Old Trails

Sometimes it is the old trails that really are the best trails. There’s always something to keep them from seeming redundant. In the case of the Hole-in-the-Wall trail, part of my love of it is pure convenience – I can tumble out the door and be walking along the trail in 5 minutes, remote, away from anybody, in the quiet of the trees. Part of it is nostalgia, memories, and the sheer beauty of this region. The Hole-in-the-Wall road winds along through ravines and low places, often overlooking or crossing an old nameless, boulder-strewn creekbed that eventually joins up with Battle Creek. This has been a favorite trail since I was a kid – because Hole-in-the-Wall has always been a favorite destination. I’ve written about Hole-in-the-Wall a handful of times before, that it is the site of an old mining camp, that the miners diverted Battle Creek straight through a ridge, creating what we now know as Hole-in-the-Wall. Something about this place is comforting to me, and not long goes by before I get the hunger to hike to it, the same familiar trail, the same trees and rocks and sandy, rocky streambeds. Since I am leaving the country at the end of this week for a month, I wanted to hike to Hole-in-the-Wall again. Mom and Dad were the only ones home, and they agreed to tag along. Off we went, with both of the dogs tearing around, having the time of their lives.
IMG_7859eWe were chatting, watching for fossils and flowers and critters, talking to the dogs casually. I had been down in the creekbed looking for fossils and had just come back onto the trail. Opal, in her play and curiosity, headed down the bank, underneath a still-flowering golden currant bush. We called to her and continued walking, and Mom mused, “I wonder if we’ll lose any dogs to snakebite this summer.” It is just something you think about when you live in rattlesnake country, and this is the time of year they start showing up. Talk about a well-timed comment. No sooner had those words left Mom’s lips, than that unmistakable sound burst from underneath the currant bush – a rattlesnake. The sound is one of those you never forget, unless, of course, you’re my Dad and you can’t hear the snake’s rattle, which is a little unnerving. Well, Opal came tearing up the bank around the other side of the currant bush, apparently unhurt (“Good,” I’m thinking. “How in the world would I have broken the news to Sarah?”). Both dogs were immediately captivated by the strange sound, and then immediately got yelled at.  Trixie, the silly thing, actually responded to verbal commands and getting swatted in the face with a ballcap, which surprised me, since I always assumed Trixie’s first rattlesnake would also be her last. In the next few chaotic seconds we got the dogs by the collars and suddenly felt a little calmer.
IMG_7763eIt’s no fun hearing the snake but not being able to see it. Once the dogs were under control, we got a good look at the rattler, and he was a big one, hunkered down beneath the currant bush in a shaded spot. I honestly have no idea how Opal didn’t get bitten, except to say that God didn’t let her get bitten. Where the snake was coiled was right where Opal had jumped. He was thick and angry-looking, and we watched him for a couple of minutes before continuing our hike, with the dogs leashed this time. Once you see one rattlesnake at such close quarters, suddenly you’re convinced there are snakes in every clump of tall grass, under every fallen log, and in every pile of rocks. A little irrational, but that’s just what happens. Just like when you find one tick, suddenly you’re crawling with imaginary ticks.
IMG_7783eIMG_7842eWe made it to Hole-in-the-Wall without meeting anymore snakes, and enjoyed the flora in the meadow  there. Particularly the Missouri pincushion cactus. We found a whole colony, with little families of cacti all growing in groups, and some beautiful solitary ones with picture-perfect blossoms. Shades of yellow to shades of peach, glimmering and gleaming in the sun. I had never seen so many.
IMG_7797eThere was plenty of dame’s rocket, violet woodsorrel, larkspur and larkspur violets, and even a groundplum milkvetch with its cute little fruits. On the way back, we checked under that same golden currant bush for Mr. Rattlesnake. We tossed a few rocks down the bank into the bush to see if we could stir him up a little bit. He had moved on. Smart snake.

Sometimes it really is the old trails that are the best. Because they’re the ones with all the many, many memories. And I’m really glad we still have our dogs.

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Snow and Puppies

And the winter continues! Springtime seemed to be well on its way last week and early this week, with record breaking or nearly record breaking temperatures, but winter is not yet gone. It snowed most of the day yesterday, and got heavier into the evening. There was probably a good 8 inches on my truck this morning, and good deep snow all the way up the driveway! Beautiful!IMG_3158IMG_3150Yesterday afternoon we played out in the snow with the dogs for a little while, trying to get Trixie and Opal better acquainted. Trixie is such a puppy-at-heart still, with all the rambunctious energy of a puppy but with the size and strength of an adult dog. She doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body, but we don’t quite trust her to play nicely with Opal. She just gets so excited and bowls Opal over and tramples on her, until Opal turns into a shrieking frenzy with her tail between her legs. Opal’s reaction to Trixie was a comical blend of cowardice and puppy indignation. She is a bit of a drama queen.
IMG_3130We finally put Trixie on her cable so she would be limited but could still interact with Opal. Opal figured out that she could easily get out of Trixie’s reach, but would come primly to just within Trixie’s reach and allow Trixie to nose her around a little bit before running off. We’re pretty sure Opal is going to be the dominant dog of the pair, if she isn’t already. IMG_3143Snow and puppies. Not a bad deal.

Laura Elizabeth

Simple Joys

Winter is a time of brief, fleeting moments of dazzling beauty, of sights and sounds and silences that come and go with as little permanence as a snowflake, but with the brilliance of a diamond. That overwhelming moment is gone in an instant, leaving only the impression on one’s mind. The enchantment of the first snowfall melts in a few hours. The power of a blizzard wears itself out in a day. The snow cover of two months melts in two days. The leaden, snow-laden skies give way to cloudless blue, and winter breezes turn warm and then cold again. How changeable the season is!
IMG_2859eMom and I were able to thoroughly enjoy the delights of the changeable season today – It was strange to be hiking in short sleeves, with 70-degree temperatures and warm, sweet breezes, while trudging through 10-inch drifts and getting snow in our boots! Trixie, ever the snow puppy, pranced and raced and disappeared, entirely in her element. I would call her, only to look around and find her sprawled in a patch of snow, eating it and rolling in it and burying her face in it. A dog’s simple pleasures.
IMG_2877ePart of the delight of winter is the joy of seeing things in ways we aren’t accustomed to in the rest of the year, particularly in the summer and spring. Those months are full to bursting with new life, and my attention is so drawn from color to color, from the new blossom like stained glass in the sunlight to the bluebirds on the wire overhead to the new fawns with their unmistakable freckles to the brilliant blue of sky and green of grass. But in the winter, you have to look with different eyes. Then you can see the watercolor painting in the snowfall, the etched crystal work in the frosty window or frozen creek, the tapestry of spun gold in the grasses, the white jewels in the snowdrift.
IMG_2885eWe were nearing home, walking through an ancient creekbed, when we caught sight of an old bucket, rusted through and almost flattened, and nearby were a bunch of tin cans and some broken glass. I was thrilled. We had found a junk pile from the homesteading or mining days, of which our place saw a good deal! The whole property is pocketed with old mining pits, remnants of bygone days. We dug around a little in the grass, and found four intact glass jars and bottles, and a white enamel pot, which unfortunately is frozen stiff in the dirt. It looks to be in one piece. As soon as it warms up in the spring and the ground thaws out, I want to dig around and see what else was discarded! Who knows how many times we’ve walked past this junk pile in the summer and never saw it for the tall grass! IMG_2887eSimple joys on a glorious winter day.

Laura Elizabeth

Happy February!

That was a longer break from blogging than I ever intended to take! January was busy, with the addition of another after-work piano student, and there were also a handful of “technical difficulties,” which have just lately been remedied. So now I have my laptop back in working order and can actually blog again. I’ve gotten quite behind in some of our January adventures, and although I generally don’t like to backtrack (enough pictures to deal with going forward!), we’ve had a few fun explorations which I’d really like to share.

So to get back in the swing of things, here is a charming picture of Trixie for your edification and enjoyment. I really do love unattractive pictures of this dog. She is really photogenic that way. And, boy, does she love snow!
IMG_1809eJanuary was a great month, with plenty of wintry weather to satisfy me, and enough nice days to get the jitters out. Excited to see what February holds.

Happy February!

Laura Elizabeth

Rakish

I’m not sure that “rakish” and “Trixie” belong in the same sentence, but Trixie got into a little spat with some barbed wire yesterday and now has a rakish pirate scar. She felt sorry for herself for a few minutes, but got over it pretty fast.
IMG_1736Poor silly thing. This isn’t the first time she’s cut herself up. She’s got to learn!

Laura Elizabeth

Puppy Love

There is just nothing quite like the love of a puppy.
IMG_7825IMG_7837IMG_7835Pets are one of those little blessings that as children we instinctively know are a gift from God. We pray about them, thanking God for them, asking Him to keep our pets safe. But when we grow up, we lose something of that delight. “More important things” take up our thoughts, and we can lose sight of those little blessings and gifts from God that we experience every day. We thank God for what we might consider the “big gifts” (family, church, promotion at work, scholarships, financial security, the new car) but we neglect to thank Him for His little gifts, daily evidences of His goodness to us (the first breath we take each morning, the feel of a puppy’s fur, a cat’s purr, a baby’s smile, dewdrops on grass, fresh air, clean water). If God’s goodness is manifest in Creation, which it is, isn’t it also manifest in those little or individual things of His Creation, be it a flower or a rolling landscape or a waterfall or great creatures or small creatures?

James 1:7 says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Shouldn’t we thank God for all of His blessings, even the small ones?

Laura Elizabeth