Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lions And Gazelles

I look at these pictures and it's a little strange to see Kory.
Actually it is more than a little strange.  It's a lot strange.
For so long, on so many trails over too many states I have walked and wandered and taken pictures as my pup Jamie was with me.
Always eager to go.  Always eager to follow her nose and quickly mark every tree and bush we passed.
Always patiently standing and waiting for me to snap a picture.
Always willing to follow me anywhere.
And everywhere.
Always eager to continue further, just to see what was around the next bend in the trail or up over the next hill.
Jamie and I were very close, and part of the reason why was the shared experiences we had over so many years on so many trails.
And now I look at these pictures and see a different face waiting patiently for me to snap a photo.
Kory is very similar to Jamie in so many ways.
And while I miss my James, this new and energetic and loving pup is easy to love.
When I woke up yesterday I instantly decided that I wanted to explore someplace with Kory.
Wanted to wander someplace different than in and around Atomic City.
Cedar Butte, with it's multiple hills and multiple trails instantly came to mind.
LC just looked at me and said "OK.............remember your gun".
I could see it in his face.
He worries.  For many reasons both tangible and intangible and I understand that.
Even after all these years it is still hard to get used to that because I went my own way for so many years.  
As I dressed warmly against the cold and the wind, and as I grabbed for my pack and a bowl and bottles of water to share with my new trail companion, Kory did exactly what Jamie did.
Without me telling her she knew that we were going somewhere, to do something.
The details didn't matter.  
All that was important was that we were GOING, and my eager dog enthusiastically barked and followed me from room to room.
Loading her into the truck I headed slowly out of town, drove a mile down a gravel road and turned right onto the marked Big Butte Rd.
If I stayed on this road it would take me all the way to Big Butte, but only about four miles from the turn-off I knew that I would fine a large, open parking area where I could park the truck and begin my hike.
A look back at the truck as we head towards the hills............
The last time that I had been to Cedar Butte was earlier in the month with LC.
On that day we had driven beyond the wide-open parking area (that is a favorite staging point for four-wheelers and dirt bikers), and driven up to the canyons and the base of the hills.  
From there we had hiked up a couple of very steep hills and found a trail that followed the ridge line around the hills and which eventually circled back to the truck.
On this day with Kory I parked on the flats and wanted to explore some of the trail leading up to the high hills.
To wander in and around the trees, follow any off-shoot trails I might find, just move and be moving with my dog.
A look back at the mountains to the north............
And a look up ahead, in the direction we were traveling.
Within minutes of setting out I saw a herd of cattle spread out on both sides of the trail ahead of us.
Still unsure about my dog and her reactions, I held more tightly to her leash as we continued walking..........
I have learned over these past couple of weeks that she will make a dash for a rabbit, but simply stands and stares at cats and deer.
As we moved closer to the cows they became more and more alarmed, and quickly began to cluster closer for protection.
Kory walked and then stopped and stared, walked and then stopped and stared.
Does she know what cows are?  I have no idea, but she did not try to bolt after them..............
I felt badly for the cattle because they were clearly unsettled by our presence.
As we continued to walk the trail, they continued to cluster together and then move away from us.
I didn't have any choice at that point because we were all sharing the same trail.
Eventually the trail forked, and when they (as one) took the left fork, climbed up and over the hill and disappeared, I took the right fork with Kory and headed up the trail LC and I had taken in the truck earlier in the month...........
A link to our first trip up Cedar Butte
We had a fair amount of climbing to do, but unlike Big Butte this climb was easier.
This trail climbed and then leveled off, before climbing again.
It was less steep, more winding and gradual, as opposed to the in-your-face, kick-ass-and-take-names, non-stop uphill of Big Butte.
The day was cool but also very beautiful, and I was greatly enjoying the quiet, the effort and the sweet company of Kory.............
The top of Big Butte barely visible above the trees............
We wandered off trail for a few minutes and I watched Kory as she looked out over the hills in front of her.
I think she likes it here.  She sleeps well, eats well, knows her name, and is loving and embracing of both LC and me.
Like Jamie she barks whenever somebody comes to the door, and that's a good thing.  Also like Jamie, once they are inside the house, she is friendly and welcoming of strangers that we have invited in............
A look back at the Twin Buttes.............
As much as I like living in Atomic City there are times when I hunger for trees and water, for climbing hills as opposed to walking flat trails, for walking away from civilization as opposed to walking around it.
This was one of those days.
There was no water here, but the silence and effort of climbing this trail would feed my hunger for a while............
We had been climbing the trail for 30 minutes when I looked over at Kory and saw her licking snow off the ground.
That was my cue to stop for a few minutes and for both of us to drink.
I also had to pee, which I had been putting off for the past 10 minutes.
The logistics of being a woman who had to pee - who was wearing multiple layers - and wearing a gun - and carrying a pack - and holding the leash of a new dog who had no idea where she was - in the middle of a butte in the middle of the desert - where coyotes are rampant and a wolf has been reportedly sighted - had compelled me to hold off for as long as possible.
As long as possible had arrived.
After awkwardly juggling all of that I pulled Kory towards me, dug down into my pack, pulled her bowl and a bottle of water out, poured some for her and then took a long drink for myself.
As I watched Kory alternate between drinking water and looking around, I thought of Jamie.
Finding water for Jamie in Alaska and Tennessee was never an issue due to the large number of lakes, rivers, streams etc.
Once we moved west though, I always carried a bowl and bottles of water with me when we hiked.  Jamie knew (because she had learned the routine over many, many walks) what I was doing when I pulled my pack off my bag and began to dig into the top of it, and she would eagerly stick her nose down into my pack, helping me look.
I like Kory very much.  I miss Jamie very much...........
There were deer footprints all over this trail.
We had heard that Cedar Butte was a favorite hunting spot, and this was part of the proof of that fact..........
The pine trees up on this butte speak to the harsh conditions in which they exist.
The trunks and large branches are twisted from the wind.  
The branches and greenery are not fine and delicate as they are on other types of evergreens, but rather are the strong and sturdy confirmation of survival in harsh conditions............
As Kory and I continued to climb still higher, I could see the hills that LC and I had found on our last trip.
As I watched Kory and the time, I debated briefly whether or not to continue hiking all the way to the hills.
There was so much up on those rises that I hadn't seen yet.
So many trails that I knew spun off from those hills.  
So many endless views from endless vantage points that I had not yet found, and not yet explored............
10 minutes later the decision was made for me.
Unexpectedly we came across a large, wide open trail on the left.
I looked down the trail.  Yes..........unlike a couple of other small trails that I had taken and that had quickly petered out, this trail looked like a valid, viable, I-bet-it-leads-somewhere-cool trail.
On this day Kory and I wouldn't be going all the way to the hills after all.
We'd walk THIS trail and see where it led.
Pulling on Kory's leash, we turned off the main trail and onto the new one...........
If you look at the picture below, you can get a sense of where LC and I traveled during our last trip.
We parked the truck in the canyon (between the larger hill to the left and the smaller hill to the right), and then climbed the trail on the right.
Reaching the top the trail flattened out for a short ways (and if we had wanted to, we could have continued on that same trail and it would have led to other hills that are not in the picture).
Instead, we came to a fork in the trail, turned left and climbed the hill in the background.
That trail led to a huge rock hill.
We climbed down the rock hill on the back side, picked up the trail again and the trail followed the ridge line all the way around to the canyon.
Which eventually led us back to our truck............
I had already called LC once, and called him again when we veered off the main trail.
We're doing fine.  
Having a great time.  
Took a trail off to the left.  
Looks like it will lead all the way back down the butte (maybe we would run into the cows again).  
I'll call you when we get down..............
Five minutes after hanging up the phone, the trail ended.
Reluctantly I turned us around and we headed back the way we had come............
We were less than a mile from the truck when sudden movement by Kory pulled me out of deep introspection.
I hadn't been watching her closely, and the suddeness of her jerk on the leash compelled me to take a quick look around in all directions.
I didn't see anything.
Slowing my walk down a little, I focused on Kory.
Watching her for a few moments, I warily looked around me again.
Kory would stop moving for a moment.  And then catapult herself into a full run.  As fast as she could work up speed given the length of leash that she had to work with, and then she would abruptly stop.
She did that over and over again.
It took me a couple of times to figure out exactly what she was doing and why.
She wasn't scared.
She wasn't running from anything.
Rather, she was just running.  For the sheer joy of running.
In the smallest and fastest of bursts that she could put together.
In that instant of recognition I knew that we needed to get Kory out into the middle of nowhere.
So that she could run.  Because this dog needed to run.
I knew exactly how she felt.
I had been very sick and out of commission for far too long.  
And then one day I was in the woods training with two female team-mates, we were walking and making our way to a checkpoint.
And suddenly I began to run.  Because suddenly I couldn't NOT run.  
I knew exactly how she felt..............
When we got back to the truck I lowered the tail gate, pulled off my pack, dug deep inside and grabbed for the bowl and the bottle.
Calling Kory to me I patted the tail gate and encouraged her to climb up into the bed of the truck with me.
I wanted to watch her closely and see how she moved.
Kory lifted her front paws and placed them excitedly on the tail gate.
I thought that she was going to use her front paws to provide leverage for a jump onto the tail gate.
I also thought that I would see her flex her hind legs in preparation for a jump.
Neither of those things happened.
Instead, without preparation or preamble, her body glided up into the bed of the truck.
The effortlessness of a natural, four legged athlete...............

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running............Unknown

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