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Saturday, February 29, 2020

An Awesome Morning

Sky at start
Dr. K, Willow, Frio and I had a very good, long hike departing from the Monte Vista side of Tortugas Mountain this morning.  Behind the mountain we encountered a man and woman with their miniature Australian Shepherd, and although Frio barked and Willow whined a bit both dogs were distracted enough by the treats I offered them that they didn't lose their cool like they did yesterday.  Both Dr. K and I felt encouraged by their behavior.

Not long after that encounter we heard someone calling my name, and we turned around to see our friend Jimmy coming up behind us.  We waited for him at a level area of desert just short of the intersection with the south/north road that leads to the mountain.  Frio barked quite a bit at Jimmy so I didn't let him approach; I don't want Frio thinking it's okay to rush at another person.  During the short period in which we humans palavered Frio barked for seemingly no reason, and he did the same thing later after we had parted company with Jimmy and were stopped for a break at the far point of our morning trek.  It made me wonder if Frio sometimes barks during periods of inaction because he wants to get moving again.  Our dog Becca would often whine to express her disapproval of overly long breaks.

The weather was beautiful this morning, and at the midpoint of the hike both Dr. K and I removed an article of outerwear.  We're headed for a high of 73F today.  Not bad conditions for the latest day in February you can reach only every four years:  Leap Day.
Single-track across the southern plateau

Frio on the single-track

This and the next 4:  views of the Organ Mountains

Dr. K and the happy Heelers

Heading back
This and the next:  on the outer loop road south of the mountain

Heading east
Another contrast

Looks further than it is

Headed for the Organ Mountains
Surprising to see ripe fruit on a Barrel Cactus

Friday, February 28, 2020

Bad Karma

This and the next:  road from Geothermal to the northernmost dirt road
Rather bad doggie behavior on our outing this morning:  aggressive barking at a man coming up behind us on Geothermal Road; and a few minutes afterward aggressive behavior from both Frio and Willow:  barking and lunging at a dog some guy was jogging with on our side of the road.

High time to initiate some serious training.  The vibrating collar I bought for Frio seems to work only when he's mildly distracted.  I'll see how responsive they are to receiving treats during such encounters.

There were some good points to our morning exploration, though; Willow seems to be getting responsive to a few voice commands:  "Come" and "leave it."  When I say "come" and simultaneously use the hand and arm gesture to signal the same, both dogs come if they're looking at me.  That's some progress.  Also, I was able to get both pups to stay beside me while I was taking a few photos with my camera.  That's very important for them to learn.

Dr. K will be able to accompany us on our trek tomorrow so the hike shouldn't seem as hectic to me, nor will it be filled with such bad karma as was today's outing. 

This and the next 2:  Frio (left) and Willow

Which bird is singing atop that distant Torrey Yucca?

Zooming in to find out

Why it's a Loggerhead Shrike

This and the next 2:  Frio (left) and Willow heading west on Geothermal Rd.

Taken from the western barriers on Geothermal Road

Thursday, February 27, 2020

East Toward the Organs

South of Tortugas Mountain
Took the two Heelers--Willow and Frio--out with me alone this morning, and we drove out to the area where Aggie Rodeo Drive intersects with Sonoma Ranch Road, left Whitey the CR-V in the parking area there and hiked the dirt road toward the Organ Mountains.

Other than my efforts to control both pups on retractable leads while trying to take photos with my phone the most notable event was encountering a lone Coyote who was not a "lone wolf" after all.  When the three of us turned onto a dirt road north toward the major arroyo that runs east/west alongside Tortugas a large male member of Canis latrans made his presence known by howling loudly and standing prominently out on a knoll slightly to the east.  Frio, being partially deaf, heard nothing, but Willow was visibly upset by the sound and sight of the prairie wolf.  A moment later we saw him dashing to the west, where he greeted others nearby, the pack howling and yelping loudly.  We retraced our steps after that, and Willow pulled nearly all the way back to the CR-V.

Over the years I have frequently had Coyotes show themselves to me and the dogs I was trekking with, but not quite in this way.  This guy seemed to be trying to lure the hounds to chase after him.  Fortunately both pups were secure on the ends of their retractable leads, and neither dog seemed inclined to pursue the Coyote even though both saw him.
On the road again

Frio leading the way

Joint sniffing

The road

This and the next:  Willow and Frio

Intersection where we heard/saw a coyote

Closer look at Tortugas

Frio and Dr. K

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Another Geothermal Day

This and the next:  the road paralleling Geothermal Road
Dr. K, Frio, Willow and I left Whitey the CR-V parked at the barriers at the west end of Geothermal Road, hiked a ways up the dirt road and then bushwhacked through a heavily flora-laden arroyo to reach the northernmost dirt road that parallels Geothermal heading east.

We found no clear path through the brambles, cactus and mesquite lining the southern bank of the arroyo so we had to zig-zag this way and that to make it through to the steep slope leading to the road; it was quite a workout.

We saw nobody out there, and only had a brief encounter with a low-flying hawk that both Willow and Frio wanted to chase.  There were no cars parked near the barriers when we left, and there were none there when we finished our hike later in the morning.

The desert between here and there

West of the mountains

The way back east

Willow (left), Frio and me

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Red Flag

Mr. Frio Grande
Frio and I drove out to the Sunset Area just west of Tortugas Mountain for a hike this morning.  We're under a Red Flag Warning until 6:00 p.m. and the wind was already bad.  It worsened while we did a somewhat long desert trek.

While setting out on our first leg Rene and his dog, Rayo, came up behind us.  At first Frio barked at them, but when he spotted Rayo all was well.  Although they've only met a few times Frio and Rayo seem like old friends, greeting each other with tail wags and face licks.  It really is quite amazing.

Conditions didn't feel too bad at first, but later, on our final leg, when we ran into my pal Jimmy who had recently started out on his walk up the mountain the temperature had dropped significantly.  The cold front blowing in today will result in a low of 25F tonight.

I felt somewhat disappointed by Frio's response to encountering Jimmy, who he'd met several times before; Frio barked sharply and lunged forward, circling around Jimmy and entwining him in the lead.  Jimmy didn't overreact, though, standing still and letting Frio have his say.  By the time Jimmy and I ended our conversation Frio had jumped up on Jimmy and received several ear rubs.

Frio barked much more than usual this morning, and I couldn't help but wonder if the strong winds were affecting him.  Our dog Becca was not a big fan of high winds, and I'd often notice a change in her behavior when we got outside in blustery conditions.
A favorite sandy spot

This and the next 2:  photos from inside an arroyo west of the mountain

This and the next: Fendler's Bladderpod

Last 2:  crow or raven on the line?

Heat is On Again

Headed down LDR-A arroyo to yucca shade for Wils The desert floor hasn't been cooling off very much during the overnight hours, and the ...