Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘tracks

Mixed Tracks

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The thing about aging, especially complaining about the less than glamorous aspects associated with it, is that there are always going to be people older than you for whom the whining will appear inconsequential.

“You think that’s bad, just wait until…”

We each have our moments in time. It’s natural to try comparing, but it’s also natural, to discount each other’s comparisons.

I used to be able to write my name in the snow when peeing. Now I just make Pollock style splatter painting designs.

At least I can still pee.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, I captured a cute combination of chicken traffic along with what I’m assuming were prints of a local prowling outdoor cat.

I’m not sure who was there first, but it is unlikely they were actually wandering around together.

If you pay close enough attention, you will see the tracks of the chickens are pointing in opposite directions.

I also think the paw print is a double exposure. It seems like too many toes, but I suspect it is a function of two feet being placed in the same spot.

Watching Delilah on walks, and often wanting to capture pictures of her paw prints, I have come to notice how often her back feet step in the same place as her front feet did. I think the cat was doing the same thing.

I am reminded of a snowy morning during my trek in Nepal when two of my travel mates were pestering the Sherpa guides to find us some tracks from an elusive snow leopard.

Eventually, (we think) they used the old trick of making some rather convincing prints in the snow with their own hands.

Everybody had a good laugh over it, although no admissions were ever offered, and a question over authenticity lingered unresolved. We were happy to imagine the excitement of what such evidence implied, if it had been real.

My mind has returned to my 2009 Himalayan trek because we watched a Netflix DVD last night called, “The Himalayas,” which dramatically told the story of South Korean climber, Um Hong-Gil, leading an expedition in 2005 to attempt recovering the bodies of three friends who died there a year earlier.

I find such expedition movies fun for the brief few minute glimpses they almost always include of the flight to Lukla, the swinging bridges, the rocky trails through rhododendron trees, the shrines, prayer flags, and initial views of Everest that are all the very places I walked.

Even though we weren’t on a mountain climbing expedition, those who were, traveled the same route we did, to get where they were going.

We all made mixed tracks in the snow on the trails.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2019 at 7:00 am

Training Pause

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From the “no good deed goes unpunished” file, my zealous efforts of Friday produced a reward in the form of a strained muscle on the left side of my lower back. It doesn’t take much brilliance to figure out the wielding of a heavy pole saw with an engine on the low end and a spinning chain blade on the top turned out to be too much for my limited strength.

It has forced a pause in my biking and plank exercises that has altered a plan to maximize my conditioning prior to the start of The Tour of Minnesota biking and camping trip in June. Maybe it was fortuitous, because the weather has taken a harsh turn to oppressively HOT!

I am resting my painful muscle in the shade of the house. In a meager effort to be conscientious about the use of energy, I struggled to keep the house comfortable yesterday by managing open windows and closed shades. It was almost successful.

This morning, I have already closed the house up and turned on the AC. If I am going to get anything done outside today, as I slowly try to regain function, being able to return to a comfortable house will be very valuable.

I am home alone for a spell as Cyndie went to the lake place for a couple of days to contribute to the opening work-weekend. Jackie had a trip out-of-town planned before she moved in with us, so I am minding the ranch.

Delilah has been a sweetheart, allowing me to rest without constantly begging for attention. I think maybe she notices how crazy hot it is outside and her fur coat doesn’t like being out in the blazing sunshine on days like this.

Walking does seem to be good therapy for my sore muscle however, so we have made the rounds, staying in the shade of the woods as much as possible. This morning, we were rewarded with deer hoof prints on our trail that revealed the presence of a brand new fawn, based on the teeny-weeny size.

I tried to capture an accurate depiction of how tiny the little prints were, but even that doesn’t do justice to how surprisingly small they really look.

After we looped around on another trail, Delilah almost pulled my arm off when she struggled to chase some deer cutting into the woods by the labyrinth. The only view I could get was of a tail. No babies in sight.

Our next stop was the barn, to feed and clean up after horses. While we were in there, both Delilah and I noticed some shadows moving outside the front door. It was the chickens! They are expanding their territory nicely.

I’m impressed.

I’m also anxiously counting their numbers every time I come upon them. Still twelve.

Here’s hoping baby deer and baby chickens all find a way to achieve a healthy first year, and my strained muscle finds a way to heal fast enough that I can get back to biking, despite the heat.

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2018 at 10:40 am

Being Stalked

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She’s all alone, but not alone. Our sole survivor from last year’s brood, this amazing Buff Orpington, has finally ended her non-stop calling for her two most recent missing companions.

She has avoided death on multiple occasions, once even getting bloodied from a too close encounter within Delilah’s jaws. Now, left to fend for herself alone on the roost in single-digit cold overnight temperatures, she seems to be doing her best to tough out her rather dire situation.

The hungry spring predators appear to be stalking with unprecedented boldness. Based on our experience the last five years, the number of roaming tracks in the snow during daylight hours has picked up significantly.

Yesterday, every time we turned around there were fresh tracks showing up in areas we had recently walked, and they weren’t all the same. I would guess a dog or coyote, probably a cat, and definitely that troublesome fox.

I pulled the memory card from the trail camera, only to find the sly critter had completely avoided detection. Based on her travel pattern, I have relocated the camera, pointing it off the trail into the woods where I hope to catch her looking more into the view, as opposed to walking across it. This will also reduce the repeating shots of Delilah and us walking the trail that tends to clutter the results.

If you look at the shot of the fox I posted the other day, she was leaving our property with nothing in her mouth. Following yesterday’s tracks led us to two different spots where a large number of feathers revealed locations where the future meals had been stashed.

Cyndie wondered about putting extra effort to protect the buff against the obvious stalkers, and as a result, we did end up coercing her back into the coop early in the afternoon. One way I look at the possible inevitability of her fate is that it would save us needing to convince the year-old chicken to accept the twelve new chicks (now looking a lot like “tweens”) that will soon be moving to the coop.

By the time the next brood makes it to the free-ranging stage of life, the phase of ravenous spring predation will have calmed to the occasional massacre by some roving set of fangs like we suffered last June. Then we’ll find out which of our new birds are as cunning and lucky as the Barred Plymouth Rocks and our lone Buff Orpington were.

It’s no wonder why free-range birds are so precious.

It’s a jungle out there. So to speak.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

Natural Wonders

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When I first saw this image that Cyndie captured, I struggled to imagine what could have made these intriguing tracks in the snow.

The alternating diagonal slices in the snow had me thinking of a large bird of prey dragging its talons as it “ran” across the surface while taking off.

Seemed like there should also be evidence of flapping wings, too. There wasn’t.

Closer review led to a much less dramatic, but still rather surprising cause.

The snow that had stuck to the wires of our fence was blowing off in long chunks and creating the lines on the surface below.

Cool!

I wouldn’t have been able to create that artwork if I tried.

Thank you, Mother Nature.

Oh, but nature wasn’t done creating. In an evening walk, Cyndie took one more picture of the fence wires.

Once again, the shadow of the wires was having a visible influence on the melting of the snow beneath the bright April sunshine.

Many thanks to Cyndie for her keen eye and crafty image captures!

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2018 at 6:00 am

April Fooling

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We get the joke. Today starts the fourth month of 2018, and despite the general trend of average warmth climbing around the globe, we woke to teeth-chattering cold. The clear sky overnight was wonderful for viewing the blue moon, but it also contributed to the drop in temperature.

We had a reading of 10°(F) before the sun came up. With the fresh coating of snow on the ground from Friday night’s storm, there is cold in the air, as well as radiating from the ground.

We’re not laughing.

It seems like the forest animals weren’t much interested in facing the cold, either. In a search for tracks around the full perimeter of our property, there were surprisingly few foot prints revealing activity. Based on the evidence we collected, a rabbit was the only critter moving around.

At least we know that it didn’t have any problems with dodging predators.

The cougar that growled near Cyndie and Delilah last week is likely long gone after its journey past our home. We did a search in the neighboring woods where the eery sounds came from last week, but did not find any hint of a foot print or disturbed snow where the drama played out.

In a long shot reaction, I mounted our trail camera to observe the trail closest to the area, but it only provided added evidence that nothing was moving around after the snow, except Delilah and me.

Yesterday, Cyndie unleashed a great weapon against cold and snow. She filled the house with the smells of fresh-baked buns and whipped together a couple of egg bakes for a family brunch today.

No foolin’.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2018 at 9:27 am

Regal Eats

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My, oh my, are we ever living the high life this weekend. Maximum leisure, luxurious surroundings, and food delights so regal, it seems like there should be servants delivering them to us. There are no servants. Cyndie and Barb are the ones creating the spectacular culinary delights. It’s a challenge to find ways to burn as many calories as we are taking in.

Despite some recently posted “no trespassing” signs on the edge of my favorite woods to the north or our property, we conjured up a route to skirt around toward the large tracts owned by a forest products corporation. As the temperature climbed to uncomfortably warm for our winter clothing, we snowshoed through the increasingly heavy white stuff on a great adventure of discovery.

There are a great variety of animal tracks, one of which I suspect looked like it may have been a big cat. I haven’t heard if there is a likelihood of any around here. We found graphic evidence of a porcupine at work. They gnaw the bark off of trees, doing permanent damage. It’s a bit jarring to see an entire tree skinned alive.

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We trekked through the woods to old service roads and junk piles with old appliances and the smashed shell of a vintage car. The hood ornament looked like a 1940s Oldsmobile, based on a quick search. The engine had been removed. (Update: Further searching brought us to a 1937 Ford Coupe as the most likely match.)DSCN4489e

After slogging through the heavy snow, we took our rest on the deck, literally on the deck, because there was no furniture. While languishing in the early season sun bath, we decided to have lunch out there, too.

The coffee table and a few chairs from the porch were put to use for our impromptu picnic. More delectable food!

More food meant more exercise was in order. This time we dressed down a bit, better prepared for the summer-like temperatures, and headed out without snowshoes, down our driveway and out on the lake.

After all that walking, more food was in order. Cyndie wanted to christen her brand new pasta maker, so pasta it was. Many hands and several iterations, one teetering on failure, produced an ultimate result that was stellar. Seriously, a meal fit for a King. And his Queen. Two Kings and Queens, in fact.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2016 at 9:45 am

Mysterious Shriek

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I was already on edge Wednesday night, after the close encounter with the traffic fatality earlier in the day, so the blood-curdling wail that arose in the darkness beyond the bedroom door to the deck easily startled me out of bed. It was around 10:30 p.m. and the mysterious cry that began surprisingly similar to the sound of our teapot on the stove actually had me questioning how the water could possibly be boiling at that hour.

The distressing shriek just kept going like a siren, causing both Cyndie and me to climb out of bed to investigate. I grabbed a powerful spotlight that I keep next to the bed for just such occasions, and scanned as far and wide as limitations of view allowed.

There was no sign of any activity, even as the suffering victim continued to scream. It was chilling. There was no pause for a breath. I was wishing the predator would just finish the job and end the misery. It lasted somewhere between one to two minutes long.

I strained to get a sense of the distance, or any other identifying impressions. The sound seemed to move away and then come closer. I wondered if it was airborne. Did an owl grab something? What would react to attack by emitting such a piercing cry?

I didn’t trust my senses enough to feel confident about the apparent movement. Maybe it was just resonating in a way that made it sound like it was flying around. Since it was carrying on for so long, I had time to step outside for a better vantage point.

Are you kidding!? I wasn’t about to expose myself to whatever savage beast was out there in conflict mode. Well, actually that’s exactly what would have happened, since I was “dressed” for bed at that hour. But what I mean is, I wasn’t going to put myself at increased risk by stepping outside into the darkness, not having a clue what was out there.

When the sound finally ceased, we climbed back under the covers and I pretended I could fall asleep, despite the rambling thoughts of what the heck just happened outside. Soon we were both wondering out loud about what animals, both the predator and the prey, were most likely responsible.IMG_iP3036eCH

I asked Cyndie to give the area out back an extra search in the morning to look for tracks or signs of a fight. She found no evidence whatsoever. George was over for dinner and cribbage last night and he suggested that the screaming was probably a rabbit, and the attacker could have been a coyote or fox. That I believe as easily possible, but if they were under our deck, I don’t know how they got there without leaving tracks somewhere.

The rabbits are plentiful around here and Cyndie did find a super-highway of their tracks in our woods. She took this picture for me to use.

We’ll have to watch that spot and see if there are one less sets of footprints showing up from now on.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2016 at 7:00 am