Today's morning hike was a quiet and inquiring hike, as K and I probed deep into the forest in a place that felt complete devoid of human presence. On the trails, I can feel the influence of people everywhere. However, once I flee the trails, the forest feels different, more peaceful, and more wild. Humans are not in charge of the deep forest.
We started high, to get a view of the newly snowy mountains.
Behind K, in the photo below, clouds veil the mountains but some blue shined through.
The views of the snow-pillowed pine trees with the mountains behind them still awe me
Soon, however, I steered us toward a steep canyon wall that I'd never explored.
As we began our slippery descent, K alerted me to a scent, one that interested her almost too much. Her taut body language led me to leash her.
A short distance later, I spotted an uplifting of boulders, lined up like sentinels guarding the lower slopes. I've learned that boulder outcroppings harbor all sorts of creatures and their signs so we investigated. One boulder had an overhanging roof, protecting the pine duff below it from the snow. First, we found this scat, whose size was somewhere between a bobcat's and a mountain lion's typical scat dimensions. It contained almost entirely fur.
Then, nearby, K sniffed intensely, inhaling snow and sneezing. She started to dig, and we found scat that was beyond a doubt from a mountain lion. Moreover, its putrid stench almost overwhelmed me. This lion had eaten pure meat, and then the snow had preserved the odor of his waste. I stood in the spot and imagined standing in the mighty cat's paw prints. For me, it's mystical and powerful to have the lion spirits among us.
We plodded onward and downward, sometimes through deep snow up to my thighs. On the steeper parts, I grabbed trees to keep from sliding and frequently dumped fresh powder from the pine boughs all over me and K.
K shook off before the photo below but notice the snow on my hat, hair and shoulders! Also, notice that my neck brace is absent. I carried it in a lumbar pack but haven't needed it in days!
After laboring to move through the forest, we suddenly emerged from the dark pine trees into the light of an opening.
The boulder-ringed meadow in the midst of the forest enchanted me. It felt like an animal oasis, a place where bears, elk, and lions go to relax away from the human-traveled trails. We saw no tracks or signs of recent animal visits to this meadow but it rang with energy, a special spirit, of wild animals. We sat on a boulder, taking a short break and relaxing in the absolute silence of a snowy forest. Although the world was snowy today, I visualized a green grassy meadow, surrounded by leafy aspen trees filled with singing birds.
I truly wanted to explore the meadow more but my legs began aching, a sure sign that I've pushed my spine further than I should. My leg muscles spasm when my spinal cord is compressed and/or irritated in my neck. So, we headed toward the nearest trail and home. No doubt, I'll return to that spot. Its peacefulness will pull me back.
Along the way home, we spotted the mountains again. This time, the clouds portended snow. In fact, as we hiked, small flakes started fluttering out of the sky.In the late winter, I see each snowflake as a wildflower. Today, I visualized Columbine flowers fluttering down from the clouds. What a vision! Spring snow sows the grass, shrubs, wildflowers, and small trees that feed the wild animals in the spring and summer. Thanks to the snow, our bears will have more to eat when they finally emerge from their winter den. Let it snow!