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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An arctic hike and snowbike ride

Yesterday afternoon, just as the Duo and I were preparing for our afternoon hike, this handsome fellow trotted toward our house. This photo might be my best one of a coyote, with his long and graceful legs stretching out into a long stride. His intelligent eyes look focused and his ears alert.
We never actually saw this coyote but we saw his tracks as we walked out the same path shortly later. I always start our hikes with the Duo on leash because this path is so popular with coyotes and bobcats.

The temperature was plummeting during our hike, starting at about zero and falling lower as we walked. Within minutes in the humid air, the dogs had frosty faces.

The photo above was from the Duo's sit-stay before I called them. When I called, R zigged across K's path and sprinted into the meadow. I guess that I should have anticipated his detour given his straying attention during the sit-stay.
I was worried about the coyote presence, and I called him very sharply. The photo below shows him a stride before he stopped in his tracks.
He paused for a long moment and came to me. Phew. We practiced recalls for another ten minutes before I gave the Duo any romping freedom.

By the end of those ten minutes, R had a classic frosty face!

This morning, we awakened to a thermometer that read -16°F which gave me plenty of cause to procrastinate before heading outside. I found mindless chores to complete and rechecked the thermometer: -18°F. After more fiddling with household stuff, it had reached -19.6°F, and I decided that procrastinating wasn't helping our cause. So, I headed out on my coldest snow bike ride ever, with K by my side.

Riding was harder than usual. I'm not sure if the seven layers of clothing or the very cold and sticky snow slowed us, but I moved like a hibernating bear. At the start, K was enthusiastic, leading the way and pausing at intersections to find out our route.
Soon, however, she settled into a steady trot next to my bike with no sniffing or romping. That's a sign that K isn't enjoying herself as much as usual. I stopped to check that nothing obvious was wrong, and this was the look that she gave the camera. Her eyes stayed firmly closed for three photos in a row. Oh my, I don't think that she loved our -20 degree weather.
Maybe she had her eyes closed to dream of Moab in March.

A little later, she'd perked up a bit and looked interested in her world.
She galloped through the snow-covered aspen trees, clomping in her fleece-lined boots.
Alas, after a very short ride, I decided that I'd better take K home. I knew that I wasn't cold but I couldn't know if she was getting frostbite. So we slogged toward the house where I left K relaxing in front of a roaring fire. She's fine - I think that we learned today that she's not an Iditarod dog.
I headed out to ride solo but never strayed far from home. A flat tire or mechanical problem could have been a very serious affair at this temperature. Staying close seemed prudent.

I stayed warm, thanks to my thick layers of insulation, and enjoyed my tour of our trail network immensely. I found myself wondering where all the animals go in extreme weather. I didn't see any tracks except a stampede of coyotes. It looked like a pack of four or so had trotted from one meadow near Hug Hill down to the meadow near our house.

Based on the coyote tracks, the story was clear. The pack was heading down the Hug Hill trail as I rode up toward Hug Hill. They must have heard me huffing and puffing, and they veered into the forest to avoid me. They probably watched me pass (I didn't see them). Then, they returned to the trail, now carefully trotting in the packed down track left by my bike. On my way down toward home, I giggled when I saw that my fresh tire track, made only ten minutes earlier, was pocked with coyote tracks. I find it mystical that they can vanish instantly without me having any idea that they're so close.

Here's a photo of trail trampled by coyote tracks just before they veered into the forest.
The presence of coyotes in our world is nothing new. They've floated through our forests and meadows for all the years that I've lived here. Their motto is that they avoid humans whenever possible and usually avoid our dogs. We train our dogs relentlessly for the rare occasions when they spot a coyote because dogs often don't win those confrontations. I see it as a risk that comes with the territory. It is as much, or even more, the coyotes' home as ours.

Tonight will be arctic again... so I hope that everyone stays snug. 

I don't know exactly how cold it will be because our internet connection is so slow that it "times out" before the weather forecast loads. The only good part of this slow connection is that I just called and asked our internet company to measure our download and upload rates. The rates shocked the company so much that we'll get a deeply discounted fee for the next year - even though they plan to fix our tower sometime soon. Good news, I guess. In the meantime, I'm sorry that I'm missing out on many blogs because I can't load them.


  1. I wonder if the coyote wanted to go to Boston to help his/her pal stuck on the ice -

    What great pics!

    I will agree that K didn't like the Snow Dog role too much!

    Stay warm! I know what a change that is from your temps of recent days!

  2. Thank you for explaining more about coyotes habits. We in NS are acting archiac with the trapping incentives. I've included a link to this story...
    On a different note...your photos are spectacular...such beauty!
    Sophie's dad Ron

  3. That is one ethereal world there - and so incredibly beautiful in its frozenness! The stories continue to be amazing - like the coyotes that hide out, tromp your tracks, then disappear again - wow! I just looked through some past posts, such as the Mt. Lion pix of 1/11/11- whatta sight he/she is! And the coyote photo is gorgeous! How do they all survive in minus 20???

  4. Your weather is hard for me to fathom! It would take some serious toughening up for me to be out in weather like that. I was out in my down vest this morning when it was (ahem) 60 degrees out.

    Your arctic world is stunning! Coyotes are so stealthy. I ran into one recently and was amazed at how he vanished through the dense brush without a sound. Even the smallest finches make more noise.

    Stay warm out there!

  5. No worries! Just glad you have the patience to keep posting. Those snowy K pics made me laugh - she really is beautiful.

    I heard the coyotes tonight, but didn't see them. I wonder too where they go when it's as cold as it has become. I read that they generally don't make dens unless they are giving birth. Do you know if this is true? How can they possibly stay warm when the wind is vicious?

  6. Such beautiful photos and stories! Many thanks for your blog!

    I wonder if you could share what kind of boots you use for K? We struggle to find a pair that doesn't irritate our pup's dew claws, and we're in desperate need of something to keep her toes a bit warmer during our cold, cold trail runs.


  7. A frosty post today! Not sure if I could handle a -20 degree hike, but I will never find out cuz my mom would never be outside when it is dat cold. ;) Stay safe and warm my furiends.

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  8. Oh, look at those trees - just so beautiful!!! Your world looks magical today.

    The pups here won't make the Iditarod cut either. They wanted to be out today but never for very long. Just in and out all day long. I thought of you often as I shivered in my heatless home and wondered however do you do what you do:) Thanks goodness for the warmth of those fires.

  9. goodness, ya'll are dedicated!!
    the pictures of K and R with their frost covered faces made me laugh a bit because it looks as though they've had a snowball fight with each other. :)
    thanks for sharing the coyote picture from your trail camera. is he a full-grown adult?
    stay warm and enjoy the fire!

    the booker man and asa's mama

    p.s. -- booker was glad he could give you the giggles. ;)

  10. I always find it funny how elusive coyotes are, but also how bold. They sure don't seem to wait long before taking advantage of the trails you make for them!

    K, I don't think anybody here is made for the Iditarod, either! I'd rather be in front of the fire, too. Especially now that they're saying we could get two feet of snow by the time it's all over. I thought our owl might reroost under the awning, but so far have seen no sign of him. At least we can be fairly certain that the groundhog won't see her shadow tomorrow morning!

  11. Not only do you take amazing pictures, but you've taught me so much about the amazing animals that are part of your world--THANKS for that!

  12. It looks frigid. Frigid, but beautiful. K's frosty face seems to be saying, "Let me sit by a warm fireplace."

  13. So I am taking a guess based on your post yesterday that the coyote in the first pic is walking because his legs are not in sync-??

    Hope you stay warm!!

  14. Such beautiful scenery with all the snow/frost on the frees and ground!

    You coyote looks like our friend Charlie. But, he lives in Wyoming and is more of a pet than a coyote!

    You are quite brave to go out in such temps! Our humans have a hard time just walking to and from their cars in those kind of temps, let alone taking a long hike!

    Bummer on the snow internet speeds. I guess that is the one good advantage to big city living!

    Holly & Khady

  15. I think it so amazing that you live so close to so many wild animals and how much you end up avoiding each other. It is a very cool world we live in and I enjoy living it through you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  16. What a smart looking fellow the coyote is. Interesting to hear about your internet speeds. Ours slows to a snails pace when it rains. Something to do with humidity and the junction box. Maybe if I'm feeling masochistic I'll follow your example and phone france Telecom to ask for a refund. Bon chance.

  17. Extremely beautiful photos KB! Were your facial features beautifully decorated with snow like K's?

  18. Wow, that is an amazing picture of the coyote! I love reading about your stories and interactions with the animals around you. You are always so respectful of their lives and ways - it is very refreshing!

    Your pal, Pip

  19. I'll echo what so many others have said. It looks so cold, yet so beautiful. I'm glad that you stayed warm and comfortable while you were riding, and glad you went out, because that meant that we got to see all of that beauty.

    I think that the animals hole up pretty well during bitter weather. I don't feed the deer, but they come to glean the leftovers from the feeder. We were supposed to have a major storm late last night and today (didn't pan out, thank goodness) so I relented and chopped up some apples, and put some cracked corn out for them after dark last night.

    They didn't come and all of that food got buried. I guess that they yarded up, sensing the storm that was supposed to come, but took another path at the last moment.

  20. I gots to hand it to ya'll fur even getting outta da house in dat weather...I wouldn't come out from under my blankie in dat mess fur nuttin (maybe a beer).

    Dat coyote is amazing! So strong and beautiful but I hopes dis is da closest I am evers to one....hehehe...between computer screens.


  21. Your mom is super brave to go out in that bitter cold!


    Mr. Nubbin'

  22. Great photos as usual, and very impressive perfomances by both you and K...such determination and dedication is inspiring. Stay warm and safe in your arctic paradise.

  23. That coyote has some long legs! Great photos... I especially enjoyed how the ice and snow were covering the grass and plants - beautiful!

  24. Hi Y'all,

    I like goin' out when we get a "little" snow, but I like comin' in to a warm fire even better...and our temperatures are never like y'alls!

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  25. Oh, how I echo your internet sentiments!!! I wish I could get a deep discount for putting up with sluggish dial-up at home!!! But I guess I'm lucky to have any service at all...

    Loved your description of braving the cold temps. And your frosted photos of your snowy world are beautiful, even though they make my fingers and toes cold!

    R looks like sugar-frosted licorice!!!

  26. I think the beautiful coyotes and forest cretures talk about you and the Duo when they see you.
    I am sure they talk among themselves of the beauty of K and R.. just as I do. It would be so interesting to see where they are sleeping.. And I wonder if they find you interesting.??
    So very cold, yet mother earth draws you to connect to her.
    I know the smell of very cold,, and it is so fresh. Did you smell it?
    I am happy that you do not tell Mother Earth that it is too cold, because I think she prepares the show of nature for you.
    We tried to visit last night, but couldn't. And tonight has been bad too, but finally got through- this silly dial up is rediculous
    stay warm

  27. the weather is causing slow internet? ;)

    that coyote photo rocks! and so do all the snow doggie noses... so fun...

    sigh... recalls... yup... gotta practice mine too. been letting mine off leash at the farms for better excercise than i can give them ON leash... and while loki is 99%, juno's still on the siberian recall plan... well not really. for a sibe, it's not a bad recall, but she certainly will "think about it" before coming back... she will stop and turn around, but then sniff and think about it... damn sibe! LOL. labs are sooooo easy that way. (kidding of course... i know they can be just as recall-naughty as the next doggie...)


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