Apr 19, 2014

Goodbye to Ariel

Yesterday we said goodbye to our amazing cat, Ariel.   All cats are amazing, all cats are unique, all cats are wonderful.   But Ariel was just a little different than your average amazing, unique, wonderful cat.

She was super smart, and she was even more independent than most cats.   She recognized other cats as fellow beings in the home,

and even adopted small waifs when they arrived in her house.

But she was eldest, she was first, and she never quite belonged with the common herd.   She was pretty sure she was one of us -- 'us', as in human, rather than 'them' as in feline.

When she came to us, she was a tiny silvery gray fireball, feisty, hot-tempered, anti-social, and supremely athletic.   Saying 'no' to her was often followed by the sight and feel of tiny claws and teeth digging into one's legs in a full-on angry attack.   A Scots friend who was visiting during Ariel's early months with us was heard to refer to her as 'the little monsterrrrrr'.  Oh, she had a temper.   To be honest, the two of us often clashed in a battle of wills -- both of us bossy, controlling females who didn't like being told what to do (or not being obeyed).

When she wanted to escape the scene, she found a perch out of reach

but in later years was always ready with a cheery greeting, her little special double 'meow-wow', uttered on a friendly, questioning note.

When she eventually mellowed, she occasionally blessed one of the resident humans with a short visit 

to desk or lap.  She never stayed long, but she wanted us to know we were part of the same family.

She loved boxes of course, both large

and small,

and of course Christmas was a favorite time of year!

She loved the game of 'papers on the floor' -- though this winsome pose

was usually followed by frenzied shredding.   Ariel -- no!

She adored shoes and laundry baskets, the smellier, the better

She figured out how to open the French doors

by watching us.   We had to keep it locked from then on, otherwise we risked returning home from an outing in midwinter and finding the living room door standing ajar.  

The other doors had to be opened by us, and she was always ready to go out early in the morning for a wee jaunt around the premises.

In the end, that morning puttering was her undoing.   Wednesday morning she was attacked by two coyotes, new to the neighborhood, and was fighting them off, hard, under a neighbor's window.   The wonderful neighbors scared off the coyotes and took Ariel to the emergency vet, and for a while there it looked like she was going to be alright.   She had surgery Thursday afternoon, and the vet was optimistic Ariel was doing well and would make a full recovery.   She even told us we might be able to bring her home yesterday.   Sadly, though, she didn't make it through the night.   In the wee hours yesterday morning, she gave up the fight and came home to us in a much different way than we had expected.

She was beautiful, she was quirky, she was a friend and she did things her own way.   We miss her and are feeling that double pull of conscience (that we let her outside into a world much larger than a small cat knows) and gratitude for the thirteen years we had with her, knowing she came to us a wildcat and left a happy member of a loving household.  

Apr 18, 2014

Just another river walk

There is no such thing as a boring walk along the river.   Rivers everywhere are vital, nourishing places for many kinds of life.   But in our dry climate, a river is an especially lively place, in all seasons and at all times of the year.   Thursday is Date Day for us each week, and  the sweetheart and I keep various local river walks in our back pockets, so to speak, to pull out when we are tired or the weather is bad or we just want to see the latest developments in the river flowing through our town.

One of our easy river walks is a loop leaving from Ye Olde Mille Districte -- our name for the former lumber mill on the banks of the Deschutes River, now turned into an upscale (for Bend) shopping mall, complete with restaurants, the usual chain clothing stores (Banana Republic, the Gap, and the naughty nighty place I can't recall the name of right now), movie theaters, etc.  
The loop heads upstream along the river, and soon enters the pine forests and rocky bluffs of the canyon.  This is a popular trail for shoppers, runners, dog walkers and people you would never expect to see on a 'hiking' trail.   

There is always something to see, and yesterday was no exception.  The first sight we saw leaving the parking lot was, apparently, The Lewis and Clark Expedition in red plastic boats.

There were several more, but, they were spread out all over the river.  There were even a couple of stand-up paddle boarders, the first we've seen this year (background above).   (We routinely ridicule these devices as the lamest, most uncomfortable things ever invented -- but these guys showed more intelligence than most by exiting the cold water soon thereafter).

On closer inspection, the boats turned out to be full of children, suitably bundled up for the weather (it was raining) and accompanied by a presumably knowledgeable adult at the prow of each boat.

Continuing past the shivering masses, we came upon one of the first plants to bloom here:

a wonderful native formerly known as Squaw Currant, but of course now more respectfully renamed Wax Currant.  Sweet pink bells cover the bushes.

Sadly, although common everywhere here, the berries are mealy and tasteless, though deer eat them. 

Continuing up the canyon, we eventually reached the turnaround point, the Bridge of Khazad-dûm
and a good thing, too, because I was getting hungry and starting to bonk.
We did a group selfie by the bridge.

 If you're wondering about the odd expression on my face, it was just because I was thinking about nibbling on some nearby earlobes.   Why not, he didn't need them.

Fast forward to the final stretches of the trail, where it leaves the canyon and comes back out into open woodland.   Someone had thoughtfully decorated a trailside tree

 with a few words along with the easter eggs

Seriously, this is a great trail.  I don't know who the trail fairies are, but I appreciate their work.

Other local residents add their own special mark:

 By this time I was so famished I even considered trying a bit of tree bark.   But we made it back for a proper human lunch and left the beavers to their lignin feast.

Just another river walk.

Feb 16, 2014

Digging out

Winter was a long time coming this year.   Oh, we had the bout of sub-zero temps with a few inches of snow on top, in early December, which was apparently the longest such cold stretch (down to -11 F at our house, lows down to -32 in other parts of the county) in 67 years.  The downtown Christmas Parade was cancelled due to the cold temperatures.   A lot of pipes in houses built since the last cold spell froze.   And considering the growth in Bend in just the last 15 years, that was a lot of pipes.  

Since then, we've been warm (high 50's) and dry until last week, when suddenly we got slammed.   

It was one of those storms that starts out with a fine sifting of harmless-looking tiny snowflakes, and then keeps snowing and snowing and snowing.   Not as much snow as the year our backyard nearly filled up, but a lot of snow all at once.   Businesses closed early, church services and other events were cancelled, including a ski race, simply because no one could get there.   

Many of us were trapped in our homes by walls of snow.   Living on the downhill side of the street, with a house below street level, the snowplows always hit us hard.   As they clear the street for the rest of the residents, our driveways are buried under feet of heavy, chunky snow.


The top of the wall o' snow was eye level from the house ground level.

As I started digging, I kept thinking:   what does this remind me of?    And then I realized it was The Wall erected to the north of Winterfell in Game of Gore, I mean, Game of Thrones, to keep the wildlings and ice ghouls out of the Seven Kingdoms.  At one point I thought about building a wee elevator and putting in some tiny figures at the base, to represent Jon Snow and the Night Watch.   But I opted to keep digging, hoping to create access to the mailbox for our faithful mail guy.

Previously, the manly guy and I had spent 40 minutes clearing the snow from the top of our other driveway, so we could get the car out.  Sorry for the darkness - it was about 6:00 am and the sun wasn't quite up when we went out.

Meanwhile, in the back yard .....

.... it was time to dig out the girls.    When I finished, they had about four feet square of open ground in their outside pen.

Some of the hens are veterans of at least one previous winter.   But there are five newbies who care not for this white stuff.   Previously I had scattered a bag of dried leaves over the shoveled ground, to lure them outside.   A few leaves were still visible.

Poor Penny, at the bottom of the pecking order and nervous in general, was clearly not sure what this strange white world was all about.

Is it safe out there?

Oct 28, 2013

Fall Color Along the Deschutes

A new pair of trail shoes ....

two weeks of glorious Indian Summer weather ...

a river ...

a boon companion ...

and it's time for our annual fall color walks along the Deschutes.

We feel so fortunate to have this magnificent river flowing right through our town.  More often than not, our Thursday Date Day Hikes take place on or near the river.  Although the arid West is not known for fall color the way New England is, and for good reason, we appreciate our aspens and larches all the more for their glorious light.   They pop out against the backdrop of dark evergreens and lava rock.

The river is quite low for this time of year, and the water, flowing more slowly, shows the deep green blue more commonly seen in the glacial meltwater lakes higher up in the mountains.

The past couple of weeks we have walked along the upper sections of the river trail, above Benham Falls, where the old railroad bed it follows are clearly evident.

The original railroad bed was converted to a haul road for huge log trucks in the 1950's and is now a wide, beautifully graded trail along long sections.  It reminds me of the carriage roads outside Bar Harbor, Maine.

The rotting pilings of the old haul road bridge sit next to the new one.

Just upstream from the bridge is the old log jam, purposely created to slow the river and prevent loose logs from running into the bridge pilings.

Most of this area was clear cut in the early 1900's and the trees you see are new growth since then.   There are still mature giant Ponderosa pines in the picnic area just beyond the bridge.

Just beyond the bridge, the trail bears south, after crossing the current railroad line,

and begins its run alongside the vast lava fields created by Lava Butte, visible in the distance here:

While playing with my telephoto....

I saw a flash of movement among out of the corner of my eye.   I glanced over, expecting to see a ground squirrel, but was surprised to see this little guy peering at me from a nice secure rock pile:

He stepped out to get a better view of me...

then posed for a profile shot...

Although he was as cute as could be
I suspected he was a rather fierce creature up close and personal.   Thinking he wasn't quite the right color for a pine marten or weasel, I did a bit of research once I got home.   Although rare in our area, I believe this little fellow was an ermine, or stoat.   A special wildlife bonus for the hike.

Then we headed back to our car, parked just above Benham Falls.   Here's the final view downstream