Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘walking trails

Lonely Walk

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I took a walk on the perimeter trail through our woods yesterday for the first time since Delilah died. That path was getting footsteps (boot steps) up to three times a day with Delilah to give her exercise that would expend her high energy. Sometimes I wasn’t all that interested in making the trek for a third time in a day, but I never regretted the opportunity once I was out there getting my own exercise and experiencing our precious wooded acres.

Without Delilah needing to be walked, I have been avoiding wandering our trails, partly out of respect that it was her thing and she isn’t with us anymore, but also because it would poke at my grief over her passing. Yesterday, I decided to trek through the crusty snow for the first time in almost three months to see if any trees have fallen or what wild animal tracks might be visible now that there isn’t a dog living here.

There were a few branches down and several spots where limbs burdened by snow had tipped over, now frozen in place. No large trees have come down in all the winter weather we’ve received thus far.

It was a lonely walk and it did poke my grief.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2023 at 11:30 am

More Melting

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A local meteorologist on the radio pointed out the previous two days were our first pair of consecutive days of temperatures in the 40s (F) since December when we experienced a tornado in the area. Two days of melting is visibly changing our snowscape.

As we made our way around the north loop trail yesterday, I found it interesting that no old footprints were apparent along the pathway, yet the trail we repeatedly walk was clearly outlined.

I suspect that blowing snow had filled the path while we were up at the lake over the weekend and now it’s all being glazed level with the surrounding snowpack. We trudged through it seconds after I took that picture, taking the first steps toward reestablishing our typical packed trail.

The first week of March is predicted to bring us melting temperatures during the days and several chances for a mix of precipitation.

We noticed yesterday afternoon that the horses are starting to shed a little bit of their winter coat. The prospect of wet precipitation and near-freezing temperatures is an unwelcome combination when it comes to horses. As is our normal practice, we have closed some gates to separate the herd into two groups of two so there will be less competition over access to the protection of the barn overhang.

After the anxiety they showed the last time we moved them into stalls in the barn, I am not as quick to choose that option for keeping them dry. We are going to make the overhang as available as possible and leave it up to them to take advantage of it, or not.

You know the old saying… “You can provide a horse some shelter from the rain, but you can’t make him (or her, or them) use it.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2022 at 7:00 am

Snowy Footsteps

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Today is the start of winter. It feels closer to the middle of winter. Although, we did just have strangely warm temperatures and a weird December thunderstorm. Still, cold temperatures have become the norm and we have a slim inch of flakes dominating most surfaces.

The labyrinth hasn’t had more than a few stray animal footprints disturbing its blanket of white.

Delilah and I have been methodically distributing our footprints along most of our trails. I have a tendency to neglect seeing the depth of our woods when I am busy plotting my footsteps to widen the traveled snow path. I catch myself staring exclusively at the ground right in front of me.

I rely on Delilah’s nose to alert me that we might have some company nearby. On Sunday afternoon, Delilah was intently focused on something in the interior of our woods. As we approached¬† an intersection of trails, I knew she wanted to go left based on the direction her nose had been pointing.

It took me a while, but eventually I decoded the camouflaged young doe’s big eyes and ears, frozen in a stare directly at us from around the large trunk of a tree. The longer I looked back at her, the more I was able to discern the rest of her body visible on the other side of the tree, too.

If Delilah hadn’t signaled someone was there, I would have been oblivious.

I would have noticed deer hoof prints in the area, though.

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Written by johnwhays

December 21, 2021 at 7:00 am

Precious Moment

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There wasn’t anything particularly special about my taking on the afternoon chores after work yesterday, other than it is usually Cyndie who fills that role on days I commute to the far side of the Twin Cities. She was on adventures of her own in the Cities yesterday, so I changed clothes when I got home and took Delilah out for a walk.

The rain shower I had driven through to get home had moved on but it had soaked things enough that the trees were subsequently dripping almost as fast as drops fall from a rain cloud.

Delilah veered off the trail in pursuit of some enticing scent. I had no intention of following her and stood my ground until she figured it out and retraced her steps back to me. She is so funny in the way her face communicates that she understands the drill and quickly resumes her position on the trail ahead of me, as if to demonstrate doing so was her plan all along.

When we came around to the barn, she marched inside to the spot we always hook her leash to and waited patiently while I tended to the horses.

They were all calm and quiet, and a little wet from the rain. After I dumped manure on the compost pile and came back to collect their empty feed pans, Swings approached me at the fence. I offered some scratches and a little loving attention.

She soaked it up and stayed engaged with me for an extended session.

The longer she lingered, the more I wanted to love her up with scratches and massage.

It became difficult to tell who was doing the loving and who was on the receiving end. The warmth was definitely flowing in both directions.

It was a truly precious equine moment.

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Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2021 at 6:00 am

Sun Spot

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While walking through the woods late yesterday, Cyndie and Delilah came upon one specific spot that was lit up by a ray of sunshine breaking through the otherwise thick and hazy overcast.

Is that cool, or what?

Our trees have been shedding more branches lately than humans shed hair.

It’s as if there was a time-delayed reaction to the thunderstorm last week. I had to pick up a lot of tree branch shrapnel before mowing on Monday. Two days later, we have been finding additional branches on the ground almost every time we go out.

Some of them are much larger than the usual little ones frequently shed.

There is one other phenomenon occurring across our trails lately. Spiderwebs! And not just the usual single invisible strand that we normally encounter when walking Delilah. These have been full-on webs. One even made a sound when Cyndie walked into it. Must have been strung tight like a guitar string.

The thing is, we have been encountering these after having already walked the same path earlier in the day. These spiders are industrious.

We tend to react with the typical flinching and flailing to free our bodies of the remnants and possible attached arachnids.

I suffered one entanglement last week that occurred when I had both hands full of tools, as well as Delilah’s leash. I felt the single strand impact right below my nose, across my mustache.

What the heck. I decided to forge ahead so I wouldn’t have to set down everything I was carrying and pretended I was ignoring the strand while thinking about it the entire way back to the house.

Oh, and also, stepping over all the branches littering the trail.

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2021 at 6:00 am

As Predicted

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The weather on Saturday and Sunday played out just as the forecasters predicted. Windy, cold, gray, wet, snowy, lightning & thunder, and did I mention, windy? I have to go back to work today, and what are meteorologists saying about how today will shape up? Sunny and mid-50s (F). It figures.

We had standing water in the labyrinth. That’s a rarity.

The next shot is not the drainage swale, it’s the North Loop trail. I coulda used a kayak.

The water was even making its way into the barn.

Delilah and I did the morning walk yesterday in a snow shower.

She had her eyes on a robin that seemed oblivious to the presence of a potential predator. I think the birds act that way around Delilah because they know they can fly out of reach in the nick of time.

The presence of robins in the yard is a sure sign of spring. Another inspiring sight to witness is the first shoots of allium making an appearance.

I have a feeling the greenery is going to burst forth with dramatic swiftness when the sun finally replaces the gray skies of the last two days.

It would be a welcome bonus if we could get a decent number of dry days in a row, as well.

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Written by johnwhays

March 30, 2020 at 6:00 am

Harsh Environment

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It’s not always easy, carving out survival in all the crazy extremes of weather possible in the great outdoors. It may seem odd at first mention, but I think snow actually softens the blow of winter months, both figuratively and literally. We have received very little this year, and what did fall has mostly disappeared. After the rain and re-freeze, followed by a few days of melting, we settled into a pattern of cold that has created a particularly harsh environment outside.

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The ground is hard as rock and every other step is slippery from spots of ice.

Dezirea showed up with a bloody cut just under the joint of her cannon and pastern bones. If you look closely, there is a less obvious cut similarly located on her other front leg. I wondered if she maybe broke through some ice in the drainage rut that crosses the back pasture.

There isn’t any snow deep enough to have broken through a crust to get a cut like that.

Cyndie is up at the lake place for the weekend, so I sent her a text with the image. She asked if there was any blood on Hunter’s back hooves.

Hmm.

I hadn’t thought of that. Of course, there wasn’t.

Dezi was moving around just fine and didn’t seem any worse for the wear. There has been no further bleeding from the cut, so I am letting time do the natural healing it always provides, while also watching for any changes to the worse.

Delilah and I walked the pasture to look for any possible hazards or signs of a possible cause. Finding absolutely nothing, I’m beginning to think Cyndie may have identified the more likely culprit.

I sure hope Dezirea is dishing out as much as she is taking in the ongoing roughhousing happening among our three-horse herd.

Makes me miss Legacy that much more. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of his departure from this world. I’m definitely feeling it.

Toward the end of his life, Legacy’s poop took on a strikingly loose consistency. In an unsettlingly timed turn yesterday, while cleaning up after the horses in the paddock, I came upon a pile that was uncomfortably similar to what we used to see from the old herd leader.

Maybe the horses are feeling a little sick, too, over memories of what transpired a year ago on that oh-so-cold January thirteenth night.

A harsh environment, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

January 13, 2019 at 11:18 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

Missed Again

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If you take a lot of pictures, you know what it’s like to miss a shot. Like most things, there are more misses than hits when it comes to the spectacular capture. If you want to nail the perfect picture, beyond some good luck and good equipment, you need a lot of patience.

I came up short on all three yesterday while out on a walk with Delilah. Cyndie wanted me to give our little shepherd a workout to burn off some extra energy, so I strapped on the snowshoes and headed out to pack some of the trails that haven’t been walked since the last snow storms.

Delilah didn’t get the deep snow workout I had intended, because she was just light enough to stay on top of the wind-packed, partially melted blanket of beautiful snow, but I had a plan for that. We would be hiking many routes and doubling back on several of them.

If I can snowshoe both directions, it makes for a better packed path.

The first time we approached the road from our southern fence line, two hawks were up to something, putting on an air show with vocal enhancements that intrigued Delilah greatly.

From there we continued across our driveway and traversed what we call the “north loop” trail that pops out at the big willow tree famous for tripping Cyndie up when she stomped on the rake. Normally, this route would be followed by traveling up the driveway to the house. Delilah was locked into that program to such a degree that my instruction to turn around and head back in the other direction was met with quite the expression of complete confusion.

It’s was laughable, especially because that was quickly followed by a sprint that said, “Let’s do this!”

As we returned to the road from the opposite direction, it wasn’t a hawk that caught our attention, it was a big eagle flying away. With my eyes skyward, the silhouette of another white-headed dark bird perched in a tree was easy to catch. Even though I was limited to what my pocket camera could achieve, I stopped Delilah and tried to zoom in for a photo.

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It didn’t provide much in the way of opportunity, so after a couple shots my attention shifted to Delilah at the end of her long leash in front of me. She was staring across our field, holding a gorgeous pose that was definitely photo-ready.

As I lifted my hand with the camera and my finger reached for the shutter button, I missed and pushed the power to “Off.”

Delilah moved as I fumbled to get the power back on and the spectacular sound of large flapping wings made a couple of snaps into flight. That beautiful bald eagle pushed hard against the air to soar into the sky away from us.

It won’t be the last beautiful photo I just missed.

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Inviting Portals

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When it comes to forest bathing, we have a wide variety of enticing portals inviting one to dip a toe…

It’s enough to make a person want to dive right in to breathe the immunizing forest air.

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Can you feel yourself inhaling deep at the sight?

We also have portals leading to open and airy trails along the borders of our fields.

Stepping through this last opening brings you to the entrance to our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, a large 11-circuit Chartes labyrinth. It lies just out of sight to the right of the opening, which I think makes this portal the most enticing of all.

Plus, the labyrinth is tucked up against the edge of our main forest, so walking the circuitous path provides an added side-benefit of breathing the health emanating from the trees.

Our paradise beckons with irresistible enticements. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to figure out I’m not dreaming.

This morning, the trees are silent in the calm, moist summer air. Out our open windows and doors I hear the mesmerizing music of the pond waterfall, singing birds, and chirping insects. Most importantly, that is all I hear. There is no sound of traffic. No planes, trains, or automobiles.

Mornings like this are priceless.

It’s not that we are immune to the sounds of mechanization. We do experience the occasional passing of small planes. Warm weekends might offer up the roar of a passing train of motorcycles buzzing along County N toward the El Paso Bar and Grill. The neighboring fields get plowed, planted, and harvested by large farm tractors as the season dictates.

Finally, if it’s not the neighbors, it’s our own doing to be shattering the bucolic ambiance with the droning whine of small gas engines with a trimmer, chainsaw, or lawn mower.

It’s a necessary evil of creating and maintaining the inviting portals that grace our little nook in the beautiful countryside of western Wisconsin.

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