lion photo. I'm finding it to be challenging to figure out where to best capture a lion photo when there's no focal point like a carcass. I know the lions' general routes but I find that they can use any path within about a 50 yard swath of their route. That's too wide to for me to have high odds of getting a photo. Pointing a camera at a scent post would be ideal. I actually know where there is a scent post, on a seldom-used trail beneath a cliff on a north-facing slope. However, I'm not physically capable of scrambling through the snow to visit it now. I'll save that one for spring-time.
The one other lead that I have is that lions mark their routes by scratching bark from pine trees - it's another way of broadcasting their ownership of the territory. I've found a multitude of scratched trees, with blankets of pine bark beneath the scratchings, next to the old lion tracks that I've recently been exploring. However, I suspect that those routes were used only briefly, while the lion fed on the deer carcass, so they're not good camera locations. Despite scouring the forest, I haven't found any other lion-scratched trees yet. I'm looking!
Today, after reconnoitering bobcat habitat, K and I climbed to Hug Hill, where the mountains glowed with new snow. The snow billowed off the peaks in alpine winds, and a spindrift rose above the peaks in the right half of the photo below. It's a plume of snow being sucked upward into the atmosphere by complicated pressure and wind patterns.
I promised myself - no Hug Hill photos of K because my readers must be getting tired of them - but then she made me break my promise by looking so beautiful to my eyes.
After enjoying our favorite local peak, we plunged uneventfully down a north-facing slope. Now, we hiked in lion territory. If I'm distilling one pattern from my explorations, it's that bobcats like boulders next to meadows and lions like snowy north-facing slopes. As I thought about that pattern, K freaked out, barking and growling while staring up the slope.
I stared, trying to discern any movement or other suspicious signs. For a minute, I saw nothing. Then, a female blue grouse marched along a contour on the slope. I watched even longer because K's behavior was out of proportion for a grouse but I didn't see any predator stalking it. The grouse isn't visible in the photo below. The photo simply shows the forest, with its multitude of hiding places, that I stared into for minutes trying to figure out what provoked K to be so aggressively protective.
We headed home from there, ready to face civilization. I had a bounce in my step, knowing how well my neck is healing even though the rehabilitation road ahead is still long and hard to visualize. It's odd, however, because my neck hurts more now than earlier in the recovery. No one but me seems concerned about this oddity so I'm trying not to worry about it. It's definitely true that I am more active than I was in the first week after surgery, which could be contributing. However, the mantra of my medical advisers is that more activity is better, as long as I'm not bungee jumping, ice skating, or snow biking. I'll just keep on hiking and learning more about the nooks and crannies of my forest than I ever thought I'd know.
Here's to the Year of the Bobcat! Thanks for the icon and encouragement, Stella.