I woke up this morning at the crack of nine; belted down an Earl Gray with honey and shot out the back door. There I was greeted by adoring dogs. When they saw me grab my cross country skis they knew they were in for more than an adventure, Zeus, my German Sheppard, unfortunately, couldn’t go; It’s far to long and difficult a journey for one with a torn A.C.L. He’s seems aware of his mortality and kennels without protest.
It is a skate skiers dream out here right now and today is the seasons best. The snow is 3 feet deep — 6 feet in some spots — covered with a thick crust, it supports our weight. Picture the surface of the earth as one large white snow cone, mile after mile of open farm country and habitat, most of it inaccessible throughout the year, but now, under these conditions, it’s all my playground.
With dogs in tow, I skirted the rim of the Dolores River Canyon; then lit out around a spectacular piece of property known as the knolls. When we turned west into a fallow field I spied two male coyotes breading a female way out in the field. My dogs instantly gave chase ruining a perfectly good romance. The female fled west and the two males ran north. Abby my Newfoundland mix ran flat out for a mile chasing the boys across the tundra until she appeared a black spot against a sea of snow. Max, my Golden Retriever tuckered out after half a mile and returned to my side. I skied north in pursuit of the hounds when a Flock of honking Canada geese rose up out of the river corridor and rapidly fell into formation ripping a V across the sky on their migration north. This harbinger of spring is a welcome site to those so weary of winter.
We veer west, across the county road and head towards a dormant irrigation canal in the distance. The snow is so deep here it fills the canal and resembles a dimple on the landscape. Turning south I skate another mile up to neighbor Jim’s house. No signs of life there, so we pressed on, further south, rejoining the canal by way of more fallow field. The pungent smell of elk hangs on the breeze, it’s an open invitation for any dog to chase, but I rein mine in, keeping them close, the elk are stressed enough trying to survive this winter.
By now the dogs are struggling to keep up the pace. I look over my shoulder to see Abby’s tongue touching the ground. I stop and let them catch up and when they do I shower them with affection for coming to my call. It’s imperative to have obedient dogs in this country, ones that will stop from a dead run five hundred yards out and return at my command.
We turn east finally and set our sites on home. The ranch looms in the distance like an oasis in the wilderness. We bushwhack down a grade, through some trees and I take header in the sage brush. I roll over and lay there while the dogs catch up, then we sprint for home.
I glide up behind the henhouse, startling Robin who’s collecting eggs.
“Wow . . . was that great or what,” I say catching my breath.
Being less adventurous than I, Robin skis laps around the property, practicing her skating technique, so next year she can keep up with the rest of us.
“What happened to the dogs?” she asks.
“They were here a minute ago. Oh . . . here they come.”
We both laugh; the dogs are walking slowly down the drive way, tongues dangling, a picture of contentment.
“I know two dogs that will sleep good tonight.”