Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Morning

This was one of those days in New Mexico.

A day on which if a person did not like the weather in the morning, by afternoon it was completely different.
We awoke to a snowy, foggy, gray and white morning.
So when the dogs and I went out for our morning walk, I decided to take the forest trail.

Originally, I had thought to go around the road to the meadow, but the path from the side of the house down the hill to the new road beckoned, and so we went.

I realized that I have taken many pictures of this path coming up, but few going down away from the house.

It's amazing how the same path looks so different depending on one's direction.

What a monochromatic morning. Gray sky and white snow with gray shadows. Slate colored bark on the trees, and gray-green branches of juniper and pinyon, broken only by the brown of scrub oak and the lighter straw of the grasses. It had a November feel.

Today was the also the second day of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Through the first part of the walk we saw only a few birds, this one perched high in a tree, and two in flight.

Later, we heard and saw more activity, as the morning drew on, and the fog lifted a bit, and the light, though still diffuse, grew stronger.

Today's count:

  • Norther Flicker (Red-shafted)--2
  • Stellar's Jay --5
  • Western Scrub Jay--2
  • Black-Capped Chickadee--2
  • Dark-eyed Junco--2

Since it was a Shabbat morning, and we were footloose and fancy free, I decided to go farther up the mountain than I usually do. The forest trail, usually rocky and red-soiled, with dappled sunlight, was instead white covered, and the rocks were dark in contrast.

I kept thinking of Robert Frost's poem, Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening, even though this was in truth a "snowy morning."

These woods are indeed lovely, dark and deep, but we were in no hurry to keep any promises this time. Instead of continuing up the mountain, when we came to a fork in the path, I decided to go down the Sedillo watershed, a small arroyo that only carries running water this high up when it rains.

After about ten minutes down the mountain, a dark form caught my eye, a mountain lion across the arroyo-bed leapt into the brush. I have never seen a mountain lion up here, and unfortunately, it was gone before I got my camera out. However, after proceeding a ways further on my side, the path entered the arroyo-bed, and there we found its track. The mountain lion registers the hindfeet into the track of the front feet, except here, where it slid just a bit on the ice. Since there was no sun, this is the best contrast I could get for a picture, but it makes the track deeper and wider than they looked in the snow of the pathway. Compared to coyote and dog tracks, these actually conveyed a sense of lightness, in the snow.

The dogs got very excited when we encountered the tracks--they had not seen the animal itself--and I imagine it was aware of our coming long before I saw it, and that is why it left the arroyo and crossed over to the other hillside. The jays were letting me know where it was, and they also were letting it know where we were. And when they saw the tracks, the dogs hair was up on their necks, and they did a good deal of silent but alert sniffing.

Soon, however, we came to the track that would take us back to the high meadow, along the new road and up the hill to home. We left the arroyo there, and so never found out where the tracks oringinated--probably somewhere farther down the mountain.

We had rambled for over an hour, enjoying the snow, and it was time for a leisurely Shabbat breakfast, some coffee and good book before the fire, as the fog and cloud continued to roll down the mountains.

It was warm and cozy in the house, dark and blustery outside. And

And it was nice while it lasted. By two-o-clock, the sun was out and the snow fast melting away.

Like they say here: If you don't like the weather, wait awhile. It will change.

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