another season gone

Rocko and I have been spending a lot of time in the woods and by the creek lately.

Yesterday we climbed up the mountain across the street. We got a lot higher than we have in the past, and even found running water for Rocko eventually. I think that it is the source for the creek that runs down the south and east boundaries of my property. Nothing else up there is running right now; the various springs that Rocko and I investigated were only damp.
Topographic map of my immediate environment. My house is the orange dot in the center of the picture.

Rocko has really taken to the woods and can read the surroundings well. He found a steep creekbed (everything is steep up there) and went grubbing around in it, looking for water. When we took a break, I let him have a liter of my water. I had brought two one-liter bottles of water and gladly let him have one. That helped him enough that we were able to continue up for a while, where we did find that treasured water source.

Some day we'll make it to the peak. Maybe not this season; the undergrowth is starting to green up and it's going to take us a few more attempts to get up there. The multiflora roses peter out at about 3500 feet, it seems, so once we get past that point we'll mostly worry about bears and snakes. The roses are the biggest obstacle at lower altitudes. I call them "pricker bushes" as a generic term, because there are some other nastier prickers and thorns up there. "Prickers" is a good and simple term that Rocko can understand.

I am constantly reminded to "trust the dog" when it comes to finding your way through tough undergrowth. Rocko is great in the woods. He's learned how to be a dog since we' moved to the mountains. A wordless gesture to him will send him finding the way through or, failing that, around a difficult area. If he comes back out and starts to head around, I have learned to believe him.

A couple of days ago we were up on the mountain, not too far up, when we came upon and grove that I immediately dubbed "Mirkwood." There wasn't much visibility; twigs and vines kept jumping out at me, catching my coat or collar or hat. It was spooky. I tracked down Rocko. He was in a sheltered area covered with small vinelike plants, and he had a bone. A big bone. A really big bone.

My best estimate is that it is the tibia of a black bear. It has a pivot joint at each end (no ball or socket), was 11.5" in length and weighed 230g when I got it home. Rocko had already chewed off a gram or so of material on the trip down the mountain. He kept wanting to stop and chew on it, but I was concerned that the sound of crunching bone might draw in a bear that was still hungry from hibernation, especially in Mirkwood.

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