Sometimes the very best part of your day is the thing that DOESN’T HAPPEN.
Yesterday, after a glorious, indulgent weekend in California (more on that soon!), I was craving fresh mountain air. So, despite the fact that it was hovering near 34 degrees in the sunshine, I loaded Cholula into the Subie and headed out in search of adventure.
I turned down the dirt road at the end of our street- our base for long walks year-round, cow sightings, ranch dreams, and dog-diving. A few miles back, there’s a day-use recreation area called Mormon Flats with a trailhead I’d never explored. As Cholula exploded from the car, nose and tail both set to HIGH, I smiled at the blue sky and green grass. There’s something about breathing cold air that makes me feel alive and invigorated. I hoped the snow had melted enough to enjoy a decent hike.
Within minutes, one thing became crystal clear: we deep into mud season. In climates like Park City’s, there’s a period of time between snowpack and green when the snow melts and everything is MUDDY. For dog-owners, these are the months when a basket of towels lives by the door to try to clean wet and filthy paws. I felt the squish-squish of my shoes as I walked and watched as Cholula’s paws turned mucky. I decided that the extra time it would take to clean up would be worth the fun we were both having. Mud comes off.
This trail is part of the original Mormon Trail that the pioneers used when settling this area in the 1800s. Cholula happily zig-zagged back and forth across my path, and I was silently happy each time she bounded through the paw-cleansing creek that ran beside (and sometimes over) the trail. I kept thinking it would dry out, but it never really did. I resigned myself to mud-caked shoes and a carwash later this week.
Spring was putting serious effort into showing up for the year. Despite the occasional icy patch on the creek, the grasses that flanked the trail were mostly green. The trees hadn’t started budding yet, but I could imagine what a cool and shady hike this would be in summertime. I raised my head to the sunshine, smiling at the sky and feeling grateful to live in such a beautiful place. I attempted (and failed) another Mama/Doggie photo shoot with Cholula. Birds were chirping and the creek babbled away peacefully beside me.
I balanced my way on stepping stones over extra sludgy parts of the trail, and was just starting to wonder where the trail ended up when Cholula surprised me with a low growl.
Despite spotting droppings of various size and prints that were not those of a cow, I hadn’t worried about sharing the trail with any wildlife. But there it was- a giant porcupine, quills exposed, ambling away from us as fast as it could (which was not very fast). Cholula must have remembered what happened to her when she licked the dead porcupine on a recent neighborhood walk, because she obeyed my firm command to STAY, growling protectively.
I’d never seen a porcupine before, even though they are all over these hills. As he hid behind a grassy bush, I was surprised to note that A) he was as big as my DOG and B) he wasn’t all prickles. His coat looked like long fur, soft and very similar to the grass he hid behind. His face reminded me of a sloth, and as I stood there, I noticed his chest heaving. The poor beast was terrified!
We must not have seemed very threatening, because after a minute or two, his needly parts relaxed and he moseyed away from us, up the hillside. Regardless, I did an about-face and called Cholula to follow me back down the trail. When a hike with a curious dog is interrupted by a giant porcupine, you call it a day. I kept Cholula close to me, my eyes wide, scanning the trail for Mr. Porcupine’s friends. I was sure that each grassy bush could start waddling away at any moment!
As we neared the trailhead, I relaxed and let Cholula sniff around the hillside. When she returned, she had a prickly needle waving back and forth from the tip of her nose! I’m not sure if she scampered away from another porcupine before getting quilled or if she stuck her nose into a den of some sort, but I was happy to leave. That little needle was a reminder of what almost happened.
I gave Cholula a treat in the car and thanked her for being such a good girl. Snow started to blow around the house, just as I pulled into the garage. Despite the hike being cut short, it had been a beautiful afternoon. I can’t wait to return to Mormon Flats in about a month when spring has truly sprung.
And, regardless of whatever would come our way later on, Cholula had NOT gotten quilled by a giant porcupine.
That was by FAR the best part of my day.