As I woke up from my surgery, my first thought was that I seemed to be alive. Then, with almost demented urgency, I checked whether I could move my legs and arms. After joyfully discovering that I could move, I kept kicking my legs under the covers, needing to double and triple check, that I had control over them. The nurse finally asked, "Why are you moving your legs all the time?. My answer, "Because I can...".
Today, K and I joyfully walked through the forest. Why? Because we can. What a gift.
During one of the brief stretches when we followed a trail rather than tromping through untraveled forests today, I met a neighbor who saw my neck brace and asked, "How are you?", with a word emphasis that showed that she wanted to know the truth. I thought for a second, and said, "I'm happy." That summed it up. I'm enjoying my quiet recovery time, mostly spent tromping through the woods. And, I love feeling my body getting stronger.
Most of all, my thankfulness for the gift of being able to walk through the woods, with a dog or two by my side, has grown a thousand-fold. I'm lucky and I know it.
We started our morning hike by following coyote tracks up our driveway. That's not unusual - these wild canines visit almost every night. I retrieved the memory card from a wildlife camera near our gate, and it revealed a drama from last night. A rabbit moved slowly past the camera early in the evening.
Then, in the wee hours of the morning, a coyote sniffed almost the same spot.
Then, one minute later, the tail end of the rabbit hightailed out the gate like something was pursuing it. His hind legs catapaulted almost a foot off the ground in the far left of the photo. When I looked around the area this morning for tracks, with no knowledge of these photos, I saw no signs of carnage. Perhaps the rabbit escaped.
A close-up of the fleeing rabbit.
After tracking on the driveway, K and I immediately eschewed the trails, tromping and panting our way directly up a snowy hillside. We saw turkey tracks on the hillside, a novelty in our small neck of the woods. We also saw fresh ermine (weasel) and rabbit tracks but no fresh large animal tracks.
On our way up, K hesitated at a small obstacle, sniffing an interesting scent. You can see her leash - I'm still alternating on and off leash parts of our hikes as she recovers from surgery. I'm tending to leash her in mountain lion territory and let her run in open meadows.
Atop the ridge, we crossed a deep snow drift that many other animals had also crossed. Myriad tracks criss-crossed the snow.
After climbing a north-facing slope, the reward of sun and dry ground always awaits us at the top. K had some off-leash time to romp. It's poignant, however, how much she's acting like my protector. She'll romp if no one else is around and the ground is even. When we hit an uneven patch of snow, she stays close by my right side, as if she's ready to let me reach down and steady myself on her shoulders. Or, when a loose dog arrives on the scene like happened right after this photo, she stays between me and the dog. I love having a protector like K.
I put K back on leash to descend a snowy slope where I know that large mammals like to browse or hunt. I planned to simply wander but deer tracks crossed our path. These tracks screamed of panic, like the deer had sighted a predator. In the photo below, the uphill is steep beyond words but the two successive sets of tracks are more than 20 ft apart. The first set of four hoof prints is at the bottom of the photo and the second one is behond the first tree in the middle of the photo. The deer pronked, using all four legs in unison, with an unbelievable flight time between touchdowns.
I'm not someone who can walk past an exciting track without following to try to discover the story. The panicked flight continued uphill. In the photo below, the second touchdown is beyond the tree in the middle of the photo.
After following the tracks up the almost vertical snowy hill, we emerged onto a sunny plateau with only a thin layer of snow. Upon reaching the plateau, it appeared that the deer calmed down and slowed to a steady trot. I think that he'd shaken the fear of whatever he'd seen. No tracks followed him so I assume that he scented or spotted something terrifying to provoke this flight.
At this point, I'd been so focused on the tracks and their story that I had only a vague idea where I was when I emerged on the plateau. I had my GPS but I've been working on my navigational skills so that I don't have to rely on it. So, K and I walked to a couple of lookout points where we could see landmarks, and I figured out my location all by myself. That's a big accomplishment for a wanderer who used to get lost all the time!
We found amazing rocky viewpoints on the plateau.
Guess who's on top of the world!
And, me too!