The bunny whisperer

soleil stick small

When we moved into our place 2+ years ago, we inherited a brown lawn.  Attempts were made to reseed it and resuscitate it, but it became apparent that it needed replacing.  I joked about keeping it indefinitely and hosting a Dead Sod Bocce Tournament, but that never came to fruition, and our backyard just ended up looking janky.

We finally got around to replacing the lawn a few weeks ago, and it’s a much needed improvement.  That said, we’ve discovered a problem, albeit not one that was expected.  Our main concerns were that our white dog would end up green after discovering the joys of rolling in it, or that she would create lots of dead spots where she peed on it.

Neither of those two things has become an issue.  Our problem?  Bunnies.

We’ve had rabbits passing through our yard since we moved in.  Mostly small, and mostly harmless, they never stayed long.  This was not thanks to our dog’s eagle eyes or interest in keeping the homestead safe.  It was because we had nothing for them to eat.

The arrival of a lush green lawn has made our backyard ground zero for the neighborhood’s rabbit population.  The eating of the grass isn’t so bad – it’s what they leave behind.   There are no real predators either, since our dog is useless at noticing them (even two feet away).  And attempts to encourage our dog to act as a predator have not worked.  So it’s now N’s responsibility to scare the bunnies away, while the dog wanders around the other side of the yard, sniffing and doing godknowswhat.

I’ve told this story to numerous friends, all of whom have dogs that would love to chase rabbits.  Many have offered to let us borrow their pets, and a few have suggested that said pet might be able to teach Soleil.  They are optimistic, my friends.

We, however, are not.  So we’re building a fence in the front yard, in the hopes it keeps those critters off our damn lawn.

Last minute injuries

Where I was supposed to be this weekend.

Last week over cocktails a few friends and I decided to go hike Mt. Whitney this weekend.  While none of us had actually actively trained for a day hike of that magnitude, a friend had a few permits, and we figured, why not?  We cleared our calendars, booked a hotel, and in my case, tried to remember where the hiking poles were stored.

Cue to last night.  While packing up my gear I managed to walk, barefoot, smack into the weightlifting bench, smashing my previously broken pinky toe.  It hurt.  A lot. And then it turned a nifty shade of black and blue.

This isn’t the first time I’ve managed to injure this toe before a hiking trip, so I’m not sure if it’s karma or some deep seated issues I have with hiking in the Sierra.  But Mt. Whitney was decidedly more of a commitment than the last time round, even if it was much more spontaneous.

Predictably, I’m not driving down to Lone Pine today.  Instead I’m icing my foot and contemplating whether I can put on my bike shoes.

Trail Etiquette for the Uninformed

top of armstrong pass tahoe

No snow up here

Today we were finally able to get to the top of Armstrong pass on our mountain bikes.  The upper trail has a bit of snow in places – and a bit of mud.  But the hike-a-bike was much less than anticipated.  We could see that the Tahoe Rim Trail is also looking clear, at least in the direction of Freel Pass.  Had I not ingested 6 pounds of dust during yesterday’s Trail Day on Armstrong Connector (yes, I know #imdoingitwrong), I’d have had more desire to explore the TRT a bit more.  But I didn’t.   So we descended from the top.

While we saw nobody, save our pal A, on the ride up, on the ride down it was a whole ‘nuther story, with many of the people (and dogs) we encountered utterly clueless about trail behavior and bike etiquette.  This despite being on bikes.  So, as a refresher for locals and visitors alike, I figured a gentle reminder about good behavior and best practices wouldn’t hurt.

  1. If you encounter a muddy patch on the trail, do not say “ooh, looks wet, I’ll just ride around it” OFF TRAIL.   If you’re so worried about mud, then why the heck are you on a mountain bike? Chicky in the pristine spandex, I’m talking to YOU.
  2. If you decide to get off your bike to walk up a feature and chat with your friends, please get your bike off the trail.  Leaving it lying on its side smack in the middle of the trail will result in either annoying a rider who encounters it while riding uphill, or risk having it flattened by a cyclist coming down the trail at speed.
  3. If you insist on bringing your dog riding with you, either ensure it’s under voice command (that you USE), or keep it leashed.   If I have to stop because your retarded mutt is sitting right in front of me on the trail (and not moving) while you yell to him feebly from your viewpoint, you run the risk of me calling you out as the dumbass that you are.
  4. If you’re riding with your dog on a wider trail/road, recognize that two-way traffic is the norm (be it bikes, motorized vehicles or pedestrians), and that Fido’s longevity is at stake when you let him run on the other side of the road, and you don’t happen to have voice control.  Or a leash.  That you probably should be using, since your dog is clearly not listening to you.
  5. If you’re riding on a wider trail/road, see number 4.  Don’t ride six-abreast.  Or if you do, PAY ATTENTION. It’s not just approaching traffic you need to consider, but those folks coming from behind you that are trying to pass.

The irony here is that while we road nearly 6 miles on road up to the start of the trail, the cars we encountered going both directions were far more courteous and clued in than the cyclists.

My hiking buddy

For most of her life, Soleil has been my favorite hiking buddy.  She was there before I met Nils, and was there long before I realized that mountain biking was actually more exhilarating than hiking.  She’s accompanied me along numerous Lake Tahoe hiking and running trails, and knows the Desolation Wilderness better than most people.

My hiking buddy is now 10, and the hip dysplasia that she was diagnosed with 8 years ago is a little more prevalent.  She’ll still prance and frolic and pick up large sticks, but she’s decidedly stiffer the next day.  The days of 20+ mile hikes are over, so our adventures together are a little less extreme.  Yet she’s just as exuberant about a 20 minute walk in the nearby meadow as she is a 10 mile hike.  (Yes, there are lessons there for me.)

Most of this summer has been spent in the bike saddle – or on my roller skates – so the dog’s not had the same volume of hikes as years past.   I’ve only begun to make it up to her as the leaves change, which isn’t a bad thing, given that autumn is one of the nicest hiking seasons here.   The past few weekends have brought us quiet trails, colorful leaves, and some terrific views.

As for the mutt, even at 10, or 70, depending on whether you count dog years, she’s still able to climb the 3,000 feet to summit Tallac, and still garner the adoration of dog-loving passersby.  And when there’s someone watching, she’ll still prance with a large stick like the overgrown puppy I like to think she still is.

I know she’s getting older, but I’d like to think we’ll have another few seasons of hikes ahead of us.  After all, there are lots more large sticks out there.  And loads more prancing to do.

Happy birthday Nimtard.

Winter, she returns

Winter appears to have returned to Lake Tahoe, with 3-5 inches of new snow locally. Due to some cosmic screwup, Reno and the Carson Valley got more snow than the Tahoe area did – upwards of a foot.  So while folks down there were digging out, we headed to Luther Pass to look for some wind-deposited winter snow.

Despite it being a holiday week here, with everyone and their mother’s uncle on the roads, we encountered very few fellow backcountry skiers today – just a group from the local community college taking an avalanche certification class.  And even after a week of springlike weather, the snow today bore none of the crusty and firm characteristics I’d expected.  Just boot to shin deep fluff.

No photos were taken today (bad light, too cold, and having WAAAY too much fun to stop), but we did get home to find that the dog, apparently grumpy that we left her and her aging hips behind, had decided to clean all the dishes in the sink for us, leaving detritus all over the kitchen.  While admittedly post-haste, we thought the muzzle might serve as a reminder why impromptu kitchen cleanup isn’t such a good idea.

Tip of the Day

If you need to induce vomiting in your dog after she’s chowed down on more than a few pieces of raisin bread (raisins being toxic to dogs), a plastic bike water bottle is a good mechanism for pouring the hydrogen peroxide down the dog’s throat if you don’t have a turkey baster handy for this task.

Why and how I know this is a whole different story. Dog’s OK now though.