Off I went into the woods with Morris trailing me. I haven't been able to be in the woods since....well.
Since I went with the hunter to retrieve his dog...that we didn't actually retrieve. That was before we had the wicked December 29th snowstorm.
The air was cold and crisp and the sun almost felt warm on my back as we headed towards the creek bottom.
I thought I would regret not wearing my snow shoes and I did. Even though there was a pretty good critter trail, I still had to 'break trail' through the deep snow. We'd had over 9 inches of the stuff about a week ago and it hasn't gone away.
Morris kindly let me break the trail as he hopped from one boot print to another behind me.
As soon as we got to the creek bed though he was happy to lead.
Walking along the first section of the creek bed was pretty good though. Morris did his thing. He checked every twig and rock in case he had to leave some scent behind.
You can see that there had been a lot of animal traffic in the past week through the creek bottom.
I was actually surprised by the amount of turkey tracks we came across.
Some of the turkey tracks were huge!
I made the bend in the creek and looked down at the ice formation. In the sunlit area across the creek the ice was melted. Here in the northern cold shadows the water slowly dripped from the land above and made beautiful ice formations.
Since daylight is always an issue in this valley, I hurried up and walked down the trail wasting no time other than to call Morris every time he lagged behind.
He was in a sniffing and 'marking' mood and I was in a 'let's get this road on the show' mood.
When I got to the main part of the valley I stopped and just listened and looked around. The sun here was so bright that the snow actually hurt my eyes and I'd wished I'd brought sunglasses.
I looked at my watch and was disappointed to see that it was already late in the afternoon. I'd wished I'd had more time to hike to the east side of the valley where the ravine had filled with blue ice from the spring last winter.
It wasn't going to happen today.
So instead I walked back over to the creek bed and found the old coyote den.
It had icicles on it!
I didn't see any sign that coyotes were using this little cave. One year I found a den that was in use and the area was littered with bones.
I looked down in the creek at my feet and saw what looked like a vertebrae laying in the water. I stared at it for a few moments and then looked carefully around to see if I could see any other bones laying about.
I wondered then if it hadn't washed down into the creek from the hillside above.
Morris came up alongside me. He was doing his Jack Russell shake and quake. Either he was cold or he was nervous.
I reached down and removed the leaves.
Oh! I found a treasure!
A raccoon skull in excellent condition. What a treasure! I had been looking for another intact one to paint and decorate and here I'd stumbled on one accidentally.
Which is how I always find my 'treasured' skulls.
I walked a bit further downstream and Morris kept getting more hesitant and clingy.
I'm sure he smelled coyotes or was just plain chilled. So I leaned down and asked if he wanted 'a ride' and up into my arms he climbed.
I decided to turn around head home with the cold and tired old dog in my arms. I couldn't blame him, the snow was up past his chest if he got off the trails and true to his nature he ran full out everywhere he went.
Besides, I'd already found some interesting tracks and had the bonus of finding a real treasure of a raccoon skull.
On our way home I stopped a few times in the narrowest part of the creek bed to grab some shots of the sunlight above us reflecting on the waters.
This is of the same spot, one standing and the other shot laying in the snow with a very low tripod. It made quite a bit of difference in the reflections.
A thought about shooting in these conditions. The camera is going to be confused between the warm tones and the brilliant whites. A bit of editing will help keep the snow white and the colors as they should be.
I hope to get back out today and see what is on the other end of the valley.
However we have the farrier coming at 10 am to trim feet and look at Siera's foot. We may have to go with a special shoe to help her one frog grow back ... more on that later.