Lordy, I love that photo. Sometimes the sky just stops me in my tracks. It's impossible to capture the full beauty of the sweeping vistas I often see when walking Sgt. Thomas Tibbs, but on this walk, when we spotted this beautiful "horsetail" cloud, I had to stop and give it a try. We had already had a few adventures on our walk (explanation to follow), and we were almost back to the truck, but Thomas was patient, as he always is, when I dropped his leash and gave him the "wait" command. Oh, how glad I am I snapped the photo. It nicely commemorates a truly wonderful walk.
One week before, I had taken my dear friend Liz on somewhat of a wild goose chase--which turned out to be quite literal, in the end--out to Banning, our neighboring town. We didn't find what we were looking for, so on the way back to her car, I turned the Subaru up a remote dirt road to show her one of my favorite places overlooking Bogart Park in Cherry Valley. As we stood on the ridge-line gazing at the sky, she said, "What's that?" We both looked to the south and saw a cluster of something in the air. As it drew nearer, we could make out that it was a small flock of wild geese. "Twenty-two," Liz counted. "But they're not flying in formation."
No, they were not. They were doing something I've never seen wild geese do before; they were riding a thermal, catching the warm air rising from the canyon wall we stood upon and letting it lift their bodies up and around in slow circles. I've seen hawks do this a thousand times. I have never had the opportunity--the downright blessing--to watch a flock of geese do the same, each moving in and out from each other like graceful dancers in a tightly choreographed routine. The sight was astounding. And I had left my phone in the car. So no photo, no video. I could have tried to run back, but Liz and I decided we would just seize the moment and watch. We stood there, nearly silent, for a quarter of an hour, feeling the sun on our faces, watching the spectacular show, each grateful to witness the once-in-a-lifetime show.
It rained in the ensuing week. On the first dry day, I took Thomas out to one of our favorite hiking spots. On that day, for some reason known only to him, he decided to leave the wide dirt road and follow a coyote trail. Since I knew exactly where we were in relationship to the road and we weren't in dense brush, I let him, just following along, letting him meander as he stopped from time to time to sniff. As we came over a hill into an open space, this is what we saw:
Can you see the small white mound on the left side of the picture? I had to wonder what it was; we were far from the road and following a pretty faint trail. Turns out, it was a cairn.
Well, now. Someone else had come this way (unless the coyotes are now using cairns to message each other in some way--I don't know; they're pretty smart).
As we strolled, we saw another cairn--
I smiled to think that someone else had wandered off the beaten path ("Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" is what you're thinking, no?), probably with a dog or two, and had stopped, potentially to let the dogs run free for a moment, and had used the time to make his or her mark, to place a few stones atop one another to indicate "I was here."
While I try always to "leave no trace," I didn't mind this sort of thing. In some way, it warmed and comforted me to know another human had roamed these same quiet hills, no doubt in contemplation, as I was, of all the beauty.
We walked on. I led Thomas to a fire road that I knew would take us back to the main road to follow back to the truck. We strolled along, Thom trotting along quickly now in anticipation of home and treats. Dense chaparral lined the road on either side of us. Around a bend we went, and exactly where the two roads intersected stood a lovely lady coyote.
She looked healthy, with a gorgeous coat and round belly. And she stood in our path huffing quietly--not quite a bark; more of a "hubba hubba." It is, after all, coyote mating season, and, well, Thomas is one good-looking guy. Interestingly, he didn't seem fearful of her at all, just a bit wary.
We stood. What to do? She was blocking the road. So I took out my phone. Which is when she stepped off the trail. I didn't want to frighten her (or myself) by making any quick movements, so we inched along until we could see her again, standing in the wild grass, watching. One picture. Two. Three. And then she was gone.
I wished her luck in finding a mate with good genes (and a good sense of humor, number one on my own list of 'good traits in a man'). And then we headed toward the truck, stopping one last time to take the photo of the horsetail cloud.