The first snow day was fun and relaxing, but after 3 days, I have a touch of cabin fever. I haven’t yet ventured out because the temps have been down in the single digits. OK, so I’ve grown soft since living in this comfortable, 300 days of sunshine per year climate. I did once camp in the mountains of Virginia in sub-zero degree temperatures and have a good frostbite story as a result.
Anyway, I’m here at the edge of my neighborhood with Lucy, Sierra, and Taz. We plan to explore some trails here in the Franklin Mountains with hopes that one will lead to the mountain ridge and Ron Colman trail. The weather reports say it is 17 degrees, but it feels much warmer to me. The wind is calm and the sun has not yet shown itself over the mountain.
We start our short adventure by walking through a dry wash patched with powdery snow. The dogs are as excited as I am to be out of the house and are pulling on their leads. Soon I let them off and they enjoy running to a good spot to sniff. After a short jaunt through the arroyo, I see a trail that leads along the side of a steep canyon. I was hoping to see a route going up the incline, but this seems to be our best bet this morning.
The trail is easy going except for a few slippery spots. The landscape is completely changed with the addition of the snow and the succulents and cacti look out of place. I usually equate this type of vegetation with hot and dry, not cold and snowy. I worry about slipping down the slope and into the unforgiving flora. I hope the trail doesn’t get too steep or treacherous. My four legged friends seem to have no problem and I wonder if I should have brought my trekking poles.
I can see that someone else has been up here before me so I just follow the tracks in the snow hoping that I’m still on the trail. After a while I come to what appears to be a dead end. A steep gully has cut off the trail, but on the other side I see footprints. Do I really have to climb down this and back up the other side? OK, I’ll try, but must be careful not to lose my balance and end up at the bottom of the gully.
I make it to the other side and am envious of the dogs as they effortlessly negotiate the obstacle. The way is flat for a while and I come to an abundance of bear grass (Nolina texana?) on the slope. I don’t see bear grass growing around here very often, but it seems to be very happy in this spot. Perhaps the shaded canyon prevents the ground from drying as much as more exposed areas.
A few short switchbacks take me higher above the canyon and then I come to another gully that I must cross. As I’m contemplating the best way to get to the other side, I see a lechuguilla (shin dagger) stalk that has been scraped by some animal. Maybe a mountain lion, chupacabra or some other dangerous creature was sharpening his claws. Probably nothing that exciting, but perhaps a mule deer was scrapeing his antlers.
As we backtrack, the sun shows itself and warms the air. I hear the distinct sound of the cactus wren and see some smaller birds flitting between the ocotillos. As I’m climbing back up one of the gullies, I misplace my hand which now looks like a pin cushion. At least the thorns are the big ones that are easy to pluck out.
Ironically Taz is working on his paw when I catch up to him. After helping him remove a few thorns he continues on like nothing ever happened. Lucy and Sierra also have a great morning enjoying nature and my cabin fever has subsided for now. See you on the trail.