Wednesday, January 18, 2017


In our quest to lose weight (well, my quest; Thomas is pretty darn fit for a nine-year-old dog), Thom and I have been taking long walks out in the country. Truth be known, we could hang around here at our senior community; there is plenty of level walking space and the views are spectacular:

But we like to get out and walk a lonely road where Thomas can sniff some wild animals and I can lose myself in further plot points for the book project I'm working on. Last weekend we walked three miles down a dirt road that took us past meadows and tall old oak trees. I stopped to take this photo after we saw a large animal—a coyote or bobcat—make for the trees when it heard us coming:

Today we went exploring, finding a new trail that begins in the hills above my little town. I'd taken Thomas up there on a drive, just looking for fireroads and other places to walk. What we saw was an old jeep trail that eventually became a single track, it appeared, so we came back today to walk down it and find out.

Usually what I discover when I find a spot where I can park the truck near a trailhead is that other folks have been happy to find such a place as well—so they can dump their old mattresses, furniture, TV sets and whatnot without having to go to the landfill and pay a fee. Sigh. So I always put mental blinders on for the first hundred yards or so, just chatting with Thom and overlooking the fact that some folks are just bound to pollute where they live.

I think of Robert Frost nearly every time we venture out this way. There's always more than one way to go, and I'm always struck by the lines "Oh, I kept the first for another day!/Yet knowing how way leads on to way/I doubted if I should ever come back." I find myself telling Thomas aloud, "We'll come back here. We'll come back here so we can go that way next time." That's the cool thing about living here and being retired; it's going to take me quite a long time to discover all the possible hiking trails.

So today the first trail we followed led us only up a hill—the steepest hill I've been up in a long, long time, so steep that we had to descend with great care and caution. And I was ever so grateful for how far Sgt. Thomas Tibbs has come in his training and adjustment to life as a writer's dog. "Walk slow, Thom," I told him, a command I began teaching him from the time I brought him home. Most of the time, we both want to walk briskly down the trail, to see how much we can discover and how many calories we can burn. But sometimes we need to go at a snail's pace, and I wanted him to understand that. So he led me slowly and carefully back down the dead-end hill, and just as we neared the bottom, I discovered the biggest piece of malachite I've ever found.

Malachite is a green stone found around the world and in the Southwest United States, especially in Arizona. I've found small pieces on my hikes before, but this one was much bigger. And there it was right smack dab in the middle of the road, glistening in the new morning sun as the frost from the previous night began to evaporate. I whisked it into my pocket. Here it is on a green plate (for comparison):

I keep saying I'm going to get a rock polisher so I can pretty up my stones. They look pretty fabulous when they're gussied up. If you click here, you can see some Google images of them.

For the quad workout and the discovery of the malachite, I felt our walk had been productive after we'd only been out a half hour. But on the way back to the truck, we discovered another road, one that looked... less traveled by. We walked down it about a hundred yards, just far enough for me to snap the photo below. Then we headed back. We'll keep that one for another day.

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