Downed trees can be a good thing

This morning the girls and I met up with friends Jim and Jane and their dog Pixie. The idea was to hike/run a trail we all enjoy, the same trail where the girls and I encountered the mama bear and cub last fall. That close call has made me a little reluctant to venture out there without additional humans. Jim and Jane are always up for an adventure.

We figured we'd encounter downed trees and snow on the trail. It would be more a hike than a run. That was OK. Life is good.

What we didn't anticipate was that we wouldn't even be able to get to the trail head.

When I drove up the forest road toward the trail head, I came around a curve and there was Jim and Jane's Jeep, parked just in front of a tree that had fallen across the road, blocking it. Jim was already chopping away at the tree with his ax, former woodsman that he is.

We had a quick conference and decided that even if Jim chopped through this tree, there would undoubtedly be more ahead. In fact, we'd already passed three or four really big trees that someone else had used a chain saw to get through in the mile or so of road traversed to get to this point.

Decision: park the cars and use the road as a trail, calling it good. This particular road is native dirt, almost like hard packed sand, with no gravel, so great for dog and human feet. With the tree across the road, we didn't have any worries about cars following us, which meant no worries about the dogs. It also meant there would be nobody up ahead. It was our private playground for the day.

We set off, on a cool but sunny morning. My house and valley were enshrouded in fog when I left, so discovering sunshine at this spot was an added gift. And there were still several areas of snow on the road, a gift for the dogs.
My girls don't even pretend to keep up with Pixie, who is four years old, a mix of whippet and husky, fast and furiously curious. But - my girls are smart enough to know that Pixie can, and often does, lead them to interesting stuff. In this case...bones! Maia came out of the woods with the foot and lower leg bones of a deer or elk, rather fresh. In fact, the pink you see in her mouth is the tissue that fills the inside of the cloven hoof. Maia was in heaven. Meadow was jealous. That's Meadow's leg and tongue you see right behind Maia. Pixie had the good sense to let the girls have whatever they wanted to take.

Maia wanted to just stay in one spot and chew. She was doing her best to inhale the foot portion of her newly found delicacy. I was concerned about what she might ingest. I picked the slimy thing up by the attached lower leg bone, and tossed it as far as a I could into the woods. I rinsed my hand in a stream.

Pixie quickly found the bone and brought it back.

When Meadow approached her, Pixie dropped it. Meadow picked it up. Maia watched.

This just wasn't going to work. No forward progress was being made. Jane picked up the bone and put it in a tree branch about four feet off the ground. I figured one of the dogs would quickly jump up and get it, but to my surprise, they all smelled the ground below it, circling the tree, but didn't see the bone. I guess, to them, it made no sense to look up. What dog finds bones in a tree? As Jim, Jane and I continued up the road, the dogs gave up and followed.
This water hole was at the point we turned around, between three and four miles from the cars. My girls were hot at this point, even though it couldn't have been warmer than in the 50s. Maia and Pixie had already waded. Meadow went in, up to her belly, stirring up the muddy silt at the bottom. Formerly hot dog, now cool.
We headed back, along one of the many sections of road still covered in snow. The girls are way ahead. Maia is always eager to be first back to the car, and if Meadow comes up close, Maia will pick up her pace to stay ahead of her. It's gotten so bad that I've taken to putting Maia on leash on the return leg of any out-back hike so that she won't get too far ahead. If I'm running, I can get her to stay with me, but at walking pace she gets frustrated and gets way ahead. I'm still paranoid about some idiot mistaking her for a wolf and shooting her if she's too far in front of me.
As we made our way back down the road, all three dogs perked up when we got to the tree with the bone in it. Once again, they smelled the ground around the base of the tree, but none of them thought to look up!

A little farther, where Maia first found the bone now residing in the tree, the dogs left the road and went into that same area of forest, maybe 30 feet off the road. When I called the girls, they came quickly, so I assumed there was nothing left in there. But a minute or two later Meadow sidled up next to me in a way I've learned means "Heh heh, I've got something and Maia doesn't!" and sure enough, Meadow had found one of the actual hooves that had once shielded the softer tissue Maia had been so joyously chewing on earlier and that now adorned the tree.

These are the sort of treats we pay big bucks for at the pet store. The forest giveth.
The group, amazingly all looking the same direction at the same time! The trees across the road in the background are just some of many we encountered. It will take some work before this road is opened. That's OK with me.

Meadow still has the deer/elk toe in her mouth.
Me with Jane and Pixie on my right.
As we were all posing for photos (and I was showing Jim how to use my camera), Maia and Meadow took the opportunity to rest in the snow. Meadow is chewing on her deer/elk toe, blissfully happy. Pixie - who is normally very shy and rarely lets me touch her - decided to come close and give me a kiss. I almost let her, but remembered what all three dogs had been carrying in their mouths and decided to decline her generous offering.

I tossed Meadow's treat into the woods, as we were now near the cars.

The girls and I came home and napped.

A great day in the forest was had by all. Such days - when I have no worries about encountering vehicles or people - and can enjoy that sense of privacy with my dogs and our friends, are priceless.