Tuesday, June 13, 2017

First Grizzly of the Season

We like to put out a small food block, a salt lick, and a water trough for the deer and elk to enjoy. In the mornings and evenings we enjoy watching them browsing through.

This evening we were taking the dogs out for a quick bathroom break, and saw this little guy down by the deer station demolishing the food block.

This is about 150 feet from our RV. The flags are marking the site of a future pond.

We got him to interrupt his meal and look at us by shouting "Hey Bear!" a few times.

A healthy belch and it's time to be on my way.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tail from the Back Seat: Days of Walks and Greenies

The days of walks and Greenies
Smile and run away like a child at play
Through a meadow land toward a closing door
A door marked 'Nevermore' that wasn't there before

The lonely night discloses
Just a passing breeze filled with memories

Of the golden smile that introduced me to 

The days of walks and Greenies...and you
                           (Adapted from "Days of Wine and Roses" by Johnny Mercer)

Let me start by stating the obvious--in case you didn't notice--there is only one tail from the backseat...for now.
Karly--beautiful, bold, brave (and yes, sometimes bitchy)--my best buddy, backseat and otherwise, has died.

One day we were walking together...
The next day she was hobbling around, dragging her back foot...
The next day she "stayed home" all day relaxing in the warm sunshine...
And then there were no more days with Karly...
Now it's Just Jake.

    She died peacefully and on her terms.                                During her final days she ate only Greenies and barely drank water...her terms, of course.

Karly had a fun-filled glorious life of  nearly 13 years, quite a lifespan for a gal of her breed, size, and temperament--a bit "always on edge" compared to me.

Instagram's "thedogist" summarized us the best:


                                                                                         She was smart and sassy and enjoyed a bi-coastal life--from sea to shining sea--and for all of my 10 years I joined her on this adventure....

...and what a trip it was!

Fittingly (for a dog), Karly's life ended in the Chihuahuan Desert.
It makes me smile to think of her everlasting spirit--holding court over and chasing those little mutts around in Chihuahuan Desert Heaven--and those who knew and loved her best, know exactly what I mean!

P.S.  The backseat is just not the same anymore....

But don't worry, I'm just keeping a spot warm....

....for Wesson
(Born March 6, 2017...to become part of the Vowell family on May 1, 2017)

EPILOGUE (by Susan)
One of my favorite authors is Edward Abbey. Traveling as much as we do in the Southwest, I feel as if I am "living" Abbey's writings.  My most favorite book is Desert Solitaire, given to me by a very dear friend/fellow traveler  who introduced me to Abbey's work and which I incorporated into the last "Tails from the Backseat" post, which ironically was the last to include Karly.  I foolishly loaned out my copy a couple years ago and it was never returned. I've been searching for a replacement, preferably a used paperback copy reminiscent of my friend's, but Abbey's books are rarely found for sale, they are keepers for personal libraries.

Karly died on our way to Big Bend National Park, in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas. We had several towels, sheets, and blankets from her final days of basking in the sunshine that were ready to be washed, as much for an emotional cleanse as a laundering requirement.  There was a small "laundromat" (one washer, two dryers) at Big Bend National Park--surprising since visitor services at the Park were very limited--and since it was also one of two places to get internet access, we decided to take a break from hiking and do our laundry.

As I was transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer, a tour bus pulled up to the adjacent snack bar/gift shop, and the "Roads Scholars", an educational tour group, disembarked for a restroom and snack break...they also enjoyed petting Jake...and Jake enjoyed being petted!!  Upon their departure, I went to gather my dried laundry and noticed a pile of paperback books and magazines on the folding table that were not there before.  I assume they had been left behind by the tour group since I have discovered  that laundromats have an admirable policy of "leave a book, take a book".  

But "what to my wondering eyes did appear"...in dizzying disbelief??  
A pristine, paperback copy of Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire!!!
With all the giddiness of winning the Publisher's Clearinghouse Jackpot Sweepstakes, I grabbed the book and ran out to show John.
The universe works in mysterious ways, especially if you are open to it... Karly, I know this one's on you!!!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Unfinished Business in Zion

Last November we spent a free day at Zion National Park and hiked a half dozen trails with the vertiginous Angels Landing being the highlight. One trail we missed was the Observation Point trail. Since we were passing through the area on our way back to Northern Idaho, we decided to try another early morning, perfect weather, beat the crowds, trip to Zion.

Observation Point is an interesting hike because you actually climb above Angels Landing and look down onto it. The views from the top are the classic scenes of Zion. At just over eight miles and 2,400 feet of elevation gain, it's a comfortable four hour hike. By starting early and finishing by lunch, we were able to hike it alone and be alone at the top. One the way down, we passed hundreds of hikers heading up the hill.

Starting out in the canyon on a nice cool morning.

Climbing through the slots toward the sun.

About half way up you reach eye level with Angels Landing across the valley.

At the top you get to look down and mock the insignificant hikers on top of Angels Landing (dark colored ridge in the lower right of the photo).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tails from the Back Seat: Winterizing your Dog for Desert Life

6 Hot Tips from 2 Cool Dogs

          With special acknowledgment to Edward Abbey for providing just the right words (italics

It has been said, and truly, that everything in the desert either stings, stabs, stinks, or sticks.

You will find the flora here as venomous, hooked, barbed, thorny, prickly, needled, saw-toothed, hairy, stickered, mean, bitter, sharp, wiry, and fierce as the animals.  Something about the desert inclines all living things to harshness and acerbity.  

The soft evolve out.

You may be getting the impression by now that the desert is not the most suitable of environments for human (or dog) habitation.  Correct. Of all the Earth's climatic zones, excepting only the Antarctic, the deserts are the least inhabited, the least "developed", for reasons that should now be clear. 

So why do we spend the Winter in this environment?? 
Much sun, little rain also means an arid climate.  Compared with the high humidity of more hospitable regions, the dry heat of the desert seems at first not terribly uncomfortable--sometimes even pleasant.  But that sensation of comfort is false, a deception, and therefore all the more dangerous....

Constant tests of Heated Endurance...

...And Sticky Situations

Geographers generally divide the North American desert--what was once termed "the Great American Desert"--into four distinct regions or subdeserts.  These are the Sonoran Desert, which comprises southern Arizona, Baja California, and the state of Sonora in Mexico; the Chihuahuan Desert, which includes west Texas, southern New Mexico, and the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila in Mexico, the Mojave Desert, which includes southeastern California and small portions of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona; and the Great Basin Desert, which includes most of Utah and Nevada, northern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and much of Idaho and eastern Oregon.

Lucky us, we have been to them all.
 In fact, we have been to them all this Winter...we are the experts.

Now what about desert hiking itself, you may ask...glad you asked that question.   We firmly believe that one should never--repeat never--go out into that formidable wasteland of cactus, heat, serpents, rock, scrub, and thorn without careful planning, thorough and cautious preparation, and complete equipment. 
Our motto is: Be Prepared.

Tip #1 - Keep It Cool with a Desert 'Do

Tip #2 - Rough & Ready: Acclimate Paws for Volcanic Rocks & Hot Sand...

...or Prepare to Step Lightly

Tip #3 - Beware of "Jumping" and Hiding Hazards

A Teddy Bear Cholla Minefield

A Hedgehog Blind 

Tip #4 - Go With the Flow...even if there isn't any Water 


The Desert Dogs' Playground

Tip #5 - "Glory Holes" They're Not!

Why go into the desert?  Really, why do it?  That sun, roaring at you all day long. The tepid, vapid little water holes slowly evaporating under the scum of grease, full of cannibal beetles, spotted toads, horsehair worms, liver flukes, and down at the bottom, inevitably, the pale cadaver of a 
ten-inch centipede.  

Ummm, I have no idea....it was like what happened to that kid when the icicle fell off the garage
 and hit him in the eye...yea, that's it!

Tip #6 - Seek Shade, Early and Often

Well then, why indeed go walking into the desert, that grim ground, that bleak and lonesome land where as Genghis Khan said of India, "the heat is bad and the water makes men sick"?  

Why the desert, given a world of such splendor and variety?

Because there is nothing out there. Nothing at all. 
Nothing but the desert.  Nothing but the silent world.  
That's why.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland....

...'Desert Solitaire'