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Friday, December 31, 2010

Small adventures

Yesterday, as our storm hit, the wild birds busily flew to and fro our bird feeder, storing up energy for the cold night ahead. Indeed, it reached -7°F overnight. This Downy Woodpecker had suet in his stomach to help him through the night. He returned to the feeder at dawn, after a night roosting in a tree with his feathers ruffled up to help him stay warm.
Yesterday afternoon while the woodpecker ate voraciously, the Duo and I hiked out into snow and plummeting temperatures. Both dogs soon resembled 'snowdogs' from snow falling from the sky and from burrowing in the snow on the ground.

R with his faraway eyes...

The earnest look... "Yes, I do deserve treats!".

K deserved them too!

The snow brought out the wild puppy in both of them.
This morning, the storm had lost its fury. The sky was still steel gray but the snow had stopped falling. Despite the frigid cold, I eagerly anticipated tracking animals in the fresh snow. However, I was disappointed. Almost no animals had walked our forest floor overnight - they must have curled up in warm dens to endure the arctic blast.
The only tracks that I spotted were made while K and I hiked in the forest. Mule deer and coyotes ambled across our tracks while we were out. This coyote photo is from a remote camera and was taken a couple of days ago.
Since it was a full 10 degrees colder this morning than yesterday afternoon, I thought that K would like to wear four boots to keep her toes warm - they seemed cold in yesterday's relatively balmy weather. Alas, I was wrong. K didn't like the boots at all, although I did manage to cajole her into some galloping in the fresh snow.
This morning, her frosty muzzle was caused by the frigid air rather than snow.
Near the end of our hike, the sun feebly attempted to burn through the cloud veil with K watching intently.
After walking with K, I put on more layers than I ever thought possible, and I went out for a snowbike ride. Within minutes of starting my ride, both wheels slid sideways on a downhill, and I fell with a thud. Fortunately, I emerged unscathed except for a sorer than usual neck. Sometimes I wish that I could learn to curb my tendency to test my limits... but then I realize that I'll never be capable of that, no matter what. I need small adventures to paint my world in vivid colors rather than a dull monochrome.

Shortly later, the clouds had lifted slightly and blue mingled with the gray sky. I couldn't think of a better place to be.
To my amazement, I considered taking off some layers as I warmed up in the weak sun rays.
That thought was fleeting. In my confident and warm state, I decided to ride up to Hug Hill. As I ascended, the wind off the Divide hit me and stole my body heat, whooshing it toward Kansas. The wind hurled the snow out of the treetops, making me feel like I was climbing a lofty peak in the Himalayas rather than an 8500' hill in the Rockies. I kept pedaling through a haze of flying snow.
Never one to quit partway to a goal, I pedaled to the top of Hug Hill despite the wind, standing on the exposed peak for less than a nanosecond. It was bitterly cold in the fury of the wind on the summit. As fast as possible, I pointed my wheels straight downhill and enjoyed a wild ride down a steep, slippery, and rocky slope toward home.

Here's to an adventurous 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

K flies and leaps

This morning, K and I hiked out together into the start of a winter storm. Clouds surrounded us but the sun barely glowed over the eastern hills.
Yesterday, K's surgeon concluded that the lump on her paw is probably a pad of scar tissue that is forming between the amputated end of her paw bone (metacarpal bone) and the skin. As he described what he thought was going on, I visualized something like an internal callus preventing her sawed off bone from poking the skin on the top of her paw.

Because so many unexpected twists have occurred since the paw odyssey started in September, I now tend to expect bad news at vet appointments. I was so glad to be pleasantly surprised!

The surgeon's opinion is that we should stop the antibiotics in a week and then watch carefully to see if the bone infection recurs. I'm very good at "watching carefully" :)

In the meantime, I'm supposed to ramp up her exercise even more. The surgeon was very impressed with how strong K's paw muscles have become since that nasty cast was removed. I think that we'll do an extra hike in our fresh snow this afternoon!

As the snow started to fly this morning so did K! And, I didn't even hold my breath with worry!
I had my camera out when she chose to leap onto a fallen tree rather than walk around it. The choice to leap was a sign of how good she's feeling.
After our happy and mostly dry hike, I headed out to hit some of my favorite singletrack trails that I'm afraid will be shut down for the season by this storm. As I started my mountain bike ride, a snowflake fluttered out of the sky every now and then. However, near the middle of my ride, it turned into an intense storm with wind-blown snow stinging my eyes as it snaked its way behind my riding glasses.
Silence fell on the hills. The muffling effect of the snowstorm gave me the sensation of pedaling along in a cocoon, with little visibility in any direction and no sounds reaching my ears except the patter of snowflakes hitting my helmet.
Over my ride, snow transformed our world. The boulder-strewn landscape below was almost bare of snow during my hike this morning with K. By the end of my ride, it looked like a garden of rock and snow sculptures.
Several of you asked about my new camera - it's a Canon Rebel t2i. So far, I love it! However, I also love my old camera, a bomb-proof, waterproof, freeze-proof, and KB-proof Lumix point-and-shoot. I was afraid of whether the snow would hurt my new Canon this morning so I used the Lumix for all the photos in this post except the sunrise.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

K's happy running

A wall of clouds muted our sunrise this morning, generating a gentle pastel palette rather than the fiery glory of recent mornings.
From a higher ridge, a tree skeleton stood starkly in front of the steel gray sky with the golden orb burning through.
 K looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes that made me smile.
Since she had no bad effects from yesterday's mis-judged jump, I unlatched her leash to let her meander next to me. After lingering behind me, K cantered gently through the dry grass and rocks, seemingly testing her paw.
I took off her boot for the last 2/3 of our hike. Her injured paw with the toe amputation still doesn't look perfect when she stands on a lichen-covered boulder but it is improving daily. A month ago, none of her toe tips touched the ground when she stood because her paw muscles were so weak. Our specialist appointment was postponed yesterday due to an emergency (I hope that the emergency dog is OK) - so we see the specialist tomorrow about the hard lump and swelling on K's paw.
After our break on the boulder, K cantered gracefully through an aspen grove down into our flat meadow. In her lifetime, I've taken many photos of her running - but I've never seen her eyes looking as happy as in today's photos. I think that she has a new-found appreciation for the ability to run!
As we approached home, our path intersected with R and the Runner's path. R greeted us with extreme enthusiasm as he streaked toward us like a meteorite!
I held my breath and allowed K to play with him briefly. At this point in her recovery, I need to let K regain her strength rather than being over-protective.
These are my first true action photos with my new camera. I captured K at a full out gallop, in a blur, before corralling her.
So far, we've seen no bad effects from K's wild romp in the meadow. She and I are enjoying each day, especially since she finally can run and play like a puppy. That makes me smile! K is coming back!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunrise to sunset, non-stop

I was up early again, walking in the sunrise light with K. Oh my - I think that I should try to keep seeing the sunrises, even after the holidays are over. We arrived up high before the sun peeked over the rocky ridge to our east.
Then, the moment when the sun rays lit up our world...
... and turned the western sky pink.
K and I gazed out over the meadows.
As we started to walk westward, K looked at me plaintively. I wasn't sure what she wanted...
We wended our way through the rust-colored boulders toward our mountains. As we walked, for some reason unknown to me, K decided to try to launch herself onto an impossibly high boulder. She didn't reach the top and landed awkwardly from her attempt. For a moment, she held her "bad" paw limply, striking fear into my heart. But, she soon shook it off and we continued on our way.
We arrived at the rim overlooking the Divide, and the wind whipped through my hair and K's fur. A veil of clouds sat over the Divide, signaling that the wind was here to stay.
K seemed less afraid of the wind than usual as her ears flapped wildly in the wind.
A little later, I had a short mountain bike ride with the turbo-charged R in the forest. He flew like the wind itself. I hope with all my heart that K can run so fast again some day.
The rest of my time in the forest was dominated by cat signs. I followed an obscure route on my mountain bike through pine forest littered with towering boulder outcroppings.
As I rode, I saw about 10 huge scrapes left by a mountain lion who had followed the same route. To make these territorial marks, a lion kicks backward with his two huge hind paws, leaving two parallel furrows on the ground. Usually, he then urinates on the scraped spot. In the photo below, you can see how obvious these scrapes were on my trail.
Here's a close-up of a scrap, where the lion faced toward the right in the photo and kicked the dirt backward toward the left. My 10" long foot is in the photo for scale.
Very nearby, a small herd of deer mingled. Two curious ones watched me pass by. I wondered if they'd encountered the lion.
A couple of days ago, a bobcat did a similar marking behavior in front of one my remotely activated wildlife cameras. He walked to scent post at the base of the tree.
He oriented himself to scrape the dirt with his hind paws and then defecate on his scrape.
His job done, he sauntered away. This is an amazing spot. All sorts of animals mark it, including bobcats, mountain lions, and bears.
Here's what the bobcat scrape looked like, with my 3.5" long handwarmer in the photo for scale. It's tiny by comparison to the mountain lion scrape.
All in all, it was a good day, although my dad's flight back east was cancelled. Now, I'm off to pick him up after a day at the airport...