On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve day, I started coughing. By late that night (about 1:30 AM, after the fireworks at a neighbor’s) I knew I had a cold or something. Parts of that misery are still lingering today, weeks later. The upshot of this illness is that I am left weakened. A few days ago we brought home some 50-pound sacks of horse feed, something we do often. I drove down to the barn to unload the sacks and lifted one. It felt like it weighed 150 pounds! I literally could barely carry it.
About a week ago I resumed my daily hikes to Dragon Hill, a spot that’s less than three-quarters of a mile up from the house, with about a 250-foot elevation gain. I got pretty good again at making these hikes, and it seemed to bring back my lost strength a bit. The cold still lingers, though.
Today we decided to take a different approach and hiked to a place we hadn’t been to for a long time, like years. We passed by Lying On The Ground Tree, a large oak that had fallen many years ago but stayed alive, sending strong branches straight up from its long trunk. As we followed a horse/deer trail, Karla mentioned that there is “so much land around here!” I agreed, saying that no matter where you looked, there was more land. “In fact,” I concluded, “this is the landiest place I’ve ever seen.”
Sioux, Hilary’s dog who is living with us this winter, had often wandered over to this place on our other hikes, and we were curious about why. We found out soon enough. Lying in a creek bed were the skeletal remains of a deer, a large buck, or most of one anyway. The head was still attached to the neck and spine and rib cage, but the legs were missing. We found one nearby. We wondered what had happened to the deer but there were no obvious clues.
Several hundred feet farther along, I spotted a set of bones, bigger ones than the buck’s. We were looking at a hind leg and hoof of a horse. Finally we had found what we had suspected, the bones of a horse which we hadn’t seen for several months. We had smelled something dead back then, but looking for a body turned up nothing. Apparently coyotes had torn the carcass apart and dragged one leg down below a thicket of trees and brush that we couldn’t penetrate without saws and machetes. That must be where the other remains are.
A couple of days ago a neighbor called to inform us that another neighbor found a calf with its head missing. “The bear is back,” she said, and warned us to stay alert. She felt safe because she always hikes with her two dogs (and a pistol), but she was worried that another neighbor hikes all over with only a camera and tripod. I said she could shoot the bear with her camera. “That’s funny, Tom.”
There are lots of hiking stories to tell; this is only a small sampling of our exciting way of life. Hope I didn’t make anyone nervous. But do check under the bed before you turn out the lights tonight.