Git along little doggies
The old cowpoke tune played through my mind as I plodded for home after a late winter hike with the mutts.
In town, winter has receded into the hills, but here in the Ninemile Valley the white stuff isn’t nearly as compliant. Our hayfields and yards and pastures remain hidden under a goodly amount of snow. In this area, winter can be a recalcitrant guest, unwilling to make a graceful exit even when the party has clearly ended.
But the warming weather and lengthening days are slowly winning, and winter is indeed fading. The south facing hillsides, bathed in sunshine, are increasingly bare. Circles beneath tree aprons are likewise clear of snow. So this morning, as I sipped my coffee and watched the day brighten, I eyed the slopes surrounding my home and I plotted. I would take the dogs and we would explore, meandering in the sunshine and walking a jagged path among the patches of bare ground. Perhaps there would be secrets to be found – antler sheds, winter kill carcasses, and maybe even a pile of fresh bear scat.
So outside we went.
After a long week spent in a subterranean, windowless office, I inhaled deeply, pulling in the bouquet of a melting season. The mushroom smell of fresh mud mingled with sweet pine and both swirled in the late morning wind. The dogs and I headed up the sloppy road, angling toward a neighbor’s hillside. Once there, we threaded our way among the trees and rocks and stumps. The Labs scattered, orbiting around me in wide arcs, tails on high alert as they abruptly moved from one scent trail to the next. We side-hilled our way upslope, moving slowly and stopping occasionally to enjoy the mountain tops, gleaming bright with snow cover. We’ve had a wallop of a winter this year, and our upper elevation snowpack is both heavy and deep.
At one point, I found an old stump, perfectly molded for my voluptuous buttocks. Lowering my winter heft into this splendidly formed sit-upon, I turned my face into the sun, closed my eyes and just listened to the prelude of springtime. Camp robbers squawked from the treetops, a red winged hawk feathered through the wind, and the dogs sloughed through patches of old snow. Quiet moments passed and then we moved forward, poking our way about with no purpose, no direction and no timetable. Eventually, we headed downhill, ducked under old fencing and made our way back to the muddy road and turned toward home.
Our foray was fruitless, and we discovered no treasures, other than the simple joy of a quiet saunter among the trees. I tucked the hike into my heart, where I know it will pay priceless dividends and prompt unconscious smiles.
Indeed, this is the best treasure of all.