Always Something New

We're all going a bit stir-crazy. Between rain and slush, it's hard to find a decent surface for hiking or running. This morning, I decided to take the girls up into the forest on the groomed-for-snowmobiles road, primarily because all the other roads were slushy-slick and enshrouded in fog. Too dangerous - cars wouldn't see us, and there's no shoulder. We've run this road so many times, because it's so convenient, and I always worry the girls will be completely bored. But there's always something new, especially for dogs with amazing senses of smell, sight, and hearing.

The official snowmobile parking area is where we started. It's just a half mile from the house. (The photo was taken two weeks ago in decidedly better weather.) Before I let the girls out of the car, I had the nasty task of removing three large carcass parts from an elk or deer that some critter had dragged there to munch on. I found a plastic bag in the car, put my hand inside of it, then picked up first the lower jaw bone (looked like a big, bloody tweezers with a few teeth embedded midway along each prong), then a foot-long section of spine (like a wind chime of bone pieces on a string), and finally the rest of the skull. The pieces had been pretty thoroughly stripped of hide and meat, but blood and gristle dropped off each part as I held it at arm's length and then pitched it over the snow bank into the trees.

Welcome to hunter's paradise.

[Side rant: While these carcass parts might have come from a natural kill nearby and dragged onto the parking lot surface for easy eating, this is an area where I also find black plastic garbage bags filled with elk and deer carcasses. My complaint is that there are too many lazy hunters who simply dump carcasses near parking lots or trail heads. Sure, forest creatures will eventually dispose of the carcass, but they are an eyesore to those of us who use the forests, and a powerful temptation to our dogs. I resent cleaning up after such lazy "trophy" hunters.]

Once the area was cleared, I let the girls out of the car. They immediately investigated the spots of blood where the carcass parts had been, then followed tracks and scents only they could perceive, where the critter had likely originally brought the meal down from the hillside. I enticed them away from those sweet (to them) smells with salmon treats. We went about two miles up, up, up into the forest, slogging on a slushy base with about an inch of fresh wet snow on top. A bit like running through deep sand. But the girls were happy to be out and running - chasing and teasing each other, stopping to look down a hillside or gully with the hope that they'd spot a deer, coyote, or fox. My spirits were lifted along with theirs. Nothing like a romp in the wilderness to make things right. Even on a dreary, foggy morning.