Does it count as hiking if you’re only moseying around some pretty Wyoming foothills? I’m gonna go ahead and say yes, it does if you do it for four hours. Last Saturday, I took the dogs out for a little day trip about a half hour out of town. I’ve only been hiking a couple of times, and I always encounter something new and exciting. About midday we rested near a tall rock outcrop, and saw this in the base of the stones:
It’s a pack rat midden. They pile up dead wood, twigs, sometimes even long-forgotten arrow shafts. Close up, it looks like coarse sand mixed with fine silver hairs: cactus spines. They line their beds with cactus needles to keep the snakes out. Personally I think it’s ingenious, though I’m not sure how the pack rats avoid the spines themselves. Perhaps their fur protects them? In any event, I soon learned why pack rats got such a bad reputation, aside from the fact that they collect junk and heap it around their homes. Apparently the rodents then urinate over the entire mess. Perhaps this is another survival mechanism?
Perched atop the hill next to the rock, we looked out and saw swallows flying around us. I was amazed that they were at about eye level. Usually, one looks up to see birds! They kept circling, and I soon discovered the reason: above us, in the same rock where the pack rats made their home, were about a dozen swallow nests.
Aren’t they the wildest things? How do they stick up there? How do the birds build them using only beaks, not hands? I was as amazed by the wildlife as I was by the fact that at least two different species had found shelter in the same rocky outcrop.
Meanwhile, the dogs were having a blast chasing each other–and the occasional mouse–through the sagebrush. They moved with ease, as though they were built to run in the hills; since both come from herding breeds, I suppose they were! Joxer and Cosmo ran across the terrain, leaped up rocks, pounced in bushes, and swam in the creek without breaking a sweat (or stepping on cactus).
This is Joxer looking all majestic. He jumped up those rocks from the front side–the side I’m taking the photo from–just like a big fluffy goat.
This is Cosmo. A border collie puppy, he rarely stays still long enough to photograph. This was the best I got of him that day.
Side note: Those photographs of the dogs and were taken before the both of them decided to roll around in cow manure and had to be thrown into the creek (which didn’t do much; they still had to have baths when they got home).
This is the gorgeous creek the pups swam around in. We’ve recently gotten quite a lot of rainfall and the creek swelled over the banks, rushing over grass already grown.
All in all, it was a beautiful day to spend in the hills. As I stood in the warm sunshine, soft breeze across my face, as the dogs padded through the brush and I stared across the lush landscape, I understood why settlers came West in the first place.