Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Into the Lost Valley

After exploring the Ice Cave we headed down into the valley that the 'dry' run empties out into.

The owners of this land call it the Lost Valley. We call it the Back Valley as it as furthest back.
I like to think of it as my 'Secret Valley'. There was a time when the cattle lived on this land.
At that time there were cattle trails that made riding through the back valley fairly easy.
Hiking was always an issue.
The creek used to twist back and forth like a snake gone crazy. Some of the crossings were wide and some were very deep. It was a great place to take a young mule to get them used to water.

Several major floods have changed that. The last ravage was in September 2015. The creek is fairly straight now and in places very wide.
I still love making it a destination. It is a hard hike but worth every step.

Here is one of the places that Creek Leaping becomes a real skill to have.

When we got to the 'Lost Valley' we all sort of separated and explored on our own. Daryl went his way with his camera and tripod.
The girls investigated tracks they found with Amanda.

I tried to take some Ice Finger shots.
I have no idea why I started calling them Ice Fingers. But that is what they look like!

The hike back towards home was not as exciting as the hike out.
We climbed out of the valley in what seemed like a never ending upward haul.

We followed the snowmobile in a westerly direction to get to the back of my property. Then straight down into another steep valley.

I think Evie looked at our 'ridge' road that so easy this morning, looked as if it went on forever...and groaned.

I think we were all tired.
There was a faint burning sensation in my legs. We had all pressed on pretty hard through the snow which had made the walking a bit harder.

The only ones who seemed not to be bothered was Morris and Scout. They trotted ahead towards home.

As we dropped back down towards the house we met Rich who was standing next to the back of his truck.
He'd done the evening chores and welcomed us home with, "Gee! I was getting afraid that you guys weren't coming back?"

Wet and tired the crew went into the house and discarded their wet clothes. Daryl had to put the finishing touches on the pot roast he'd been cooking all day.

The girls announced that they probably wouldn't be up for the scheduled night hike.

We got ready for supper.
And prepared for our next outing.

Would there be ice?

We got going in pretty good time on Saturday morning. The girls wanted to do chores so Daryl and the girls stayed to help Rich while I ran with Amanda to town to get a few items from the store.

By the time we got back the girls had not only done chores but had also been sledding.
The snow was in perfect condition for sledding at high rates of speed until bail out time when they came up to the electric fence.

The morning talk was regarding the ice cave. Would there be a formation? I certainly hoped so. Which route would we take? I explained that we'd take the snowmobile trail route. I thought it might be easier if we went east along the creek and then up and over the cropland to drop down into the next valley.

We had to make a quick stop at the ice wall.  Some young lady had to give her mom and this old mom a slight OMG moment. I think I resisted yelling "BE careful!"

However, what kid can pass up a good scary slide down a wall of ice into a creek, right?

It is very rare that I have someone along that will take photos. Generally it is just Morris and myself taking a hike. However I must thank Daryl Clausen from the bottom of my heart for taking these shots and sharing them with me. Even better, allowing me to use them in this blog.

Here we are hiking in The First Valley.
I got caught having a conversation with Morris. He felt pretty sure that I was carrying a treat in one of my pockets and that he should pose for me.

And apparently this is what my backside looks like while carrying Mr. Morris.
He tapped me on the leg a few times and asked for a lift.
Daryl was able to capture some incredible shots of a doe that was grazing in the corn field. Every once in a while he'd hurry on ahead and I'd see him pointing his Olympus at us. Actually, he is one photographer that doesn't make me cringe at the thought of me in a photo of his. I don't like being on the other side of the lens generally but he seems to make me look pretty decent.

Long walk. Long talk.
We stopped for a breather and to chat about something.
Daryl captured Amanda and I.
We crossed the ridge and started down into the next valley on an old logging trail.

And then...
We were not disappointed.

Daryl and his girls swiftly descended into the ravine to thoroughly explore the magic of the ice cave. However the cave had been occupied recently by raccoon or 'possum recently. There was scat on the sandy floor of the ledge.

The girls explored the shelf behind the ice.

And Grace got this shot after she climbed out.

No, the Ice Cave did not disappoint.

Scout and Morris kept everyone in line by following us and keeping a close eye on us.

Morris took it upon himself to show Scout the best nasty things in the woods to eat. Good ol' Morris. Always willing to corrupt a new friend.

Last word about the 'Ice Cave'.
I highly doubt that any of the family owners even realize this Ice formation is back there. They don't hike, they don't hike in the winter, and they rarely visit the property at all except once in a while briefly during the summer months.

I told this to Daryl and Amanda as we started climbing down the ravine into The Lost Valley.

The Lost Valley and The Second Night Hike...
to be continued....

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Night Hikers

Message: "Hey can we go on a night hike?"

It was from my Kenosha Crew. They were coming to visit Rich and I for the weekend.
I typed back: "Yes, of course!"

I had told them how fun it had been to use headlamps and challenge the wooded trials and the creek in the dark.

Years ago my husband and I had redtick hounds and we hunted raccoon at night. I'd always enjoyed our adventures in the dark and rediscovered how fun it actually is to explore trails in the dark.
Things just don't appear the same in the daylight.

After they arrived Friday evening, we gathered up headlamps and flashlights and headed out the door. We headed through the gates and into the cattle's summer pasture.
Photo: Daryl Clausen
We climbed down the steep bank and into the creek bottom. 

Creek Leaping at night is always more fun than in the day time.
During the day one can see exactly where the rocks are to use as stepping stones.

Photo: Daryl Clausen

We got to the ice wall fairly quickly.

The ice wall is way cooler at night...what can I say?
Here the wall was lit up by sticking a headlamp behind the ice.

Day view of approximately the same place.
Friday night's adventure was incredible. The Kenosha Crew loved it.

We used different colored lights in our flashlights to light the ice up from the backside. The kids climbed the ice wall in the dark and slid down it.

Daryl Clausen took this incredible shot of us exploring the ice wall from my Zen rock pile.

We moved on down the creek. We tromped through the snow and headed for the snowmobile crossing. I knew there would be some neat ice formations there.

Amanda and Daryl are rock hounds and they kept finding rocks with Drusy quartz in them. I've learned over the 20 some years of living in this area that even during the most casual walk in the creek or woods in this area, one will always find an interesting rock to pick up.

When we got to the 'Crossing' there were "oohs and ahhhs" as we admired the ice formations that clung to the grasses and roots where the stream had been tamed by the snowmobile club and directed through a culvert.

Photo by Daryl Clausen

Everyone gathered and admired the beautiful ice formations. My cell phone camera didn't do the 'Crossing' any justice what so ever...

But Daryl caught some beauties with his cell phone:

Photo credits to Daryl Clausen
We headed back with the kids and climbed a steep hill to cross the Merry Meadow.
The new snowfall that we'd had earlier this week was wet and heavy. It was frozen and made for difficult walking. If we'd all had snowshoes or had skis, it would have been an easier walk.

Everyone was tired but excited about going exploring the next day to the Ice Cave and the Lost or Secret Valley.

The Kenosha Crew had been hooked by Night Hiking. They definitely wanted to do it again.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Snow Day

Storm Warning!
5 to 10 inches of heavy wet snow!

Well that is what the weather service said. I awakened to a heavy snow falling outside when I let Morris out pre dawn. It was coming down and it was heavy and it was wet as predicted.

Snow slid off the metal porch roof in clumps making 'whoomph' noises in the dark.
I stepped outside for a bit and thought I heard some Thunder. It was predicted that we'd have a Thunder Snow.

I grabbed some coffee and watched out the window until daylight. The mules and the horses moved around eating and drinking. Everything was pretty peaceful.

Some of the animals took snow baths, rolling in the fresh snow and then leaping up and shaking. The younger animals took to running and chasing each other, much like children will do when playing.

I don't mind snow storms, that is, as long as I am not stuck driving somewhere in one. I like it best when I can enjoy it with snow shoes or skis.

I actually had promised to do some domestic things around the house and one of those things was make chocolate chip cookies.
I wanted to go out in the snow storm and explore...however domestic duties called.

I don't like baking. However...sometimes we have to appease our spouses. Baking cookies appeals to his sense of well being and his sweet tooth.
Plus it makes him feel special.

And when he feels special, he is can be very sweet. And I can usually get 'what' I want.
However there was no second agenda and I just actually felt like doing some baking while I cleaned house and arranged things for the company we were to have this weekend.

Of course I made an afternoon trip with the camera when I took the egg shells to the compost pile. Well I managed a small detour. I walked out into the Merry Meadow and enjoyed the views.

When I got back towards the house, I saw my 'upstairs' neighbor out and about with her kids.
She was practicing with her cross country skis.

I put my bucket inside the house and Morris could hear the neighbor kids playing.
He kept going in circles and whining.

Finally I took him out and up to the neighbor's field. Morris is always a hit with the kids.

Run run chase run is the best game they can play.
Except when Allie chooses to play Tug of War with her gloves....

Morris is happy to oblige. Which causes hysterical laughter even when I try to stop him from doing so.

The day ended quietly as it was ushered in. The snow kept coming down.

Grumpy Husband plowed the driveway. I really know that he wasn't grumpy over that aspect. He loves his newer skid steer. I'm sure he'd rather be driving that than doing most anything else.

When the neighbor's husband got home he plowed also with his tractor. Men, snow, and machines. They say they don't like it. But secretly they do.

Women, snow...and cross county skis.
Yes, we met up at the mailbox on the ridge late, donned our headlamps, and enjoyed the beautiful new snow.  We managed to make one pass to break a nice trail and then fly around the ridge a second time.

We have company coming today with their dog Scout. Morris and Scout like each other well enough outside but inside Morris tends to be a bit cranky.
There are day hikes and night hikes planned as well as visiting.

I'm so glad it snowed again and took the dull browns of mud and changed it to a beautiful white.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sharing the Wonder

I went out with Morris on Sunday afternoon. The temperatures had been hovering around 37 degrees and I was hoping for a snow melt. I took the steep trail off the 'point' and dropped down into the valley.

My intention was to go to the east end of the valley and check out the ravine that had blue ice in it a few years ago.

I noticed as we went downstream that the water had little bubbles in it along with areas of foam.
That meant one thing.
The snow was melting and water was running from the ridges down into the creek from the south facing run offs.
Morris and I got to the Big Spring and hiked up to the 'blue' ice ravine only to be disappointed.
I love how the bubbles will swirl and make patterns in portions of the creek.

I put a bright red scarf on Morris so I could keep track of him. I had to tie it back on more than once. By the time we got home, he'd gotten it soaked and muddy.
I guess this dog just loves getting into the creek!

The valley had water slowly moving across the compacted ice. I stopped to catch a reflection of golden rod.

Morris and I headed quickly back towards our fence line. I noticed the water in the creek getting more 'snow bubbles'. A snow melt!

I took this short video with my cell phone. When I looked at the phone I saw that my neighbor had sent me a message saying that she and the littles were up to an adventure if I was willing.

That is sort of code for, "Hey can we come out to play at your place?"

I typed a text message back saying "Of course!". But since I was in the creek bottom it wouldn't send. No signal.
Morris and I climbed the bank and I trotted up the ridge road. Finally Sending Message cleared and I got a new message.

The whole family was going to come was that okay?
I typed a quick reply and watched as the signal disappeared again. Oh how quickly we get used to instant communication!

We met up at the house and returned to the creek. I told Lauren that this was the very first time that I'd ever been able to share 'a snow melt' with anyone.  I was excited.
Her husband had decided to come and it was his first adventure into our creek bottom. As the kids ran and played ahead of us on the ridge road, I pointed out the areas we were going to hike to him.
From the top of the ridge road in the winter you can see the lines of the creek below.

What used to be a solo thing for me suddenly became a shared adventure.

The kids had a grand time and I enjoyed the pleasure of watching everyone explore Awesome Creek.

My neighbor asked her husband if he now understood why she loved going on those night hikes and day hikes with me. He did. I'm pretty sure he enjoyed himself and we were happy to have him along as an extra hand with the littlest one.

By the time we got back to the house, Rich had finished chores and was sitting on the tailgate of his truck.
The children ran up to him to show him the amazing rocks they'd found and to tell him about their adventures in The Awesome Creek.

Sharing nature and all of its wonder is not an opportunity I've often had.

It sure was worth it.

This weekend I get to share some more!
We have company coming and our winter snow storm of today will change the landscape once again.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Morris Out and About ~by Morris

We love winter. She loves winter. I like going hiking with Her on the days when it isn't too cold. Indeed She once tried a coat for me, but I destroyed after snowplowing and then going through burdock and all sorts of things that clung to the jacket.

Of course there was the 'wardrobe' failure too as I dismantled another coat She tried.

Now She watches the temperatures a bit more closely and we don't go together on really cold days.
Besides,  I can't seem to stay out of the creek. But if my feet get cold, I will leap it.

I am an excellent 'leaper'.

My most favorite activity in the winter time is climbing the Ice Wall. I love scaring Her to death by running up the wall to the top and then disappearing so that She cannot see me.

I do come back when She starts calling me.
It must be terrible to be a human and not have the great balance and dexterity that I have as a dog.

Really? Nothing to worry about here!

Coming down off the wall can be a bit tricky.
But I think I've got it covered. I'm still pretty athletic.

However I do miss my pal Teslin. She is a real athlete and loves climbing ice walls as much as I do.

Another thing that makes Her nervous is the fact that I blend in so well with everything in the creek bottom in the winter.
She calls me Camo Dog.

I hope She doesn't decide to put a huge red scarf on me to keep track of my whereabouts.
But She might. Who knows?

Oh wow, She didn't have to include my ~~~
Whoopsie On Ice Photo now did She?

Someone should invent a doggy cam so I can follow Her around and get videos of when She slips on the ice.

Dang it all She does use ice cleats while hiking.