K and I enjoyed a fair weather hike today, with blue skies and a ceiling of clouds above them. The clouds are harbingers of a return to more winter-like weather with cold and snow.
We hiked up to Hug Hill on softening snow but the views took my breath away.
Sometimes, I wonder how I'd be managing without my enthusiastic and dedicated hiking partner, K, throughout this recovery. She and I have been healing in parallel because she had a gastrotomy just days before my neck surgery. However, soon she will accelerate ahead of me. In another week, she'll be free to begin running again while I still have months before I'll be riding a bike outdoors. For now, I'm just looking forward to being allowed to drive a car - that's still somewhere in the nebulous future despite my relatively fast healing.
K ran with abandon for parts of our hike. Below, she's bounding up a steep and slippery slope.
And then, when we explored off-trail, I leashed her both to protect her from animals and to limit how long she ran free since she's still healing too.
I'm learning extremely rapidly that densely forested and steep hillsides that I believe have no trails in fact have well-established animal trails. These routes are so heavily traveled by wildlife that they're easy for me to walk on. The tracks suggest that mainly deer and elk use them but I'd bet that lions, bobcats, and coyotes also know about these routes. I'll certainly be placing cameras along them in the foreseeable future.
Usually, when we're deep in the woods exploring off-trail, trees block the views of the mountains. But, today, we were treated to numerous glimpses of our mountains.
Later in the day, the whole pack took a hike on a trail that's a short drive from home. I'm supposed to walk numerous miles each day to stimulate bone growth in my neck. However, since I can't drive, I find myself craving new hiking sites. So, our evening hike was a real treat for me. Even though it was only a short distance from home, novel views dominated the hike.
The dogs, including the lovable rascal R, ran and played with frenzied energy.
Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera out when the duo, galloping full out, hit this cascade of ice. A spring leaks water onto the trail on a steep downward pitch. Now, the trail is clear, hard, and very slippery ice. Both dogs hit it at high speed and slid down it with hilariously crazy efforts to stop themselves. We laughed and laughed after watching them, especially since no one was hurt. The dogs proved the adage that dogs don't look very far ahead in life - they sprint as fast as they can, have fun without considering potential consequences, and then deal with unexpected obstacles at the last possible instant.
I took the photo above as R ran back up the hill to us. He had learned his lesson and ran along the left side of the icefall up on the bank. He's barely visible far down the hill.
As we approached the end of the hike, my human hiking partner pointed to a pile of scat-like pellets, and asked "What animal do you think left that?". Without looking very carefully, I said, "Duh, an elk". Then, he picked up one of the pellets and said "I wonder what it tastes like". I shouted with disgust "NO, don't do that". But, he popped one in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Then, he murmured that it tasted pretty good. He picked up another and popped it into his mouth despite my loud protestations. Then, he doubled over laughing.
The photo above is real elk scat. Apparently, he'd planted a pile of Milk Duds close to the car at the start of our hike with a plan to trick me. Well, he sure did! Once I recovered from my initial stomach-turning disbelief, I laughed along with him!
After the funny joke, the sunset accompanied us for the end of our hike. The streaks of blues and purples peacefully accompanied us back to the trailhead.