This morning, K and ventured out into a serene and quiet world. The jet engine roar of the wind had vanished. A thin layer of snow held on in shaded places, giving hints of the myriad animals who had wandered, ghost-like, through our forest overnight. One of our wildlife cameras captured an image of a coyote with a plush coat foraging under our birdfeeders.
K meticulously investigated the scents on plants, shrubs, trees, and rocks next to the trail and appeared to decide that something scary had passed through our forest. As I tried to photograph her, she rarely looked at me. Instead, she scanned the vast world behind her.
I thought to myself that it's rare that our biggest predator comes close to our house so she must be worried about coyotes. Then, I flashed back to about 7 years ago when I found mountain lion tracks within 20' of our house. Back then, I knew almost nothing about lions or tracks but I knew enough to throw down my glove for scale in the photo of the sprawling paw imprints.
It scared us because we had two precious canines, neither of whom was fast or ferocious. Astro, K's big brother, was almost 16 years old. He loved his meandering strolls but moved slowly and stiffly. K was just a few months old and moved like a goofy puppy!
We called our Division of Wildlife to get advice about protection against mountain lions. Ever since then, we each carry a huge can of pepper spray when we're outside. We've found lion tracks so close to our house only one more time since then, and our wildlife cameras next to the house have never captured the image of a lion since we installed them about 18 months ago.
This morning, I eventually caught K looking vaguely in my direction a couple of times but she was uneasy the entire time. I think that her nose had given her information that I didn't have.
She scaled a huge rock!
Just kidding. It towered about a foot off the ground. That's my limit for K's climbing until her cast comes off, and she gets strong again.
After I dropped K off at home enjoying a kong with yummy dog food frozen inside it, I pedaled out of our clearing on my own. I moved silently, almost stealthily, soaking up the winter quiet of the forest. I was the first human to travel on one of my favorite trails since the snow. A cadre of coyotes had milled about at the start of the trail, and then they'd moved out in a single file line. I love snow because I can see the animal stories!
Finally, after days of clouds enshrouding the mountains, the rocky behemoths sparkled in their new coat of snow. I did a mountain bike ride that let me gaze at the peaks from different viewpoints.
From a sun-warmed ridge...
From a rocky cliff with the moon hanging high...
From a pine forest...
What a glorious winter day!