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Friday, February 26, 2010

The path of a bobcat

Today's morning hike started when the sky was dusky black, with only a faint glow of the day to come. Another light but deep layer of snow had fallen over night, and some flakes still fluttered through the dawn air.
K and I headed for the meadow, following a pack of coyote tracks. They peeled off before we stepped out into the heart of the meadow. The vast expanse of the meadow sparkled with fresh snow, a clean palette for finding animal tracks. As I scanned, I saw a set of bobcat tracks join my trail ahead of us.
We started following, with my excitement growing as I saw that the cat's course aimed directly toward the scent post at Bobcat Boulder where my infrared wildlife camera sat waiting. In the photo below, the bobcat tracks march directly to the scent post and then jumped up onto the boulder. My wildlife camera is barely visible on the tree in the far left of the photo.
According to the tracks, the bobcat had visited the scent post, a pile of scrapings and scat that sits under the protective roof of the boulder. Then, he'd backed up and leaped about 3-4 feet vertically onto the boulder.
To my utter dismay, I discovered that the bobcat's arrival didn't trigger my camera. It was set to record video using infrared light. If it had worked like it has on many occasions in exactly this spot, the video of this bobcat would have been fun to watch. I was disappointed.

We skirted the boulder and kept following the tracks. The cat marched up an open and snowy slope, and then entered a sparsely forested plateau. He carefully walked under the protection of trees where the snow wasn't deep. When I strayed from his route, I once found myself in snow up to my thighs. His strategy was smart. In the photo, the bobcat's tracks marched ahead of K who sat waiting for me.
As we crossed the lightly forested area, the sun just below the eastern horizon stained the sky orange and purple.
To the west, the clouds hovering over the Divide glowed pink behind my chocolate furry companion.
As the bobcat patrolled his territory, he stopped to check almost every boulder outcropping. Usually, he skirted the edge, checking under rocks. I'm guessing he was sniffing scent posts (we found several) and searching for rodents or rabbits.
The nimble bobcat chose some death-defying routes. At this spot, he climbed up a nearly vertical rock face and then slipped through a slot in the boulders.
We went the long way around the boulders and discovered his motivation for sneaking through this outcropping. A veritable rabbit party had occurred, based on the scattered lagomorph tracks on the other side of the wall of boulders.
Based on the furious chase tracks, I suspect that the bobcat caught his dinner here. His purposeful tracks leaving the area made a straight line toward a very isolated locale - a perfect place for him to hunker down and eat. Alas, I was out of time because I had to get to a doctor's appointment. So, I abandoned his tracks and headed toward home. I hope to return tomorrow to see if I can find evidence that the bobcat did indeed hunt down a rabbit dinner last night.

As we emerged from the dense forest where we'd abandoned the bobcat tracks, the low sunlight filtered golden onto the snow.
As we tromped toward home on the trails, we intersected the beginning of our bobcat's nocturnal odyssey. Because the tracks were filled in with an inch of snow, we knew that they were left earlier in the evening than the tracks we'd just abandoned. Indeed, it was K who alerted me that we'd crossed our cat's path again. She found the tracks and sat while staring at me to catch my attention.
She's turning into a good tracking dog. She never takes off chasing or following the tracks without me. She simply 'tells' me that there's something to pay attention to.

She showed me that the tracks had wound through a boulder pile as the bobcat ascended from an isolated canyon where he might have spent yesterday napping.
Alas, after perusing this new discovery, I was truly on the verge of being late for my surgeon's appointment so we headed east, straight into the risen sun, toward home. I truly wished that I'd had time to follow the tracks to both ends. It's so much fun getting a peek into the real life of a bobcat.
I've had PT and surgeon's appointments in the past two days. Both of them assured me that the new pains and incredible fatigue that have floored me recently are completely normal. My PT massaged my three-day headache away, a miracle as far as I was concerned. Interestingly, she asked me to look straight ahead and then to each side so that she could measure my neck's range of motion. My "straight-ahead" is about 15 degrees to the right of where it should be. The reason is that the muscles on the right side of my neck are spasming so hard that they're constantly pulling my head to the right. I wonder if that's why my hikes have all been big clockwise circles?

My surgeon buoyed my confidence in the bony fusions growing between my neck vertebrae. I'm on the right track, moving fast, but he emphasized that I'll continue to have pain and fatigue until at least 3 months post-surgery. He wants me to start using my neck more normally - without the support of any brace and without constantly tensing my muscles out of fear of hurting myself.

My final topic of conversation with the surgeon was a potential operation on my low back to fix the huge disc herniation adjacent to the series of previously fused vertebrae. It's an overwhelming proposition so soon after my major neck surgery - so I hope to put off lumbar surgery for as long as I can bear the pain.

Thanks to all of you for your support - it has made this recovery journey so much easier!


  1. You're like a detective of the forest - how awesome that you were able to uncover how that bobcat spent his night.

    It sounds like the medical news is pretty good, especially when it comes to this surgery. I hope that the pain lessens a little bit every day.

  2. What a great collection of pics and observations!

    Of course, K was her usual beautiful self!

    Thanks for the recovery updates too!

    It is truly nice to see you are on the correct trail!

    Have a great weekend!

  3. I love the first picture of the dark, still snowing, forest. Its very beautiful. Then later, where you are coming out into the sunshine.

    I'm sure your Docs reassurance of why the pain and fatigue meant a lot to you. Would you call the muscle spasms in your neck a cramp?
    If so, I think there is a med to take for that. Don't know if it would work for you but it does for muscle cramps in the leg.

    Have a good weekend, KB and K!

    Jo and Stella

  4. Hey there KB!
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful sunrise with us all. Those pictures are truly stunning and felt like I was there - treading in the snow too.
    The sunrise of your healing is also dawning and its cause for celebration. Your doctors suggestion of more surgery merely indicates that your recovery is going well.
    Hang in there, dear friend. Im sad about your continuous pain but also in admiration of your resolve to soldier on.
    Sending lots of love to you and wishes that you will track that bobcat down (lots!)

  5. i'm disappointed too that you weren't able to track the cat any longer.....such beautiful pictures....
    glad you got rid of that headache! so you don't need to wear the brace all the time? i can see where talking about another surgery so soon just ain't right.....but i would suggest that is a good sign coming from your doc...the thought of being completely incapacitated..even for a short time...for you is a huge deal.....
    bummer the camera didn't capture the latest cat....hope you find the remnants of the kill....:)
    hang in there girl....maybe a little duct tape on your head to pull it to the left...:)!

  6. Those first two photographs are quite stunning - they look as though they've been painted onto the screen. What stunning colours. Glad to hear about the update and know that everything is on track. Looking back at the blog it's amazing to see how quickly ( and recently ) everyhting happened.

  7. What beautiful pictures today. Fascinating following the tracks and seeing where the bobcat goes and HOW he moves through the woods.

  8. I had to stare at that first picture for several minutes! I'd have sworn at first glance that it was a painting! Have you ever thought about selling some of your photos?

    I LOVE that first picture of K waiting for you with the tracks behind her. She could be the front of a Christmas card!

    Your morning's adventures always inspire me! I love all the cool stuff you find. I'm not surprised that K is turning into a tracker.

    I'm glad to hear that your PT and doctors think you're on the road to normal recovery! Are you going to start hiking in counterclockwise circles now?

  9. What a beautiful journey we had with you this morning!! Breathtaking photos. We hope your neck continues to mend well and as quickly as is appropriate. Take care and have a great weekend.

    Woos, Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  10. Overall good news today. We all wish you well and hope you can put off lumbar surgery indefinitely. Who knows, I hope you start getting relief as your body adjust to the other surgery. Staying active...that's the secret, I think. If you weren't so active, you'd be a mess right now. Keep on having a wonderful time and enjoying nature with your gang.

  11. Hi KB, Though I don't find your pain a laughing matter, I did have to smile at this: "my hikes have all been big clockwise circles"! I love your wintry blue photos and the pictures of K waiting and showing you the way. Bummer that the camera didn't record the Bobcat, though. (Lucinda does not want to hear the news of a Rabbit dinner!) Take Care and have a good weekend.

  12. I was with houndstooth...I thought the first photo was a painting! Just beautiful pictures today. I was really wishing I could have been in your forest to take in the sunrise and some mountain air.

    I'm glad the doc/PT reports were positive and that you got relief from your headache. Are you able to get massages for your neck to help with the spasms? I know massage therapy has been a tremendous help for me in the past. You would probably have to go for regular sessions as I'm sure(OK, guessing) your neck muscles are doing all sorts of post-op overcompensating and may continue to do so as you heal.

    Although I hate hearing that you're in so much pain, your clockwise hikes have led you on some good adventures!

  13. AC: You're right about the massage but my docs will only let a very knowlageable PT near my neck. Perhaps later, I can return to my favorite massage therapist.

    Stella: You're right - there are drugs for muscle spasms (called muscle relaxants) but I already take them. Can you imagine the state that my neck would be in if I didn't take them??? I don't want to imagine it.

    KKS: Maybe the duct tape is a good idea! Today I went clockwise again. I think that my chin is leading me that way!

    Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and the compliments on my photos. I didn't really start taking many photos until last year - so I'm a rank amateur with a point-and-shoot camera! It's fun!


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