Home Sweet Snowy Home

We saw the first snow not far outside Las Vegas, just a little, high on a mountain, but there it was, snow. In Utah there was lots of it up high, and even some lower down. By Idaho the snow had reached the road level in places. Montana was snow covered until we reached the far north where the Chinook winds had removed the snow from the fields in patches. Southern Alberta was similar, lots of melting.

Then, as we travelled those final miles from Lethbridge home, the world outside the truck windows grew steadily whiter, until it was just a sea of white under a bright, blue sky.

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Almost home.

There usually isn’t any snow on the ground when we return from the south. Partly because we’re three or more weeks later, but also because there was a huge amount of snow while we were gone this year, with most of it falling in the last month.  Records were broken. Luckily for us, we had some good friends looking after our farm and the snow had been cleared from the driveway and the walks. Thanks, Judy and John for making it possible for us to reach the house (and the couch)!

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Logan gets the couch in Sid but I get the one in the house (okay, only because he can’t climb up on it anymore)

Someone commented that it must have been a big shock to go from Arizona to Alberta in a few days. For me, it’s actually a series of small shocks throughout the journey. I go to sleep in the desert, I wake up in the trees. I go to sleep with dry land all around, I wake up to snow. I go to sleep in Utah, I wake up in Idaho. Surprise after surprise over two thousand kilometres.

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Rolling into the nicely plowed yard.

By the time we arrived home, I’d adjusted to the change of scenery and climate, and was ready for the snow. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount and type of snow. With the frequent warm winds in southern Alberta in winter (called Chinooks) there’s usually enough melting and refreezing to create a thick enough crust on top of any deep snow to support my weight. This year it stayed colder and the crust is only thick enough to make me think I’m good before I break through into the dry, grainy stuff underneath. It’s a bit like trying to swim in thick, slippery water.

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Breaking through the crust.

T took me along when she went skiing on Monday. It was a beautiful day and I was so excited when we started out. But holy hell was it tough going. Three steps on top of the snow, four floundering, one step on top, two floundering, half a dozen on top (yay!) and then, just when I’d start to think I was home free, I’d break through again. We did half a mile like that. Well, I did. T skied along without a care. We finally reached a snowmobile track and, wow, did that make a difference. I could run! I’m not sure if they make snowshoes for dogs, but I’ll be surfing Amazon when I’m finished with this blog post.

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Ski day.

Out walking, we’ve been sticking to the road. There’s just too much snow everywhere else and if you think I have trouble you should see poor Logan. T’s had to yard him out of a snow bank a couple of times when he wandered off the side of the road to smell something and broke through into the deep stuff.

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Walking along Range Road 262 heading home.

The crazy thing is, it snowed again yesterday. I’m just hoping the warm weather we had on Tuesday and Wednesday was enough to put a better crust along the ski trail for the next time T straps on the boards.

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Wickenburg … Wow!

It was an eventful eighteen days in Wickenburg, even for us dogs who stayed home for the local dining, art shows, and horse events that T and Nollind enjoyed.

This was our fourth time visiting Wickenburg, and our third time camping in the area. I think it was love at first sight for T—the cactus, the mountains, the horses. It’s only an hour and a half from Quartzsite but the 1200 feet of elevation gain makes a big difference to what grows. This means lots of Saguaro and other types of cactus, more trees, and even grass sometimes, although this year it was very dry.

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The desert near Vulture Peak.

 

And then there’s that horse thing of T’s. She enjoys being away from the seven-day-a-week responsibility of the horses, but I know she misses them, and Wickenburg is chock full of horses and horse people, most of them snowbirds just like us.

02-chico-wickenburg-onmatThis year, we were there for a horse-oriented purpose too, but without the actual horses. T’s new book, all about a Vancouver journalist who inherits her grandfather’s horse ranch in Alberta, has a major horse focus so she thought Wickenburg would be the perfect place to finish the first draft of the book. Turns out, she was right! She wrapped that up last Sunday.

The walking was fantastic, even the short Logie walks. After eighteen days, we were still finding new trails to explore from camp, most of them sandy and easy walking for my old friend. He loved it. And built himself this great den that he’ll probably tell you about at some point. I have to say, it was one of his best.

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Den under construction.

We had a huge amount of freedom around camp. In fact, Logan stayed outside most of the morning, and sometimes all afternoon, just hanging out in the sun, under the trailer, or in his den. He was one happy camper.

Nollind spent a bunch of time at the Starbucks in the Safeway about four miles from camp. You see, as great a place as it was for T to write her novel, it wasn’t so great for Nollind’s work that required internet. Cell reception, at least for T and Nollind’s service provider, is terrible at the Vulture Peak camping area. He tried a few in-camp solutions but finally gave in and drove to the Safeway every morning.

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Looking for a cell signal.

Evenings were sunset and campfire time almost every day, even when it was chilly for a few days. I’ve really come to appreciate a good sunset, especially from the comfort (and warmth) of my camp chair and serape.

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Sunset time.

There was, however, a bit of a hitch in our Wickenburg glory. I got sick. They think I might have picked up something at the dog wash place we went to in Surprise because I was sick a few days later. Monday was bath day, Wednesday I was feeling a bit off, and Thursday I was so hot I didn’t want to get off the floor and was barely able to eat my breakfast. Yes, of course, I still ate it. I wasn’t dead!

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Thursday morning with T’s bean bag from the freezer.

When they took me to the vet in Wickenburg I just lay on the floor in the waiting area until it was my turn. I think I really worried T and Nollind when a woman came in carrying a tray of food and I didn’t get up. That cool floor just felt too good.

Not a big surprise, I had a fever, but the x-rays and blood tests didn’t show up anything else of concern, like a foreign object lodged somewhere, or a life-threatening disease, so they pumped me full of fluids and sent me home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Not sure just what worked but I was feeling somewhat better after only a day and, a week later, I am feeling 100% … other than this itchy skin. They think I also had a reaction to the shampoo at the dog bath place. I don’t think we’ll be going back there.

The good news is that I recovered in time for one last Wickenburg adventure. On Tuesday, I got my first big ride in Fang! I’ve ridden in Fang a few times but just to scout a campsite or shuttle Fang in or out of a camping area. But this was a real ride, for miles into the hills near Vulture Peak, destination, a trailhead and a one-hour hike up to a viewpoint.

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I don’t get a seat but my spot on the floor is pretty comfy with a great view out the side.

I was still a little draggy and the heat of the late morning was a challenge, but I wasn’t giving in and missing my big chance. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t uncomfortable and I’m pretty sure I scored myself a spot on future rides.

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View from the top.

We moved back to Quartzsite on Wednesday and are camping with our friends Sue and Leon until Sunday. Looks like it will be a few days of wieners, carrots, and hugs!

Two Minus One (Sometimes)

I knew it would come to this eventually. There have been hints for months now. A trip to the Strathmore Dog Park without Logan, an extra walk for just me here and there, but now it’s becoming the norm, doing things without my long-time buddy.

I don’t mind being an only dog on outings, I even got to sit in the front seat on one trip into Quartzsite, but I miss my wingman.  He’s been a good friend these past seven years, best dog friend I’ve ever had, maybe ever will.

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Heading into Quartzsite.

 

The first solo adventure was just over to Q Mountain in Quartzsite. It’s not a long hike, but it gets pretty steep, much tougher than Logan’s legs could manage. We were there together a few years ago and there was a 13-year-old dog doing the climb that we were all impressed with. At the time, I figured Logan would be matching that, and probably beating it! But I was wrong. His mountain climbing days are all but over.

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On top of Q Mountain.

 

The second solo outing was to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a rock spiral that someone has created in the desert, what’s considered by some to be “desert graffiti”. I thought T and I were going to have to walk the entire labyrinth to get to the centre, but it had rained the day before so, when we got to the rings with mud, we cut across to the middle. If he’d been there, Logan wouldn’t have waited for the muddy part, he would have cut right to the centre with Nollind.

 

A little further up the same road is the trailhead for Palm Canyon. From the parking lot, it’s about a half mile uphill walk into the canyon where you can see the palms growing. Fan palms are the only palm tree variety that is native to Arizona and you don’t see them growing naturally in a lot of places. This was another hike we did a few years ago when Logan was just eleven. He aced it back then, was hardly tired by the end. A lot has changed in three years.

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Water stop on the Palm Canyon Trail.

 

Here at Wickenburg, there is a bunch of great hiking right from camp and in all directions. With Logan’s weakened condition, I was a little worried I wouldn’t get out to do much exploring but, every second day, after the morning’s half-hour walk with Logan, we drop him off at the trailer and continue on in another direction. The first day it was just a long walk through some washes. The second was a trip across the road to the gun range and up over the hill that’s there. And yesterday was the best yet. We climbed the hills to the east of us and could see the whole Wickenburg valley down below. Can’t wait to see where we might go tomorrow.

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Looking toward Wickenburg.

 

What’s good is that Logan doesn’t seem to mind too much. He’s tired by the time we get back from our first walk, ready for some couch time. He’s probably doing a little inner dance of joy when the trailer door closes with him on the comfortable side of it.

But it won’t be the same. T and Nollind are great but they miss the best part of our excursions … the smells! I’ll look up at them like, “Hey, check this out!” but they just carry on up the trail without even a making an effort to pick up the scent. Logan would have had his nose pushed right in there beside mine.

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The humans miss so much.

 

Back at the trailer, things are a lot like they always have been. Me and Loges, barking at intruders (like the two dogs that showed up in camp this morning), playing with squeaky toys, doing tricks for treats, hanging by the evening campfire, and napping on the floor.  And for that, I’m grateful. I see what’s happening, and I know I can’t stop it, so I’ll just savour every moment, every day, that we get to walk, or nap, side by side.

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Shared nap space.